ComicsAlliance Reviews: The Fashion of ‘Batman & Robin’
For the past two weeks, ComicsAlliance’s Chris Sims and David Uzumeri have been defending the much-maligned Batman & Robin movie, but even they couldn’t say anything nice about the atrocious costume designs. But amazingly, as we learned from the original unused costume concepts posted online e by designer Miles Teves, it could’ve been worse.
Today, Chris and David are joined by CA’s resident fashionista Bethany Fong for a fashion roundtable to examine these artifacts of a bygone era, from Batman’s detachable codpiece to Batgirl’s ill-advised cleavage window!
Chris: First up, we have Teves’ original take on what he called “The Deco Suit,” presumably because it was meant to echo the Art Deco stylings of Gotham City. Except that that’s not really as as prominent in the movie as it is in the animated series.
David: That… sure looks like a Batman suit inspired by the movie.
Bethany: Bat-blades on the calves and elbows!
David: Are those Bat-Ice-Skates on the back of his leg, below the knee? Because I cannot fathom what purpose they serve other than making sitting down a pain in the ass.
Chris: I think those are there so that he stabs himself in the thigh every time he starts running, which helps train him to move carefully. Victory, preparation, you know how this goes.
David: Every time he kneels, he cuts up his ass. How is that even remotely reasonable.
Chris: Honestly? Nipples aside, I actually do like a lot of this design. The Deco-inspired plating on the abs is a lot more interesting than just molding it to look like super-ripped statue muscles, you know? I think the gauntlets are pretty neat, too. They’re crazy over-detailed (the entire suit is, really), but they remind me of a more design-inspired version of the gloves Batman wears in the Arkham Asylum video game.
David: The cape is insanely small, though. I mean, I’m not saying we need the banquet drapery that Kelley Jones’s Batman carries around, but something about it just doesn’t seem very imposing.
Bethany: It doesn’t even look like it’s attached to him — it just looks like it’s floating behind him.
Chris: I’d say it was probably cut that way to help with movement, but if actually moving around was a concern, he probably wouldn’t have calf-daggers. According to Teves, “Under the direction of Joel Schumacher and Bob Ringwood, little thought was given to the functionality of the suits.” You don’t say.
David: Look, I’m all in favor of some realistic touches, but let’s not forget that a whole lot of Batman’s effectiveness comes out of that badass silhouette.
Bethany: Is anyone else seeing a face on his chest? The nipples are eyes with a weird nose-shaped thing in between his pecs?
David: Like, an H.R. Giger face that’s about to eat your children, yeah.
Chris: But with a friendly moustache!
Chris: You know, Uzi, you say it’s not intimidating, then you say his stomach is a mouth that will swallow your children whole. You can’t have it both ways, buddy.
David: The face formed by the stomach is frightening, but the suit as a whole looks way too lithe. Maybe it’d work for Dick Grayson as Batman, but I just can’t see Bruce rocking this thing.
Chris: So I guess I’m in the minority in thinking that this has some strong points, huh?
Bethany: Nah, I do like most of the detailing on this design, especially because it’s Deco-inspired, but I think maybe it’s just a little too slim and streamlined for Batman?
David: It just doesn’t look like Bruce Wayne to me.
Chris: I get the feeling that a lot of the designs were slimmer on paper than they ended up being once they were 60-pound rubber suits that contained an entire dude, but that doesn’t really bother me. I like the thinner, more acrobatic Jim Aparo Batman than the bulkier, post-Frank Miller version.
David: Yeah, but Aparo’s still has that hulking cape that provides a lot more gravitas. This looks like a tablecloth.
Chris: All right, let’s see if you prefer Take 2!
Chris: For this one, Teves shot for a more “blued steel, riveted, armor-plating look.” Which, to me, ended up a little more in the area of “BEEP BOOP I AM A ROBOT.”
David: Cape’s still too small.
Bethany: The Kevlar blend fabric at his elbows even look like wired joints.
Chris: Exactly. There’s so much bizarre stuff about this one — the “wires” on his elbows, the big indentation he’s using as a logo, the fact that Batman’s supposed to be sneaking around in metal shoes — but I think my favorite is, of course, the codpiece. That sucker is straight up riveted onto his junk. It’s like a nose-cone on a rocketship!
Chris: There are even little vents on his hips! I seriously expect him to shoot his codpiece off and bonk somebody on the head with it. Now I kind of wish this had made it into the movie, just to get a toy with that Action Feature. “Real Firing Bat-Junk!”
David: That’s really not much crazier than half of the actual Batman toys that they came out with in that time period.
Chris: Bob the Goon got an action figure. Never forget.
