Unlike other superheroes’ emblems, which really don’t serve much of a purpose outside of adorning their costumes, the Caped Crusader’s iconic logo has a vital function: When shining on the skies above Gotham, the silhouette alerts Batman that it’s time for action. For the sake of clarity in times of peril, you’d think it would make sense to keep this all-important signal consistent throughout the years. But apparently, that’s not the case. According to this infographic, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises has overhauled the visual identity of his other venture some 30 times since he founded it in 1940.
Designed by Cathryn Laver from Calm the Ham, the graphic traces the evolution of the Batman logo from its earliest iterations in the comics of the 1940s through its use in Adam West’s delightfully campy TV take in the '60s, Frank Miller’s dark graphic novels in the '80s, and George Clooney and his nipple suit in the '90s, and ends with the multimillion-dollar Dark Knight films today. The genus is always quite clearly bat, but unique species abound.
Some are simplified illustrations of Batman himself—a few even including his masked mug—while others are stylized versions of the real thing. Some over the years have done double duty as the hero’s nonlethal weapon of choice, the Batarang. Others are decidedly less aerodynamic.
Laver says she drew inspiration from a similar, though less comprehensive image she saw on the web a few years back, as well as a YouTube video showing the icon’s transformation over the years. Her research into the comics and graphic novels turned up a surprising trove of designs, though as she moved into the movie-era and saw Batman becoming an increasingly multifaceted (and consequently diffuse) marketing and merchandise juggernaut, things became thornier. "It was tricky [deciding] which logos to feature as some were on the bat suit and others were the comic and promotional logos," Laver notes. "Quite interesting to see which was used where."
She points out that the symbol for the 1998 comic series, the Batman Chronicles, is the definitive modern take for most, though she finds Christopher Nolan’s sleek, flat-top bat a suitable update. But looking at all the variations that have come and gone over the years, one just hopes Commissioner Gordon made it clear early on to the man behind the mask: Sure, you can change it, but you’re responsible for installing the new bat signal.