Sunday, February 11, 2007

Eyes of White

I was checking out the novelization of Infinite Crisis, which is I guess for people who like superheroes but hate looking at them. I would like to offer this passage, which has Superman meeting up with Batman:

A solitary figure waited for him on an elevated walkway at the centre of the ravaged nerve centre. A stark black cloak and cowl were draped over the man's equally black body armour, so that he blended in with the shadows thrown by the faint blue light. Opaque white lenses concealed his eyes.

So, the stand out line here is opaque white lenses concealed his eyes. My thought when reading it was really? Has that been decided, then? The eyes of Batman have always been a subject of debate. There are basically two schools of thought:

1. He wears a mask with white, opaque lenses to conceal and protect his eyes.

2. He wears a mask that does not have lenses, because that would obstruct his vision. His eyes are just whited out in comics for aesthetic reasons.

For the most part, Batman's eyes are white when he wears the cowl. But the same goes for, like, a million billion other superheroes. I doubt Green Arrow has lenses in that little mask. It just looks cool when the eyes are whited out, and it's easier to draw.

In all Batman movies, and in some comics, the eyes are visible (Lee Bermejo and Alex Ross both show the eyes in their art, for example). Batman Begins had some grease paint around the eyes, which I think would be a lot of effort for our hero. They were careful in that movie to never show Batman with the cowl pulled off because the paint around the eyes would look silly.

I have no problem believing that Batman would have the lenses, but the problem is that the cowl never has white eyes when he isn't wearing it.

There is another possibility: retractable lenses. Batman The Animated Series had him changing his lenses to red sometimes so he wouldn't be blinded by his own flash bombs. So maybe the white lenses are also retractable.

So...any thoughts? I think Batman's eyes have always been one of the great mysteries of comic books. I don't like a novelization (of a book) casually removing the ambiguity.


paperghost said...

They just don't bother because, well, nobody else draws them either and its kinda cool or something.

However - I think it'd be a LOT more cool WITH eyeballs. I mean, is it REALLY that much trouble to draw some round things inside the eyepieces? Seems like it.

Johnathan said...

I like no-pupils Batman as a look, but don't know if he'd actually do it on purpose.

On the other hand, criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot and the 'angry white eyes' thing is pretty creepy. Though just like with Spider-Man I must wonder: how does he do facial expressions that involve the eyes? They're clearly happening, so if there's a lens involved it's a damned fancy one.

Rob H. said...

"They were careful in that movie to never show Batman with the cowl pulled off because the paint around the eyes would look silly."

All of the Batman movies, from Burton's to Nolan's have had the black greasepaint. In Batman Returns, when he pulls of his mask magically his eyes are clean.

paperghost said...

"On the other hand, criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot and the 'angry white eyes' thing is pretty creepy."

I dunno, Christian bale with his deranged spinning top eyes freaked me out and I'm a badass.

Brad Bice said...

Alex Ross has talked about the white eyes, and how he hates them. The idea of lenses that can be flipped in are cool, but I'll have to agree with Ross and others who believe that full-time lenses are just silly. Ross actually draws his Batman with a mask that comes right up around his eyelids, however possible that may be (check it out in Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross.)

wrath said...

hey, at least he isn't wearing the tiger striped contact lenses that seem to be all the rage now a days

Elasticlad said...

I've always thought he had lens, retractable or otherwise. He's always flipping a green set down for night vision stuff. Lens fit the character, exposed eyeballs just seem dangerous from a crime fighting POV.

"Y'know, I'd like to charge into that room full of tear gas Commisoner Gordon if only I had something to put over my eyes."

paperghost said...

"Lens fit the character, exposed eyeballs just seem dangerous from a crime fighting POV."

But if you're going to analyse the practicalities of his costume from a "practical crimefighting" point of view, so does the big, stupid swooshy cape and the totally exposed lower portion of his face. In fact, some small holes with eyes exposed in them are small fry compared to the obvious (and much bigger) problems.

Oh look, I just shot batman in the face through the jaw area and now he's dead. Next!

elasticlad said...


I always thought BM would be a much better crime fighter w/o the swooshy cape. But then he's just a guy with grey long johns and anger issues.

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that from a practical point of view, Batman would probably end up looking a lot like the current version of Nighthawk in Squadron Supreme.

Caleb said...

Lenses! I think they're always in, but can be changed whenever he announce "Night vision lenses" or whatever. They're either voice activated, or he just likes to say what he's doing. He used to always say "Smoke grenade!" or "Flash bomb!" when throwing one.

It does seem to be all on the artist though. Ross and the Bianchi seem to like Batman movie style eyes. Everyone else does the white.

I did notice in JLA, Rags Morales drew Batman with white lenses UNLESS he had to make a facial expression, in which case you could see his eyes.

A lot of heroes seem to lose their pupils when they put on masks though. Robin and Nightwing have lense capabilities, but Connor Hawke just wears a piece of cloth, and he has no pupils. The Green Lanterns lose their pupils behind their masks too, huh?

rachelle said...

rob h - Aha! You're right! The grease paint does show up in all Batman movies. So I guess kudos to Begins for being the movie to avoid the whole 'magical disappearing grease paint' thing.

jonathan - It's true. Batman gets a lot of crazy facial expressions out of those white eyes. Lenses or not, those are some stretchy eye holes. Especially when Jim Aparo is drawing them.

Yeah, for the most part I am pro white eyes, but anti explaining them. But I'm not against showing the eyes. It's always creepy-looking when they do.

FlatlineJack said...

