Saturday, September 21st is this year’s Batman Day, where the world comes together to celebrate all things Dark Knight. But for the Batman of the Hour to receive his appropriate accolades, he’s going to have to dress for the occasion. As one of the most frequently drawn character in American comic book history, Batman has had nearly as many variations on his iconic Batsuit as it first appeared in 1939 as he’s had artists who’ve drawn him. But throughout comics, movies, cartoons, toys, video games, and every visual medium you can imagine, everyone has their favorite.
This week, we asked you, the members of our esteemed community, to give us your opinion on the greatest Batsuit of all time. We received, quite auspiciously, 52 different answers. Only sixteen among those were seconded. And of those sixteen, there was only one correct answer. Today, we tallied your votes and broke your ties with our own impeccable senses of style to determine the greatest costumes worn by Batman in eighty years.
#16. IRON WINCH BATMAN
According to the community’s resident toy expert @Vroom, there are over 230 unique Batman designs from Kenner and Hasbro Toys alone. But perhaps the greatest of them all is the coveted Iron Winch Batman, from Kenner’s 1990 “Dark Knight” collection. If your Batman needed to zipline up tall buildings in a single pull, this was THE toy to have. But perhaps the figure’s most striking feature is the way the dark cowl’s pointed ends starkly cascade over his grey top like a bursting star. It’s a staggeringly dramatic effect that begs to be picked up and played with — but don’t you dare remove that baby from its original packaging.
#15. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Created by Academy Award winning costume designer Michael Wilkinson, the Batsuit donned by Ben Affleck’s world weary incarnation of the Dark Knight amazed Batman fans awaiting ‘Batman v Superman’s 2016 release by the way it invoked the look of its comic book inspiration like no live Batsuit before it. ‘Batman v Superman’ was a movie that wore its ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ inspiration on its sleeve, drawing heavily from the landmark title’s climactic battle between Batman and Superman. Wilkinson’s Batsuit made Affleck look just as haggard and fearsome as the grizzled Batman of Miller’s own mind.
#14. BATMAN FOREVER
Say what you will about ‘Batman Forever’ visionary Joel Schumacher, but he’s a man who knows what he wants. “I wanted a very sexy, very sensual, very body hugging suit,” Schumacher once explained of the costume worn by Val Kilmer in an interview with ‘Premiere’ Magazine. “It’s MY Gotham City, and if I want Batman to have nipples, he’s going to have nipples!”
Of this suit, community member @Vroom adds:
“While Christian Bale is my favorite live action Batman, my absolute favorite movie-based Batman suit is Val Kilmer's regular Batsuit from ‘Batman Forever.’
Dubbed the Panther Suit during production because of how sleek it was, this is the quintessential live action Batman suit for me. Black rubber never looked so good, before or after ‘Batman Forever.’”
#13. ‘JUSTICE’ ARMOR
Nobody in the business elevates Super Heroes into high art quite like Alex Ross. His hyper-realist, Renaissance-like style can make the heroes of the DC Universe shine as brightly as gods, or reveal them as all too human. At the climax of Ross’s 12 issue ‘Justice’ series, Batman lives up to the name of “Dark Knight” like never before as he prepares for all-out war against the Legion of Doom.
Community member @RobertDeBeero has only two words to describe it: “bad assssssss.” We couldn’t agree more.
#12. GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT
One element that separates a great “Elseworlds” story from a merely good one is an absolute commitment to its premise through every element of the work. In this regard, as the very first “Elseworlds” story, ‘Gotham by Gaslight’ set the bar quite high. Designed by Mike Mignola, the unique design donned by Bruce Wayne under a Victorian backdrop perfectly matches the surroundings of its story. Where Batman’s outfit is often depicted as sleek and ultra-modern, the Batman of ‘Gaslight’ looked as if he were a grim spectre from a Dickensian tale of skullduggery and shadow.
Or, as community member @DeSade-acolyte succinctly puts it, “Immensely practical and made from the simple tools of its day.”
#11. BATMAN: HUSH
As a carousel tour of Batman’s past, allies, and enemies, ‘Batman: Hush’ is often recommended as an entry point for new readers into the wide world of Batman. But the real secret to its success? The all-new Jim Lee designs for Batman and his supporting cast, each bearing a staggering level of detail the likes of which had rarely ever been seen in mainstream comics before. The amount of nuance on Batman’s costume as Jim Lee drew it, from his belts to his boots, would be enough of a challenge to make any deadline-challenged artist turn pale. With his ‘Hush’ design, Lee demonstrates a sheer wizardry that few others in the industry are capable of.
#10. BATMAN: YEAR ONE
This minimalist design by Dave Mazzucchelli for the Batman’s quintessential origin story presented a dark, blank canvas. It was the costume of a fresh-faced Batman with an entire career of adventures, horrors, family and romance ahead of him, his long and winding destiny yet to unfold. The fact that it would seem so out of place on the Batman we know today after eighty years of experience speaks to the effectiveness of the design. Even without the purple gloves, there’s no argument that this is Batman’s perfect Starter Costume.
They say that clothes make the man. As the reality of ‘Flashpoint’ dawns on Barry Allen in the universe-changing event, the whole world around him bears signs that something in reality has gone terribly, terribly wrong. The unsettlingly menacing red accented costume worn by the Batman of this universe is perhaps chief among them, as donned by Bruce’s own father, Thomas Wayne. As the series progressed, the costume’s imposing elements as expertly placed by Andy Kubert were a telling picture of the kind of man this tortured doctor turned brutal vigilante truly was.
