When we took a look back at Batman’s use of power armor over the years, one big reason we found was basically so people could sell action figures of Batman clad in various, situation-specific power suits. But with Batman Day at the end of the week, we thought we’d delve into just how bat@#!? insane some of these armored toys could be.
The Legends of Batman line was a bizarre one: it was mainly taken up by versions of Batman throughout history, or fulfilling an archetypal role like Archer Batman, Pirate Batman, Samurai Batman, Egyptian Batman, and so on. But every once in a while it would just dump a big “metallic armor” monstrosity, like Flightpak Batman.
Not only is the titular “Flightpak” outstandingly non-aerodynamic, Batman’s special suit for the armor is just the most ‘90s thing in the world. Back when vac-packing figures in chrome paint was cool this might have been alright, but now it’s a Bat-eyesore. Even Bruce’s mouth is sculpted into the suit!
You’ll quickly learn that the names of Batman toys are basically delectable word salads—Batman as a suffix to any random word, seemingly chosen out of a hat by a bored toy designer.
Clearly, someone struggled when “Infrared” came out of the hat, because nothing says Batman like the electromagnetic spectrum! You know what does say “electromagnetic spectrum”, apparently? Translucent red plastic, slapped over a red-suited batman to fire “photon discs” at his opponents. The best part of this figure is the packaging art, done in the style of Batman: The Animated Series, attempting to make this hunk of plastic look feasible in the world of the show. It doesn’t work, but it makes it even sillier to look at.
Okay, so the actual armor Batman is wearing in this is weird, but not the focus—although the color scheme is all over the place, and the superfluous shoulder pad/bandolier is very ‘90s for a toy made last year as part of the Batman Unlimited range (the same series that gave us the amazingly bizarre Batman Robot Dinosaur Jail!). The armor upgrade here comes from Batman’s robotic pal, Axe Rhino... who is literally a robot rhino who carries an axe embedded in its head for Batman to whip out when needs be.
Think about it. Batman needed something to carry an axe around. Looked at his new bandolier, and found it insufficient. And then built a goddamn cyber rhino for the soul purpose of carrying the axe around in its FACE.
Batman is a stealthy fellow. He goes around calling himself “The Night”, and works in the shadows, a tool of fear and secrecy. So having a night glider armor (can’t he already do that with his cape?) that’s neon orange and blue, the least inconspicuous color scheme in the world, seems like it’s asking for trouble. He might as well strap a few sirens on it that blare “I’M BATMANNNNNN” repeatedly.
Not to be confused with the Legends of Batman line, the similarly named Legends of the Dark Knight range was an exercise in ‘90s excess for Batman suits. They were all weirdly angrily-named, like the LAVA FURY Batman or the ASSAULT GAUNTLET Batman. But no suit quite managed to reach the giddying heights of the Neural Claw armor.
It’s pretty slick for a cybernetic suit, admittedly, despite the grossly unuseful wings... but the real kicker is the bizarre “neural claws” Batman attached to them. They could be attached to Batman’s wrists as somewhat more useful weapons, but the default was on the wings, necessitating Bats bending forward almost 90 degrees to menace his foes. Take this one back to the drawing board, Bruce.
Don’t think silly Batman armor suits were confined to toys based on the goofier adaptations of Batman: even the ultra-serious world of Christopher Nolan’s films got the ridiculous treatment.
By the time The Dark Knight Rises was hitting screens, big chunky accessories were coming back in style to emphasise action figures’ playability. The movie had a whole line of “QuickTek” toys that came with a giant cage you slammed over the figure, lifting it back up to reveal it had now been covered in special armor. The goofiest by far has to be Tank Blaster Batman, once again overtly violent for a man who abhors killing and guns in particular. Plus, could you really see Christian Bale’s Batman walking around with this thing on?
The Batman Forever line was peak craziness—not only were you in the height of ridiculous accessories on toys, but the film itself was already crazy and absurd enough. One of the strangest Batman figures in the line was the “Night Hunter” suit: embedded night vision lenses in Batman’s shoulders, wildly impractical (especially since many Batsuits before and since integrated that into the white eyes of the suit), but it was augmented by an attachable translucent riot shield. It was shaped like a bat, naturally... and had two giant claws at the front to eviscerate whatever poor thing Batman was hunting in the night.
Man, action figure Bats could be kind of a dick.
A svelte powered suit for skating is a pretty cool idea... but then Batman decided to go a bit nuts and add a bunch of highly dangerous weaponry into it. Rocket ski poles were already too much, but the back of the suit had an integrated “flame missile”, which fired a jet of flame.
