The story of the orphan who uses his pain to propel him to become a hero is a powerful archetype. It's a testament to his enduring appeal that Batman has been reinvented countless times, with infinite alternative versions and numerous live action interpretations.
One thing they all have in common is the philosophy of the Batsuit. After all, how can you have a Batman who doesn't wear a Batsuit? That's just madness. The multifunctional suit protects the wearer, guards his identity, and provides all of the tools he needs for daily superheroics.
These suits come in as many shapes and flavors as you can imagine — but they don't always work. So what makes some Batsuits good, and others bad? Sometimes it's one minor aspect that throws things off, sometimes the whole thing is just a disaster. Sometimes it's an indefinable quality. But we all know good and bad when we see them.
Here are the 15 Worst Batsuits Of All Time.
15 Dick Grayson's Earth-2 Batman
Earth-2 has told one of the most compelling storylines to come out of the New 52. When Darkseid invades this parallel Earth, its three greatest heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) give their lives to save it. But it's only a temporary victory, as soon enough, Darkseid's forces return, ultimately forcing new heroes to rise — ones loosely based on Justice Society members — and the remaining population of Earth-2 to evacuate before Apokalips consumes the planet.
After they end up on a new home world, Dick Grayson takes on the mantle of the new Batman. His is an engrossingly darker version of the former Boy Wonder we're familiar with, one who's lost his wife (Barbara Gordon) and whose young son has gone missing. Mister Terrific builds him a teched-out new blue-and-yellow Batsuit, and it's mostly fine.
There's just one big honking problem: the cowl is utterly bizarre. Instead of covering the eyes and nose as usual, it extends down further, all the way to his upper lip, with a strange, terrier-snout-like shape on the end. It's one of the Bat's worst cases of "what was he thinking?" ever, a distracting eyesore the Dark Knight should never have to endure.
14 Stan Lee's Batman
In 2001, DC Comics invited Stan Lee to reimagine its most popular heroes as if he'd created them, the same way he created or co-created most of Marvel's biggest characters. It's a tantalizing notion on the surface — "Marvelizing" DC's big guns — but most fans and critics found the results mediocre.
Lee's take on Batman was "Wayne Williams," a fusion between Luke Cage and Bruce Wayne. Convicted of a crime he didn't commit, he learned the tools of his trade in prison and became a superhero when he was freed. The story was almost shockingly uninspired, unfolding precisely as you'd expect it to.
What was surprising was Lee's take on the Batsuit. Like Spider-Man, he created his first suit to enter the wrestling ring and make some money. The suit was basically a black unitard with a big cape and a bizarre headpiece modeled after an actual, anatomically-correct bat. On the plus side, wearing it on a skyscraper rooftop probably makes this Batman look more like a gargoyle than the original ever has.
13 Jim Gordon's Tech Suit
After the culmination of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's epic "Endgame" storyline, which came near the end of a now-legendary run on Batman, Snyder proved he wasn't quite done yet by seemingly killing Bruce Wayne off (but not really) and introducing a new wearer of the cowl: former Police Commissioner Jim Gordon.
The story was fascinating, but we're here to talk about Gordon's Batsuit. His primary outfit was a black bodysuit with some yellow highlights; it was like a modern take on Bruce's traditional suit, minus the cape. Gordon's slender frame was strikingly different than Bruce's bulky build, but neither Gordon's physique nor his Batsuit were the problem.
The problem was the bizarre tactical armor he wore atop the bodysuit while fighting crime. From color to silhouette, this powerful, high-tech armor was intentionally made to look different than Iron Man, but those comparisons are impossible to avoid. It didn't help that instead of bat-ears, the tech suit was adorned with giant bunny ears, and missile launchers that looked like oversized shoulder pads.
12 1940s Serial
The late actor Lewis Wilson (pictured on the left) holds the distinction of appearing on film as the very first live-action Batman. His 15-part serial, The Batman, was well-received at the time, but is viewed today as a narrative failure. Wilson's portrayal is earnest, and his physique impressive (y'know, for a guy in that era), but the story is nonsense, with Batman acting as a secret agent for the U.S. Government during World War II.
If anything, the Batsuit worn by Wilson is symbolic of the entire serial's misguided direction. The actor tries really hard, but can't avoid looking goofy. The suit's arms and legs are baggy, the ill-fitting cowl is one of the worst ever, and in every single still image from the serial, Wilson looks like he can't take himself seriously in the getup. Needless to say, neither can we.
Another 15 chapter Dark Knight serial, Batman and Robin, debuted in 1949 as a prequel to the 1943 series, with Robert Lowery (pictured on the right) taking on the Caped Crusader. The Batsuit is an improvement for sure, though it's still pretty silly looking, and that belt looks like it could have come off the waist of a WWE champ.
It's not the armor that makes this one go bad, even though many fans will cite the armor as contributing to the odd look of the Batman seen in NetherRealms' fighting game Injustice.
There's nothing inherently wrong with an armored Batman. Logically, it makes a lot more sense than a vigilante that wears nothing but tights (or rubber). But the execution just feels way off. It's something about the proportions, such as how the cape seems to be tucked into his chest plate.
