Should a comic character wear a cape or not? That is the question!
THE CAPE AND THE COSTUME
Every so often, I can’t help but look at the costumes that comics heroes and villains wear. An important part of that appearance is… the cape!
Many times, the cape or a cloak is the sign of importance, often royalty. It’s something not everyone does, so when we see someone wearing one, it makes that person stand out.
These days, the heroes most known for wearing capes are Superman and Batman. That makes sense because DC heroes are much more iconic than their Marvel counterparts. The Marvel hero who most often wears a cape is indeed a god, Thor. Other than him, I can’t think of many people in the House of Ideas who wears one except maybe other gods, although Loki is most often seen without one.
Besides a sign of importance, a cape can also add a lot to a character visually. I remember when I first saw Batman in the comics. His cape functioned much like a towel would, hanging down on his back. Often that happened, it seemed like, so that it wouldn’t get it in the way of his fighting with the bad guys. This carried on into the Batman ’66 TV show. You rarely even noticed it.
Once that show was over, I noticed a big change in the comics as Batman became more mysterious, most mystical. Instead of looking like a piece of cloth, Batman’s cape took on a life of its own! It often surrounded the Dark Knight, writhing and changing shape depending on the circumstances facing Batman. I remember when I first saw it. I was mortified! But over time, I grew to accept it and take it in. I believe Neal Adams, who had a major impact on the Dark Knight in those days, had a lot to do with this change of cape!
WHY NOT WEAR A CAPE?
I’ve talked a little bit about why someone would wear a cape. There are practical reasons, of course, why a hero or even a villain might not want to adorn his or herself with such a thing.
For one, in the real world, it can get in the way! Let’s say your facing several baddies at once and you have to fight them one or more at a time. A flapping cape can inadvertently cover your eyes and make defending yourself a real hassle!
Not only that, but a cape can work against you. If that piece of cloth is all-too-obviously hanging from your neck or shoulders, well, a bad guy just might grab hold of it and throw off whatever brilliant physical moves you are making to take that person down.
A cape can also make one look more important than he or she should be. If you want the “street cred” of being a bad-ass, a cape doesn’t help your reputation. In fact, you just might get laughed at!
Granted, a comic, a movie, or a TV show can put the best spin possible on a cape, making sure it doesn’t interfere with the plot. In real life, though, that thing can be a real troublemaker!
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME
I’ve often pointed out that Batman is my guy, and he has been for many years. When I was an early teenager, living in a life when few people even knew what a superhero actually was, I took it on myself to put on a blue cape in honor of my hero.
I wore it around our house and when we visited our trailer near a lake. When it was just me and my family, all went well.
Not so around others, though!
One time, I was wearing it in our front yard, and the neighbor kids saw me with it on. Being the usual merciless teens they (like most kids my age) were, they decided to let me know that being different was unacceptable!
My mother, who had made my cape at my insistence, wondered why I had suddenly stopped wearing it. When I told her the other kids didn’t care for it, she smiled at me and said I should keep it around and wear it when it was appropriate.
That turned out to be never! (When DC made a black Batman cape a few years back in honor of his anniversary, I bought one. It is hanging in my closet just waiting for the appropriate time to make an entrance!)
The point of all this is that heroes, particularly superheroes, wear costumes and such in order to garner a reaction.
The same seems to be true for villains. Doctor Doom was the main bad guy who had on a cape, and he wore it well! I don’t think he would have been so formidable without it!
TO CAPE OR NOT TO CAPE
The point of all this is that capes, like other parts of a costume, should be worn when it is helpful. If it is not, then one should not wear it.
For instance, when I have seen Superman flying without his cape, he didn’t seem as, well, super! Also, when Batman doesn’t have that living, writhing thing on his back, he doesn’t seem as formidable or imposing.
However, if Spider-Man or Iron Man or Wolverine were to wear a cape, I don’t think it would work as well. Magneto wears a cape and is one of the few mutants to do so. It’s a sign of his status in the mutant community, and that works for him.
If you are an Indie comic creator, what the hero or villain looks like will be a very important part of who he or she is. How do you want others to react to that character? How do you want comics fans reading your book to feel when they see it? All these are vital to making a great character others will enjoy reading about or even looking at!
It says something that Batman is my favorite comics character as well as my most-liked DC hero. At Marvel, the Black Knight (who also wears a blue cape) if at the top of my list. If I had to pick a non-caped member of the House of Ideas, I’d probably say Namor, the Sub-Mariner, although even he also has worn a cape at times since he was a ruler of Atlantis.
There was a comic called The Cape, and it focused on a guy who got powers when he wore a cape. If you haven’t read that book yet, I highly recommend it! Powers don’t necessarily make the hero!
So, is a cape a vital part of a comics character? It depends! If you want your hero or villain to be respected and admired, then I would say there should be one. If that person is “one of the guys” or a regular criminal, then I would recommend that he or she not wear one!
What do you think? Are capes important to you as a fan? Do your favorite characters in comics wear one? Or do they turn you off when you see one? Whatever your opinions, be sure to share them in the space below!