Costumes Revealed, by Dennis O’Neil
There may be some practical reasons why the grown-for-television superheroes dress in plain clothes rather than the colorful garb of their comic book and movie counterparts.
(For those of you who came in late: we’re continuing last week’s discussion of superhero costumes.)
I remember visiting the set of one of Joel Schumacher’s Batman flicks and watching costumers take a long, long time – 15 minutes? More? – just to fit Batman’s mask on a stunt man, a process that involved putting plastic wrap on the guy’s head and then trimming it after the mask was in place. And that was just the mask. Imagine what efforts went into getting tights, cape, boots and all to fit properly. Dash into a closet – a phone booth? – for a quick change? Maybe not.
Though I have no firsthand knowledge of this, I understand that there is actually a closetful of batsuits for the actor and his various doubles; which one gets worn in a particular scene depends on the scene’s content. Are we fighting? Running? Driving our spiffy car? Standing dramatically silhouetted against the skyline? We must wear the appropriate outfit!
Subtract all this time, effort and expense from the task of garbing your good guy and you have…what? Well, have a look at either of the Batman movie serials made in the 40s for your answer. The Superman and Captain Marvel suits from that era are better, but they don’t approach the panache of the average Curt Swan or Jack Kirby drawing.
The point of all this blather is, it takes considerable hassle and time for live people to duplicate what is the stock in trade of the comic book artist and television shows are made quickly against pretty unforgiving deadlines and budgets. It simply makes more production sense to create protagonists with modest and easily fulfilled wardrobe needs.
(I know. I know…some of you boomers are remembering Lynda Carter in her Wonder Woman togs. Well, the Wonder Woman costume of that era was, in effect, a glorified swimming suit and I doubt that Ms. Carter was ever intimidated by swimming suits. You may now stop snickering.)
So have we beaten this particular topic to death? Nah. More beating to come. But now, I’d like to do an abrupt change of subject and offer a little public thanks.
First, I want to briefly acknowledge John Ostrander’s column about me last week. I’m enormously flattered, touched and grateful.
And next, I want to thank the people at the Montclair Art Museum for being extremely gracious and accommodating when Tom DeFalco, Danny Fingeroth, Mike Uslan, and I perpetrated a group discussion as part of the museum’s comic book show.
By the way, the exhibit is worth a visit. I’m sure the gentlemen and ladies who work there would be happy to give you directions. Phone number: (973) 746 5555, and here’s the link to their website.
We’ll return to our costume stuff, probably, next week.
RECOMMENDED READING: They Have a Word for It, by Howard Rheingold.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles. The Question: Zen and Violence is on sale right now in trade paperback.