When we think of the symbols at the center of our favorite superhero’s chest, like the Bat Symbol, we think about them like logos, with designs that are fixed for long periods of time. But as this infographic from HalloweenCostumes.com showing the evolution of the Dark Knight’s emblem over the years shows, superhero symbols are much more in flux than you might expect.
In just the comics alone, Batman has used over 15 different icons over the 75 year length of the franchise. Starting with an abstract squiggle without the ears that later became an indispensable aspect of the Batman symbol overall, the Bat Symbol went through six different design variations in the first seven years of the Dark Knight’s adventures. In fact, it was only in 1966 that the Bat Symbol’s design became relatively stable with the addition of a yellow oval behind the bat’s silhouette, a symbol design which lasted unaltered for over three decades.
Think there are a lot of comic book Bat Symbols? The evolution of the Batman symbol in film is far more pronounced. In fact, despite the fact that Batman has appeared on the big screen over 13 times to date, 12 of the 13 designs have been different. Only two consecutive appearances have featured the same design, that being the icon on the front of Christian Bale’s armor in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
In comics, of course, a superhero’s symbol might change simply because a new artist comes on board, or a new costume is introduced. Likewise, in film, symbols can change based upon the guidance of anyone from the film’s director to costume designer to outside toy department. But in the context of the fictional worlds of comic books, the fact that superhero symbols change so rapidly is a reminder to all of us that these aren’t really logos in the traditional sense. Batman isn’t really trying to come up with a cohesive visual identity across both physical and digital mediums. He’s out to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.