In 1964, editor Julius Schwartz took over stewardship of the Batman titles (which, to tell you how long ago this was, consisted of ‘Batman’ and ‘Detective Comics’) and brought in new artists and writers to usher in a new era of Batman tales.  This ‘New Look Batman’ was one of the factors that led to the Adam West series of 1966, but it also became a major breaking point for Batman stories, in that they added the yellow oval around Batman’s black chest symbol.  I’ve known far too many people who complain that this is an “unrealistic” choice for a creature of the night, and Frank Miller even made it a minor plot point in ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ (“Can’t armor my head…”).  Still, by the time I started reading comics in the very early 80s, it was an accepted part of the Earth-1 Batman suit, to the point where I’ve never thought he looked quite right without one.  These days, depending on the artist and the intent of the story, the oval seems to come and go, which leads us to today’s symbolic query.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) should also point out the theory that the oval made the symbol somehow uniquely trademarkable is itself apocryphal, asking: How do you like your Batman – Yellow oval or No yellow oval?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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11 Comments

  1. Malone_hasco
    January 22, 2015 at 11:34 am — Reply

    My preference depends on how Batman himself is portrayed. Certain artists’ style looks better with oval, others just with bat-symbol. I think blue caped Batman looks almost always better with yellow oval, as does completely black one. Grey and black usually looks better with just the symbol.

  2. Alisha
    January 22, 2015 at 11:47 am — Reply

    Like Malone_hasco, it depends on how Batman is portrayed. Not just costume coloration, but also artistic style. Some styles look better with or without the oval, sometimes simply as a contrast against an otherwise really dark image.

    That said, my favorite incarnations of Batman’s costume (as well as incarnations of Batman) do tend to lean more towards those without the oval, such as the grey suit with black cape/cowl costume or the Batman Beyond costume.

  3. Doctor Dinosaur
    January 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    ^ What those lovely smart people said.

    I will however add that I think Morrison’s reintroduction of the oval in Batman Inc was fairly successful.

  4. TheWolverine
    January 22, 2015 at 3:09 pm — Reply

    I seem to remember a story that explained the yellow oval was a purposeful target for criminals to aim for because he had bulletproof armor behind it. And I can’t imagine Batman TAS without it. As well as Brave And The Bold, although it was lighter fair.

    • January 22, 2015 at 4:38 pm — Reply

      The Dark Knight Returns

      • Malone_hasco
        January 22, 2015 at 5:44 pm — Reply

        Same explanation was given to Punishers skull symbol, I believe in Punisher vol.1 issue #2.

    • Alisha
      January 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm — Reply

      Didn’t he lose the oval eventually in B:TAS? I remember some material that came out later had the oval-less symbol, but that was some time later (around the time Robin was introduced, I think) and the look was carried over into Justice League.

      • TheWolverine
        January 23, 2015 at 5:37 pm — Reply

        Two years after Batman TAS in The New Adventures of Batman the yellow oval was removed along with the blue highlights to his cape and cowl. They were going for a more grim look. Even Kevin Conroy’s voice for batman was more grizzly and harder to tell from Bruce Wayne’s. Thats also where they introduced Tim Drake as the new Robin and Grayson was promoted to Nightwing.

        • Alisha
          January 24, 2015 at 9:55 am — Reply

          Oh thats right, there was another series. I forgot that it was technically another series since when it aired on Kids WB, it often had repeats of B:TAS with the new series opening instead of the original and I thought it was just a repackaging like some of those old saturday morning toons in the 70’s and 80’s.

  5. ParaChomp
    January 22, 2015 at 10:45 pm — Reply

    As previously mention, it depends on the situation. I find the lack of yellow makes the costume flow better if it lacks blue.

  6. Oldcomicfan
    January 23, 2015 at 8:22 am — Reply

    I was in grade school back in the sixties. If memory serves correct, the yellow oval was added at the insistence of the television show producer because a black bat on a grey costume did not have enough contrast. Julius Schwartz choice to align the comic closer to the television show was a good call at the time – Batman was one of the most popular television shows during its run (which wasn’t saying much since its competition was shows like “My Mother the Car”, “I Love Lucy”, “Mr. Ed” and “Gilligan’s Island”) and by the time Julius Schwartz took hold of the reins, the Batman comics were slipping in popularity by a great deal. That said, I don’t particularly care for the Batman comics of that era. Therefore, for the most part, I don’t particularly care for Yellow Oval Batman with the exception of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight saga. “Why do you think I wear a target on my chest? Can’t armor my head.” Classic!

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