Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Batman's Physique


While some facial features will differ slightly due to variety of styles among the artists, the comic book characters have been more or less consistent throughout their respective eras. The writers and artists have a list of criteria and basic information on each character that they must follow. The interesting thing is that while Batman had always have consistent features and physical attributes within certain continuities, they're not a common knowledge. There are always deviations from time to time in specials that aren't a part of continuity or one offs, but the regular series had been very much consistent within itself

Bruce Wayne/Batman for the most part wasn't a muscular type of a person that relied on strength. He wasn't built like a bodybuilder or weigh lifter. While strong and slim, his main attributes were an amazing agility, speed and reflexes. His athletic skills were more than exceptional, and he was even able to move and swing in the air like Spider-Man

Panel below from Batman #425

Panel below from Detective Comics #589
Panel below from Detective Comics #582

The entire point of wearing a spandex suit is a complete freedom of movement. For a man relying on his unmatched speed and agility, the freedom of movement is the most important thing

Panel below from Detective comics #614

Panel below from Detective Comics #444

He was even shown dodging bullets numerous times back in the 80's..

..and still is today

Bruce Wayne is officially 6'2 tall and weights 210 lbs  according to the official Who's Who in DC Universe

As already mentioned, Batman has a slim and athletic body, but by no means does he look like a bodybuilder or weight lifter. While he lifts weights as well and has a well shaped body, his practice consists of very acrobatic maneuvers.


The point is, it was Batman's agility, not the physical strength or muscles that were his prime attributes. In the very beginning though, it was somewhat different

The first time we get to see Batman shirtless is in 1939's Detective Comics #29 when he gets shot and goes to the doctor to fix the wound. He is shown as a man in shape but the early style of the comic books was very stylized and not as detailed. For example, the doctor is shown to be wide as well


It was Batman's origins, first appearing in 1939's Detective Comics #33, that flat out stated and showed that Bruce is incredibly strong and his body is a "physical perfection"


That physique was very consistent, even if the art was very stylized. Panel below from 1940's Batman #2


His exceptional strength became very apparent very quickly

Panel below from Detective Comics # 44


Panel below from Batman #3


The art got more and more detailed starting with late 60's, eventually morphing into the standard style for the comic books in the 70's.  As the art changed and the Batman universe experienced its revolution, switching gears to more serious stories, Batman's physique wasn't that of a weightlifter anymore and his body was streamlined significantly. He was now shown as a man in a very good shape, but nothing exceptional or out of norm for a man his age and height. The change wasn't only visual - the stories for the first time humanized the character, showing him actually struggle with heavy things

Batman lifting someone in the 1940's...

and in the late 1960's 

He was still well built and muscular, but he didnt have any exceptionally huge muscles and abs. 


In other words his physique now was more human, more down to Earth, more common looking


As one can notice from those examples, Bruce is not a bodybuilder type, but is built like a typical man in shape. Strength and size weren't his calling cards, the swiftness in movement, fighting styles and acrobatic skills were.


This stature remained consistent for many years. 


In the late 80's he was gaining more and more muscles


In 1991's Legends of the Dark Knight #16 Bruce was shown as being even more ripped, but the story still stressed out that he's no bodybuilder


Batman sometimes performed amazing fits and could have a boost of strength that would be almost impossible for a human being, but that was due to his strong and sudden rush of adrenaline and/or anger

Panels below from Detective Comics #614 

Panel below from Shadow of the Bat #4 

So in general the physical depiction of Batman was very consistent, but as mentioned before, there were occasional deviations. One of them is the famous 1986's Year One which hints at Batman's exceptional physical strength


The mid/late 90's started changing Batman's body more and more. In time he was given much, much more strength and his body and muscles grew in size as the years progressed. Soon he was shown to perform such inhuman tasks as kicking in steel doors, ripping out prison bars and punching through the hood of the car. He was visibly bigger and could lift 1000 lbs as his daily routine

Panel below from Batman #655

Panel below from Batman Tenses

For a better comparison on how the comic books gradually toned down and then amped up Batman's physique over his long history, take a look at this comparison set