David: I still don’t see where the cape is attached to the costume. And I really don’t get why both of these lost the three fins on the gloves and replaced them with BADASS BLADES and stuff. I mean, granted, it took until Batman Begins for someone to actually come up with a good reason why those fins are there, but they’re just such an iconic part of the costume to me.
Chris: So is there anything to like about this one?
David: It didn’t shoot my parents dead in Crime Alley, I guess?
Bethany: He just looks like a robo-knight.
David: BATMAN: ROBOTIC JUSTICE.
Chris: It really is super-robotic, and shiny metal armor doesn’t really fit Batman. Even though that’s pretty much exactly what he ends up wearing at the end of both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. I’ve done my share of bashing the Tim Burton movies, but at least Batman doesn’t change clothes for no reason in the last ten minutes.
David: Well, there WAS a reason in Forever. They blew up the Batcave and everything in it, so he could only access the experimental wing! There was absolutely none in Batman & Robin.
Chris: Speaking of Forever, let’s take a look at the suit that we actually ended up with:
Chris: According to Teves, George Clooney and Val Kilmer were around the same size, so they just re-used the suit from Forever, in all its anatomical “glory.”
David: Well, one thing this design has over the others is that the cape actually attaches to the costume.
Bethany: Yeah, plus it’s a tad longer.
David: On the other hand, bat-nipples, huge codpiece, etc., etc. But it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Schumacher specifically requested those details.
Chris: One of the things Teves mentions is that he was instructed above all else to “make it sexy.” So there you go. I do wonder why he opted for a silver logo. I mean, it clearly draws attention to it, but if you’re going for that, why not just go with the classic black-and-yellow? (No keys. Push to start.)
David: I guess they had the black-and-yellow in Forever, and wanted some sort of change to dictate the passing of time and beginning of a new era. But he really just looks like he walked out of Studio 54.
Bethany: I think what I never liked about this particular emblem was that it reminded me too much of an automobile logo.
Chris: Ha! Wouldn’t that be great if it was the logo for Wayne Motors? Rappers all walking around with silver bats on gold chains…
David: On Earth-Movie, Jason Todd steals Batman’s boots. It wouldn’t be very subtle, would it? But I fully believe that rappers in the DCU rock superhero symbols all the time, especially the positive-message ones. I wonder if, in the DC Universe, the Insane Clown Posse have been dead for years, murdered by the Joker.
Chris: Tim Drake coming home from a Teen Titans meeting, laughing about this video that Bruce has to see. He fires up the Gathering of the Juggalos infomercial and Bruce just stomps away going “That’s not funny.” I will say that I think Disco Batman’s crazy boots are pretty awesome, though. Putting a crazy bat-logo on your shoes — a logo that doesn’t even match the other two you already have on your costume — is committing to a gimmick.
Bethany: Real talk: I’d wear those boots.
Chris: What kind of outfit could you coordinate with knee-high leather boots with Batman logo shin-guards? Besides an awesome one.
David: You’d pretty much need Bat-symbols all over it. I’m surprised he doesn’t have one on the codpiece.
Chris: There was an interchangeable one that lit up that he could rivet onto the last costume.
Bethany: For serious, now — I’d wear them with almost every outfit.
Chris: This is why the Warner Bros. store closed: They did not offer Batman Boots.
David: With built-in ice skates!
Bethany: They should’ve invested in a line of Bat-boots instead of installing replicas of Marvin the Martian’s spaceship in every store.
Chris: I think they’d be a hot seller. They’re good for vigilante-minded ladies like Bethany, and dudes who need something a little flashier for the next Motörhead show.
David: Why not just sell Marvin the Martian outfits… with Batman boots?
Chris: Marvin’s got those classic Chucks, man. You don’t want to mess with that look.
David: Oh hey, it’s DC’s new Nightwing design!
Bethany: My thoughts exactly.
David: I mean, there are some small detail differences, but the sculpted armor, the red chest symbol..
Chris: Well why wouldn’t DC want to go back to Batman & Robin in their upcoming reboot, Uzi? We’ve already proved that it’s a high point in their cinematic endeavors. It definitely has a few elements of the comic book Nightwing costume of the time. The logo, of course, and the bulkier ridges for the gloves and boots that Dick was using to hold things instead of a belt. Except that, uh, this guy totally has a belt.
David: To be completely honest, Chris, I’m not convinced that it wasn’t the other way around. Nightwing debuted his new costume in Nightwing #1, right? And that was mid-’96. It’s completely possible Scott McDaniel saw Teves’s designs and based the new outfit off of that, or was asked to for media synergy.
Chris: Was it that late? I guess you’re right; he was rocking the Gothamullet all the way up through Prodigal, wasn’t he?
David: And actually, even more than the new Nightwing design, this costume is really similar to Mob Enforcer Nightwing right before Infinite Crisis. I wonder if Dick Grayson and Clark Kent would hang out and comb each others’ mullets in the mid-’90s.
