Section Two, Chapter One of the 'Batman Handbook' gives a fictional breakdown of Batman’s uniform and how to design a Batsuit:
1. Select a design motif or “totem” to represent your costumed alter ego.
2. Use lightweight, fireproof and bulletproof material.
3. Use colors that camouflage easily.
4. Consider the benefits of a cape, cowl, and mask.
5. Wear gloves for protection, security, and traction.
6. Store your tools in your Utility Belt, not in compartments hidden around your body.
Obviously, you want to design your uniform around your chosen alter ego. Most RLSH create their alter ego on something that inspires them, like a comic character. I’ve chosen my persona on Superman and Zorro. Plus, black is an easy color when getting gear.
I think before we go into 2, a person should first consider item 5. I cannot stress that enough the importance of good shoes. A superhero will be going on patrols or doing charity. It is important to choose footwear that is durable and that does not hurt your feet. When I first started, I chose some boots with platform heels. Big mistake. Not only was I tripping everywhere, but during hot summer days, the bottoms of the boots melted with the asphalt. A 2 or 3 ho3-hour patrol was murder on my feet. Since then, I’ve tried to find footwear that I can walk in. If my boots are more costume-ish, I'd recommend getting insoles.
I would like to take this time to recommend http://www.hero-gear.net for all your uniform and costume needs. Hero-Gear will respect your personal information which they will never leak. Hero-Gear is very versatile with your design.
Next to shoes, I believe pants are a vital issue to address. Since a superhero will be doing a lot of walking, they will want to dress in something that will take a lot of wear and tear. I’ve chosen cargos pants because they are durable and I can replace them if they get torn on patrol. You don’t have to have black. There are many different colors you can find online. Please be warned though that dyeing your pants might discolor faster than normal. Sometimes the dye does not take. I’ve tried dyeing a pair of tan colored cargos with black Rite Dye and it came out brown. If you do go for the jumpsuit look or the unitard, http://www.hero-gear.net does make those as well. For my pants, I’ve chosen an industrial pair of CAT cargos with extra pockets for tools.
Now… for those seeking to armor up…
Let’s take an inventory of what Batman’s uniform consists of?
1. Kevlar enforced cowl
2. High-gain microwave antenna
3. Wireless voice activated Batmobile remote control mechanism in cowl
4. Nomex fire resistant fabric- Kevlar panels sewing into the shirt.
5. Knuckles pouches packed with lead shot
6. Steel-toed climbing boots
7. Scalloped cape with weighted tips for offensive purposes.
Before we go into bulletproofing your uniform and/or cowl, please read Dark Guardian’s essay on bulletproof armor at- http://reallifesuperheroes.org/index.php/archives/2285
Understand that even though you are bulletproof, you are not actually bulletproof.
I, as Zetaman, have chosen not to wear a mask. When I do what I do, I am not noticed on the street because I'm not overtly drawing attention. I will be discussing mask in another blog, but if you are looking for total body protection, some kind of head protection is necessary. There are many sites that offer riot head gear and even bullet proof masks.
I have included a picture of the Black Knight’s head. He is using paint ball gear.
This mask does not offer bulletproof protection. I don’t think it offers much blunt trauma protection. However, what the viewer does not see is that the Black Knight had incorporated into a LED flash light into his mask for viewing, and a headset for his cell phone.
I believe a person, if given enough time, can sew Kevlar panels within their shirt. Unlike the comics, a person has to worry about blunt trauma from a bullet. For the most part, I think RLSH choose to use a bulletproof vest instead and add their logos. This goes back to Question One which is “What is your purpose?” Your uniform should match your goals. I did find a few links on Kevlar and Nomex suits.
A popular suggestion has been d3o for trauma and impact protection. I have not seen anyone yet purchase and use this as part of their uniform. Here is a link to their products.
Here is a picture of Citizen Prime in his armor. I believe there are parts that are bulletproof. The steel is lightweight and not as bulky as it seems. Prime’s head is covered with a bulletproof helmet and in key parts where there needs to be additional protection, he has added thick leather.
