So you want to be a superhero?
You got your superpowers? Check.
You got your tragic backstory? Check.
You got a hideout or base? Check
Well all of those things are great start, but as important as your powers are, the most important thing you’re going to need to fight crime and save the world is a super suit.
Any self respecting superhero has to have a super suit. It sets you apart from the crowd, it’s a uniform for the job you’ve elected to take. Have you picked a design yet? You don’t know where to begin?
Well don’t worry. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with four key qualities that all super suits require in order to be fashionable and functional. So strap in, it’s going to be a series, but we’re going to tackle each of them separately, and maybe send a message to those comic illustrators and designers too.
Today, we’ll be covering the first and most important aspect of a super suit.
You’re going to be heading into some pretty dangerous territory. One of the main aspects of being a superhero is going where others can’t, so that means some pretty hairy situations. You’ll take on natural disasters, man-made crises, and maybe the occasional super villain, all of which would be deadly to the normal person. So the most important thing you can wear is something to protect from you from the elements and combat situations.
To start, I’d like to take some time to hash out some things we shouldn’t be doing if we want to protect you, and maybe use some examples to explain why some suits are a bad idea, at least in this field. I don’t care how powerful you are, if you don’t want to die immediately, here’s what not to do.
Exhibit A – Spider-Man
The Internet will despise me for taking on the friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man, but I think it begs mentioning. The way I see it, with a suit like Spidey’s, there’s only a few small millimeters of fabric between him and an unexpected morgue visit. What he’s wearing isn’t armor, it doesn’t really stop gunfire or bullets, nor does it keep out the elements like cold and heat. The suit may offer some benefits that I’ll get into later, but in the field of defense, the suit doesn’t have a lot to offer.
I’ll take a moment here to address some of the concerns I’m sure I’ve raised from the Internet. “See, it wouldn’t be that way, okay, because Spider-Man has his powers to fall back on. He doesn’t need that protection, right?”
Think about it this way. You may have superpowers, and you may know what they do, but beyond that, no superhero knows the limits of their powers or the full extent of how they work. How could they? Normal humans don’t even know the full workings of their own normal bodies. Now imagine trying to figure out what the rules are with a super body. You really can’t know all of the rules, not until it’s too late.
Let’s take Spider-Man again. Peter is off swinging around the city, looking for crooks and generally running patrols over the streets of New York. That’s fine, but what Mr. Parker doesn’t know is that his powers have a limit, one that he’s never been exposed too yet. Doctor Octopus invents a device to steal his powers, or perhaps, his powers are only active for a certain time limit. Maybe he only has the mutation until his body fights off the spider venom, and maybe it takes five years for that to happen. On that fifth year, Spider-Man is out swinging.
Then all of the sudden, his Spider Sense stops working. Maybe that doesn’t sound all that bad, but for those who don’t know, Spider-Man uses the Spider Sense to navigate around the city. It allows him to shoots webs without looking and helps to make swinging seamless and safe. With the power suddenly gone, poor Peter panics and loses his focus. He misses a building because he’s not looking, leaving poor old Spider-Man just another smear on someone’s windshield.
Maybe Spider-Man wouldn’t have survived the fall anyway, but what he probably wished he had before he made face-friends with the front end of a bus is something to protect him from the impact, a situation his suit was not designed for. There are other variations of the suit that help mitigate some of that risk, but the standard suit that we’re talking about now doesn’t really come made with that in mind. Sorry, Spidey, right now you’re just another bug splatter on the road of justice.
Exhibit B – Wonder Woman
I’ll say this first. I love Wonder Woman. I love her backstory and her powers. I love the fact that the second strongest character in the DC universe is a woman. I think she’s dynamic and interesting when written well.
But her costume design just sucks eggs.
Although I know why its like this, it doesn’t mean I have to like it, or sit here and take it. So listen up, costume designers, it’s time to get your shit together. That whole “male gaze sexy heroine” gig is a thing of the past. We’re in the year 2016, and we comic book enthusiasts don’t have time for your creepy misogyny.
“B-but Greyson, you don’t understand. That’s just what the Amazons wear on her island. It’s part of her culture!”
Okay let’s run with that for a little bit and see how long it takes for this neck-bearded logic to get winded and pass out. If we’re being real here, I can see a bunch of women living in a tropical climate showing some skin, I’ll concede that. But let me make one thing crystal clear, folks.
A warrior culture is not wearing bikinis and corsets to battle.