As the figure is posed above, it almost makes sense, aside from the risk to Batman’s Bat-butt. But as you can see in the box art, the missile was supposed to be the other way around, shooting a flame above Batman’s head when he bent over. If that’s a goddamn safety hazard, I don’t know what it is. Aren’t these suits meant to protect Batman!?
Batman is tough, but he’s also a non-lethal hero. He tries to avoid killing an opponent whenever he can, and when it comes to firearms, he loathes them: the tool that murdered his parents was a sworn “weapon of the enemy”, only ever using them under the direst circumstances.
...that is, until you needed an extra variant for your Batman figures, so slap him in power armor and give him a gigantic chaingun and the name “TOTAL DESTRUCTION BATMAN.” That’s very Bruce Wayne.
Kenner’s second foray into DC comics figures following their wildly popular Super Powers collection, Total Justice’s whole schtick was “Fractal Armor”, near future tech smothered over various DC heroes with no real rhyme or reason, and it made them look like really dodgy Borg knockoffs.
The Total Justice toys had the honor of getting its own tie-in comic from DC, which featured the Fractal Armor in action—but a totally different version compared to the toys, that looked way better (even if retro-tastically chrome) than the awful toys.
See, now this is much more like Batman—no big guns or whatever, just solely a rescue-based bit of armor. The emergency services Batman, if you will.
First of all, “Inferno Extinction Batman” is a brilliantly violent way of saying “Fire Fighter Batman”—but as nice as this idea is, Batman’s suit doesn’t really pan out all that well. Water cannon? Great idea. Fire axe? Sure! Giant ladder stuck on the back of the suit that Batman can’t use, and probably can’t support the weight of if people are climbing up and down it? Terrible.
“Hey Batman, nice new armor! What does it do?”
“It... glows green?”
“Does the glow detect radiation or something? Is it holographic?”
“It glows green.”
“Yeah, but surely you made it to actually do something beyond the normal Batsuit, right?”
“I don’t think you understand me. It. Glows. Green.”
Another noble idea, poorly executed: Disaster Control Batman should be ready to help out in any emergency, but probably spends just as much time getting in and out of this godawful suit as he does saving lives with it.
Extra robotic tools include a bat-shaped grip, two indescribable flimflams that seem like they’d just get in everyone’s way in a real disaster, and... a Bat Axe? I’m not sure what state of emergency requires an axe swinging around everywhere. The only disaster in need of control here is Batman’s aesthetic choices.
Remember how I said the Fractal Armor Batman was a cheap knockoff of Star Trek’s Borg? I was wrong. This is the Borg knockoff, the crazy, cybernetic, freakish-looking Batman that... actually, I won’t explain, I’ll leave you the flavor text from the back of the box:
The Batcomputer has detected a freeze virus that could be Mr. Freeze’s most aggressive and destructive yet! The virus has all the properties of liquid nitrogen and is oozing into all of Gotham City’s critical systems at blazing speeds. Digitizing himself through the Batcomputer, Batman goes online in a dangerous Virs Delete mission. Wielding his circut-tech heat blaster, Batman must melt down the virus in its entirety in order to save Gotham City!
I do not even know where to begin with this.
Over the years, there’s been many Batman action figures that had Bruce Wayne suit up into Batman with clip on armor pieces, which is a pretty neat take on the “Armored Batman” concept. But the Decoy Batman is the strangest take on it.
The figure itself looks fine above, the slide-on Batman torso good to go... but don’t think that Bat-Chin is in place for the sake of the figure. Look at the box art illustrating the toy:
Previous figures attempting similar left Bruce’s own chin to fill in the cowl when you put it on, but here the chin is already in place. Bruce Wayne is putting on an armored mask of his own face. I mean, I almost want to think of it as symbolic, that Batman is Bruce Wayne’s metaphorical armor against the world, but at the same time, he’s putting on an armored mask of his own face.
Also, what’s the decoy here? Does Batman, the world’s greatest detective, really think that a good disguise would be himself?
‘90s Batman toy designers sure did have a terrible time trying to create computer-based suits for Batman, didn’t they? If you thought Borg-Batman was bad, this is something else.
I mean, seriously, it’s something else because I have no idea how to explain this hot mess of plastic. The fire hula-hoop! The translucent piss-yellow, spiky armor! The fact that it’s specifically Bruce Wayne and not Batman because he doesn’t even have a cowl on under all that garbage! What does any of this have to do with Anti-virus stuff? Is this what people thought Norton looked like in the ‘90s? If so, I want to live in this magical computer world. Where’s my fire hoola-hoop, dammit!