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THE 1966 SERIES
Adam West is the only actor to date to match Batman's 6'2 height in the comics. Also, while it was a bit hard to tell when in the costume, West was well built as well, even more so than his comic counterpart at the time. His physique actually matched that of the Bronze Age Batman, and he actually resembled him quite a bit



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THE TIM BURTON MOVIES
Michael Keaton is 5'10, about an average height for a Caucasian male and roughly four inches shorter than Batman’s height in the comics . Before playing Batman, Michael Keaton played a professional athlete in the 1986 movie called Touch and Go


The closest we get to see his physique around the Batman shoot is in the 1988 movie called Clean and Sober, in which we can see that Keaton was of a good shape of an average man. It's important to note that he went under extensive kick-boxing training for his role in Batman


Michael Keaton: So the preparation that I did, aside from basic things that I think you always have to do was getting in shape because I had to be very physical in this movie. Actually I couldn't get too big because I couldn't fit in the suit if I was too big and I couldn't get too small, I couldn't loose too much weight (MNC TV 1990)

In 1992 he appeared on SNL, seemingly bigger than in the late 80's


It's worth noting that Michael Keaton was able to achieve an impressive fit of gaining a great amount of muscle tissue for his role in the movie Desperate Measures


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JOEL SCHUMACHER MOVIES
Val Kilmer is 6 feet tall, two inches shorter than his comic book counterpart. Kilmer had a wide but athletic body, which very much resembles the Bronze/Modern Age I physique of Batman. 


George Clooney is 5'11 tall. He was the skinniest and least physically fit of the actors who portrayed Bruce Wayne/Batman. 


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CHRISTOPHER NOLAN MOVIES
 Christian Bale always dives deep into his roles and commits to his characters both mentally and physically. In order to play Batman, he achieved a stunning fit of gaining incredible amount of weight and muscle tissue coming from a movie Machinist in which he was almost anorexic

Bale is 6'0 tall, two inches shorter than his comic book counterpart. He was shown as being more bulky, wider and more muscled than many of Batman's incarnations, mirroring more the recent depictions and the earliest years with his physique


Christopher Nolan: [Christian Bale] proceeded to put on a lot of weight in muscle terms, he really tried bulk up.(...) I sort of gently suggested to cut down a bit (Making of BB)

Christian Bale: I was just stuffing my face all day long, and lifting every weights and eating more and eventually went up to around 220 lbs. I just listened to what he said about get as big as you possibly can so thats what I did but I was kind of like a bear, I wasn't really like a martial arts guy, lean and ripped and everything like that. I could see the look on Chris' face, he looked at me and it was like 'oh' Christ, what has this guy done? (...) So I had to then loose a lot of weight (Making of BB)
Once they cast me, that’s when the real effort started just because that’s was when I actually had to start getting strong because he’s got no super powers. You have to look like you can be a brawler. He has no super powers and so he has to look like he really can do what you see him doing. And it was very… It was cutting it very fine, you know? I kind of just got ready in time for the beginning of the film.” (movies.about.com)

The weight fluctuation is somewhat noticeable in the movie as well


Bale was also the only non-American actor who portrayed Batman/Bruce Wayne in the theatrical movies 

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17 comments:

  1. There was a qoute from Nolan that stated that Bale got one time so big, TOO big that he even matched the more recent bulkier comic depictions. So he had to slim down
    a bit, its in the making of the Batman begins movie feature. There's an interesting qoute there.

    Great article, praying you'll do a Batcave on paper and screen blog in the near future.

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  2. Great stuff as usual, Gotham Alleys. Didn't realize that Clooney was that skinny at the time.

    One small correction is that Bale was freakishly thin for the movie The Machinist, not American Psycho.

