Batman. The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader. Protector of Gotham. The Scourge of Criminals Everywhere. Bruce Wayne has many colorful names, but he's often thought of as only having one look, his iconic cape and cowl, which is about as uncolorful as you can get.
However, that’s not the truth. Over the years, Batman has had numerous incredibly stylish outfits, as any fashion-forward billionaire crimefighter really should! So, to help us get into the spirit of Batman Day, I've gone back and selected five of my favorite fancy, frivolous and…all right, sometimes downright awful costumes from the Batcave's closet. (Batman surely has some skeletons in his closet, but they’re nowhere near as scary as some of what they’re hanging alongside.) Still, in the world of fashion, there’s no reward without risk. And if we’ve learned anything about Batman, it’s that he’s never afraid to risk it all. Even when it comes to costumes.
Rainbow Batman – DETECTIVE COMICS #241
As I mentioned above, if I have one complaint about Batman’s regular suit, it’s that it lacks color. Well, for one glorious issue, it’s as if the Dark Knight heard my pleas for flair and went ALL OUT. This isn’t just one suit—it’s a full series of them, each one a different color of the rainbow! Even better, the rainbow suits also have one of the most fabulous and strangely deep backstories of any superhero costume.
We all know why Batman dresses as a bat. Say it with me: his parents are dead and he fell down a well. But do you know why Batman created the multiple colored suits that, according to the Detective Comics #241 cover, he "must wear" each night? Well, on a routine evening run, Robin saves a young woman from some dastardly crimes and hurts his arm. To protect the winged Boy Wonder, Batman creates the distracting rainbow garments so the nefarious do-badders don't focus too much on his young charge!
A lot of adults will do what they can to keep their kids safe, but very few of them would hit the Gotham City streets wearing something that looks like a slimmed down Teletubby. If that’s not pure heroism, I don’t know what is.
Zebra Batman - DETECTIVE COMICS #275
Animal prints are always a very strong statement, and in Detective Comics #275, Batman got in on the outrageous trend when he was attacked by Zebra Man. The little-known Batman villain utilized his powers, which created…well, Zebra Batman, whose new form repels all solid matter.
Sure, that put Bruce and Dick in a tough fix, but let's be real—those Zebra stripes are such a fantastical look for the usually monochrome hero. Luckily, he utilized his strange new powers of magnetism and captured the crook for good (and presumably sucked up a bunch of dropped change from the Gotham streets in the process—talk about a superpower perk).
Sadly, though, Batman couldn't keep his sartorial swagger. Zebra Batman and his suit were retired after one issue, but maybe he’ll return to it again as he gets close to middle age and puts on a few pounds. Stripes are slimming after all.
ZUR-EN-ARRH Batman - BATMAN #113 and BATMAN R.I.P
First introduced for what would be a sadly singular appearance until many decades later, the stylish superfan Tiano was an alien who'd been creepily space-stalking Batman through a very powerful telescope and had modelled his whole look on the Caped Crusader. However, Tiano was far more adventurous than Bats, making his costume red, purple and gold.
Sadly, like so many other Golden and Silver Age classics, this version of Zur-En-Arrh Batman was eradicated during CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. But good ol' Grant Morrison reintroduced the striking costume and moniker during Batman R.I.P., later revealing that Zur-En-Arrh was actually an alter-ego created by Bruce to protect his psyche. Why? Because an evil doctor had tried to control him through dangerous isolation therapy, psychotropic drugs and a psychic trigger—"Zur-En-Arrh"—that played on Bruce mishearing his father's last words, which were "the sad thing is they'd probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham."
Heady stuff for a suit that looked like Batman might have borrowed it from Flash Gordon.
Stan Lee's Batman – JUST IMAGINE STAN LEE WITH JOE KUBERT CREATING BATMAN
With the new millenium upon us, DC embarked on a brave new endeavor tapping none other than Stan Lee to reimagine their most popular characters. Lee's vision of Batman was Wayne Williams, an African-American man who is on a mission to avenge the death of his father.
What really stands out about Wayne is his full lifelike bat costume, which comes from his background in...wrestling, which he took up after being wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his own father. He quickly—in literally a few weeks—becomes vastly wealthy from underground wrestling (which, apparently there’s WAY more money in than anyone knew) and decides to dedicate his life to fighting gang crime while dressed in a terrifying realistic bat costume. It’s hard to imagine how he could see much of anything out of its oversized monstrous head, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an effective crimefighting tool. I mean, who wouldn’t run like hell from that? Joe and Stan might have been on to something…
Citizen Wayne Batman – BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT ANNUAL #4
This 1920s noir is actually a two-for-one deal as not only do you have the Harvey Dent as Batman costume in all of its spiky-winged gold-masked glory, BUT we also get to see Bruce Wayne as...someone who wants to stop Batman. Even better, his costume for that duty is a real zinger!
Inspired by Citizen Kane—Citizen WAYNE, get it?!?—the story begins with the death of both Dent and Wayne and plays out until it's finally revealed that Dent was the brutal Batman in the very 1994ish costume and Bruce tried to save / stop him by donning what can only be described as a hockey jersey meets samurai armor with what looks like a mop for a weapon. Something tells us this was NOT what was missing from Charles Foster Kane’s life.
…But it was certainly missing from my life. Look, I’m not suggesting that Batman should adopt any of these costumes permanently, but it’s Batman Day. So, if Bruce Wayne feels like wearing something a bit more attention-grabbing on his big day, he has some pretty snazzy options. Now, excuse me while I go work on my suplex skills because I am CLEARLY in the wrong line of work!
Rosie Knight writes about Young Adult comics and the DC Universe in general for DCComics.com. Be sure to follow her on Twitter at @RosieMarx.