A version of the Dark Knight that DC Comics fans have been waiting to see on the big screen for more than 30 years is finally showing up in a movie. No, it’s not Michael Keaton, who returns as Batman in The Flash movie, but rather a Caped Crusader who does his crusading in a blue cape and cowl.
The last time Batman appeared in live action in his classic blue and gray costume was on a 1970s comedy variety show. Adam West reprised his Bright Knight, with other DC characters and, inexplicably, Ed McMahon. Tim Burton made the truly innovative decision to deck his Bruce Wayne in an all-black suit that would’ve never worked back in the ink-and-paper days. Over time, gray worked its way back, most prominently in the Batfleck suit, as faithful a rendition of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns look as possible — or so fans thought. In the trailer for The Flash, there are brief flashes of Ben Affleck’s Batman wearing a blue cape and cowl. After so many iterations, it’s one of the last special “firsts” left. As faithful as West’s costume was for its time, it was cheap. So, the blue and gray suit never got its day in the sun, making it perfect for the introduction in The Flash.
Batman Is Moving Out of the Darkness in the DC Universe
In the Golden Age of comics, to represent black, inkers and colorists would add blue to highlight it. Batman’s first look was supposed to be black and gray, but slowly blue overtook black as his primary color. The shift to an all-black suit for the movies made sense, as well as the addition of armor. Batman is, after all, just a rich dude playing at being a creature of the night. But the larger arc for the Batman character is more in the sunlight than the darkness. Even Matt Reeves’ The Batman ended with the guy everyone mockingly called “Vengeance” being a hero in the bright light of day for the world to see. It’s fitting that Affleck, easily the “darkest” Batman, is the one to bring the blue and gray back.
In 1989, kids and adults quickly accepted the logic of an all-black suit. One of the first additions of armor to the comics Batman’s kit came after letters complained about the bright yellow target on his chest. The storytellers revealed he had a plate of bulletproof armor behind it. Aside from one of the Joel Schumacher films, the Batman movie canon is deeply focused on him being a hero only whispered about. Yet, after trying to kill Superman and then defeating the space gods with the Justice League, the people of the DCU know about Batman.
So, when he’s helping the Flash fight, adding a little color to his costume makes sense. On some level, it’s less menacing, and that’s what a Batman who does heroics during the day needs to go for. Not many of his class of Justice Leaguers got to finish their arc, but it looks like Affleck’s Batman will. He may not be a Bright Knight, but it’s a nice, subtle nod to the idea that this Batman is more like the one from the books than skeptical fans thought.
The Flash Movie Gives Fans Two Blue and Gray Batman Suits
The costume budget for just a single superhero can get pretty ridiculous. However, Adam West and Burt Ward got put in suits so cheap it’s a miracle any of it survived to stand in various museums or collections. Still, with scotch tape and chewing gum, those wardrobe geniuses perfectly evoked the look of the comics at the time. Over the past 30 or so years in the films, Batman films typically lean towards practicality than comics’ whizz-bang flourish. The Batman is arguably the “darkest” film in tone and subject, but even Reeves knows how the color of his costume reveals what kind of hero Batman is.
In the film itself, the effect is very subtle. Set photos reveal that in the bright lights of the Gotham police station sequence, Robert Pattinson’s cape and cowl are more blue than black. But in the light, the color palate matches the comics more than Burton’s aesthetic. In the Super Bowl TV spot for The Flash, viewers saw a long-haired Bruce Wayne and his vault. In it is a suit that looks as if Jim Aparo drew it on the mannequin. It’s a perfect blend of classic comics and Burton movie designs. Keaton will likely stick to the classic black, but the nod is enough. Affleck’s blue-and-gray public Batman suit can fill nerds’ hearts with that sweet nostalgia.
Even if this wasn’t part of Batfleck’s farewell tour, the blue and gray suit may be a one-off for The Flash. Central City and adventures with Barry Allen are always sunnier than Gotham. Still, at a time when plenty of DC fans are disappointed, The Flash appears to celebrate being a part of the DCU rather than mourning it.