Well, I can’t fault you for being an attentive student.
After finally falling back to Earth, you realized that the whole “impenetrable fortress” idea wasn’t really the best one. But you’re determined, just like any good heroine. So you scrapped that idea and started over, making sure you took into consideration both your suits ability to defend you and your own ability to fight back when necessary.
The end result is something pretty cool looking. It’s fitting, the design looks sweet. You don’t have an emblem yet, but that will come a little later, you just have to get out there and make a name for yourself.
It’s time to get some payback on that guy that tossed you into the atmosphere.
Turns out, he’s not that hard to find. Guys with super strength that like to wreck cities tend to leave a tidy trail of breadcrumbs(or destroyed buildings and rubble, if we’re being serious).
You confronted him in the streets. Here at last, the final showdown would commence. He rushed you, trying to finish the fight quickly. You lash out with your fire powers, trying to stop him from advancing…
And your suit melted.
See, while all of the fabric and stuff you put together for your Super Suit 2.0 looks really cool and functions physically, you forgot to take into account that your fire powers generate flames that exceed 4000 degrees Fahrenheit. So as soon as you initiated your powers, your suit started to break down. After your first attack, the whole suit is on fire, and in a few moments, you’re standing there in the buff. You make a hasty retreat, and here we are. You borrowing some clothes and me having to explain my third essential aspect of super suits.
Your suit needs to have synergy with your powers. That seems pretty obvious, but I submit its not something that’s taken into account as often as we like to think. Some super suits are silly, and at their worst, otherwise are downright contradictory.
What might be worse than burning off your own super suit? Let’s take a look at some “what-not-to-do’s” and then move on to some new turf in the realm of functional super suits.
Exhibit A – Cole MacGrath
I really enjoyed this game, and I thought the usage of electricity for Cole’s superpowers was really inspired. Everything pretty much made sense, except for one important thing.
See, the thing about having electric powers is that water suddenly becomes a very dangerous enemy. When Cole gets submerged in water, his powers disperse into the liquid and either fry him or drain him to where he dies (how does he take a shower?). I would say that he would need to wear something more water resistant than just a tattered jacket and cargo jeans, but like we talked about last time with Spider-Man, sometimes you just don’t have the means. Cole isn’t super rich, I can see that he probably wouldn’t have the funds to outfit himself with something entirely waterproof.
But if you go in back alleys or other places in the city where water collects, and Cole steps in some, you can see the energy start to drain out through his feet. In some cases, it even damages him.
Cole, why the sweet fuck do you not have rubber soles on your shoes? That’s not something hard to obtain, even for someone poor. For a normal person, sometimes you want to be grounded, like when filling up your car at the pump. Other times, you want to be insulated, like when working with large currents or other electrical problems, so you don’t become a conduit for the energy to move through into the ground. This is Cole’s main problem, there is no other problem in his super powered life more present than this. Any kind of discharge he has without his permission is more power lost that he can’t utilize; it’s inefficient and just dangerous. If there’s someone else standing in the pool when Cole touches it, the current is enough to kill them.
You kill innocent people with your ignorance, Cole. Get your shit together. Buy some shoes with rubber soles.
Exhibit B – Superman
Let’s be clear here, I love Superman.
I think the idea of the character is so compelling, and if you want to talk about super suits, there really isn’t anything like Big Blue.
It’s the framework from which all other suits are based. The tight fit, the underwear-on-the-outside strongman look, the emblem on the chest, the cape. It’s got everything. It’s the perfect progenitor of all super suits to follow, right?
People will argue with me, but I really loved the re-imagined suit from the New 52. It looked sleek, it got rid of the underwear (I know where it comes from but it was kind of silly, let’s be honest). But there was something else I didn’t like about it, and it may not be something you might expect.
If we’re being real, I wish they would have removed the cape.
How could I say such a thing? The cape makes the man, right? Well, I don’t really think so.
