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Monday, August 16, 2010

New Batman Costume is Bat-tastic and Manly




DC has released their November Solicits, with the information for Batman, Inc. Already we know that it has Bruce Wayne, back from his journey through time and merchandise-ready period costumes, franchising his identity out around the world. I have mixed feelings about this; as a general rule I don't like when multiple characters share a superhero identity, since it dilutes the importance of the main guy. Batman is a unique case because he's the result of Bruce Wayne toiling constantly to become the perfect weapon against crime, and Grant Morrison's own stories have shown that any attempts to replace him are either mixed at best ( Dick Grayson ) or catastrophic ( the new Red Hood, the three Bat-Cops, the future Damien who sells Gotham to Satan, etc. ). However, most of Morrison's stories on Batman have been utterly stellar, so I'll suspend judgment until the final product arrives.

What I can judge is the new look for the Bat-Suit, as shown on the covers by Yanick Paquette and Andy Kubert. Fortunately, it's quite a good look. It's still unmistakably Batman, but the little details have been refined and modernized. For one thing, the underoos are finally gone-- briefs over leggings are an obnoxious relic of the circus strongman roots of superheroes, and there was no reason Batman should have kept wearing them for so many decades. The darker swaths of fabric on the sides of the suit are an effective replacement, and give the look more texture, like it's an actual suit of armor instead of body paint ( since Batman is not bulletproof, it's good that we see him wearing some protection ). Ribbing on the boots and gloves has a similar effect, with the same success. And the yellow Bat-emblem returns after being simply a black pattern for years-- normally I'd prefer the original shirt, but since Batman's trying to make himself a brand, the logo takes on extra importance.

Time will tell if this design endures; unfortunately, complex costumes tend not to last. The X-Men stopped wearing leather to regress to colorful spandex, most of the Ultimates started wearing tights ( something they had never done before in that universe ) when Millar and Hitch left, and many characters in Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers have returned to their 70's looks ( not coincidentally, the era when Bendis started reading Marvel ). It's likely that Batman will be back in his undreroos in the near future, because " iconic " too often means " simplistic and bland ". But here's hoping he rocks the new look for a while.

6 comments:

  1. I was so, so surprised to see how controversial this costume is. I mean, I could see that there were some minor cosmetic changes, but they were just that: minor cosmetic changes. I thought it was fine, but ultimately inconsequential. It's certainly no Iron Spider or Lee Wonder Woman or Superman Blue or leather-jacket X-Men.

    And then the message boards showed me just how wrong I was in my assessment. Go figure.

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  2. Fans like to complain, especially when they're complaining over something connected to a creator they have a prexisting grude against. Since the new costume is associated with Grant Morrison's work, it has an extra strike against it in the eyes of the small-minded.

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  3. Well, I know Morrison can be a bit of a lightening rod for some; he can get a bit too spacey at times for my taste (Final Crisis!), but I think he's got a lot more hits than misses.

    It's not as if there's not literally a half dozen other books starring Batman to choose from.

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  4. Unfortunately, there's judging a creator based on the merits of their individual works, and then there's the internet. :(

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  5. I have to admit, I'm excited about this direction. Morrison's angle seems to be that Bruce has gotten to a place of wholeness where he now recognizes that Batman is bigger than the personal trauma that created the identity. Against universe-destroying evil, Batman's One Rule about guns was something Bruce could see beyond; now, against a world where more people than just Bruce Wayne might be victims or survivors of crime, Batman is a valuable symbol that's bigger than the man wearing it.

    It's really quite clever, and you can see Morrison getting Batman there from 52 all the way up through Batman putting his head back together in R.I.P. and mastering his traumas by using them as a weapon in that Last Rites two-parter. This seems like the next step for Bruce in an organic way, contra Morrison's detractors, who frequently accuse him of making sudden and radical changes on a franchise to suit his own tastes. Regarding his work on Batman, that's simply not a credible accusation.

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  6. Those who would make Batman costumes this year would most certainly wish to get the exact details from this image if they wish to stay true to the colors.

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