Comics Ate My Brain

August 15, 2005

1981 Fall Fashions: The Breakaway Outfit

Filed under: batman — Tom Bondurant @ 9:37 pm
“The Lazarus Affair” (Batman #s 332-35, February-May 1981), written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Irv Novick, aspired to be a globetrotting epic filled with intrigue and double-crosses. It even guest-starred King Faraday, one of Wolfman’s favorite spy-type characters, before DC: The New Frontier made him cool again. Basically, the setup was that Batman and Talia were on the trail of a mysterious figure trying to destroy Bruce Wayne’s business holdings. Meanwhile, Robin didn’t trust Talia, so he hooked up with Catwoman and Faraday on his own investigation. However, one Bat-convention seemed a little much….

In Batman #333, Batman disguises himself as Karlyle Krugerrand, the story’s Number Two-type, in order to get into Krugerrand’s safe-deposit box. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know that the bad guys are on to him, and ends up hanging over the inevitable chasm.

You’ll notice that in panel 2, he’s hanging onto the drawers with both hands — but in panel 3, he’s somehow managed to whip off all of his regular clothes with one hand. I suppose he figures his costume will strike more fear into the villains’ hearts than that orange outfit would have. Speaking practically, it’s probably also easier to get to the utility belt after shedding a few layers.

(By the way, there’s no “What are you talking about! I’m not Batman!” moment here. The costume makes sure of that. Still, just to drive the mea culpa home, Batman asks “You knew? How?” I’m surprised he didn’t have an evaluation form handy. “Was I a) completely obvious, b) somewhat obvious….”)

Anyway, the Breakaway Outfit is something you don’t see very often these days. I think the last time I saw one was right before the Leslie Nielsen/Priscilla Presley love scene in The Naked Gun (1988), where it preceded the full-body condom. However, it was apparently indispensable to the Dynamic Duo.

Next issue, Robin shows off his own breakaway disguise, again using proper one-handed technique on the clothes. This leaves his right hand free to take off his fake face (I’m not calling it a “mask,” to avoid confusing it with his regular mask) and wig.

Now, I do understand that these breakaway outfits represent a certain amount of visual shorthand and storytelling economy. You don’t want to be Batman or Robin and have to fight bad guys encumbered by clumsy disguises. These clothes may be stripper-friendly, but they can save your life.

In fact, Catwoman has apparently gone a step further, since her outfit (which you can’t really see well in this page, but trust me) is cut fairly close to her traditional purple-and-green caped costume. It appears to simply change color once she frees herself. However, that’s not the weirdest thing about this page.

Seems Catwoman went a little overboard on the rest of her disguise. Not only does she wear a fake face and wig over her regular Catwoman cowl — something which Batman didn’t even do — she went into the evildoers’ den posing as Selina Kyle. Unless people really didn’t know her secret identity at this point — and why would you use your own name to gain entry into a den of thieves unless you were trading on your costumed reputation? — that means she made a mask of her own face to wear over the Catwoman mask.

Batman may be obsessive, but that’s thorough.

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