#8. BATMAN: NOËL
Sometimes, ‘Joker’ and ‘Batman: Damned’ artist Lee Bermejo feels like the Dark Multiverse counterpart of Alex Ross. Both artists are renowned for their unmatched realistic style in Super Hero comics. But where Ross showcases the pinnicale of humanity, Bermejo explores the grimy depths. In this ‘A Christmas Carol’ inspired tale both written and drawn by Bermejo, Batman is cast as analogue to the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, and looks every bit the part when not a single spark of joy can be found within his dour expression. Everything about this costume befits not just the dead of Gotham’s winter, but the winter of Batman’s very soul.
#7. THE NEW 52
In 2011, DC shook up the entire comic book landscape by relaunching every one of their heroes with a brand new design — the main line of which all came once more from the boundlessly creative mind and swift hands of Jim Lee in the pages of a new ‘Justice League.’ As a whole, this new take on the Batman suit seemed to take many of the features Lee incorporated into his ‘Hush’ design and adjust them for a far more modern look, lending the appearance of a youthful Batman in a de-aged universe full of possibility… but one which the ever-prepared Batman would always be well-equipped to handle. As The New 52 progressed, other artists lent their own interpretations to Lee’s original design. Some community members, like @Matches_Malone, even consider such variations as drawn by the likes of Greg Capullo and Jason Fabok to be improvements. For an era known well for a unified style throughout its many titles, Batman’s costume was the standard bearer for the visual direction of the New 52.
#6. BATMAN BEYOND
Glen Murakami’s ‘Batman Beyond’ is the high end Italian sports car of Batsuits. More streamlined than ever before, nothing has ever represented the future of Batman like the suit worn by Bruce Wayne’s future successor Terry McGinnis. “So sleek and minimal!” raves community member @OmniLad. Every Batman fan has their own unique take on the Caped Crusader, to be sure. But clearly for many of us, Less is sometimes More.
Though this Greg Capullo design debuted a few months before DC’s “Rebirth” era in his and Scott Snyder’s New 52 ‘Batman’ run, it still encapsulates the central promise of this new age of comics: a regroundeed respect for DC’s long established traditions and legacies, tempered by a bold willingness to move forward into unexplored territory. The yellow accent around Batman’s chest emblem is a perfect example of this, harkening back to the yellow oval days of Carmine Infantino. As community member @biff_pow notes, “the cape’s purple lining [is] such a divergent feature, but it works!” It can be difficult to strike a balance between tradition and risk when putting your mark on such a beloved and storied character as Batman, but the Rebirth Batman suit walks the line.
#4 TIM BURTON’S BATMAN & BATMAN RETURNS
“You wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts!” At the turn of the ‘90s, director Tim Burton and actor Michael Keaton struck up a Batman fever with their film duology the likes of which has rarely been seen in the Caped Crusader’s long history. Blacker than Gotham’s darkest night and with a brilliant yellow chest emblem which shone like the Bat-Signal itself, no one had seen a Batman anything quite like this one before: and it proved an interpretation that forever changed the cultural onomotopeia-clad conception of Batman into the notion of something more sinister which lurked beneath the rubber-suited surface. Who cares if he can’t turn his head? With a cowl that intimidating, he doesn’t have to.
#3. THE BATMAN: ARKHAM TRILOGY
As by some metrics the most thriving form of entertainment media today, the presentation of Batman by Rocksteady Studios’ “Batman: Arkham” trilogy is considered by many to be the definitive take on the character. Indeed, one could understand inhabiting Batman’s virtual boots with his cape billowing behind him as he glides and grapples across Gotham as the essential Dark Knight experience. And with a costume that wears and tears with the events of Batman’s long nights against the combined forces of his greatest enemies, the stress Batman undergoes to protect his city is never more visually distinct. Even non-gamers love it: “I can’t play video games worth $&%$#,” admits community member @moro, “But that is one intricately designed suit.”
#2. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
“Blue, black, grey, and a yellow oval. There’s never been a better Batman look since.” This is how community member @Batwing52 summarizes the magic of Bruce Timm’s ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ design, responsible for captivating uncountable thousands of Batman fans across the world. Its simple elegance harkens back quite intentionally to the Fleischer Studios ‘Superman’ shorts of the 1940s, which forever proved the sheer kinetic power of DC’s heroes when committed to animation. If we can be honest, it was our sure bet for this community poll’s overall #1 choice… but the true winner received twice as many votes this second-place runner up.
THE GOLD STANDARD
#1. JIM APARO’S BATMAN
It’s been sung before that the man from Gotham wore the grey and blue. And in overwhelming chorus, a plurality of our DC Universe community has likewise sung the praises of artist Jim Aparo, whose designs defined Batman’s look from the Bronze Age well into the ‘90s. Aparo’s design stood as the industry standard for decades for good reason. While keeping his overall appearance light and adventurous, it also lent him a sense of purpose and mystery befitting the headliner of ‘Detective Comics.’ As @Vroom puts it, “he just looks *cool.*”
So here’s to you, Jim Aparo. We may have lost you in 2005, but lo these many decades since you first committed Batman to paper, your design on the comic book world’s most striking character still stands to many as the best that’s ever been. Your Detective truly was the World’s Greatest.