Worst superhero costume ever? It’s a no-brainer in my book. It came along in the 1949 second Batman serial that starred Robert Lowery as the famous caped crusader and Johnny Duncan as his faithful sidekick Robin. Never heard of either actor? Watch a few minutes of Chapter One in this fifteen unit Saturday kid show special feature and you’ll quickly understand why neither actor’s name is familiar today.
All I know is that Batman, both this one from 1949 and the 1943 earlier Batman serial of equivalently anonymous leading character actors, stirred the crime-fighting soul of this kid from the Houston East End. Now these same serials are the stuff of “rolling-on-the-floor, laughing-my-ankles-off” fun and amusement.
Some amazing things happen in these old serials. (1) Good and Evil are clearly distinguishable in black and white terms. There is no lost time in debate over who is responsible for the national debt or its relative ceiling. You just had to arrest or kill the bad guys and everything would be OK again. (2) In high-speed chase scenes going around treacherous mountain curves, good guys and bad guys alike were capable of jumping out of cars that were headed over cliffs and never losing either their hats or their footing as they hit the highway from the car door running and then walked their way to a safe stop. (3) Batman and Robin could both take on fist fights with the bad guys in spite of costume masks that virtually destroyed all peripheral (and sometimes forward) vision.
The Batman’s mask was especially bad. The caped crusader was constantly holding his head back to see through the eye slits that had been pulled by ear-grabbing bad guys over his eyes. He also took a lot of shots from the right and left because of the total shadow on peripheral vision cast by his Batman hood.
Even we kids saw the flaws in the Batman costume, but it was still better than the mimic costumes we rigged up at home. A bath towel had to pass for a cape. These worked better if you cut one long end in a sawtooth pattern to make it look more “batty” apparent, but the downside of that slight alteration was that it made our mamas very unhappy and lethal-like in their punishments of us for destroying a “perfectly good bath towel.”
The homeboy hood consisted of charcoal blackening around the eyes, a small rag tied around the head, and clothes pins attached to either side as “bat ears.”
What do you think?
On second thought, maybe Mr. Batman ’49 looked pretty cool after all. Rent or buy the serial and judge for yourself.