Raj: “You’re so arrogant! If you were a superhero, your name would be Captain Arrogant. And you know what your superpower would be? Arrogance.”
Sheldon: “You’re wrong again. If my superpower were arrogance, my name would be Dr. Arroganto.” – The Big Bang Theory
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy a monstrous success. The Thor franchise and Batman franchise are doing as well as ever. And with the immediate success of Gotham, the superhero must be feeling pretty good about himself these days. With the superhero owning popular culture and with Halloween around the corner, it got me wondering: what makes a superhero a superhero?
There are many traits that define the majority of superheroes. Whether from another planet or formerly regular humans, superheroes generally have a tragic past. Filled with accident and incident, superheroes suffer from all kinds of complexes due to death and tragedy in their youth. Spiderman, for instance, realizes his responsibility after the death of his Uncle Ben. The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” was then coined and has now become just as famous as Spiderman himself. This is another important superhero feature: the moral code. Superheroes fixate on their moral code and often constantly focus on saving their city over saving themselves.
All superheroes of course have some form of powers through massive amounts of money and technology (Ironman, Batman), a scientific accident (Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Catwoman), or alien powers from another species (Superman, Green Lantern, Thor). These powers usually capture the attention of the damsel in distress, winning the superhero a girlfriend. This girlfriend sometimes isn’t aware of who the superhero really is. This is because the superhero has a secret identity. Bruce Wayne, the rich magnate of Wayne Manor, becomes Batman, the Dark Knight and vigilante hero of Gotham City.
So how do superheroes keep their secret identities?
Let me first say that not all costumes are meant to protect the superhero’s identity. A few superheroes don’t bother to keep their identities a secret. However, most superheroes employ secret identities to keep themselves, their friends, and families safe from the villains or, in Spiderman’s case, the police.
Almost all superheroes have spandex outfits. This is supposedly for maximum freedom of movement. They need to run, climb, and jump however is necessary. Female superheroes such as Catwoman and Wonder Woman have costumes that are very sexy and leave little to the imagination. Male superheroes tend to have costumes that show off their bulging muscles.
Superheroes are all supposed to be sexy. Yet, how is underwear over your pants sexy? For a long time, no one seemed to know the answer, only that Superman and Batman had always been that way. This part of the superhero world has been widely mocked for years. My personal favorite example of this is the 1990s cartoon Doug, where the titular character dresses as Quailman, tighty-whities over cargo shorts and all. Recently, the Huffington Post suggested that early color printing techniques of the 1930s and 1940s offered a blurriness problem that often resulted in the characters’ figures being unclear. If Superman did not have red to distinguish from the blue, he may have appeared to have nothing there. Any black definition in that area would have likely been deemed offensive at that time. Today, as printing technology has become much better, some comics have moved away from the look. However, some traditions die hard when it comes to the fans.
As Halloween approaches, the streets will run rampant with fans-turned-superheroes. Let’s discuss the average human’s superhero costume options that aren’t made from some kind of Kryptonian fabric.
- The Lazy Superhero Costume
Thinkgeek, a wonderful website for the nerd in all of us, has devised Halloween costumes for the laziest superhero-loving men and women out there, who perhaps like Halloween and like to dress up, but don’t have any particular time or money for an elaborate costume. Throw on this caped tank top or a sweatshirt: voila, instant superhero!
- The Handmade Superhero Costume
Oh, the handmade costume. This can range widely from Comic-Con sewing masters who spend months handcrafting amazing costumes or as a t-shirt with a cut-out batman symbol sewn to it and a mask made from a paper plate. More labor intensive and less appreciated than other costume options, the handmade costume is the unsung hero. This photo from Raising Hope is of Jimmy, who dresses as a homemade, last-minute Batman to impress the girl of his dreams, who dressed as Robin. (Women often gender-bend to play their favorite superheroes on TV and film. Men dressing as female superheroes is less common, but not unheard of.) Sabrina’s boyfriend Wyatt showed up in a different take on Batman. He went with the “Expensive but still Cheaply Made Costume.”
- The Expensive, But Still Cheaply Made, Costume
Everyone at one point or another has stood in a costume shop and ogled the insane price of a simple, polyester costume. Some costume shop costumes can be more elaborate, seen above, with fake pectorals and all. But for one night, I never seem to think spending too much is worth it. That’s probably why I usually laze out and just buy some cat ears, put on a red dress, and call myself Hello Kitty.
This Halloween, celebrate the strangle-hold superheroes have on pop culture. Take any route you choose to be your favorite superhero! Just please, no tighty-whities over your pants. Unless you’re going as Quailman, that is.