SPOTLIGHT: Batman’s Strangest Outfit

If individuals were asked to close their eyes and visualize the Batman in their minds, they would surely envision a tall, brooding figure dressed in a black cape and cowl and grey suit, his face partially concealed beneath the darkness of a dimly lit alleyway or rooftop. Such imagery would be defined as the most current or common personification of the Batman character, given his portrayal across various media in this fashion, most notably in the acclaimed 90s animated show Batman: The Animated Series.

Batman: The Animated Series intro
Still from the now-iconic intro for Batman: The Animated Series

Granted, this was not always the case in regards to the Caped Crusader as most fans would also note that the character was frequently adorned in a not-so-subtle blue and grey costume, most notably in the Golden and Silver Age runs of the comics as well as in later iterations as a means of paying homage to the iconic look, the latter of which can be seen in the 4-issue comic, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.

Cover of Detective Comics #44 featuring Batman’s blue and grey costume batsuit Cover of Detective Comics #44 featuring Batman’s blue and grey costume batsuit

That being said, there can certainly be a wide array of lengthy conversations to be had regarding the myriad of outfits donned by one of pop culture’s greatest icons over the decades, but this article would instead like to highlight what is arguably the Dark Knight’s strangest outfit to date: the puzzling yet somewhat intriguing Rainbow Batsuit.

Cover of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Book 2 by Frank Miller Cover of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Book 2 by Frank Miller

For the more casual fans out there, the merest mention of the Caped Crusader suiting up in a rainbow-colored outfit may seem like a late April Fool’s joke or ridiculous meme one discovers while browsing the very fringes of the internet, of which there are plenty. That initial perception would be accepted as a fair summation of the suit’s existence. After all, the immediate characterization of Batman in mainstream spheres is of a gritty, brooding, no-nonsense persona that strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies and beats criminals to a pulp. How then can one comprehend that very same character stalking enemies in the dead of night while dressed in what could possibly be described as the most flamboyant outfit ever made?

Hyperbole aside, hardcore fans of the Dark Knight, on the other hand, will not be as shocked to learn of the presence of the multi-colored outfit, for it is very much a part of the Batman Mythos.

Rainbow Batman; or, How Batman Became the Most Colorful Superhero in Gotham

Cover of Detective Comics #241 Cover of Detective Comics #241

March 1957, and Detective Comics #241 stunned comic readers around the globe as Rainbow Batman debuted on the cover of the issue, certifying its place in the fans’ hearts and minds and the Batman Mythos at large.

Despite its rather self-parodying aesthetic, the rainbow batsuit does possess a rationale behind its disorienting existence.

As the story goes, while walking the streets of Gotham, a civilian-clothed Robin (Dick Grayson) witnesses a crime in progress and rushes to save an innocent girl by pushing her out of the way of the perpetrators’ getaway car. In the process of doing so, Robin injures his arm but is still able to identify each of the criminals’ faces. Batman begins wearing a different colored batsuit on each subsequent day that both he and Robin are out searching for the goons, much to the befuddlement of everyone who sets eyes on the Caped Crusader’s peculiar choice of attire. Fast forward to the climax, and Batman is seen dressed in the now-iconic Rainbow Batsuit as both he and Robin successfully manage to apprehend the suspects and save the day. Later in the Batcave, Batman explains to his butler, Alfred, the reason behind his usage of the multi-colored outfits. It is simply revealed as Batman’s attempt to distract the public’s attention away from Robin as a means of concealing the latter’s identity. As a plain-clothed Robin had injured his arm earlier in the story while saving the girl, Batman feared that the public would make a connection between Dick Grayson and  Robin sharing a suspiciously similar injury.

When examined under a modern lens, the whimsical justification behind the use of a Rainbow Batsuit would arguably be met with scoffs alongside other negative retorts. However, all things considered, being that the advent of Rainbow Batman was essentially an experimental product of its time, it would be wise to exercise some amount of suspension of disbelief.

On the flip side, where homages are concerned, there have been numerous instances across various mediums where the Rainbow Batsuit had indeed been reinvented and utilized to cater to more modern expectations. Such an example of this can be noted in the repurposing of the multi-colored suit during the 2010 episode “Emperor Joker!” in the animated show Batman: The Brave and the Bold, whereby Batman utilizes the chromatic costume in the battle against the Rainbow Creature, rendering the villain’s color-coded abilities inert.

Rainbow Batman from Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Rainbow Batman from Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Love it, or hate it, one cannot argue against the Rainbow Batsuit being an intriguing iteration amongst the dozens of the Caped Crusader’s outfits over the decades as it stands in stark contrast to much of what was believed about the Batman’s fashion sense as a whole. At the very least, it is an expression of the creative freedom accorded to the team behind its design.

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