Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer
Batman #575The Problem With
A Lecture

by Michael Hutchison

Batman's crotch has been the cause of much concern in recent years. Unencumbered, it lurks in shadows, and the readers look away for fear of what they might see.

The old shortsThat's why Batman has to wear the shorts again.

And as hundreds of letterhacks sharpen their one oh-so-cutting remark about how the man's so stupid he wears his underwear on the outside, I've decided it's time to investigate this phenomenon and explain it so that even a newsgroup troll can understand it.

I'm not going to pull any punches, okay. We're going to talk about the crotch, the groin, the nethers, the buffalo shot, the package…the region vital to Austin Powers' survival as a movie franchise.

If you're uncomfortable with this, then just choose from any of the 80+ other pages in the 80 Page Giant, okay?

Kelly Jones won't show the crotch!Yes, Batman's wearing shorts over the outside of his "tights." Many people hate this design, preferring the Batman movie costume: a solid black from top to bottom. The latter was adopted as Batman's costume in 1994, when special covers on all the Batman books marked the debut of Batman's new one-piece crotch. The new shorts-less design was given all of the hoopla of an Alex-Ross-painted-whatever.

After all of the ballyhoo, what is the result? Artists went out of their way to avoid drawing Batman's "area." There was just some vague shadowy region that no one wanted to look at. Just check out the Kelly Jones page to the right. I went through the entire issue looking for Kelly to draw Batman's nether regions, and they're always covered or shadowed.

The problem is that modern artists enjoy doing details. The individual teeth, the nose hairs, the seams on the gloves, the slight indent of the lenses in Batman's eyepieces. Details make an artist look good. But the groin is a problem. In the old days, it was no big deal: all superheroes had the anatomical correctness of a naked Ken doll. No bulges, no problem. But what does a modern artist do? Draw Batman's upper half in all it's tight splendor, so detailed that you could use it to point out the specific muscles in an anatomy class…and then draw the belt region with all the definition of a crayon drawing by a kindergartner? Suddenly the tightness of the fabric isn't as fun as it was when drawing the upper half of Catwoman's body stocking…er, I mean, costume.

The reason Batman (and Superman) wear "shorts" over their tights is that tights are tight. Tights are revealing, and men's personal regions have a lot that can be revealed by a constricting garment. You don't see men jogging down the street just in nylons, right? (If you do, you may want to check out the housing values in your area and make sure they're not falling.) The shorts, even tight shorts, provide one more obscuring layer of cloth…and the artist will thank you.

No shortsThe shorts-less movie version of the Batman costume worked because the costume was molded plastic, not a pair of tights. In the comics, the nature of Batman's costume depends on the writer, but it is usually just a space age fabric cloth garment with the flexibility of athletic wear, the durability of a Sherman tank and the show-off-your-washboard-stomach tightness of a ballet outfit.

Speaking of armor…the shorts are probably concealing a bit of equipment…and I don't just mean the equipment he was born with. Batman sees more beatings in a month than a football quarterback or hockey goalie will experience in their professional careers, yet he doesn't wear anything resembling the sports gear that they do. Are we to believe that Batman wouldn't have a bit of protection for the Wayne family jewels? I should hope that those shorts are obscuring a cup of the latest space age polymers manufactured by Wayne industries. I'm talking something with the tensile strength to take a direct hit from Killer Croc and survive intact.

A cup is also a good explanation for why the shorts are so smooth. Something to keep in mind for you artists.

I personally think the shorts are a good idea. Visually, they look nice and help to define the costume. If nothing else, the shorts explain what the belt is attached to.

Now, for those of you who aren't convinced…

Good golly, if I have to hear one more pithy reference about superheroes being so stupid that they wear their underwear over their pants, I think I'll scream. It's not funny. It's not BEEN funny for decades! This joke that's not a joke turns up in every comic book, forward to a trade paperback or article in a trade magazine where the author wants to appear elite and self-mocking. The superhero equivalent of "Hot enough for ya?", it makes me want to throttle someone.

The same goes for the long underwear remark.

Thus, I lay down this challenge: make up a new joke. If you don't like the shorts, that's fine…but come up with something new to say!

All characters and scanned artwork are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 2000 by Michael Hutchison
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