I'm certain it was fabric because 1 - Rubber is never acceptable for a Batman cowl and 2- there are several panels of the early comics where the cowl is just hanging floppily as he's getting ready to put in on. Despite the floppy images I'd imagine there was a shell underneath, much like the serial cowl so maybe a light wool or felt material. Chuck and Lynne make an excellent repro serial cowl (I think I was the one who first commissioned it) and I'm not sure what it's made out of but it's great and very soft.
In later interviews Bob Kane said he meant the whole costume to be totally black, like Keaton's was in the 89 film, but couldn't do that because it would have printed as just a big blob on the primitive comic pages of the day. With everything Kane says you really have to take a huge grain of salt so I give little weight to his opinion.
The costume evolves from black with blue highlights to blue with black highlights in just a year, so by BATMAN COMICS #1 Spring 1940 we have the change showing through. The new blue design also changes the ears to look more like what Adam's cowl had, with flat ears attached to the side of the head until we eventually evolve into the classic Dick Sprang look which in my mind IS the Adam West Batman costume.
Anyway, feel free to conjecture if you have any interest in the concept of the thread.
I always thought that first costume was black and gray. My reasoning for black instead of blue is that any black hair person would have blue highlights in their hair. As you said, it evolved into blue and gray, with black trunks (?). I never could figure the black trunks as my eyes replaced them with blue trunks until about 5 years ago.
I can see the all black costume not working when color is brought into the process. Even Dorothy’s slippers went from Silver to Ruby red.
On one hand all black blends into the night well, so is practical in real life. See SWAT, SAS, or Ninja outfits.
However it's hard to see in film or color printing.
Lou, I agree with Andy, Black and Grey, all the way. I am still looking for a fabric that is black but has Blue highlights to use on my outfit. Obviously NO luck yet.
I liked the idea that Bats kept his suit in an old steamer trunk. It just seemed right to me for the period.
That blue/purple inner liner is interesting too. Of blue, was it really blue or just a contrast like the highlights. I do like the contrasting color, it might make him appear larger.
As far as the .45, I wonder where spare magazines were kept. I’d love to see an illustration of that utility belt like they made of the later belts.
The gloves would hide any fingerprints, and wrist length would facilitate easy removal.
I would like to see a realistic animated or live action feature of those first issues.
Lynne and I were just talking about taking a look at the '39 Batcowl to expand the leather cowl family.
I'm also wanting to take a look at the classic Sprang cowl in the "what if I was going to make a Batman costume" for the show.
The 1939 Bat is black and grey to me as well. The pops of color for the gloves is historically correct but I'm not a big fan.
I like the idea of a more natural-ish leather color for the belt versus a bright yellow.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/WilliamsStudio ... eller_info
Is a Williams '39 cape and bat emblem a possibility?
The Bat emblem on the chest - that's pretty inconsistent panel to panel in those early books.
So no takers on what the cape was?
The boots were probably adapted from riding boots. My dad had a custom set made in Europe and they were pretty form fitting. Even the Duran Boots were/are form fitting. And what soles - Leather originally, but do you follow the '22 lead with loud, or more of a crepe sole for silence and stealth.
Jeez, this is like a letter's page. I think Chuck is probably half-way there with the cowl, having made a 39 bust already, if memory serves.
By the way, great interview with you and Lynne. Nice to hear your voices.
The blue lining of the cape doesn't make much sense "in universe" as it would work against the "stealth" objective, but in the real world it's essential for us readers to be able to differentiate the inside of the cape from the outside in various scenes, and how it's supposed to be flowing, billowing, etc.
I'm pretty sure they made the transition from black to blue so early because it quickly became obvious what a relative headache it could be inking in so much black all the time, and how limiting it was when trying to convey action. Andy, you'll already know this as an artist, but huge areas of black all next to each other require leaving lots of little line-like "negative spaces" to separate cape from cowl, figure from shadows, "ribs" in the cape, etc. It's more of a headache than just leaving big empty spaces to be filled in with color later on, and with everything that could go wrong when printing on pulp paper, there was just too much chance of it all ending up as one big muddy blob. Plus comics are a colorful medium, and by 1940 there was already a lot of competition from tons of characters in bright colors, all vying for the dimes of the same kids. Who wants to be the only guy in black and gray when everyone else looks like an explosion at the Technicolor labs?
