Beauology 101: I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing THAT!

by Beau Smith

Beau Smith

Beau Smith

Maybe you would.

Anyone who reads or has read superhero comic books, even on a semi-regular basis knows that you have to suspend belief in a lot of various ways to truly enjoy the stories. There are major differences between the real world and that of four color fantasy; people can fly, bend steel with their bare hands, run faster than a locomotive, and leap tall buildings with a single bound. Those are just a few of the perks to be had in the world of comic book superheroes. Just as there are perks, there are also drawbacks. You’ve got equally super-powered bad guys always looking to take you down a peg or two, not to mention they’re happy to crush, kill and destroy you in the process. That’ll keep you looking over your shoulder for a while.

In the world of comic book superheroes it’s pretty much mandatory that you have to wear a costume of sorts. The norm is for it to be a bit flamboyant in color and style, flashy and not especially functional for fighting crime on a daily basis. But Lord knows they’ll spell your name right in the Daily Bugle.

Even as a kid I knew that most of the costumes would never work in real life. I didn’t care ‘cause these guys were beating the snot out of each other and knocking down buildings while they were at it, what’s not to envy?

For the most part there’s no true stealth for costumed heroes or villains. The Invisible Girl/Woman is about the only hero with any true sneakiness about her and she doesn’t really have to worry about what her costume looks like, although in the 1960’s that’s about all she worried about.

I think the costuming is a part of the reason (along with special effects) that there weren’t many superhero movies made pre-1980. There wasn’t much of a way of pulling off gaudy garments and making the viewers believe this could happen. I remember watching the famous 1966 Batman TV series as a kid. I was so glad to finally have a superhero TV show I was willing to overlook all the campy stuff, the jokes and yes, even the clash of costumes, just so I could have some of my comic book hobby on TV. I’ll never forget the first time actor, Burt Ward, showed up on the screen in his Robin outfit, I thought to myself, “There’s a butt-whuppin’ waiting to happen.” Being on TV in the flesh was eyeball proof that Robin wears an elf outfit, plain and simple.

At the same time, The Green Hornet was driving around TV in The Black Beauty. That show wasn’t as campy as Batman and the costumes of the Green Hornet and Kato were a little more functional. Green Hornet wore a suit and overcoat along with a stylish fedora, while Kato wore an all black driver’s uniform. The only stand-out parts of their ensembles were the simple masks. Not bad for realism.

The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four

In my opinion, the most realistic and functional costumes were those of The Fantastic Four. Super brain, Reed Richards, figured not to waste time and effort with any secret identities so there were no hassles of looking for phone booths and storages closets to change clothes in. No hot and sticky masks to wear either, which was another comfort point that I liked. Then he made the uniforms out of unstable molecules so they could adapt and form to any shape the owner found themselves in, such as Mr. Fantastic stretching nearly a mile, Invisible Girl turning transparent and her clothes with her, The Human Torch (rest in peace) could ignite into flames without his uniform going up in smoke, and The Thing could get by with just wearing swimming trunks. Not a bad deal at all. I would’ve signed up with that company uniform.

Let’s run down a few costumes of heroes and villains to see what works and what doesn’t:


Superman & Batman

Superman: No mask, as I mentioned above, that’s a good thing. Skin tight outfit, not a bad idea. That way, whoever you’re fighting will find it hard to grab on to you. Colors, well, a bit flashy, but when you can move a planet, who’s gonna call you on it? My major gripe is the cape. A cape is the worst thing you can wear if you’re a superhero or villain. Your just begging someone to grab it in a fight or pull it over your head and rain a bunch of Hockey punches on you.


Batman: He roams the night, so the color scheme is great. Utility belt, very smart! He can carry loads of cool, high tech weapons and gizmos in it as well as walking around money. The cowl, as proven in the Batman movies, is a bust. He can’t really turn his head in that thing. Bad choice. Looks cool, but bad for visibility and movement. The cape, again, terrible for a guy who does a lot of hand to hand combat.




Captain America

Captain America: If you’re gonna wear flashy colors, then you just can’t go wrong with red, white and blue, it’s never out of style and the design of his costume is brilliant. Protective gloves and boots are a good move. The gloves also help with the sling of the shield. Even though the shield is actually a weapon, with Cap, it’s really a part of the uniform. What a great weapon and protective device! High grades on the shield, great look as well. In recent years they have also added a military style web/cartridge belt on Ultimate Captain America and it’s a great addition in both style and practical use. In case you didn’t know, Captain America’s outfit is a fine chain mail mesh fabric that helps when bad guys are trying to stab you or put a .45 bullet through you.

The Incredible Hulk: Come on, when you’re THAT big and THAT strong, you don’t need a stinkin’ costume.


Iron Man: In reality you wouldn’t be able to move enough in this suit to really work well. You’d be more like a guided missile or a flying tank. Great weapons, but flexibility would be a tough thing to make happen.


Robin: As mentioned earlier in the column, it’s an elf costume. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this. On second thought I would, because that’s just what would happen if you wore it.


Doctor Doom: As much as I love the iconic look, Doctor Doom’s costume is one of the worst in the real world. Clanky, clunky and hard to see out of; uncomfortable, hot, hard to move in and not only does it have the much hated and useless cape, but it has a hood as well. Hit me, hurt me, oh, baby undress me.



Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman: (Her real standard costume, not that hyped new one.) Although it would be great to see the best looking woman in all of comics wearing this outfit in real life, let’s face it, if she got into a tussle her boobs and butt would be hanging out everywhere. She’d make the Janet Jackson Super Bowl costume malfunction look like a Flash In The Pan.


Catwoman: Great costume that would really work in our world. Skin tight, hard to grab, covers the body with protection, nimble, heavy tread boots, goggles for night vision. I rate this one high.


Hawkman: A similar Batman like problem, the helmet would restrict him from seeing everything around him. If he got smacked in the face the helmet would be sideways. His wingspan is great when he’s airborne, but on the ground it’s gonna get in the way and put him in worse shape than a cape would. The mace almost counteracts everything else, but still not enough.




Daredevil: Original costume was yellow and red. That right there tells you that a blind guy made that costume. Second and current all red costume, still, a blind man at the sewing machine.




Power Girl: Her costume IS her weapon, Weapon Of Mass Distraction!


Those are just a few comments on what’s right and what’s wrong with various costumes of superheroes and diabolical bad guys, I’m sure if you take the time and really think about it, you will have a whole list of what you think would work and wouldn’t work.

The bottom of the boot is that most non-super powered heroes, like Batman and Daredevil, would be dead or maimed a long time ago in the real world. With all the people taking shots at them in chaotic gunfights and battles, it would only take one spray of a 12 gauge shotgun to plant these guys in the dirt for good or have them lose use of a limb. I try not to make that mental transition when I’m reading superhero comic books. I think that’s why some writers are running into problems these days because they are trying too hard to mix Pulp Fiction with fantasy world superheroes. If they don’t watch it, sooner or later they’re gonna lose readers because things will be so real, the reader is reminded that it isn’t real and lose interest. Today’s Batman grim and gritty will become tomorrow’s Batman campy.

Remember, the clothes make the man, not the hero.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith-Best Dressed Man In Comics.

The Flying Fist Ranch


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