Costumes: Translation or Damnation?
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.
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?
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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