When it comes to superheroes, I think they're only as authentic as their costumes. In the 1960s, Batman was goofy. As the character evolved in the comics, it had to evolve on screen as well. And we also got nipples on the costume, but that came later.
Tim Burton wanted a gothic intensity for the character, so the costume changed. And when Burton's Batman was a hit, they gave him another movie where he went deeper into what Batman and his villains could look like.
That's when Jose Fernandez, just an intern at the time, was tasked with helping the staff create the Catwoman costume. This was a landmark look that redefined sexy and totally changed the way people thought of superhero costumes.
But that's not the costume that Fernandez gets associated with most. He's also the person who put the nipples on the Batsuit, forever changing the way we saw Batman in the 90s and echoing into what we associate with that period in Batman movies today.
The Bat Nipple Suit
Joel Schumacher credited Fernandez with adding the nipples. And it turns out there was a very logical and inspired reason they were added. Fernandez recently sat down with Mel Magazine, where he covered his work on the Batman films and even explained the nipples, which first appeared in Batman Forever.
"With Val Kilmer’s suit in Batman Forever, the nipples were one of those things that I added. It wasn’t fetish to me, it was more informed by Roman armor—like Centurions. And, in the comic books, the characters always looked like they were naked with spray paint on them—it was all about anatomy, and I like to push anatomy. I don’t know exactly where my head was at back in the day, but that’s what I remember. And so, I added the nipples. I had no idea there was going to end up being all this buzz about it."
This actually makes a lot of sense. Turning Batman's suit into armor was an inspired homage.
During the first Kilmer movie, it didn't come up much. But as soon as Clooney stepped into the role, it was all anyone could talk about. George Clooney's Batman was a return to something much more camp, and it stirred fans. But Schumacher loved the nipples.
Fernandez says, "Well, in the first one, they were just a little blob of clay. It was subtle—it was a blip. But for Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher loved the nipples, so he said, 'Let’s showcase them.' Schumacher wanted them sharpened, like, with points. They were also circled, both outer and inner—it was all made into a feature of the Batsuit. I didn’t want to do it, but he’s the boss, so we sharpened them, circled them, and it all became kind of ridiculous."
He even was tasked to put nipples on Batgirl, but that came across as too sexual, and they were removed.
So what can a filmmaker actually learn from this?
The big lesson is tone.
Nipples worked in Batman Forever because it was tonally still a movie about Batman being a warrior. The armor fit the mood and the black costume.
But the costume was lighter and the movie campier for Batman & Robin. So the nipples became a feature that just exuded a weird vibe. It certainly worked for what Schumacher wanted, but it didn't fit what the audience liked at the time.
As filmmakers, we have to have a vision for the project and a goal. That work should be done in tandem with the costume designer. Figure out your tone, and move on from there. But don't be so insular. Allow yourself to listen to criticism and to bend at times. Especially when it comes to collaborators who are trying to help solidify your vision.
Are you a fan of the nipples? Let us know what you think in the comments.