Chris: Considering that Superman gave him the name “Nightwing,” I am reasonably certain that is well within the realm of possibility. If the intent was to create a unified look for the movie audience, though, I wonder why they went with blue for the comic and red for the movie? Just to differentiate “Nightwing” from “Robin?”
David: I’d say so. I mean, robins are red. So yeah, it looks like that’s what we’ve got to say about Robin: it sure looks like a Nightwing outfit.
Chris: Was that a sigh of contempt, or a sigh of how dreamy Dick Grayson is even when contained in strangely baggy rubber?
Bethany: That was a sigh of conflict between my love for Dick Grayson and his horrible, horrible past record of fashion faux pas.
David: Oh come on, you love the pixie boots.
Chris: Golden high collars are so fetch.
Chris: This version’s a little closer to what the film ended up with.
David: Why does the cape take away the belt?
Chris: Maybe he’s like Superman, and his cape has a bunch of little pockets. The red interior of the cape really makes it look like a theater curtain, and the fact that his logo and armor make a giant arrow pointing directly to his area make sit seem like Dick’s making a pretty huge production of his codpiece.
David: “His area.”
Chris: We have content guidelines, David.
David: That’s my new favorite euphemism for the organ for which Dick Grayson is eponymous.
Chris: Look at this dude and tell me he doesn’t look like he’s sweeping that cape back and flashing someone.
Bethany: While I like the incorporation of the red details on the boots, I prefer the previous pair of solid black boots over these.
David: Oh man, I didn’t even notice the red detail on the soles. It’d look less silly if it didn’t go up and over the toes.
Chris: They look like tap shoes, if tap dancing was included in Mixed Martial Arts. Extremely Mixed Martial Arts.
Bethany: The Dick Grayson Sidekick Theatre has so many features!
Chris: It might just be me, but I really, really hate the way that the gloves and boots are all loose and bunched up, while the rest of the suit is skin-tight and made to evoke muscles. It makes it look like loose skin around his hands. Like it’d be all clammy when he went to arrest you.
David: I don’t get the point of the articulated kneecaps, either — he just looks like a G.I. Joe — but that’s a criticism that, at this point, I can apply to the entire damn DC Universe.
Chris: These costumes would be right at home in the New DC. All right, one more look at Robin… for the ladies.
David: And gay dudes!
Chris: That is some serious hangdown he’s rocking.
David: I’m pretty sure I’m just being five years old here, but it kind of looks like the robin detail is flying out of his butt.
Chris: I love that there are these shiny parts on his ass and his, what are those, lats? Poor Alfred, having to spend 20 minutes with a can of turtle wax every night on those things. No wonder Barbara wanted to free him from his life of sexy, sexy servitude.
Bethany: You guys, stop staring at his butt for one second and look at the back of his knees.
David: Holy crap, that actually does look like an action figure.
Chris: I think it’s cut so that he could actually bend his knee, as opposed to being solid rubber. And you know what else is cut? Aw, yeah. Up top, y’all.
Bethany: Are those little air-vents?
David: I’m pretty sure it’s to vent all the sexy out, so that he doesn’t die from sexy overexposure in the suit.
Chris: Maybe it’s better if we just move on to Batgirl. Brace yourselves.
Chris: Yes: That is a Batgirl Cleavage Window.
David: I like all the totally extraneous spikes and stuff, makes her look more scary than sexy… Wait, what? I was about to say I kinda liked it until you pointed that out.
Bethany: I didn’t realize that was a Bat-boob-window.
David: Wow… are you sure?
Chris: According to Teves, “I regret that my idea of the cut-out Bat symbol window on the chest, showing a little skin and cleavage, didn’t survive into the final suit. I thought it was kind of clever, and added just the right amount of wholesome flirtiness to the character.”
David: Oh my God.
Bethany: Wholesome flirtiness.
David: I realize they’re not shooting for functional, but a Batperson with a chest window is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Not only will it be brightly colored and encourage goons to shoot at it, YOU WILL DIE. Also, this would mean that Alfred made his college-age niece a costume with a boob window. “Here, Barbara. I figured you’d want to show off your boobs while you were beating people up.” “Thanks, Uncle Alfred!”
Chris: There is no context in which this costume could be revealed after the line “suit me up, Uncle Alfred” that would not have me just straight creeped out of the theater.
David: It would be disturbingly in character for Alfred, to be honest, but that’s only because my viewings of the films have convinced me he’s really just a very, very lucky old pervert.
Chris: Apparently Teves was instructed to draw his designs in more exaggerated figures than could possibly work on a human body — which I would think sort of defeats the purpose of designing a costume that people are supposed to wear — but even taking that into account, her waist is ridiculously tiny.
