Batmen - Halloween 1966 and 1989

The costume that made me a legend in the neighborhood. I was deeply involved in Bat-Mania (as it was known at the time), and implored Mom to make me a Batman costume for Halloween 1966, which she did. And there I am, in the Kodak Instamatic photograph above, keeping a diligent vigil for crime-doers in Burbank.

Mom took the bottom and top from a set of old grey pajamas and made some dark blue satin accessories (a cape and what looked distressingly like underwear briefs), added rubber rain boots and modified an old pair of black gloves. I well recall her cursing over having to add the little bat points to the gloves; I insisted that they were necessary. The belt was made out of a stiff plastic she obtained from a fabric store - some kind of girdle material, I suppose. I remember, when I put the thing on, she complimented me on not having "The Battle of the Bulge" that Adam West had with his midsection.

The cowl was a real challenge for Mom. The solution she came up with was a dark blue satin affixed to a bright yellow rubberized rain hat with long bat ears sewn on. The ears were made out of the stiff plastic that the belt was made from. (I insisted upon the longer and more pointed late 1930's/early 1940's ears that have since become the standard. It looks more sinister than the stubby, soft ears the later Batman was drawn with.) You will notice that the ears don't stick up quite right, and had a somewhat crooked appearance that greatly took away from the sense of fear I was hoping to instill in the criminal class. The facial part of the rain hat/cowl was filled in by wearing an easily-obtained black mask - not an entirely satisfactory solution, I thought. But... Mom did her best, bless her heart.

So there I was: "Hey Batman!" for the remainder of my childhood. (Sometimes, when I wanted to really feel like Batman I'd wear the Adam West gloves my parents bought from a 1966 telethon!) Anyway, I grew up sort of regretting she'd made the damn thing for me.

Twenty-three years later, in 1989, Batman was back, but this time in a movie by Tim Burton, a Burbank High alumnus.

My son Ethan went nuts for it, just as I had, and had to have a Batman costume of his own. Like father, like son... my wife Cari made one for him all in black, commendably more sinister and noir than my costume. (He's wearing sneakers in this photo, but he had black rain boots to wear to complete the look.) My wife is a better seamstress than my mother, and solved the challenge of the cowl by using a stretchable black fabric she completed in an amazingly short period of time. ("What was the big deal?", she asked.) She also made the cape drape properly in the front, looking a lot like the earliest illustrations of Bat-Man, and it, unlike mine, was a proper length, touching on the ground. I'll never forget him trotting along from door to door trick or treating, the street lights on his cape making an impressive bat-shadow on the sidewalk. The utility belt problem was solved by the fact that Ethan already owned a licensed toy patterned after the one worn by Michael Keaton in the movie. That little bat-insignia at the neck came with the belt, as did the plastic wrist gauntlets. Ethan's costume was much nicer than mine save in one respect: I wouldn't allow him to wear the original Adam West gloves I mention above, because by then they had become very fragile. Nobody in the neighborhood has plagued Ethan with "Hey, Batman!", so I guess he won't have to suffer through the same childhood mental trauma I did.

One of the fondest memories I have of my son at this time was his dashing around the neighborhood in the weeks after Halloween, dressed in his costume and riding on a scooter emblazoned with Batman stickers. At one point, being called home for dinner, he pulled up to the house, got off the scooter and commanded "Shields," the way Michael Keaton did to engage the Batmobile's protective armor. My childhood imagination, while formidable, couldn't match this.

That's Ethan's sister Julie as the "Pretty Pink Ballerina," by the way. She disarmed the criminal class merely by being cute.

By the way, if your son wants to be a Batman in the Halloween tradition of the Clark family, it's easy. Just go to a Warner Brothers Studio Store and shell out $35 for one of these, ready made in small, medium or large. And yes, they have one for adults as well.

One thing you won't want to pay good money for, however, is the 1966 Batman Utility Belt. I owned one myself, but I guess it was after Halloween 1966 or I would have simply have worn it rather than requiring my mother to fashion a belt out of girdle plastic.

Note: I found some photos of Tim Burton in my yearbooks. One photo is from the 1974 Ceralbus, the BHS yearbook and the earlier image is from the (unnamed) 1970-1971 Luther Burbank Junior High School yearbook. Another is here. I didn't know him and I doubt he knew me. Like another student I knew - Joe Lansizero, who helped design Disneyand's "Toontown," - Burton found work at Disney studios after graduation. The rest, as they say, is Hollywood history. Another talent at Burbank High was John Iwerks. I'm pretty sure he was related to the great Disney animator Ub Iwerks. He graduated the year before I did. Apparently nowadays he works in and around Laguna Beach specializing in Southern California landscapes.

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