Since the dawn of justice time, Batman has left a gap for his mouth and most of his lower face.

batman issue 1
Batman issue 1

All the way up to recent films:

the Bat armour from Dawn of Justice
Batman wearing armour in BvS: Dawn of Justice

I know that he has said to the Joker that he does it to mock him:

batman explaining his dark fashion sense Batman in Joker

But I can’t feel this is the one true answer: had, say, Penguin asked, I doubt Batman would have told him it was to mock the Joker.

I've also read loads of speculation on the web about needing to breathe in a particular way due to his martial arts training or so innocent victims have a face to trust. Someone even said he loves hostess pies.

But had Batman ever given a definitive, generic answer, that wasn't related to whom he was speaking to? Perhaps when monologuing or explaining to an ally?

  • 3
    Just guessing .. But batman relies on his Martial arts training to fight the bad guys than some other out of the world capabilities. In most of the martial arts, breath control is a very important concept .. People are taught to move along with the breath, feel the breath moving through the body etc. A fully covered mask will affect the breathing. Even with no martial arts training.. try punching a guy with and without fully covered face masks :D You will notice the difference. TLDR; **Batman needs breath to deliver his moves **
    – Aswin P J
    Apr 24, 2016 at 9:41
  • I love that Batman armor.
    – user31178
    Apr 24, 2016 at 9:48
  • @aswinpj that's another unsubstantiated claim I've heard online
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 24, 2016 at 11:00
  • 14
    “I've also read loads of speculation on the web about needing to breathe” — that’s... not speculation. You can test it by trying to not breathe for two minutes. Apr 24, 2016 at 11:02
  • 3
    I just want to say Spider-man. That's all.
    – Mr Lister
    Apr 24, 2016 at 13:33

2 Answers 2


No one can effectively answer this question. Batman has never speculated or mused for our edification as to why his mask has a port for which bullets could strike him if he wasn't as capable of using misdirection and psychology to prevent it.

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  • Batman's appearance is based on the psychological effect his profile has. Like other vigilantes of the era he was related to, like the Shadow, his profile was meant to make a striking and imposing image designed to cause fear in anyone who had a reason to be afraid.

  • However, since he was still supposedly on the side of the angels, he had to have at least part of his face visible like heroes who were considered on the up and up like Superman who refused to wear a mask.

  • The most likely compromise would be to expose the expression center of his mouth, allowing him to appear both potentially more threatening when needed, and less as the situation demanded.

Before his costume was redesigned by Bill Finger, this was the costume the Batman would have entered the world with as designed by Bob Kane. Fortunately for history, Bill Finger worked toward making the Batman more unique than other similar heroes of the period.

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Bob Kane’s original sketch of the character was totally different from the Batman we know today. Kane showed the very first drawing of a character he had first named the Bat, then Bat-Man, to Bill Finger who was the writer he hired to write the first Batman stories. Bill thought that the character looked too much like Superman, so he suggested major changes that would prove to be everlasting to the character’s legacy.

Bill got a Webster's Dictionary off the shelf, looking for a drawing of a bat, and found one. He then said to Bob Kane, 'Notice the ears, why don't we duplicate the ears?' He then suggested that Bob Kane would draw what looked like a cowl, to bring the nosepiece down and make him look mysterious and not show any eyes at all. Finger didn't like the bird-like wings, so he also suggested to Kane to re-design them and make a cape instead, and scallop the edges so it would flow out behind Batman when he ran so it would look like bat wings. A pair of gloves were added, colored purple from the start but later changed to blue.

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Batman's costume was a compromise between the mask of the Shadow which covered his mouth with his trademark scarf and distraction of his long coat, and the domino masks which were popular and worn by many "mystery men" of the era and eventually by even his sidekick, Robin. Seen in the light of comparison, Batman's cowl isn't all that peculiar, but a variation on a theme. There are at least six other cowl wearing heroes in the JSA.

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The original Justice Society of Earth-2 and its wide assortment of "mystery men and women" of the 1940s and 1950s.

The answers for why he uses a mask which reveals his mouth are left to speculation including one of the most often mentioned:

  • His fighting techniques need a adequate air supply best served by leaving his mouth open. But then this doesn't explain his various helmets with the ability to close the mouth plate, such as when he fights in an atmosphere filled with gas, smoke or other breathing impediments.

  • I suspect it is a compromise between total utility (the ability to entirely protect himself from external harm) which he does utilize when he use his full suits of armor such as the Hellbat, and the ability to still emote effectively both in an effort to terrify or console as the need arises.

enter image description here

  • Batman is a psychological fighter. He recognizes a need to use fear as part of his arsenal of weapons. As such, nothing works the the fear a man who is smiling while he is kicking your butt, to undermine the well armed but often cowardly lot who confront innocent citizens of Gotham.

enter image description here

Another reason he may keep his mouth exposed (despite being portrayed as having a complete poker face, able to hide his emotional state from anyone) is his occasional need to emote in a positive fashion as shown below. A complete face mask would have never had the emotional impact necessary to save this young man without potentially turning him into a criminal after a conflict with the Caped Crusader.

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However, most importantly how in the world is he supposed to kiss Catwoman wearing a full face mask?

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  • 7
    For your last point: hey, Spiderman managed it. (Not kissing Catwoman in particular, of course, but Mary Jane.) Apr 25, 2016 at 6:16

Batman's jaw exposing mask, dons back to the early era of comic heroes. As the second oldest superhero ever, his mask is inspired by old circus costumes as was the rest of his uniform. Another likely scenario is it lends to the glimpse of some humanity. An out of universe explanation is for expression. A hero with an exposed mouth can scowl, smile, grin, grit their teeth, bleed from the nose and lip; laugh, grimace in pain, or let his jaw drop in shock; for basic emotions it’s a better window.

Batman showing different facial expressions

More practical aspects it permits them to breathe openly without stifling humidity (if you've ever worn a full mask), talk coherently without muffling, eat and drink, if need be.

Batman eating with his mask on

Superhero masks come in four basic forms

  1. The Domino mask: That only covers the eye sockets, brows and part of the upper forehead, partially bridge of the nose. (Examples: Robin, Green Arrow, Zorro)

Robin, an example of a domino mask

  1. The Mouth exposing mask: This mask is common among superheros, especially it's most famous (Example: Batman, Captain America, The Post-Jay Garrick Flash's) The masks have the option of exposing the hair of the individual in question.

Batman and Flash, examples of the mouth exposing mask without hair and with hair respectively

  1. The Fully encompassing mask: This masks leaves no exposure of any human features or skin thus the identity of the wielder is virtually impossible (Example: Spider-Man, Deadpool) In some instances the characters hair could potentially be exposed.

Spiderman, an example of the fully encompassing mask

  1. Helmet: Name says it all. The mask itself is not a flexible mask, but instead a disguising helmet. (Example: Megaman, Captain America post civil war, most Japanese Sentai series and their American equivalent, Power rangers, etc)

helmeted examples

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