Tim Burton Speaks Out On BATMAN FOREVER And BATMAN & ROBIN’s Infamous Nipple-Batsuits

Batman and Batman Returns director Tim Burton has opened up about the nipple-Batsuit in Batman Forever, and how it clashed with the criticism he faced for making his superhero films "dark."

Despite technically being a continuation of the Tim Burton-directed Batman (1989) and Batman Returns, 1995's Batman Forever took things in a different direction than its predecessors. It was lighter in tone, presented a new Bruce Wayne in the form of Val Kilmer, and gave the Dark Knight a brand-new Batsuit. The costume was not received well by fans, with one of its most mocked aspects being its nipples.

Then, for its 1997 sequel Batman & Robin, the nipples became more noticeable, turning Batman's attire into the laughing stock of superhero costumes. Even decades later, the ridicule aimed at the suit hasn't stopped. Now, Tim Burton has weighed in on the years-long controversy.

During a conversation with Empire for the 30th anniversary of Batman Returns, Burton revealed that 2022's The Batman's gritty noir story makes him find the irony in how he, at the time of helming the famous sequel, was told that his vision was too grim for the Dark Knight: "It is funny to see this now, because all these memories come back of, 'It's too dark.’ [...] So, it makes me laugh a little bit."

He then specifically addressed Batman's nipple-suit, drawing a comparison between the way his vision was received by audiences and Warner Bros. at the time, and the eventual decision to add nipples to the Caped Crusader's costume: 

"[Back then,] they went the other way. That’s the funny thing about it. But then I was like, 'Wait a minute. Okay. Hold on a second here. You complain about me, I'm too weird, I'm too dark, and then you put nipples on the costume? Go f—k yourself.' Seriously. So yeah, I think that's why I didn't end up [doing a third film]."

For context, the aftermath of Batman Returns' release was difficult for Burton. As he told Yahoo! in 2014 (and as was mentioned above), the film faced backlash for having a (somewhat) darker tone than its predecessor. This in turn led to Warner Bros. not wanting him to helm the third entry in the franchise, which had become a huge success for the studio (Batman grossed $251 million globally, while Batman Returns took in $162 million).

The History of the Batman's Nipples

Val-Kilmer-Batman

Batman's nipple-suits have become dark blemishes on the hero's historied Hollywood career, but mocking aside, have you ever wondered where they came from? Well, they have an interesting background. For starters, as much criticism as Joel Schumacher gets for the anatomical detail, the nipples were not actually his idea. Instead, they were conceived for Batman Forever by costume designer Jose Fernandez.

The director did, however, accentuate the design later on. Speaking with Vice to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Batman & Robin, Schumacher explained that Fernandez came up with the feature after Schumacher gave the designer reference material of Greek statues for the Dark Knight's costume: 

"[The decision] was made by Jose Fernandez, who was our brilliant lead sculpture. If you look at Batman and Batman Returns, it was the genius Bob Ringwood that created those suits. So, by the time we got to Batman Forever, the rubber and techniques had gotten so sophisticated. If you look at when Michael Keaton appears in the first suit, you'll notice how large it is. [...] By the time Batman Forever came around, rubber molding had become so much more advanced. So, I said, 'Let's make it anatomical,' and gave photos of those Greek statues, and those incredible anatomical drawings you see in medical books. He did the nipples and when I looked at them, I thought, that's cool."

During an interview with Mel Magazine, Fernandez — who also designed the Catwoman cowl for Batman Returns, worked on Batman and Wonder Woman for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and designed (alongside his team at Ironhead Studio) Black Panther's helmet for his appearance in Captain America: Civil War — confirmed the nipples were his idea, revealing he was inspired by Roman-armor designs: 

"With Val Kilmer's suit in Batman Forever, the nipples were one of those things that I added. It wasn't fetish to me, it was more informed by Roman armor — like Centurions. And, in the comic books, the characters always looked like they were naked with spray paint on them — it was all about anatomy, and I like to push anatomy. I don't know exactly where my head was at back in the day, but that's what I remember. And so, I added the nipples. I had no idea there was going to end up being all this buzz about it."

As mentioned above, however, Schumacher decided to make the nipples more noticeable for Batman & Robin. Fernandez detailed what led to the decision, and expressed his dissatisfaction with having to follow the director's vision for that particular aspect: 

"Well, in the first one, they were just a little blob of clay. It was subtle — it was a blip. But for Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher loved the nipples, so he said, 'Let's showcase them.' Schumacher wanted them sharpened, like, with points. They were also circled, both outer and inner — it was all made into a feature of the Batsuit. I didn't want to do it, but he's the boss, so we sharpened them, circled them and it all became kind of ridiculous."

So, there you have it — the story of the nipples on the Batsuit. Despite the ridicule attached to them, their creation was ultimately an effort to add a new, history-inspired element to Batman's aesthetic. It's the type of creative decision that doesn't always pay off, but that is commendable nonetheless given the intention behind it.

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