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  3. Another very interesting article. I didnt know Batman was deflating and inflating so much in those 72 years

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  4. I always hated how they turned Batman into Hulk. Ive seen Batman as a man who is in good shape but with extraordinary acrobatic skills, not as some Stallone type of a guy whose ripped to shreds

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  5. Bruce was shown to punch through the bricks in Man Who Falls but thats a skill of ninjas, it doesnt come from being big, it comes from technique and control. Bruce Lee was small and skinny after all yet he was unbeatable

    And after all Year One deviated with his strength level a bit as you mentioned

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  6. So basically to sum it up Batman doesnt have one definitive physique and changed many times over the years

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  7. Really interesting galley showing how much dedication Bale puts into matching his roles physically.

    http://i.imgur.com/IN3fC.jpg

    It's interesting to note Bale had a build bigger than his build for his portrayal of the cape crusader for 2002's 'Reign of Fire' .

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  8. Oh wait never mind, Bale's build for Batman was his hugest build I m was mistaken.

    Still interesting gallery, showing his metamorphosis. Great dedication takes a great actor to pull it off.

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  9. Bale has even commited to fluxtuating his physique from Batman film to Batman film. In BEGINS he's obviously at his biggest starting his mission, in The Dark Knight he's starting to be overwhelmed, has a lot on his plate (realizes he needs to be lighter and faster) and his physique is more athletic and trim than it was in BEGINS. Now for TDK Rises, he seems to have a happy medium build between BEGINS and TDK type shape to his body.

    What I like most about Bale, is the unique-ness of his facial features. Much like Keaton (though Keaton isn't a particularly good looking guy, as opposed to Bale) their faces are interesting. Keaton gor his eyes and lips. Bale for his intimidating physical presence (I've met him on the set of BEGINS and TDK, he's intense), but the shark cheek bones give a very mean type face, he is very angular ... and of course his sharp chin.

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  10. I don't understand how you can say Batman via the 70s didn't have a bodybuilder physique. I think you're confusing bodybuilding with Mr. Olympia levels. That 40s-70s physique is certainly of someone who lifts weights regularly. You also have to take into account that "Strong men" types, who are big and burly and work out to strength train, can actually lift more than a Schwarznegger/Mr. Olympia type (who works out to sculpt muscle). Batman seems to do work out to achieve both of those results in varying degrees (depending on the era's physique).

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    1. Batman doesn't "seem to workout to achieve" anything, because those who wrote about his training knew nothing about training. So just approach it realistically. A real life Batman who had to do the things he does, would NEVER have to train bodybuilding. That's just building the body, it has no use for what he does. Bodybuilding is fine, makes you fit and all but it really doesn't work for functional stuff such as fighting. And not because you get too big or something, but because it just goes against functional strength. Bodybuilding can be mixed into strength trainers' regular regiment as an additional thing to strengthen specific areas, it can be used as special training, but a guy like Batman to rely only on bodybuilding wouldn't help him very much.

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  11. The way I see the 70s batman drawn is the way most men in shape look like in his age. The hands arent big, just accented, same with his pecs. Theyre not sticking out, theyre just outlined or accented, like in regular males that age

    He looks like Kilmer in BF

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  12. I have always felt Batman shouldn't be REALLY big. It's more important that he maintain an athletic physique, strong, but not with so much muscle and weight that it weighs him down. In real life too much mass would be terrible for his quests, and would put too much wear and tear on his joints and ligaments.

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  13. I ABSOLUTELY love this collection montage of Batman's body in the comics! You did an impressive job here and I'm posting the link in my facebook!

    What I wanted to point out is; anyone remember Rambo II and then see Rambo 3? In RamboII Sly's body was extremely muscular like Bruce Lee yet he wasn't very large, not BodyBuilder large anyway. Then in Rambo3 he suddenly got really huge (due to steroids). Well Batman is NOT Rambo3. At least the 60 year comic book history has proven so. Batman is more RamboII.

    The other thing is that Batman is the ULTIMATE ATHLETE. That doesn't mean being limited to just weight lifting, it means he can do Balay so gracefully that it's perfect. He can dance better than any breakdancer, do moves with more coordination than Michael Jordan. So to do all these incredible maneuvers you can't be BULKY like Arnold or Mr.Universe, it's impractical. Thus Batman by the logical fact of being literally the ulitmate athlete is not Large nor Bulky as it is counter productive to BEING the ultimate athlete. Wayne's agility is unmatched, his physical prowess can outfox superhuman gods (as it has in comic books for decades). He can juggle 20 objects, dazzle us with strange physical skills of coordination. So he ain't big.

