Seeking vintage screen worn Costumes, Capes, and Cowls

Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible! (Detective Comics #33, November 1939)

The Bat-Man Serial

a 1943 black-and-white 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures, produced by Rudolph C. Flothow, directed by Lambert Hillyer, that stars Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as his sidekick Robin. The serial is based on the DC Comics character Batman, who first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. The villain is an original character named Dr. Daka, a secret agent of the Japanese Imperial government, played by J. Carrol Naish. Rounding out the cast are Shirley Patterson as Linda Page, Bruce Wayne’s love interest, and William Austin as Alfred, the Wayne Manor butler.

Batman is notable for being the first appearance on film of Batman and for debuting serial story details that quickly became permanent parts of the Batman comic’s mythos: the Bat’s Cave and its secret entrance through a grandfather clock inside Wayne Manor. The serial was commercially successful and in 1949, four years after World War II, spawned another Columbia chapter serial, Batman and Robin. Its success inspired the action-comedy lampoon series Batman (and its 1966 theatrical feature film spin-off) starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

The Batsuit, The Cape and The Cowl

Bob Kane’s original sketch of the character was very different from the Batman we know today. Kane showed the very first drawing of a character he had first named the Bat, then Bat-Man, to Bill Finger who was the writer he hired to write the first Batman stories. Bill thought that the character looked too much like Superman, so he suggested major changes that would prove to be everlasting to the character’s legacy.

Finger took a Webster’s Dictionary off the shelf, looking for a drawing of a bat, and found one. He then said to Kane, “Notice the ears, why don’t we duplicate the ears?” He then suggested that Kane would draw what looked like a cowl, to bring the nosepiece down and make him look mysterious and not show any eyeballs at all. Finger didn’t like the bird-like wings, so he also suggested to Kane to re-design them and make a cape instead, and scallop the edges so it would flow out behind Batman when he ran so it would look like bat wings as well as adding a bat symbol on the character’s chest as it’s chest emblem. He also suggested that the color of his bodysuit should be gray instead of red and a pair of gloves were added, colored purple from the start but later changed to blue.

As different artists have taken over the responsibility of drawing the costume, the details of the suit have changed considerably. The original incarnation of the cape was a wing-like structure that may have been inspired by drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. This eventually evolved into a more cape-like design of varying length with scalloped edges to resemble the wings of a bat.

The cowl mainly conceals Batman’s features and contributes to his imposing appearance. In comic book depictions, the eyeballs are not visible through the cowl. This was suggested by Batman co-creator Bill Finger during the character’s creation to give him a more mysterious look. Instead, the eyes appear white without any visible eyeballs. This motif of white eyes behind a mask has been replicated in nearly every masked superhero following Batman’s debut in 1939.

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