Costumes: Translation or Damnation?

Costumes: Translation or Damnation?

Since the beginning of superhero history it has always been known that the outwear can get a little peripheral, but is this a good or bad thing when it comes to movies?

Superheroes have been portrayed in movies since the early 40's and one of the toughest things to do is bring these costumes to life. Although the cinematic comic book world has taken a giant leap of success in its recent years under the limelight it is still maturing and having to learn from its mistakes. "Do we go with black leather"? "What about the mask"? "C'mon, underwear"? See what i mean; it can get a little tricky. So do we ground ourselves in that we call reality or tap into the aesthetic side of imagination that first caught our adolescent eye? That my friend is the million dollar question.

One side of the argument is that these costumes will come off ridiculous on screen. This is a very valid point considering 95% percent of movies deal with little to no "costuming", making a masked vigilante in bright spandex foreign to all of our natural judgments. With years of being exposed to such TV shows such as the 50's Superman and 60's Batman, the logical thing to do is make these characters fit into our natural perspective. Though some have ripped the costumes away , it seems that the general public accepted it.
Now i know your all waiting for me to start digging into Singers X-Men, but this side is about the goods. We all know that Singer pathed a way for a new generation of CBMs and this was partially due the modernizing of the flamboyant garnishes that alot of the X-Men wear. He took out the colors and patterns and replaced them with a more sleek modern approach making these characters automatically accepted to the modern conscious. All of a sudden super heros could be taken seriously. FANBOYS UNITE! Now we are being treated in a more respectable way and who cooler than with the X-Men? Not long after came the sequel, which was bigger and better than its fore father. Still going with the matching leather look to give them a more moderate tone since it was being accepted from a large chunk of its viewers.
So, outside of the Spiderman series (which stuck to its roots for obvious reasons) Batman: Begins came out. Nolan stuck close to the previous path already by Singer and by the end took off on his own. He gave Batman a suit that was originally going to be used for the military as a sort of exoskeleton and spray painted it all black. Guns hurt and they are fast! and lets face it: a lot of super heroes of mortal, so to have protection makes sense.
Throw out the grey and blue spandex, here comes someone you don't want to yell "on-guard!" in front of. Not only did he throw out the spandex but he gave reasoning to having a costume in the first place and explained the need for such gadgets and color code.
This was a good choice to do since some people are a little skeptical on how these things would play out in real life.

Movies take their own directions as they naturally would and costumes are starting be more accepted with the releases of Captain America, Thor, Green Lantern, and Watchmen, but still they seem to be hanging on the shoulder of these characters being portrayed in our reality and given a proper look to fit. So this is the second side to the argument. Have we forgotten an important piece of the comic book world which is the art?

Films and Comics have one solid thing in common. They are both artistic and take a certain mind to make phenomenal. Artists like Kirby, Millar, and Ditko spent a lot of time and imagination on these characters and that is something that could be dismissed when putting them on screen. Instead of filming these characters on our turf, should we really be taking the cameras into their world?
Alex Ross for example is an artist who draws our heros in fully colored tights only to be displayed by filled silhouette that looks as if it could be a photograph. In most of our rooms I'm betting is an Alex Ross poster somewhere. This style of artwork isn't taken as a display of some childish cartoon, but as man who could stand before you and make you kneel in sheer respect for the legend that they have made of themselves.
So this brings up a good question. Is it really that farfetched to see a man in tights? Almost all children are introduced to a super hero at some point in their life whether it be Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. After a while these characters literally become our heros and we look up to them learning that though it might be tough, doing the right thing always makes you the bigger man. For some it sticks, others it doesn't, but we have all been accustomed to characters dressing up to fight crime.
I look at DC and how they approached their characters in certain novels and story lines. For instance (i know its still Alex Ross but stay with me) Kingdom Come. Waid and Ross took our early obsessions, turned it into a worshiping, and gave them a God like aura. "Who needs armor when bullets bounce off you?" Or "Listen. I can move at the speed of light passing through alternate dimensions." No need for explanation I'm a damn super hero! Costumes become more than just a detailed disguise but a loud signal to all that engage in immoral exertion. When a super hero shows up in the middle of a crime its like the costume is saying "Ya, you just ran into me."
Recently movies like the listed above have come to respect the creativity and designs that went into the creation of these characters and so far have been very successful in terms of positive reaction towards costume translation. I know that sometimes alterations can be good and somewhat needed i.e. Dr. Manhattan's exposed anatomy, but do we really need to take such drastic steps to conceal their identity when they are already wearing a mask to begin with?