    The last point is if Batman is so thin (or at least not JimLee bulky) how can he break world records of weight lifting and reach superhuman levels of strength? It's a common misconception in AMERICA that to lift heavy weights you must have mass, which is scientifically false. A) there are Chinese weight lifters in the OLYMPICS who weigh only 140 lbs, yet lift above their head (literally) 400 lbs. B) Bruce Lee is the most famous in history for being able to raise unbelievable weights and perform superhuman feats of strength yet he only weighed 124-33 lbs (his weight constantly fluctuated) on average. Lee could curl in one single arm 80 lbs for a minimum of 8 repetitions, he could bench 260 lbs 30x (three consecutive sets of ten though), and Joe Lewis and other champion pro fighters attest to Lee lifting weights far beyond pro weight lifters. C) A female orangutang (a girl!) weighs only 135 lbs yet can curl in one arm 800 lbs.

    So large mass is not, as empirical science has demonstrated, at all required nor is it inherent (when athletes get large they train 2 gain mass, that's why they get big). And Batman is the Ultimate athlete, his understanding of the human body goes so deep so as to slow down his heart rate to near death, uncannily regulate his breathing, and he can even read his own blood pressure without equipment (JLA vs the KEY).

    The latest trend of making Batman big and large is usually due to new artist who jump on board the character without really being familiar with who he is, Jim Lee for example only had a vague superficial impression of the character who couldn't even tell you who Norm Breyfogle or who Jim Aparo are. The OTHER reason Batman gets depicted so big is not just ignorant artist but the latest trend of the clumsy thinking that the UFC is suppose to be good fighting. The UFC are a bunch of thugs who are doing sloppy wrestling NOT martial arts. It's a dogfight, not Martial Artists, so people see how huge they are and they think to be strong you have to be large. The Olympics in China prove otherwise, and so does a certain renowned legend Bruce Lee. Basically it's the result of ignorance to what's going on in the world.

    Michael Keaton showed us a great Batman in the movies, because his physique was super muscular (effects tho) and he wasn't a massive Hulk. Bruce Lee, RamboII, Scott Adtkins, are examples of the basic GENERAL range of his superhuman physique. No one body of those said examples are in particular the Bat Bod, just any one of them for the general idea, which simply is not Jim Lee's hulking Arnold Shwarzennegers.

    Thanks for this great blog, hope I haven't ranted to much and long live the BATMAN!

    Sincerely batmanpp@yahoo.com
    Paul

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  14. Bob Kane the creator of Batman was heavily influenced by Sir Douglas Fairbanks portrayal of Zorro!Fairbanks stood
    at 5'9".And his choice for the perfect actor to portray Batman was Robert Wagner who stood at 5'11".
    Michael Keaton's real height is 5'8.75" according to many who met him personally.Dc Comics only came up with the stats of 6'2" in the 1980's since they had to determine some height for the character.An average height man has more flexibility,speed and camouflage although a tall man
    can achieve those qualities the difference would be in duration .The average man should be awarded with somekind of hero to represent that all is possible and Batman would be the best example.Like Kane said in an interview:
    THE BEAUTY OF THIS CHARACTER IS THAT ANYONE CAN BE BATMAN.

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  15. Wrong. Bob Kane came up with the 6'2 height. He always said that in the 1989 the year the film was released) while talking about Keaton not matching his vision of what Batman should be he stated that he imagined Bruce Wayne as very tall, about 6'2.

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  16. Although I do like Batman, I don't like what he did to that dog just as I hate what he did to another dog and two crocodilians. Why, those actions reminds me of what these muscular guys did to animals that I like:

    1. the Superman

    2. the Incredible Hulk

    3. Heracles/Hercules

    4. Samson

    5. Tarzan

    6. Conan

    7. King Kong

    Because of those guys using their strengths to win against creatures that I like, they sometimes make me ashamed to be human. And so, I wish that those beasts won against them with ease.

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