Nothing is more off-putting than his bizarre head shape, though. Where does one even begin? There's the cowl's small mouth hole. Batman's cowl usually leaves his entire lower face — cheeks, chin, and all — uncovered. The ears look like Dracula's canine teeth turned right side up. But the strangest part has to be the way-too-prominent cheekbones. Never before or since have we seen a Batman (or Batsuit) with a side-of-the-head that's pointy shaped. It leaves him looking older and emaciated, not entirely unlike a corpse.
10 Citizen Wayne
Oy. There's so much going on here, and it adds up to a steaming dungheap. The idea is that this is a Batman from the 1920s gangster era, so he cobbles his Batsuit together using the materials and technologies available at the time. And if you look at it whole, you can see what they were going for, and the overall concept isn't bad. It probably looked good as concept art.
On the finished pages, it's a hot mess. First of all, there's the cape. What are all those crazy points for? Sure, they're riffing on the look of a bat's wings, but at its most narrow point from arm to edge, it can't be more than a few inches wide. There's no way he's gliding down from a rooftop with that thing. And it's just plain ugly, to boot.
The bat logo and military-style lapels and buttons on the chest work. But flared pant legs? What is this, Nazi Germany? (Scratch that, there already is a Batman from Nazi Germany.) Then there's the golden face mask, which takes the "vampire bat" look to such extremes, it's downright demonic.
9 Sir William
In 1997, DC Comics launched an imprint called Tangent Comics. The idea behind this universe, as spearheaded by Dan Jurgens, was to reimagine DC's legacy characters with wildly different origins. The imprint didn't last more than a year, but DC continuity says that that universe still exists as one of the 52 alternate Earths. (Earth-9, to be exact.)
Tangent's Batman starred "Sir William," a knight of King Arthur's Round Table who was lost to time. To atone for past misdeeds, he was confined to his own castle, but found that his suit of armor had been enchanted to roam freely in the outside world under his remote control.
The suit's problem isn't its red color; it's the details, which are so poorly thought out, you have to wonder how it got past editorial. There's a weird fish-fin/mohawk thing on his head that's like something from Aquaman's underwater realm. There are ginormous spikes sticking straight up from his shoulders that would impale his head if he were to reach out to the side. His cape is just bizarre, and he totally stole Captain America's shield and just painted over it.
8 Zebra Batman
Way back in 1960, an issue of Detective Comics introduced readers to Zebra-Man, a villain with Magneto's powers who was given those abilities along with a striped appearance by a device of his own invention. Such is the life of Gotham's endless supply of mad scientists.
That same machine came under investigation by Batman, and thanks to a bit of clumsiness from Robin, the Caped Crusader was hit with the same magnetic "lines of force." For some reason, this altered his costume and his skin into zebra lines, turning him into Zebra Batman. Batman also took on similar magnetic powers, but he didn't have Zebra-Man's belt, so he couldn't control them.
After an extended reverie of "what if" daydreams, where each imagined scenario was worse than the last, Bats finally snapped out of it and figured a way out of his predicament. Using a charged manhole cover, he reversed Zebra-Man's polarity, allowing the two Zebra guys to cancel each other out.
Yes, this really happened.
7 Rainbow Batman
And now, for one of the silliest chapters in Batman history, ever.
In just one 1957 issue (thank God), the Batman wore a series of gaudy Batsuits of different colors, ranging from red, blue, gold, orange, green, and white. It was just as dumb as it sounds. But because six different-colored Batsuits didn't take things far enough over the top, the adventure ended with Bruce Wayne donning a rainbow-striped Batsuit.
This monstrosity was a crime against fashion, nature, and possibly mankind. The story found Batman and Robin going after mobsters who'd stolen a "high-tech portable camera." The rainbow suit of fruit flavors was part of a plan to turn attention away from Robin, who could be identified as Dick Grayson thanks to a very public injury, and who also was the only person who could identify the crooks.
That's right, Batman went to all that trouble so that he could be a distraction. But he still got to punch the bad guys in the end, busting out this pithy quip: "They'll find no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow — only prison!"
6 Two-Face Batman
It may have come from a dream sequence, but once you see it, it's hard to get it out of your head.
In a big 2009 crossover event, Batman was dead and a list of potential successors engaged in a "Battle for the Cowl." Among them was Dick Grayson — who (spoiler alert) ended up winning — who was attacked in the Batcave by Two-Face. Harvey Dent shot Dick with a hallucinogenic drug, causing him to see Two-Face as a twisted reflection of the Dark Knight.
If you've ever wondered what Batman would look like with Harley Quinn's classic color scheme, wonder no more. True to form, this atrocious ensemble literally split Batman down the middle, just like Dent, with his one normal side and one twisted, maniacal side. One side was black, the other red. Add a little switcheroo for the cowl, cape, belt, and Bat symbol for contrast, and there it is.
Welcome to Psycho-Uglyville, population: one. (Or two. So to speak.)
