Alas, this storyline doesn’t involve an obviously LGBTQ-friendly Batman, though never say never. However, the story in this 1957 issue of Detective Comics #241 is still pretty great. Indeed, it’s so visually strange that the rainbow Batman suit and its immediate precursors have become something of a minor legend in Batman fandom. Writers and artists are so enamored of the silly-looking thing that you can even buy a Funko Pop! figure to commemorate the story.
How did the Dark Knight switch from his more somber gear to something so flashy? It has to do at least partially with the end of the Golden Age of Comics and the arrival of the Comics Code Authority. The CCA was implemented by publishers in 1954, in an attempt to regulate and censor themselves before government officials took over.
The comics industry had already faced increasing parental concern and hysteria over violence and sexuality in comics pages. It led to a series of Senate hearings along with the now-infamous book Seduction of the Innocent, an anti-comics screed published in 1954 by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham.
By the time Detective Comics #241 was published, even Batman had to play nice. This sea change meant that his stories had to fit within a squeaky-clean aesthetic. No more serious violence, and not a hint of anything “weird” between Batman and Robin.
That doesn’t mean Robin was totally out of the picture, however. In this issue, he’s even the reason for the costume change. Robin the Boy Wonder hurts his arm while fighting crime. To prevent criminals from learning Robin’s true identity, Bruce Wayne reasonably concludes that he should continuously distract all of Gotham’s criminal element. Can’t have your boy sidekick identified, after all.
So, what’s Batman’s plan? Wear a series of brightly colored Batsuits, culminating in the eye-burning rainbow suit. Technically fine, according to the CCA, but plenty weird enough to earn a spot in comics history.