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Rainbow Batman: Why the Dark Knight Became Gotham's Brightest Hero

While Batman is usually a nocturnal superhero who strikes out at evil from the shadows with his predominantly black costume helping him embrace the darkness, the Dark Knight hasn't always been so dark. In a particularly memorable Silver Age adventure, Batman eschewed his usual costume for bright, colorful ensemble dubbed "Rainbow Batman" in a delightfully nonsensical strategy as part of his war on crime.

The bizarre story has surprisingly endured for decades and has been adapted in different media adaptations of the character. Now, here is a quick history on Rainbow Batman. from his comic book debut to the unlikely lasting legacy.

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WHO IS RAINBOW BATMAN?

Rainbow Batman

Rainbow Batman made his debut in 1957's Detective Comics #241, by Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff, where Dick Grayson injured his arm saving a young girl at the beginning of the issue. Inexplicably, Batman starts wearing brightly colored costumes instead of his usual outfit when going on patrol with Dick in Gotham City. Eventually donning a costume with all the colors of the rainbow at once, Batman subdues the criminals responsible for Dick's injury and, with Robin recovered, the Dark Knight resumes wearing his traditional costume.

Bruce Wayne then explains to Dick that his young ward's arm was still noticeably injured even when out on patrol as Robin. With news of Dick's injury having received widespread media attention, Batman worries the series of loud, vibrant costumes to distract attention to himself rather than Robin to avoid speculation linking Robin's identity to Dick due to the matching injuries. Largely retconned by Crisis on Infinite Earths, the adventure would be referenced in the 2016 Trinity series by Francis Manapul only for Bruce Wayne to vehemently deny having any memories of the incident.

Rainbow Batman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Rainbow Batman Brave and the Bold

Decades later, Rainbow Batman received a surprising nod in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where he was tied to another Silver Age anomaly: the Rainbow Creature. In the prologue to the second season episode "Emperor Joker!," Firefly enlists the Rainbow Creature to help him wreck havoc on Gotham City. Batman discovers that each of the behemoth's colors possess a different power and that objects with corresponding colors are unaffected.

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After realizing that all of his regular color-coded costumes were vulnerable to some of the creature's different powers,  Batman develops a rainbow costume containing all of the colors of the rainbow simultaneously to be immune to the Rainbow Creature's attacks. As a truly Rainbow Batman, the Caped Crusader is able to withstand the monster's attacks and defeat Firefly with a well-placed, brightly colored punch.

RAINBOW BATMAN'S LEGACY

For such an outrageous one-off story, Rainbow Batman has quite surprisingly endured for decades since his initial appearance. In addition to the flashback sequence in Trinity and brief appearance on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Rainbow Batman has resurfaced in other media and merchandising for the character.

One of the downloadable expansions to LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham was a Rainbow Batman pack that allowed players to play as both Rainbow Batman and Rainbow Raider. This alternate Batman has all the same gadgets as the default playable character but also possesses the ability to deflect laser beams from his bright, dazzling costume.

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And while DC Collectibles has previously released a whole line of action figures depicting the individual color-coded Batman costumes, at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month, DC Collectibles has announced Rainbow Batman, in his final form possessing all the colors of the rainbow, will be getting his own figure. Produced by Mattel, the Rainbow Batman will come as part of a set with three other Silver Age Batman incarnations with 23 points of articulation and the set priced at $80.

From one-off joke to a fan-favorite animated appearance and exclusive collectible, the Rainbow Batman has endured for decades. As Batman celebrates his 80th anniversary this year, it remains one of the most bizarre yet fondly remembered moments of the entire superhero's extensive mythos.

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