If all this medical hiatus stuff had any benefit on the BW side of my life is that it helped me rethink a project I failed to finish in time for last year’s Art Soundoff, which would have joined Re-Covered in giving me more art-based articles. In that case I developed a strong cold during the month that slowed me down. Then all the other issues I had delayed it even further. And this was a good thing, though obviously not why it was delayed. The original project was called “Better Heroes”, my strikeback at all the people who claim that characters like Superman are now “better heroes” because he’s now what they like instead of what I like. You know, the “everything for meeeeeeeeeee” crowd.
As I thought about it, though, I came to the realization that this was being petty on my part. Sure, I could change the Punisher (the intended “victim”) into my kind of character but even if most of the internet doesn’t care about what I’m doing…or know I exist it would still be more like “oh yeah, well if you’re going to turn what I like into what you like then two can play at that game” and less positive, which I’ve been trying to get more positivity to balance the negative. I still liked the idea of recreating a classic character, however, but why not make it more of a creative exercise than a “take that” project? So I looked to another problem. The concept of the superhero has been so deconstructed that they’re deconstructing something that barely exists. The time of deconstruction is passe, so it’s time to begin the reconstruction, to make these characters fun yet serious, to bring the joy back to the superhero concept.
I may not be alone in doing this. Some official writers have tried fixing things, but sometimes it requires huge alterations, like Amadeus Cho taking the power of the Hulk away from Bruce Banner…who went insane the last time he was separated from the Hulk, and that was rather recent so I’m betting that storyline doesn’t end well. But for this one I chose a hero that’s the most popular right now…except to the people working on him. Batman has been deconstructed to death, so now let’s rebuild him. We have the technology.
With characters torn apart by comics and Christopher Nolan how do we put him back together? Well, what’s the core of Batman. Well, his parents were murdered in front of him, so he decided to grow up to fight crime. Not able to trust the police in a corrupt city like Gotham Bruce Wayne goes slightly outside, but not above, the law, taking the persona of a giant bat because criminals are…say it with me now…a superstitious, cowardly lot. That’s the essence of who Batman is. So what’s happened to him?
He often has to be reminded he has allies for one thing. He cooperates with Commissioner Gordon to bring the bad guys in but he also has Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Spoiler, Red Robin, Orphan, Alfred, and I guess Jason Todd fits in somewhere. In my vision Alfred’s daughter is the new Oracle because Oracle was a great idea and I want her represented somehow since DC has relented against other media who insist Barbara be Batgirl despite the fact that she was more useful as Oracle and had retired from being Batgirl BEFORE she was paralyzed. But that’s for another time. There’s also the Justice League but we’ll get to some of them in future installments.
Therefore, in my version Batman isn’t the loner anymore. He realizes this is dangerous and he can’t protect the city alone, especially as DC wants to have huge city-smashing events. He needs the Bat-Family not only to overcome the threats in a large city but to keep from falling into the abyss and crossing that line that Frank Miller’s “All-Star” take fell into a long time ago.
Okay, so we have a new personality. He might even be willing to smile again, which some versions had, including the DCAU and pre-Crisis Bronze Age versions. What about his costume? If we’re going to have a new Batman we need a new Batsuit, one that reflects his personality and his fighting style. After all, Batman’s fighting style is a mix of numerous martial arts, boxing, and possibly a few other fighting techniques and his costume needs to allow for that.
There is also one other element that more recent designs have forgotten: stealth. Heavily padded battle armor doesn’t exactly allow one to sneak around easily, and yet I understand why they’ve designed that. They have criminals with heavy firepower. Gotham used to be a crime-ridden city but now the writers have it as a warzone even without racial tensions…which is the only thing Gotham City is missing. So he needs some kind of padding in case some punk gets lucky and spots him. However, Batman moves like a ninja, like a shadow. He gets them before they even know he’s there, maybe one guy gets to see him long enough to know Batman is the man responsible so he can warn the others that the Bat is coming for them next. It’s that mix of stealth, fighting skills, and his gadgets that allow him to make criminals afraid of him, so they aren’t prepared enough to hit him. And those that do will be forced into close-quarters combat, which results in a beating.
Taking all this in mind, and looking at military stealth suits, various kinds of bats, the same kind of gliding capes Nolan used when designing his take on Batman, plus the various Batsuits through the years I think I’ve designed a really good Batman costume.
The gauntlets are purely defensive, blocking blades, hands, and the occasional bullet. While not as good at it as Wonder Woman I would be surprised and saddened if Batman didn’t take Diana as a fighting mentor. You never stop learning and Bruce would use everything available to him, including an Amazon who might be willing to teach him.
The ears have a built-in sonar for when night vision lenses aren’t enough, like in a room full of gas. It also picks up police frequencies and of course the frequencies used by the rest of the Bat Team and the Justice League. (A microphone is hidden in the cowl.) In addition to slide-down lenses near the eyes for night vision, near the mouth are small sliding panels that close together to serve as a combination gas mask and emergency underwater mask, separating the oxygen from the water long enough for him to get a better breather out of his utility belt.
The cape has small wires inside that straighten up and for lack of a better term “harden” allowing the flowing cape to obscure him from enemies and hide himself or what he’s about to do while at the same time using it to glide like so many writers seem to love making him do. (Personally I like the “airfoil” gliding from the Batman: Vengeance game so that’s the concept I’m going with, not that he can glide over the city like a Gargoyle from the Disney show.) This “mode” is activated by stretching the whole cape taunt. Batman would also use this as part of his fighting style, smacking his opponent to distract and stun him, like in the Arkham games.
On the sides of the utility belt are longer pouches for the Batarangs. A pressure-sensitive release pops the Batarang up for quick grabbing.
New to the costume is the center “vest”. It had the required bulletproofing plus the padding to absorb a blow. It’s form-fitting so the arms have full range for fighting or catching himself. The cowl, cape, and boots are not pure black but a sort of “midnight blue” to better hide against the night. The chest is black with the gold-outlined Bat-symbol, something the comics have added that I really like. The arms are grey and thin to allow for ventilation. There’s is also ventilation in the ears of the cowl so Batman’s head doesn’t get too warm. I also like one of the more recent designs for the Bat Symbol on his chest, a black bat with a yellow or gold outline. It’s better than the big oval “shoot me here” design but more interesting than the black bat alone.
Yes, costume re-design plays a large part in Reconstruction Zone. However, the way I design the costume is based on how the character is being re-constructed, so it’s not just the costume being redesigned. So what do you guys think of my take on Batman. And what characters (not limited to comics) would you like to see redesigned?
UPDATE: 11/30/2021: I was never happy with this drawing because it didn’t reflect my current art skills at the time. Though it’s been 5 years I just really had the urge to redo this. So here’s how this should have looked, with only my shading skills slightly improving and knowing how to use Clip Studio Paint a bit more.