The comic book world is now more popular than ever and it only seems to be growing at a faster rate every year with such installments as the new Superman and Avengers. So is now the time to bust out the holy garments and show everyone how loud and triumphant superheroes really are? Or do we stay on board the train of keeping our beloved characters grounded and analyzed?

I want to know how you feel about costume translation. Tell me what you think below!
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Member Since 12/7/2010
Filed Under "Other" 3/5/2011
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Illuminatus - 3/5/2011, 3:09 PM
Interesting. You made several good points.
InSpace - 3/5/2011, 4:25 PM
Hey you made it!

Great article dude, made some good and thought provoking points there.
golden123 - 3/5/2011, 4:32 PM
So what are the obvious points of why they sticked to the roots for the Spider-man costume?
IronicMan - 3/5/2011, 5:24 PM
I like your points. I think mainstream audiences are starting to accept more outlandish costumes (ie Green Lantern, Thor) but only because of more grounded stuff like X-Men and Nolan's Batman.
ABLEE337 - 3/5/2011, 9:37 PM
@ golden123

Spider-Man's costume origin works because he started out as a wrestling character, a Luchador (Mexican wrestler). Plus it truly hides his identity completely.
The half masks like Wolverine's or Captain America's are more for design and less disguise. I mean, wouldn't you want to cover most if not all of your face if you truly wanted to hide your identity from friends and family. Yes the half mask makes it hard to identify a person but if it was a friend or family member I knew, I would recognize them eventually if I saw photos or saw video footage.
The most pointless masks are the Lone Ranger/Robin masks. Might as well just throw on some shades.
I think only the full masks like Spider-Man's and Dead Pool's would work in real life without causing laughter because I think subconsciously it serves a purpose. Kind of like a bank robber wearing a ski mask.
HUSoldier - 3/5/2011, 9:45 PM
Great post, but I have something else to add. If you think about it how many of these super heroes can use a thread and needle? I am highly doubting that deadpool was sitting at home stitching his shit together. That is the thing that is most left out to me. Where do the costumes come from. In spiderman we saw peter parker drawing his costume, and i am not sure but i dont remember him actually piecing it together. So I feel it is better that they change their outfits from what was first thought up cause honestly making those themselves just seems a little too much. But again great post
YohonKalic - 3/5/2011, 10:19 PM

I thought it was cool to see in detail what Bruce went through to make his outfit in batman begins and even in the TDK they talked about his outfit. something simple helps bring more depth to the character in my opinion.

nikgrid - 3/6/2011, 12:35 AM
Yeah I agree great post.
Husoldier has a really good point about manufacturing these outfits, obviously Bruce Wayne is sorted his suit origin is plausible, and Spidey's could have been, if the wrestling Federation had made that suit up for him for his persona and he simply stole it...but aside from the moral problems, we also have the fact it was an exhibition fight to win money, so he was an unknown. Which brings me to Superman upcoming suit. I have a concern that because a large amount of people when discussing comic costumes always zero in on Supermans suit as being crap. As a result I believe that they will try to get rid of the red "underpants" on Supermans suit, which I feel is a HUGE mistake. Spider-man and Superman have the most iconic costumes in comicdom and they are timeless which is why Raimi didnt touch it when he did his CBMs. If they get rid of Supermans red undies the suit will look bland and strange, from a design point of view breaking the blue up with those undies makes that outfit work. IMHO

dnno1 - 3/6/2011, 4:19 AM
Another angle/argumen about the costume translation to film is ownership and creative rights. Not only can a film producer use the argument that he is translating the costume for a more realistic feel, he is also establishing some level of creative and exclusive rights to the costume. In all honesty, the redesign would be owned buy the film producers and any use or redistribution of said design would be under their permission, with any royalties from proceeds owed to them. They do this so that they can cut exculsive deals with toy manufacturers, clothing companies, et. al. so that they can generate an additional reveune stream outside of the film. Sure the comic book company would get their cut because they own the rights to the character, but the rights to the costume would belong to the film franchise.
LEEE777 - 3/6/2011, 5:16 AM
ralphmouth @ LOL! ; p

