There are plenty of valid reasons to criticize Val Kilmer's turn as the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever. The same goes for its follow-up, Batman and Robin, which saw George Clooney take up the cowl against Arnold Schwarzenegger's superhumanly campy Mr. Freeze. But I think there's one thing that everyone who's seen these movies can agree on, and that's "What the fuck was going on with Batman's armored Bat-nipples?"
Better than never, MEL Magazine hunted down Jose Fernandez, the costumer designer responsible for these masked mammary glands, and got to the bottom of the mystery that has haunted so many of us for so long:
With Val Kilmer's suit in Batman Forever, the nipples were one of those things that I added. It wasn't fetish to me, it was more informed by Roman armor — like Centurions. And, in the comic books, the characters always looked like they were naked with spray paint on them — it was all about anatomy, and I like to push anatomy. I don't know exactlywhere my head was at back in the day, but that's what I remember. And so, I added the nipples. I had no idea there was going to end up being all this buzz about it.
In the first one, they were just a little blob of clay. It was subtle — it was a blip. But for Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher loved the nipples, so he said, "Let's showcase them." Schumacher wanted them sharpened, like, with points. They were also circled, both outer and inner — it was all made into a feature of the batsuit. I didn't want to do it, but he's the boss, so we sharpened them, circled them and it all became kind of ridiculous.
Fernandez offers lots of other fascinating insight into the design process behind 90s superhero film outfits, as well as what it took to sculpt the costumes, which is all pretty interesting and worth reading, too. But let's be honest: we're all just here for the Bat-nipples.
I AM THE MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR BATMAN'S ROCK-HARD NIPPLES IN 'BATMAN & ROBIN' [Brian VanHooker / MEL Magazine]