Arguably no comic book hero has a more iconic costume than Batman. From the pointy ears to the black and gray color scheme, the Dark Knight’s outfit has remained relatively consistent for the better part of a century. However, there’s one aspect of his uniform that has fallen by the wayside in live-action, and that’s his distinctive yellow chest plate. While it played a prominent part in the character’s aesthetic during the days of the late Adam West and Michael Keaton, it has recently been written off as cartoonish and campy. In my humble opinion, that represents an enormous misreading of the symbol, and I think that it’s time for the DCEU to finally introduce it to modern audiences.
First and foremost, we need to address one particular aspect of Batman’s yellow chest symbol, and that’s the fact that it serves a practical purpose. It’s the most heavily protected area of his body. In one critical sequence in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (which has thus far acted as the biggest source of inspiration for Ben Affleck’s Batman), Bruce Wayne takes a bullet straight to the chest while attempting to apprehend Harvey Dent. While still reeling from the impact of the magnum round, Bruce’s inner monologue begins to race and he explains why the yellow symbol is located over his chest. It’s a target; it’s there because he knows criminals (a superstitious and cowardly lot) will aim where he tells them to aim.
In an era where filmmakers have grown smarter and smarter with how they rationalize the more outlandish aspects of a superheroes gadgets and abilities, this three-decade-old explanation still stands. We have watched directors like Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder explain the practicality of Batman’s various gadgets, and there’s a home for explanation in the modern DC landscape.
I can see the scene now: Batman goes to The Batcave before heading out on patrol. Tonight he knows he will have to face off against Deathstroke, or maybe even storm the Iceberg Lounge to take down Penguin. Whatever the reason, he needs a heavier form of armor, so he opts to ditch the black and gray for a suit that will keep his vital organs and head safer. The guy is a master strategist, and that shows it off perfectly.
These applications have historically extended beyond personal protection as well. In addition to increased armor padding, the yellow chest symbol has often included a wide array of gadgets, such as bright spotlight that can serve as a flashbang in the heat of combat, and it has also provided criminals with a target to aim at that actually draws fire away from Batman’s more brightly-colored sidekick. If Matt Reeves opts to address the existence, death and legacy of Robin in the upcoming solo Batman movie (which we seriously hope he does), this will represent another perfect opportunity to flesh out the mythology of the character to show who he was before Batman V Superman, and who he is after the events of Justice League.
Perhaps more importantly, the yellow chest symbol is just that — a symbol. The DCEU’s Batman has worked in the shadows for decades, but his newfound partnership with heroes like Wonder Woman and Superman has forced him to enter the light and become Gotham’s own ideal of hope and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. He could wear black and gray when people didn’t know that he existed, but the application of the distinctive yellow chest pieces tells the people of Gotham that a hero has emerged to bring them out of the darkness. This appears to be the arc that the DCEU is aiming for anyway, and if that’s the case, then there’s no better source of further inspiration than Batman Inc.
On that note, the yellow chest plate needs to enter the DCEU because it could help pave the way for Bruce Wayne to eventually form Batman Incorporated. This organization, created by Bruce Wayne, is committed to Batmen and Batwomen all over the world and funding a never-ending war on the planet’s worst criminals — a Batman on every continent is the ultimate goal. It’s already abundantly clear that DC and Warner Bros. want to expand The Bat Family over the course of the next few years — look no further than the Batgirl and Nightwing movies. One of the easiest ways to continue that Bat-ward trajectory would be to have our current Bruce Wayne embrace Batman and create a brand out of the myth. From there, we could even see a movie for a more obscure hero like Batwing within the next few years.
Of course, that’s just my take on the matter. What’s yours? Let us know what you think in the comments below! Ben Affleck’s Caped Crusader will make his next appearance in the theaters when Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon’s Justice League debuts in theaters later this year on November 17.
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