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Many if not most superhero costumes are silly.

The costumes of the Batman group of characters, though, come in for special attention because their adventures are supposed to be more down-to-earth than the adventures of Superman or the Fantastic Four. They hold themselves to a higher standard of credibility than other superhero adventures.

Take Batman’s cape. As I explained in the book Batman Unauthorized, a character fighting crime in a cape is visually spectacular but otherwise ridiculous. It’s hard to run and fight in something that hangs down to the ground from the back of your neck.

Oddly, the creators of Batman devised a more practical alternative in the character’s early days — and discarded it. As Bob Kane said in his autobiography, “The cape looked like two stiff bat wings attached to his arms. As [writer and co-creator Bill Finger] and I talked, we realized that these wings would get cumbersome when Bat-Man was in action.”

Kane and Finger were right. The wings would be cumbersome — if you attached them to Batman’s arms.

But let’s attach them to his back. And make them not stiff but more like a camper’s tent — or, for that matter, like bat wings: lightweight fabric stretched between strong but flexible struts.

If a Batman equipped with that kind of apparatus were to leap from a great height, he could achieve a bit of flight: a lofty, arcing drift (by letting the air make the fabric billow like a hang glider or paraglider — or, for that matter, bat wings) or a swift, skimming glide (by extending the wings to their fullest, pulling the fabric as taut and flat as an airplane’s wings). And when Batman doesn’t need the wings, they can fold up and lie flush against his back, a barrier against anyone who might attack him from behind.

But one can’t change 70 years of comics history, unless one is Dan DiDio. Too bad. I’d like to change that cape.

And then there are the changes that I’d make to Batman’s cowl . . .

 

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