As a child, I sat and watched our old black and white tv, staring in awe as Batman and Robin climbed up a building, though I will admit, even as a kid, I knew it was a fake wall and they were not walking up but more walking hunched over, but I digress. I’m not here to tell you how smart I was as a kid, because my old Report Cards would indeed prove me wrong .
No, as a kid I knew I could dress up as Batman anytime I wanted to and no one would know.
Because spandex, baby!
When superhero’s started out, let’s take Superman for a moment. When Superman first came out, everyone had a alias. Batman was Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man was Peter Parker…wait. You’re nerds. I don’t have to tell you this. You all know who is who. Geez.
So anyway, ‘ol Superman couldn’t just show up for work in his blue tights and tell Lois and Jimmy they were seeing things, because he was really Clark Kent in his pajamas.
No, most superheroes had to hide their identity. They were always undercover. Like secret God’s watching us go about our day, unknown to those around them.
So the spandex suit was born. A lot of them couldn’t be as lucky as say, the Green Hornet, who could just go home and dress up. Or the Shadow, who could cloud your mind so you didn’t recogize who he really was. Then there was Zorro, who just went home and got a cape, mask and better horse.
No, Superman, Spider-man, Wonder Woman, they all had to work real jobs, waiting patiently until trouble would arise. They had to be ready at all times, which, let’s face it, was every single freaking day of their lives.
I mean, C’MON! Clark had a deadline to meet and just wanted to relax in the break room, but OH NO! An elephant had to escape the zoo and take up most of his break time! FREAKING ELEPHANT AND THEIR WEAK CHAINS!
Superheroes were always hiding underneath. Wearing a false front. The costume hugging their bodies as their “regular” clothes were worn outside, giving others a false perception of who they really were.
Now we could talk all week about the mental conditions and psychology about hiding ones persona under their real clothes and what the underlying mental condition of wearing a second set of clothing leads too, but no. Not here. Let’s keep this light. You’re also a grown up and can either figure it out or Google it.
A spandex supersuit helped heroes when they needed to be on the scene in a moments notice. A scream would be heard, the music would rise and there goes another shirt with broken buttons tossed into the wind!
(And yes, I’ll admit it right now. I made myself a Greatest American Hero shirt and wore it under my shirt when I went to school. Happy?)
Now, after a while, we started to understand that that may not be the best idea. I mean, what if the shirt ripped? What if it was hot out? Something new needed to come along.
So after a while, superheroes just needed a cut scene or CGI. Sure, we saw George Reeve go into the closet and jump out the window as Superman, but why the cotton and wool? And where did he leave his clothes?
We also waited impatiantly for Lynda Carter to do her spin and turn into Wonder Woman, causing many children to be harmed in vertigo type accidents.
Now we still had Spider-Man and Captain America on television, fighting crime in spandex. I remember because I thought ‘ol Cap looked like a lolipop wearing his motercycle helmet.
When superhero movies started hitting the big, colorful movie screens, things changed. Our vision of what superheroes were, changed.
Oh, sure, Christopher Reeve still hid Kal El under his shirt and tie. Hero At Large had John Ritter believe the suit underneath really did make him a hero and later, Supergirl came to Earth with spandex knowledge.
It wasn’t until 1989, when Micheal Keaton showed up in a tank of a suit, rubber and kevlar, that we noticed something different.
Why did we need spandex for our heroes?
In an interview with Tim Burton, he was asked why he didn’t make Keaton wear spandex. He said, “If Bruce Wayne were so tough, like Arnold Swartzenegger, why would he wear a batman suit? Why wouldn’t he just wear a ski mask and go beat people up? “
It was true. He wanted Batman to be relatable. To see him as a hero we could be, or at least, train to be.
Strangely, since they bucked the system so much later by putting all the X-Men in black leather, at the time, Marvel had yet to get away from the way too tight costume circus. They brought out Captain America again for a tv movie and even had the Fantastic Four come out into the tv world, only to be unreleased later.
It was about this time that Batman Returns was premiering along with The Rocketeer. There was The Mask, The Shadow, The Crow, Darkman and then Batman Forever, which we will never discuss again because it gave Batman nipples and Jim Carrey spandex, two things that should never have been put on this Earth.
Now, I will say, the Phantom was released about this time, but who didn’t want to see Billy Zane in tights, huh? I mean, geez. The man’s a walking specimen of human gentics.
As for the women superheroes, I will say, Dark Horse decided to zig instead of zag by having Pamela Anderson, at the height of her career, NOT in spandex. I mean, what?! Might as well have said, “Hey guys. Just…. Uh… Just don’t bothering watching this.”
But they didn’t have to, looking at the box office returns.
Later, DC countered with a film that was the only time in human history where people said, “Halle Berry in a cat suit? Nah…I’ll pass.”
Spawn had his costume wrap around him while Shaq had his Steel costume just kind of dangle there.
The Mystery Men made their own costumes and Sam Raimi had Peter Parker watch wrestling to get a design for his, making it by himself, which bothered me only for the fact I make a lot of my own costumes and theres no way he could have pulled that off. I mean, really? Puffy paint?
Daredevil started to wear leather, which would have made that Deprivation Tank he slept in smell like feet and hair product.
So where does that leave us now?
I’ll admit, the reason this article is being written is because I happened along the costume for Red Tornado in the Supergirl series.
Look everyone! Some guy dressed as a Karate Dummy to practice on!
Now we live in an age where superheroes are to be seen, not just heard.
Thor walks proudly around London in search of Natalie Portman.
Tony Stark walks around his mansion with a light emanating from his chest.
Captain America has several outfits and doesn’t need to hide because apparently there’s a museum in Washington DC all about him, so forget that alias thing.
Even Man Of Steel, notice I said Man Of Steel and not Superman because that movie was not Superman and I **takes breath**…nevermind.
Superman has finally gotten rid of the red underwear, same as Batman. Heck, even every now I then, Wonder Woman has pants.
It’s a new age of heroes and it’s a good one.
No more guessing who will come and save you because they are here.
Right there, right now, walking proudly, cape flapping in the wind, underwear on the inside.
It seems Marvel has the right idea so far. Making suits look fantastic but still “real world”.
It will be interesting to see weekday DC does Batman vs Superman.
But now there’s no more hiding! As a hero, you wear your costume proudly, shouting,
“I’M HERE, I’M NEAR, GET USED TO IT!”