You probably know the story. Jean-Paul Valley, dangerous vigilante, enters Bruce Wayne's life. Batman helps him overcome his dark impulses, then the Dark Knight's back is broken by Bane. Believing his crimefighting days to be over, Bruce selects the promising Jean-Paul, aka Azrael, to take his place as the new Caped Crusader (you know, over any of the members of his teenaged army that he'd taken under his wing over the years; naturally).
The rookie took it upon himself to make some technological upgrades to the Batsuit, designing a whole new look in the process. And the design he landed on couldn't be more 1990s if it tried. Valley used a new color palette, incorporating gold, light gray, and lots of bright, royal blue.
Then he really went over-the-top. He added claws to the gloves, dual magazine-powered weapons to the gauntlets, moved the gauntlets' side hooks down to his legs, and crafted a cape that somehow defies physics. This Batsuit is so overwrought, so pretentious, it's impossible to take seriously.
4 Batman of Zur-En-Arrh
Look at that picture. It's Batman on LSD. Why would anyone put the Dark Knight in a hideous yellow, red, and purple getup? It's as if Batman's writer France Herron and artist Dick Sprang asked themselves, "What can we do to undermine Batman and make him look as ridiculous as possible?"
Ding ding ding. We have a winner.
The story behind this character is that there's a planet in the distant cosmos called Zur-En-Arrh. And inexplicably, even though there is no connection between Earth and Zur-En-Arrh of any kind, this alien planet has its own Batman. Who is a humanoid vigilante and wears a Batsuit. In the 1956 story he debuted in, he brought Earth's Batman to his homeworld to fight an army of giant robots. Then he returned our Batman home.
Despite the insane sci-fi nonsense, the thing that's remembered most from this story is that godawful Batsuit. Aside from the fringed seams, there's nothing too terrible about the silhouette. It's all in the colors, which are seemingly there to scream "he's an alien Batman!" in your face. The suit reappeared in the Modern Age as the chosen duds of a backup personality the Caped Crusader crafted in the event of a psychological attack. It wasn't any more well received the second time around.
3 Adam West
Campy, not edgy. Silly, not serious. Simple instead of complex. Kid-friendly rather than mature. If that's how you prefer your Dark Knight — and there are many of you — then ABC's 1960s TV series is your fix. For everyone else, the show's retro, buffoonish charms are an embarrassment. A pockmark on the face of Batman history.
Nowhere is this better summed up than in that ghastly costume Adam West was forced to wear. With its dingy blue tights, silk cape and briefs, and drawn-on nose and eyebrows, this Batsuit struck fear in the hearts of nobody ever.
Why does the cowl look like it's mashing West's nose into his face? Why is he wearing booties? Why does no one ever seem to notice his spare tire? And why does the actor look awkward and uncomfortable — like he doesn't know what to do with his arms — in every publicity photo ever taken for the show?
Actually, that last one's not hard to answer.
2 Batman Forever
Batnipples. Bat Nipples. Bosoms on the Batsuit. Batboobs. Kilmer-nips on the Bat. Mammaries on... Oh, forget it.
No matter how many ways you say it, it's never going to sound okay, like a casually normal thing. Never before in Batman's history had nipples appeared on the crimefighter's suit before Joel Schumacher's candy coated, big screen nightmare, Batman Forever.
You can kinda understand the impulse. The more recent big screen iterations of the suit had shown well-defined abs, chest, and other muscles carved into their form-fitting rubber molds. Even the comics got in on the ab action. So following that evolution to its logical conclusion had to be a good idea, right?
Sweet Moses, no. Not only was it one of the worst ideas in costuming history, Schumacher made it known that he was camping up the Batman flicks on purpose. Watch closely during the "suiting-up" sequences and you'll notice a closeup shot of the Batsuit's butt or crotch every time. Even Robin wasn't exempt from this treatment. Actually, you probably don't have to watch all that closely to catch them. They're pretty in-your-face right from the opening scene.
The Batman Forever nipple suits are so bad, only one thing could possibly top them...
1 Batman & Robin
...And that's plastic Batnipple suits.
Holy cheese-o-rama, Batman. Since Schumacher's attempt to kill the franchise didn't take with the ironically titled Batman Forever, the director drove the stake in as deep as possible with the follow-up, Batman & Robin. Ignoring the fan outcry and digging in his heels, the latest suit had nipples again, and what's worse, Schumacher abandoned the matte rubber look that had worked since Michael Keaton first suited up.
Instead, the new costumes -- now worn by George Clooney -- were made of what appeared to be hard plastic. Especially the last suit, seen near the end of the film, which was meant to protect the hero from the cold. Or something. (It's hard to remember since that movie made viewers want to gouge their eyes out.) So now he looked like a living action figure, and so did Chris O'Donnell as Robin and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. Silverstone's costume had nipples, too, which crosses boundaries of taste into vulgar. And yes, she had to endure the gratuitous Bat-butt shot, too.
One other thing. The frost-suits gave both Batman and Robin rather large, um, groin... covering... things.
Nipples and butts and codpieces? Oh my.
Are there any other terrible Batsuits that we failed to mention here? There surely are, so be sure to name all the atrocities the Dark Knight has been forced to endure in the comments section.