Here are is a picture of Superhero, who sport bulletproof vests on dangerous patrols.
On the other hand, you may not have a lot of money to spend. This is a picture of The Black Knight. Most of his gear is Motocross armor. I don’t think this should be ridiculed. Critics would tease that this is ineffectual. The Black Knight would disagree. One night, on patrol, BK was in a fight with four guys. He was out powered. The only thing that saved him from not having broken bones was that he had armor designed to protect a person from crashes. It was designed to absorb impact.
Here is a picture of Mr. Ravenblade. Now, he does have military grade impact armor. However, it is covered by his clothing.
Even chainmail has been used Death’s Head Moth wears butcher chain mail underneath his uniform. It is stab proof.
With all this in mind, I have decided to upgrade my Zeta-Armor. Previously, I had invested some funds in sporting good armor but it is time to upgrade.
I went online to http://Chiefsupply.com. They had some tactical gear I wanted. I did hit a snag… I needed to be registered officer or security to buy one of these pieces. I was able to find a strip down version of what I wanted. This version did not feature any police logos or facial mask and helmets. I found it on Amazon.com but you can find more deals at http://SecureproUSA.com
I bought was the SecPro Riot Gear system. It is based on the Damascus Riot Gear system. Here is the description of the armor.
The cost-effective, lightweight SecPro Riot Gear System can be quickly put on or removed with ease for riot control, cell extractions or other tactical situations.
The SecPro Riot Gear System provides substantial protection from blunt force trauma.
The contour molded outer shell features impact ridges that disperse the brunt of the blows, while foam inner padding cushions the body. Soft brush and mesh lines the inside to reduce abrasion and provide long-term comfort.
I don’t have the funds to actually buy a full body Kevlar suit, so I’ve decided to opt for a bulletproof vest. Unlike a few of my colleagues, I have chosen a level II vest. I figure that if I am running across something that is greater than a hand gun, I should run like hell. I should do that with any gun, really.
One of the major drawbacks I have found with wearing some kind of armor is movement, especially in the legs. I have to spend a lot of some time adjusting each belt, lace, and Velcro to ensure maximum flexibility. I think that the armor added 18 pounds to my frame. The chest itself is somewhat restrictive and cumbersome.
Going to number 5 on the Bat uniform list, I have invested in some SAP gloves. With my purchase of the SecPro Riot Gear was a pair of Kevlar cut resistant gloves. But I need my hands to do handouts. I also need full use of my hands because I lost some flexibility with the armor, so I have to depend on the full range of my hands use what self-defense I have. Keep in mind that SAP gloves are not legal in all states. Please review what your state laws are concerning ownership.
I have decided to customize the riot gear. The process I’ve taken is to spray paint the hard plastic parts with a primer first and then go over it with a Krylon fusion blue paint. I had to add multiple coats to the plastic. Due to the consistency and texture of the armor, the paint had a hard time adhering to the armor despite the primer. But with something like this, you should not rush. Give it time for the paint to dry and go over it again.
This took me 24 hours to completely paint.
I do not have pictures of me wearing this at this time. Spray paint takes about 7 days to fully harden. Do not rush your gear or else you’ll end up having to make major repairs to the paint. Take your time and wait. I have not painted the knee pads because they will take some damage when handing out stuff. Concrete is a cruel mistress.
The logo was sewn on at key spots. It is made of vinyl.
I believe this might be as close to Bat-Armor I can afford. Another person’s budget might be bigger or smaller. There are no price tags to be a RLSH. Remember: refer to your goals and situation. You don’t have to have an impressive uniform to make a difference.
Next week, I’ll be reviewing my utility belt and its contents. I will also have pictures of myself in my new armor.
The views and comments of Zetaman do not reflect on the views of the RLSH community. Zetaman is a costumed activist located in Portland, Oregon.