Rainbow Batman

At one end, Batman #8, Detective Comics #241, March 1957:


(Hat tip to Steven Levine.)

And at the other end, A rollerblading Batman in a recent Pride parade. celebratorily gay in rainbow:


The old Batman of the comics took on rainbow garb — of two types: a succession of solid-color costumes, as above; and a parti-colored costume, as below — for reasons that were not made clear in the comic books:


(Let me dwell briefly on the message here: who cares what they look like, how they dress, or how they act, so long as they get the job done. An excellent thought, especially for 1957.)

Robin was not so sure about all this himself:


There’s a long tradition of reading gay subtexts into Batman comics and another of creating explicitly gay versions of Batman and other characters. Early gay subtextual readings focused on Batman’s relationship to Robin the Boy Wonder (some discussion here). In take-offs on the comics, this relationship becomes the explicitly gay BatRobin pairing, paralleled by the SuperBat pairing, Batman with Superman. Batman thus achieves erotic satisfaction with both an Apollo figure, embodying youthful beauty, and a Priapus figure, embodying powerful maturity. (Both pairings are depicted in the Madrid wall paintings I recently posted about.)

I’ll post separately on SuperBat and concentrate here on Rainbow Batman, who becomes in gay re-workings a figure combining powerful mature masculinity with flagrant queerness: Priapus the Queen, if you will.

Recall that Rainbow Batman comes in two flavors: a fragmented character, with different colors (different personas) on different occasions; and an integrated character, exhibiting all the colors (all the personas) at once. Both flavors appeared in Rainbow Batman’s first appearance, and both continue to this day.

Two reincarnations of the comic-book Rainbow Batman. First, from the Comics Alliance site last year: “ICYMI [In Case You Missed It]: The Rainbow Batman Has Finally Returned” by Chris Sims on 9/22/18:

I have seen the most unexpected return of the year in the pages of Francis Manapul‘s Trinity #1. In case you missed it, The Rainbow Batman is back!
The original Rainbow Batman was, of course, the product of 1957’s Detective Comics #241, which boasted one of the most memorably bizarre Batman covers of the entire Silver Age. As for why he must, Robin, he must wear a different-colored Batman costume each night, it was in order to keep everyone from realizing that both Robin and Dick Grayson had broken their arms at the same time, thus keeping their identities secret.

Manapul’s version is a pretty faithful recreation, right down to the crook being punched out by the Rainbow Batman at the end

Manapul’s climactic scene and the original on which it’s based:



Hmm, we all know what he’s got in his pocket: he wasn’t at all happy to see Batman, so it must have been… a gun.

Then there’s a re-creation of Rainbow Batman on animated tv. From the Dial B for Blog site (issue 524, not dated):

Back again with “DC Explodes on TV,” counting down the top 12 covers of DC comics as seen on television. Today it’s cover number 8, Detective Comics #241, which was dramatized on [the animated tv show] Batman: The Brave and The Bold [2008-11], in the episode “Emperor Joker” [of 10/22/10].

You can watch the whole show here. Three scenes from it:




Now for the gaying of Rainbow Batman (leading, eventually, to things like #2). As a slogan, featuring integrated RB:


(The Rainbow Knight rather than The Dark Knight. What the world needs now is the Rainbow Knight. [Sorry about the earworm.])

Plus two integrated-rainbow Batman logos (from a great many choices), one with bold horizontal stripes, one with more elegant vertical stripes:



Finally, fragnented RB, in the 6-pack of DC Collectibles rainbow Batman action figures (available from many sources):


Each figure has a cape in a saturated color and a bodysuit in a lighter variant. The two extreme figures are the gay-slanted ones: at the top, a pinkish-red (magentoid) cape with a clearly pink bodysuit; on the bottom, a deep purple cape with a lavender bodysuit. If the set weren’t so expensive ($50-$70, depending on vendor), I’d get one just for the Pink Knight and the Lavender Knight. My world needs them.

One Response to “Rainbow Batman”

  1. [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky describes Silver Age Rainbow Batman and his later pride […]

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