Inside The Bat Vault: The History of the 90s Bat Suits

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For Batman (1989), the batsuit was designed by costume designer Bob Ringwood. Bob studied over 200 comic book issues for inspiration. Even though he studied all those comic books, he found it difficult designing the batsuit. Why? He said “the image of Batman in the comics is this huge, big six-foot-four hunk with a dimpled chin. Michael Keaton is a guy with average build”. “The problem was to make somebody who was average-sized and ordinary-looking into this bigger-than-life creature.” Tim Burton commented, “Michael is a bit claustrophobic, which made it worse for him. The costume put him in a dark, Batman-like mood though, so he was able to use it to his advantage.”

Batman (1989)

Tim Burton opted not to have Batman wear tights, spandex, or underpants, feeling it was not intimidating. Tim Burton’s idea was to use an all-black suit for Batman and Vin Burnham had the job of sculpting the batsuit in correlation with Alli Eynon. In total, 28 sculpted latex designs were created; 25 different cape looks, and 6 different heads were made.

For Batman Returns (1992), Bob Ringwood and Mary E. Vogt were the costume designers. They refined Batman’s batsuit to create the illusion of mechanical parts built into the torso, intending Batman to resemble Star Wars character Darth Vader. The batsuit was sculpted by Steve Wang and Jose Fernandez from design illustrations by Bob Ringwood. The suit had a mechanical system of bolts and spikes beneath the breast plate to secure the cowl and cape. Why? If Michael Keaton turned around quickly the cape would stay where it was, due to its weight.

Batman Returns (1992)

As with the first film’s costume, Michael Keaton could not turn his head. He compensated by making bolder and more powerful movements with his lower body. In total, 48 foam-rubber batsuits were made for this film.

For Batman Forever (1995), costume designer/sculptor Jose Fernandez designed and sculpted the batsuit under the direction from costume designer Bob Ringwood and director Joel Schumacher. This suit was influenced by the statues of ancient Greece and was named the “panther suit” during production. It was named the “panther suit” to distinguish it from the sonar batsuit at the end of the film.

Batman Forever (1995)

But why was it influenced by the statues of ancient Greece? It was because Joel Schumacher wanted a strong influence of beauty for this suit. This suit was also the 1st to feature a completely different utility belt. The utility belt was black/silver-tinted with larger capsules instead of a dull-gold one and the chest emblem was dark gold/bronze.

The batsuits for the film were created from a less dense mixture of foam rubber than in previous films. Resulting in much lighter suits, which allowed more flexibility for actor Val Kilmer and the various stunt doubles. At the same time, this increased durability as well. There were more than 100 Panther and Sonar suits created to allow for the range of stunts in Batman Forever from underwater scenes to scenes involving fire and extreme fighting.

Batman and Robin (1995)

For Batman & Robin (1997), conceptual artist Miles Teves created the initial design illustrations for this batsuit. Costume Designer/sculptor Jose Fernandez sculpted the costume pieces under the direction from costume designer Bob Ringwood and director Joel Schumacher. This costume continued the “panther suit” design philosophy. What was the philosophy? The philosophy was that the suit was influenced by the statues of ancient Greece. This batsuit combined the “panther suit” with elements of the “sonar suit” from Batman Forever (1995), particularly the iridescent metallic finish, arm fins and the utility belt.

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