As far as what Bruce Wayne would have made the outfit from in 1939, the body suit, like Superman's, seems to be some sort of wool material, with a "ribbed" elastic deal at the wrists and ankles. So basically it's long underwear? "Woolies"? The boots look like riding boots -- very tall -- and the cape...well, that's a tough one. At times it has real weight to it, like Dracula's cape, but for climbing, fighting and swinging around it should really be some kind of lightweight silk. In several panels it takes on a rigid "bat-wing" shape as Batman leaps or swoops, but I'm going to write this off as artistic license (even if in my opinion Kane was operating without a license).
I don't remember scenes where the 1939 cowl was "floppy" (maybe the panel where he retrieves the whole suit from a trunk?) but I know comics were all over the place on this subject as the years went by. Sprang drew a cowl that held its shape even off of Batman's head; like Adam's it must have had a shell. Neal Adams and most Bronze Age artists drew it as a floppy, all-fabric affair that folded down flat when swept back off Bruce's head. Some artists showed Bruce holding the detached cowl away from his body in one hand while the cape was still attached, while others showed the cape-plus-cowl as one continuous piece. In one story, Curt Swan even showed Clark Kent stepping on the cape of a Batman imposter to make the cape and cowl pop off his head as he walked past!
If Batman were around in *our* 1939, I would guess the cowl was fashioned from leather, like an aviator's helmet or an early football helmet, either dyed black or with black fabric stretched over it. The ears/horns might have been stuffed with densely packed cotton to hold their shape, which would have allowed for their huge size but cut down on the weight for greater comfort (if it were all leather, it'd be a bear to wear). Maybe there could have been a coil-like wire structure in the bat-ears to hold the shape better and add some strength against high winds, bumps into walls and whacks on the noggin.
I have no good explanation for why Batman's utility belt was yellow: I'd think in any era you'd have to go out of your way to make that happen. But I know he had a utility belt because it had worked for Doc Savage.
Speaking of Tracy, if any of you get the chance read the strips from 1940-1950 they are absolutely out of this world and so entertaining. I'm also a big fan of the four Tracy Film Noir's from RKO from 1945-1948 with Morgan Conway as Tracy (my favorite) and then Ralph Byrd who had played Tracy in the serials-- the serials take way too much leeway on the strips and they lose all the humor, albeit often a very dark humor, that Chester Gould put into his comic strip detective.
It's debatable but there likely would not be a Batman Rogue's gallery as we know it without DICK TRACY having one-- the two occurred almost simultaneously but knowing Kane's penchant for "borrowing" I can't imagine he wasn't watching Gould's strip very closely.
Back to the subject, Chuck that would be pretty wild if you were to tackle the '39 cowl, just remember the edge of the cowl's jawline follows up into the ear. But man, imagine a Chuck Robinson Cowl, a Chuck Sprang Cowl! Wow!
Gould's quirky art style also would have strongly appealed to Kane, who would have seen it as a handy "out" for never mastering certain basic illustrative skills. It's a cinch he could never have mimicked a Hal Foster or Alex Raymond style, but Gould's was within reach. (It's like PeeWee Herman flying over his handlebars: "I meant to do that!")
As far as that goes, the Dick Tracy connection helps explain why Batman comics looked the same for so very long, when even Superman showed some evolution and well into a period when DC was publishing fresher fare like Infantino's Flash, Gil Kane's Green Lantern or Anderson's Hawkman. Obviously Bob Kane and to some extent DC felt the Batman feature was defined by its look, as surely as Dick Tracy was. In 1964, Batman took a new direction, while Dick Tracy still looks more or less the same even in 2022. It's interesting to consider how different things might be if it went the other way.
This is where I think a shell would be essential. The '39 cowl comes so far up on the sides that I'd think it would make it more likely to move upwards and block your vision at critical moments, or even slide back far enough to reveal your identity. Certainly that seems to be a constant danger with Lewis Wilson's cowl in the first serial. A shell or leather "helmet" would add weight, and a chin strap would be even more helpful.Back to the subject, Chuck that would be pretty wild if you were to tackle the '39 cowl, just remember the edge of the cowl's jawline follows up into the ear.
BTW, as evident in Andy's avatar, the '39 cowl creates a really cool "wedge" or "V" shape, moving down from ear tip to the point of the nose and back up to the other ear tip. It conveys a certain sleekness as well as a sense of threat. I dig it.
Your ideas about how a "real" 39 cowl would be done are of great interest to me. The shape of Andy's avatar DOES give a Bat like look even more so than the latter cowls.