Bethany: All of the gauntlet and boot spikes just look like weird thorns.
Chris: Oh you haven’t seen weird thorns yet. Also, man, those boots. I don’t think you can even call that “standing” anymore. That’s clearly “perched.” Bethany, you’ve expressed an interest in the boots we’ve seen. How do these strike you?
David: They look super-comfortable to me!
Bethany: To be honest, looking at the build of the boots, they’re not as scary as they seem. The heel has a spiked extension that makes them look taller and more spike-heeled than they are. What makes the boots look uncomfortable is how she’s posed. But regardless, I still wouldn’t wear them. Which is a shame, because I usually covet Batgirl’s boots.
Chris: At this point, I’m pretty used to seeing women in costumes that aren’t exactly fit for crime-fighting, but this one. Man, there is nothing about this that looks like she would not die immediately .
Bethany: She’d probably topple over from standing like that, and then Deco-Batman would trip over her and slice her open with his Bat-blades. God, it’s a total wardrobe disaster!
Chris: SKA-BAM PART TWO!
Bethany: Bat a**.
David: That looks ridiculous.
Chris: Wholesome flirtiness, y’all.
David: Had they cast Alicia Silverstone by this point?
Chris: They had.
David: Jesus Christ.
Chris: The best part of this one is Teves’ commentary — and by “best” I mean “creepiest“: “This one always stops people when they are thumbing through my portfolio. Nothing like a tight girl’s rear end in glossy black PVC to stop a viewer cold. Even if she is 9 feet tall.”
David: Slow clap, Teves.
Chris: If nothing else, this gives us a better look at the shoes and her truly, monumentally ridiculous gloves.
David: I get that thigh-highs and opera gloves are sexy and all, but you don’t usually wear them over other fabric.
Bethany: That issue you had with the juxtaposition of the skintight spandex and the baggy gloves and boots that Batman and Robin were wearing earlier, I really feel that with this image.
Chris: You know that thing where people draw sexy girl versions of, like, operating systems and Wikipedia or whatever? This is like if someone drew one of those for an electrical cord. Plug-chan.
Bethany: They got some of the physics of skintight PVC fabric correct, where it would wrinkle if you turn your body in the slightest. However, it’s amazing how none of the fabric on and around her ass is disturbed.
Chris: Because it’s so “tight,” a word that has never skeeved me out as much as it does in that description.
Bethany: And in turn, seeing the wrinkled PVC near all of that uncannily smooth PVC just makes her look like a giant black hairless cat.
Chris: Batgirl tries to hail a cab.
David: At what point in the process did they decide that maybe they should show Alicia Silverstone’s hair so everyone recognizes Batgirl as sexy Alicia Silverstone? I’m just saying, these have all been full-cowl, and she wore that for like ten minutes at the end of the movie.
Chris: That’s one of the things Teves mentions: The original idea was to give her a cowl, but later they decided to just go with a domino mask, and used the cowl designs for the motorcycle helmet she wears at the end.
David: That was a motorcycle helmet?
David: I’m cryin‘, that’s so crazy amazing.
Chris: Cowl aside, this is closer to what ended up in the movie. The cleavage window is actually still there, but is now just filled in underneath a Bat-Corset. A Bat-stier.
David: Really? no love/hate for my terrible Aerosmith pun?
Chris: I’m ignoring it and hoping it goes away, Uzi.
David: Ah! Much like Aerosmith themselves.
Bethany: You busted in with that pun just as I was about to say “As IF!”
David: Sorry! It was terrible!
Chris: The heels are still pretty severe, though the boots and gloves are less thorny.
Bethany: Yeah, those heels look brutal.
David: Honestly, the Madonna cone-bra boobs bug me even more than the boob window. I mean, is it just me that thinks those things look ridiculous? I’m willing to be alone here.
Chris: Oh, they totally are. They look like Georgia O’Queefe from the Strong Female Characters. Except without the self-aware irony.
Bethany: I’m just going to go ahead and give another sigh.
Chris: All right. For our final entry, we have Poison Ivy. And you all might be wondering just where those thorns from the original Batgirl design ended up.
David: She looks like Vampirella had sex with a porcupine.
Chris: She looks like a sexy anthropomorphized version of the spike strip cops use to stop cars.
Bethany: She looks like she could be Mera’s arch-nemesis: A latex sea urchin.
Chris: She looks like the fetish club version of Pizzazz from Jem and the Holograms.
David: She looks like something I should be whipping in Castlevania.
Chris: She looks like she’s starring in This Ain’t Hellraiser XXX: A Porn Parody.
Bethany: I’m so glad that they ended up going with a look that suits Poison Ivy’s character: the Sailor Moon odango.