When I look at Clark’s suit, I think about all of the things we’ve talked about so far. Protection wise, it looks great. I love the armor style plating, it looks like Clark can really take on the strong opponents he intends on fighting and big natural disasters. It also looks like it has a large range of motion, so he can move and twist either on the ground or while flying.
But when it comes to functionality, and I look at Clark’s powers, I can’t help but think about him flying.
Drawn, it can look really great. Illustrators can make the cape act the way they want to, and it might look really majestic. But when he’s really trying to fight someone, or trying to fly as fast as he can, I feel like all of that fabric just gets in the way. It’s something for enemies to grab on to, it can get caught on things or snagged. What’s more, if Superman is trying to fly really fast, the cape causes drag and wind resistance. If you’re Superman, even if the resistance might be minuscule, it could mean the difference between life and death.
Thus I present a different kind of Superman design.
Okay, so this picture isn’t typically what you think of when someone says Superman, but here me out. I saw this cover, and my jaw dropped. That was it! The redesigned suit I imagined. There were hints of red, but mostly you still get the blue. The suit still functions well with Clark’s powers, but with no troublesome cape, everything just looks very sleek. For all of that talk about protection, Superman doesn’t really use the cape in the same way someone like Bruce Wayne would use it; it doesn’t have specific functions that make it useful to Clark.
So you just have the armor, but it just looks so fitted and clean that I really like the look. Clark can battle enemies without them grabbing onto the cape, and he can fly through the air with the least amount of wind resistance possible. Plus, it still looks impressive, he fills it out really well with that Kryptonian physiology, so even if you see the shadow in the sky, he still looks like a hero. Most importantly, it serves all of the functions he needs so far as his powers are concerned with no waste. I really could have ran with this as a redesign for the character.
So what are some examples of good design that blend form and function?
Exhibit C – The Incredibles
Here is a lesson in functional design. Although appearing light on the protection department, Edna Mode proves that most of the suits she creates are resistant to the elements and other forms of attack.
But most importantly, she designs her suits with specific powers in mind. Elasti-Girl is a great example, since the suit can stretch and contort to fit her entire range of motion, which is a lot.
Dash and Violet also prove the capability of their suits. Dash’s outfit doesn’t build friction whole running at high speed, while Violet’s suit can turn invisible along with her, rather than leaving her clothes seemingly floating in thin air. We can also see that when Frozone uses his ice powers, the fabric doesn’t freeze, despite being cold enough to freeze the air. It allows all of the heroes to do their jobs with the assistance of their outfits.
Exhibit D – You Guessed It
What’s the most well functioning super suit in history? Once again, you have to give it up to Bruce. Not only is it defensive and reactive when he needs it to be, but there’s just so much to it that it’s impossible to catch him unprepared.
Every nook and cranny houses technology, gadgets, and weapons. We can work our way up. Insulated boots and greaves to prevent shocks, blades hidden in the soles and sometimes in the knee pads. The gloves have sensory tech that can help detect clues while investigating, the bracers have their own set of knives to break weapons and strike opponents. The head of the Cowl has light filters for the eyes that allow Bruce to scan in several different wavelengths of light, and hearing devices around the ears. The cape itself can not only be used for defense, but also charged with an electric current, which opens up and stiffens the fabric into a bat wing glider. The suit interfaces with all of the vehicles that Bruce uses and provides data on his vitals and location to the bat cave in case of emergencies.
And of course, you have to talk about the utility belt. It’s a wearable arsenal packed with collapsible and modular tools for every occasion. Sprays, poisons, medications, anti-venoms, steroids, weapons, batarangs, cords, restraints… The list goes on and on. Batman utilizes the element of surprise and intimidation to end fights quickly, and every aspect of the suit is designed to help in that specific function along with so many others to deal with an ever changing environment.
With all that under your belt (See what I did there?), you’re now ready to face the world with your suit and powers working as one. But there’s still one more thing you need to become the Superhero you’ve always dreamed of. We’ll cover that in the next and final part