Guys @ P.S. Theres no excuse for STNGER'S X-MEN... [frick]ing as bad as TWI-SH1TE!
Daniellantern - 3/6/2011, 9:49 AM
nice article dude!
we need some improvisation in the big screen. who wants to see batman in tight latex? he's a fighter need protection for his body. and the armor is work and logical. right ?
and GL suit. it's brilliant. here is logical question: "how a energy of light could build a tight latex. i mean what is the connection between light and cloth. nothing."
but sometimes, an iconic costume like Superman suit is will not be replaced.
Knightstalker - 3/6/2011, 10:22 AM
Good point on the decision to stay with classic costuming or go with an updated version. I feel that every superhero will upgrade their costume at some point. While I'm not completely crazy about Wonder Woman's upgrade in the comics, I still think it's an improvement over what she had before. Even as a kid I always thought that the costumes of female characters were too revealing and served no other purpose than fan titilation.

Also, translating a superhero's (or villain's) costume from the pages of a comic book to live action can't be easy. It will either be an acceptable version or just plain silly. I recall in Lois & Clark, when Lex Luthor asked Superman where he got that ridiculous outfit, Superman replied, "My mom made it". Best explanation ever offered for his suit and I'm hoping that the new Superman movie goes with something like that.
luckylu - 3/6/2011, 2:19 PM
thanks guys for posting, first article so hope everyone likes it
@dnno- i had never thought or knew that. kinda frustrating but what can you do?
@nikgrid- right with ya on supes underpants. silly or it not, its not supes without
@husoldier- thats a good point, but the way i see it is that most people are not gonna care where it comes from as long as it looks good and is a good movie, but thats imo and im not a movie director

personally i think keeping as close to classic is the way to go. im still on edge about caps suit with the needless grey straps and shoulder pads. i think dragon scale armor would work great for him in the avengers. hope everyone enjoys the article

nld3 - 3/6/2011, 2:40 PM
Some Directors are embarassed by the costumes. They seem to forget the reason for them in most cases is to hide their true idenity. And it helps the average Joe not shoot or attack at the hero. The Hero, even though well hidden needs to be well know to the public since they are always fighting crime. So they tend to wear the same uniform. All this stuff is thrown out the shallow minded directors & even the morons at marvel that set no standards or guide lines.
nikgrid - 3/6/2011, 8:55 PM
@nld3 - You're right most directors are embarrassed by the costumes, which was why I was very happy with Raimi when his costume came out looking....near perfect. I'm also very pleased with the Green Lantern costume. The first shot of him on EW cover I wasn't sure, but now I really like the way that Campbell realises that GLs costume is made from the Power Ring and is not spandex. I think it really works, also losing the white gloves works, they were probably only created that way so in B/W reprints of GL you could see his Power-Ring. TDK outfit is cool....but I hate the chest area it looks like he has a bra on. They should just do a solid bat area on the chest. Wonder Woman I think they should go with the greek influenced costume seen on fanartexhibit.
luckylu - 3/7/2011, 10:04 AM
@nid3- i loved raimis spidey suit as well. i feel like white gloves would perfect the gl costume though. about directors, if they are embarrassed by the character then they shouldnt be directing in the first place. people with passion should head these adaptations. i like you style of thinking when it comes to costumes
CorndogBurglar - 3/7/2011, 10:19 AM
my answer to this article is simple.

Wolverine. He is supposed to be the gruffest, toughest, manliest man in the entire Marvel Universe. Could you imagine someone like that running around in real life in yellow tights? no way. Could you even take someone like that seriously in a movie if he was running around in bright yellow tights? I doubt it.

People have to realize that comics are art. They will ALWAYS, 100% of the time, look acceptable when someone is drawing them in a comic. The artists always draw all the muscle lines, which you wouldn't see on a real life actor, and they always find a way to make it work. In my opinion, this is an impossibility to make work on screen.

Look at that god-awful Smallville movie that had Dr Fate and Hawkman. Yes, the costumes were accurate with the comics, but my god did they look cheesy and lame on screen. I think thats all the proof anyone should need.
CorndogBurglar - 3/7/2011, 10:21 AM
also, great article man! this is something that fans are constantly complaining about. And wrongfully so, in my opinion. Costumes are only cosmetic. The story will be the same, regardless of what they are wearing. So why make them look ridiculous, when you can reach more people with a more realistic approach?

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