Saturday, July 17, 2010

Are movie superhero costumes for real?

You can call me a comic book fan, geek or fanboy. That’s fine with me. I’ve been reading comic books since I was 5 years old and my parents bought me a copy at the local pharmacy and I haven’t put them down since.

I think one of the biggest thrills for a fan is to actually see their favorite characters portrayed by real people. My first experience was watching the 1960’s Batman TV show in re-runs. Here was Batman and Robin out of the comic books and in the “real” world.

At the time, I identified more with Robin because he was a boy like me. I used to run around the house in my Robin “costume” which consisted of a dress shirt buttoned only at the collar for a cape, my mother’s leather winter gloves, a cheap Lone Ranger mask from the 5 & dime, and my underwear, of course.

As I grew up it became increasingly rare to see superheroes in TV or film. Then a movie came along that changed it all for me - Superman. Christopher Reeve’s Superman was amazing. No other movie had done such a great job at portraying a superhero. His acting was dead-on and he looked exactly the way Superman should look, strong and majestic. It was like he stepped right out of a Superman comic book.

The movie was a blockbuster that broke all kinds of records. It proved that everyone, and not just comic fans, was ready for superheroes on the big screen.

Since then there have been more superhero movies, some good and some not. Since Hollywood has a tendency to copy successful ideas there have been certain trends set.

Tim Burton’s Batman brought about the trend of molded costumes. No exercise needed, just zip up a costume with muscles.

Then the X-Men movies started the leather look. It wasn’t realistic enough to have them in a cloth costumes so every one wore leather. Each team member lost their uniqueness and they all became uniforms.

Spider Man started with the trend towards a more realistic look to the characters. Spider-Man’s web was now organic and the villain, Green Goblin, no longer wore a creepy Halloween costume. They put him in green armor with a goblin-like helmet/ mask. The Goblin looked more like an Iron Man villain.

With the success of current superhero movies many others are either being filmed right now or are in the planning stages. Of course, as much as the fanboy in me is excited about seeing comic book characters on film I’m also worried about how they will look.

With the internet few things can be kept secret. More and more photos have popped up and after seeing them I am not pleased. I understand that some costumes, even though they look cool in a comic book, don’t translate well to the real world. Some tweaking has to be done for the average movie-goer to accept these characters but why do they have to be so ultra-realistic.

I think when you lose all the fantasy factors to the costume it’s no longer fun. Here are some examples of upcoming superhero movies:

Captain America – The only thing I like about his movie costume is his shield. Gone are his blue chainmail, red striped shirt, red gloves and boots, and the wings on his mask.  Cap’s mask is now basically a molded blue helmet with eye slots, his costume is primarily leather, his gloves and boots are brown leather, and he wears a pouched utility belt.

My biggest complaint is the helmet and belt. He never wore a helmet even when he was on the battlefield and his primary weapon is his shield. He has no need for all those pouches.

Thor – Thor is an Asgardian god. He and his fellow gods are Vikings at heart. So why do all the costumes use streamlined leather and metal? Thor is dressed in black leather and with only his arms in chainmail. They kept his red cape but his helmet is gone. Thor always wore a winged helmet so not having him wear one is inexcusable.

The movie version of Thor bears very little resemblance to the comic book version. It makes you wonder if they even used the comics for reference at all.

Green Lantern – I’ve been a huge fan of Green Lantern since I can remember. So when I heard there would be a live-action movie I was thrilled...then I saw the image of the costume. The only thing that they kept from the original costume was his mask, the ring, and the lantern symbol on his chest.

His costume is very organic looking. It reminds me of muscle tissue and has a rubbery shine to it. Instead of green, charcoal, and white the costume is now all green. His mask looks like it was painted on his face. Oh, and did I mention that his costume is entirely CGI? That’s right, it’s not even real.

There was a story online of how the director didn’t like any of the costumes that the costume department had created for Green Lantern then the special effects department mentioned that they could just CGI the entire costume and make it look any way he chose. That sealed the deal.

Why does Hollywood feel the need to change the original look of a character so much that he bears little or no resemblance to the original? Why must all the fun be replaced with realism?

Maybe someone should send every movie executive a copy of 1978’s Superman to remind them of how you can make a blockbuster movie and still respect the original look and feel of the character.

Just don’t send them 1997’s Batman and Robin. They don’t need that kind of inspiration.



  1. Unfortunately the creators of these movies are so concentrated on exercising their artistic license - they might as well create their own character and not even say that it is based on a comic book franchise. If the costume doesn't allow the character to bear any resemblance to the comic book - it's extremely disheartening, especially for the fans.

  2. Manny have you ever been to a COMICON? One of the things I truly enjoy seeing is all the home-made costumes people come up with to wear to some of these shows. It is truly incredible how creative people get. If you have a chance at all you should plan on attending WIZARD WORLD in Boston this year. There you will see a plentiful amount of fan inspired costumery... some brilliant, some NOT so much, but it's still great fun. I agree entirely with your stance on Hollywood .... seems more than a tad over-done lately!

  3. Yeah I wish they would put some effort in getting the costumes right.And I really hate the molded muscle suits.Props to Adam West.He may not have had the Olympian physique of the comic book Batman.But he did have the guts to wear tights.