If you're not a fan of novelitazions that completely screw the Dark Night, stay AWAY from "Batman: The Ultimate Evil" by Andrew Vachss.
Dear Everyone,
There are two rules you are simply not allowed to change in comics, movies about comics, books about comics, lolipops with comic characters on them, etc.. and they are kinda related: 1.) Batman's parents died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was a random, senseless mugging gone wrong, and 2.) Spider-Man's Uncle Ben died because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was a random, senseless mugging gone wrong.
Exactly why is that so hard? It's what defines two of the greatest fictional icons of freakin' AMERICA, so just respect it and walk away. But no, each new writer has to fancy themselves as edgey and worthy of screwing up the entire mythos so suddenly Batman's folks are killed by the Joker, or they're taken out because they're SECRET SPIES, or Uncle Ben is killed by a guy that happens to become Sandman.
If you want to say Plastic Man's parents are actually from Krypton and we just never got around to mentioning it, I'm on board. But leave the important ones alone please.
Sorry, I ranted.

WriteOneOH said...

I prefer Batman with white lenses. Bruce wouldn't go out on the streets without protecting his eyes. Plus, it makes the whole costume look scarier if you can't see his eyes.

I've been disappointed they haven't used that look in any of the films.

chrishaley said...

While we're on the subject of Batman and Batman Begins, what do you hope for from the sequel, Batman's Begun?

Jeff said...

I thought it was going to be called Batman's Happening. It even has fun dual meanings.

Like Rachelle, I like the aesthetic of the white eyes, but hate the logistics of explaining why his eyes are white. I mean, I'm a Star Wars fan, so I know how rabidly some people keep continuity. It's tiring, and I don't need to deal with it in comics, too.

The other thing is that, based on that passage, the Infinite Crisis novelization is kind of bad.

ZC said...


I actually got a hold of a copy.

It is truely god awful.

Also: ten-letter verifications make me angry. GRRR.

Adam Barnett said...

There was a story arch where Spider-Man didn't have the lenses in his mask ("Aunt May.... Assasin?") and I thought it added a bunch to the character to see the expressions in his eyes. I wish they'd do it again. I'm a big fan of seeing eyes most of the time, and only whiting them out for effect.

paperghost said...

I just realised how clunky the quote from the book actually is. Anyone else reminded of that "on a dark, dark night in a dark, dark tower stood a dark, dark...etc" story? That's how it seems to flow. Oh dear. Oh dear ftw.

Jeff said...

And if they're opaque lenses, how can he see out of them?

Greg Cox wrote the lyrics to that Marvel CD, didn't he?

Sitting in the dark
On Aaron's bed
A dark man dressed darkly
With a cowl on his head

It's a Batman, Aaron.

Six feet in height,
Eyes of opaque white
Dressed in black
Cause he's the Dark Knight, Aaron.

rachelle said...

I will never get tired of inserting 'Aaron' into every sentence and song lyric.

And every time I hear the name now, I giggle.

I should check the Knightfall novel and see what it has to say about Batman's eyes.

Tiina said...

Once Batman was crying white tears from his white eyes. Dave told me it was mayonnaise.

rachelle said...

I really hope they call the next Batman movie "Batman's Happening."

Then "Batman Stops."

I just hope they get a supreme hottie to play Harvey Dent.

In the third movie I'd like to see Robin. And I would like him to actually be a child, not Chris O'Donnell. Robin should not be on the wrong side of 25.

Anonymous said...

The issue of Batman's eyes always makes me think of Kevin Maguire's run on Justice League / JLI. There, Batman always had the opaque white eyes... unless Giffen and Maguire had a joke where it was important to show you Batman glaring out the corner of his eyes at someone.

Never explained. Never apologized for.

--I'll back the aesthetic idea if only because I'd hate to read a story where the lenses malfunction and Bruce has to fight crime blind... using techniques he learned in the Orient!

chrishaley said...

Didn't I hear somewhere that Nolan is completely against the idea of Robin?

Aaron Eckhart for Harvey Dent? I hear he's in talks.

"Batman's On It"
"Batman : You're Watching It"
"Batman's Doing It Right Now"
"Batman's in the Middle of It"
"Batman Has Started"
"Batman Keeps On Keeping On"
"Batman Continues"
I mean, the possibilities are endless.

Grand Tuma said...

Why do some of you have to over-think this whole eye thing? I read an interview years ago with Bob Kane in which he revealed that he had originally drawn eyes on Batman. I believe it was Bill Finger who erased the pupils for the simple reason that IT LOOKED SCARIER. Pure aesthetics. Yeesh! The next thing you know, you're gonna ask where Superman buys the blue dye to highlight his hair.

rachelle said...

I'm not the one over-thinking the white eyes. That's Greg Cox, author of Infinite Crisis: The Novel. I'm saying I don't want an explanation. But then Charlie Book Deal decides Batman's eyes have to be white for a reason.

Everyone knows that Superman does the highlighting himself with Kool-Aid crystals.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the white eyes either (I prefer the white eyes myself...scarier if you think about it and imagine it)...of course he could just be rolling his eyes all the way up to just show the whites of his eyes and use the fighting techniques he learned to combat crime!!

Now the cape was described as having weights on the end in one issue (I foget which one) and he used this to fight someone by using them as a striking/whipping extension of his costume to hit them above the eyes and draw blood! BAD ASS all the way! In addition, I believe that other writers have used this to similar effect afterwards.

Johnathan said...

I'm too lazy to go check, but I think that the weights-in-cape thing might have started in Dark Knight Returns - or maybe that's just the first place I remember him whipping someone in the face with it. Either way: ouch.

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I've been a fan of Batman's since i can remember, I even had a full body costume. And the eyes were always a problem. I've always wanted the all white eyes, but i believed that the made white jus to make it more dramatic.