Batman has had many costumes over the years. They’re all generally variations of black and grey, with oftentimes gratuitous use of the Bat-symbol thrown in for good measure. You can’t underestimate good branding, after all. Of course, the real reason behind these costume changes has more to do with illustrators and artists distinguishing themselves. Still, it’s amusing to think of Bruce Wayne, somewhere deep in the Batcave, furiously sketching new costume designs while a half-dressed Bat-dress form looms out of the background.
Most of the time, these costume changes are fairly innocuous. A little black where there used to be gray, a slight change to the shape of the cowl. No big deal, honestly. But then, it seems like Bruce abruptly loses his mind. Well, more than normal, anyway.
Case in point: Zebra Batman. While it’s true that we’ve already discussed the wackiness that is Rainbow Batman, at least that one has some real visual appeal. Just think of the sticker merchandise, if nothing else! But Zebra Batman is another case altogether.
The Striped Crusader
What caused this striped monstrosity? In Detective Comics #275, published in 1960, a villain known as “Zebra Man” makes his debut. He’s a second-rate crime boss who dabbles in theoretical physics in his spare time. Zebra Man discovers that all energy has “lines of force” (eat your heart out, Brian Greene). He soon develops a machine that sends those lines of force right through him, making visible zebra-like stripes on his costume.
Eventually, the crime-fighting duo of Batman and Robin come upon Zebra Man’s operation. Robin bumbles around and accidentally hits Bats with the ray. Batman is now striped like a zebra, and with extra powers to boot: he’s now surrounded by a powerful force field that will fling an unwary person back from him. This leads to one unintentionally funny panel where a sad, lonely Zebra Batman wanders through a park, wondering if he’ll ever get to touch someone again. Oh, also if he’ll ever be able to eat again.
Everything is turned right again by the end of the issue. He manages to reverse the energy and is able to pal around with Robin all he wants. Strangely enough, however, the campy Zebra Man seemingly escapes, never to be heard from again. Maybe Kevin Smith will bring him back with some extra fart jokes.