All Access Weekly: 8 Silliest Superhero Costume Tropes
May 13, 2013
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The summer movie season is in full swing, and with it comes another batch of great super-hero films. "Iron Man 3" has been out for a few weeks (and is already on the cusp of taking in a billion dollars globally), but we're also excited for "Man of Steel," coming out June 14th. The new Superman comes with a new costume and a design choice that we applaud. Because really, as much as we love old Supes, take him out of the context of comic books and he looks absolutely ridiculous. In particular the red underwear over the blue body suit.
He's not the only one, though. Comic book superheroes are notorious for costumes that look silly on the page and confounding on the silver screen. Here are eight of the silliest.
Visually, capes can provide an aura of mystery to a hero and/or give the illusion of movement (i.e. if Superman's flying through the air an artist can have the cape flutter to accentuate the effect), but they really don't serve any practical purpose. In fact, you'd think those things would get in the way more often than not. Especially a guy like Batman who presumably fights like a ninja, except we think that cape would probably keep tripping him up. Not a good look.
Underwear outside the pants
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Of all the items on this list, this is probably the silliest and most inexplicable. It's not as if it's aesthetically pleasing to look at, because pretty much everyone's first thought seeing it is "hey, that guy is wearing his underwear wrong." It's even more confounding from a practical standpoint, since it's literally the opposite of what underwear does. The only way you could wear underwear more wrong would be to not wear any at all. Were they worried we'd think Superman was going commando?
Headgear that covers everything except the face and hair
This look is basically a bikini for your skull: it covered the side of your head (including your ears…?), the back of your head, and your neck, but left your face and top of your head exposed. It doesn't hide someone's identity nor does it protect their head, so we can't even imagine what purpose this served. We only started to see this pop up in the 90s, but boy, did it ever get around. It was the comic book equivalent of zubaz pants: the first time you saw it you thought "well, that looks stupid and nobody else will ever wear it." Then all of a sudden it's everywhere.
Skin-tight costumes with no pockets
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Batman's utility belt takes a lot of flack for being sort of silly, but at least it attempts to explain how a superhero in tights can have access to gadgets. There are a lot of other heroes that use just as many gadgets but don't seem to have anywhere to put them. The biggest offender is probably Catwoman. Her various costume iterations left little to the imagination, yet she also was a burglar who used a variety of high tech tools and gadgets to commit her robberies. So where on Earth did she hide all those? And what about her whip? Does she swallow and regurgitate them like a cat with a hairball? As gross as that is, it's as good a guess as any.
Pants and pouches with too many pockets
Talk about an overcorrection. As blowback against the traditional look of capes and tights, anti-heroes of the early 1990s started showing up wearing cargo pants, gun belts, vests, and various other paraphernalia cluttered with pockets. Pockets on pants, pockets on shirts, pockets on sleeves, pockets on shoulders, pockets on belts, pockets within pockets, and pockets where there have never been pockets before. We're talking pockets. Pockets?! POCKETS. We're talking about pockets?! Sorry, had an Allen Iverson moment there.
Pants not included
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To say that the comic book industry and its male fans have some, uh, "issues" with women would be an understatement. Probably the most telling is the fact that if there's a female superhero, you can put good money on her not having pants. Not just short shorts but no pants at all, regardless of the climate. Things have improved a bit in the last few years, but progress has been slow. It took all but a Supreme Court ruling for Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers to be allowed to wear pants, and that's only been in the past year or so.
Helmets/headgear with wings on them
The motif of wings sprouting out of masks, headgears, hats, and helmets is an ode to the ancient Greek god Mercury. So it makes sense on The Flash, whose superpower is running very fast. The fact that it's on Hawkman's helmet sort of makes sense because he flies, but would people not be convinced that's the case from the actual giant wings coming out of his back? And why on Earth does Captain America have them? Some people would say it's supposed to be an eagle's wings, but they're lily white. They look more like dove wings. Is Captain America supposed to be a patriotic dove? Well, there was that period in the 70s…
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Look, you show up to fights and catastrophes with your other super-powered friends (and sometimes even the guy your team is named after). We don't really need a gigantic red letter "X" on your chest, bicep, or even your face to let us know you're with the X-Men.
Those are just some of the tropes we came up with. Got any others? Let us know in the comments!/center>