Her legs, shoulders, and neck are totally exposed. I don’t care how strong you are, no warrior worth their weight in blood would be caught dead wearing something so grossly impractical. True, she’s pretty indestructible to most things, but I would advise you to look back to Exhibit A (and the stain Peter left on the pavement) to show that your superpowers are never totally reliable. On the field of battle, armor is your friend. Soldiers need armor, and even those who aren’t in combat (Firefighters and cops) still need protection from the dangers they face from their job.
“W-well what about Spartans? They used to fight in the nude, or in very little armor. And they were men, that’s not the male gaze. We’re just being equal and saying women can fight in no-”
I’m gonna stop you right there. Do you know what the Spartans wished they had at the battle of Thermopylae? Fucking better armor. They would have killed for some chain mail and some greaves to replace those dumb sandals. Those who preferred to fight nude were quickly killed and replaced by the sensible soldiers who didn’t mind putting on some layers so they didn’t immediately become a meat slurry. It wasn’t a question of honor to fight bare, it was a problem of technology. Comfortable, wearable armor was still centuries away, and they still had to wage a war. They made do with what they had, which wasn’t much.
The Amazons supposedly live in the present day, they’re going to want some better armor in order to fight off greater threats. Wonder Woman needs to be able to take down blades, bullets, lasers, and magic. There’s no reason she wouldn’t wear something that better protected her.
So why is she stuck in the red, white, and skin?
Because little fuck boys want to jerk off to her. That’s the stone cold truth. Illustrators want a good wank after their done drawing a woman beating the shit out of someone, and they know boys (because that’s who she’s marketed toward. Strange that it wouldn’t be girls, right?) want the same thing after reading a good Wonder Woman comic. It’s an easy way to sell comics, and maybes it’s helped keep the industry afloat. But I would rather see the industry go under then submit to the underwear desires of neckbeards with a rapid righty.
“So what? Women super heroes can’t be sexy?”
No, you tool factory, of course women superheroes can be sexy. But there are other ways to express sexuality than looking like a pin-up calendar or a bondage sub wannabe. There are other heroines I would call sexy that don’t have to show so much skin.
The suits is slimming and flattering, but it’s not overly revealing. It’s designed for its purpose, but first and foremost, it’s designed to protect her from harm. The fabric might look thin, but hey, it’s certainly better than what Wonder Woman’s got on.
Now if it was a personal choice to wear what she wears, it becomes a different argument. Women can wear whatever they want, that’s obvious. But it’s never presented that way in the comics or in the other media. You want her to wear the Stars and Stripes and be okay with it, let her say she’s okay with it, that it’s a way to express herself without it being creepy. If she feels powerful in it, awesome, Justice League did that. No argument there. But everywhere else, for shame.
Now I’m here for this. There’s a little skin showing, but it’s more from the actual functionality of the suit rather than just to satisfy five minutes of a dude’s penis. Here we see some historical themes as well as some great protection. Armor that actually looks like armor. It’s a great fit for the character (Why isn’t this a thing?)
Okay, so we’ve covered what we shouldn’t do. So what is a good design for a suit that can provide enough for protection? Here we can present some premium and budget examples.
Exhibit C — Batman / Captain America
If you happen to be a billionaire, I would take a page out of the Cape Crusader’s book. Bruce turns the batsuit into a walking, fighting fortress. Ultra dense Tri-weave fibers prevent punctures and ripping. The fabric resist small arms fire, stabbing and slashing, burning and freezing. The suit holds in heat and self insulates, allowing it to withstand frigid temperatures and open flames. The cape is also resistant to tearing and is fire-retardant. There’s more reinforcement around the head, hands, and feet; this protects Bruce’s head and appendages. It’s one of the best examples of protection out there.
If you don’t have a shit load of money just laying around to fight crime in your city, maybe you could try being government funded. With the help of the US Military Budget (which is a considerable sum) Captain America sports many of the same benefits as the Dark Knight. He even has the shield, but that’s more of a personal touch (if I had to choose a weapon for my superhero, I would take the shield, every time).
Now, for the sake of realism, let’s just say that you don’t have the US War Budget or just billions of dollars in disposable income. In that case, a budget option might be healthy. Is it possible to save the day without breaking the bank?
The sad truth is, not really, but it doesn’t have to be THAT expensive. In some cases, you might have to take advantage of an opportunity (Daredevil) or make the best you can, like Spider-Man. You’ll lose out a little in the end, but sometimes you can’t quit your day job, even as a superhero. Have to keep the lights on in the hideout somehow, even Superman works for the Daily Planet.
And with that, you have a pretty decent understanding of the importance of protection in a super suit. But, as I said before, that’s not all you need. Next time, we’ll talk about the next most important aspect of a super suit.
Until then, stay vigilant, heroes and heroines.