Well, here we are, at the final step. You’re so close, but you have one more problem to face before you’re ready to hit the streets and make your mark.
You thought you finally had it. You’ve got defense, you’ve got mobility. Most importantly, with your fire powers, you’re suit can withstand 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. No more melting.
One last time. It was time to take it to that Super Strength Guy.
He’s been having a blast destroying your city, but better late than never. You follow the trail of wrecked cars and desolate buildings until you finally track him down for the final showdown. He’s about to chuck a bus full of people into a nearby river. Can’t have that, so you rush him and start beating up on him. He’s fast, and he’s really strong, stronger than perhaps you thought. But that’s all he is, it’s not like he’s fireproof.
After an intense battle, you finally manage, with some effort, to capture the fiend, knocking him unconscious with a fireball straight to the cranium. You rush to the bus and wrench the door open, letting out all of the very grateful people. They all thank you and you head out, failing to hear one of the people ask another, “Who the hell even was that?”
The next day, you look to the news to see how much of your story has spread. There it is, right on the front page.
MYSTERY HERO RESCUES BUS OF CIVILIANS
Mystery? Sure, they’re safe, but they have no idea who are.
It may seem a little silly, but having some kind of iconography is right up there with all of the other aspects we’ve already covered. But why would it be? Recognition can’t really be that important, at least not as much as being protected or having a functional suit, right? Maybe, but here’s the thing.
See, people are superficial. That’s the cold, hard truth.
They want to be saved by someone who looks cool. They want to be rescued not just by a person, but by an idea. They want you to stand for something, to represent an ideal or a theme. People will be much more willing to aspire to be you or put you on T-Shirts if you’re marketable. I know, it sounds really dumb, but honestly, so are people. If you want to get far in the Hero business, you need an awesome name and badass theme. Trust me, there are some more important factors other than being recognized when it comes to symbolism, but we’ll get there in a second.
In this area, you have some options to choose from. If you have a brain, you won’t name yourself something stupid, but there are some different ways you can design your suit to serve some more subtle purposes that could be relevant to your powers. We’ll look at a couple of examples and break down what it is about both suits that really makes for some great theming while helping them out at the same time.
Exhibit A – Yep
You could make a convincing argument that the Bat stuff in Batman is kind of dumb, right? Yea, he’s a badass, but if you think about it, it is a grown man dressing up like a bat to fight crime. That is a little weird when you really think about it. So why does he do it? Why does he add the extra details for the suit.
For the sake of Bruce, it’s a coping mechanism since he was afraid of bats and it helps him deal with that, but there other factors as well. Batman’s whole identity deals with fear, overcoming his own and striking fear into his enemies. Bruce also tends to do a lot of his work at night, and not just because of the bat thing. Night is when crime happens, under the cover of dark. Bruce isn’t just trying to fight bad guys, he’s also trying to scare them straight or just scare them. Fear is a powerful tool, and the design of the suit adds to that. So the little ears on top of the helmet actually have a purpose, they make him look taller and they give a specific shape to his silhouette in the shadows. It gives him a demoni, non-human quality that’s unsettling.
I had talked about how unnecessary capes were in the last part, but in this instance, there is a use for them other than the utility. It also effects his silhouette, making him look bigger and more intimidating. When he flushes out the cape to look like bat wings, no matter who you are, if it’s coming toward you, it would scare you. Even if it’s only for a moment, it only takes a second’s pause for him to take control of a fight.
The suit’s also black for the most part, which comes in handy when he’s moving around dark alleys at night. Bruce needs the element surprise, so black camouflage allows him to apprehend unsuspecting opponents. And wearing all black is just intimidating, so it adds to his fear factor.
But what about when you have to be out in the open? When you can’t hide in the shadows or don’t have the element of surprise, you’re emblem can still matter. The way your suit looks serves another purpose, but we’ll look at another memorable character to bring it on home.
Exhibit B – The Man of Steel
After talking about Batman, it’s hard to see why Superman would want to look the way he does. Why would his suit be so blue? Wouldn’t that stand out in a crowd? Would it make people easier to find you if they wanted to hurt you?
The answer to all of those questions is a resounding… Yes.
Not only is the suit armor, it’s also a uniform. It’s what superheroes do for a living, it’s what they wear then they go to work.
Think of a police officer. Why bother wearing the uniform? It makes you more noticeable in a crowd in case people wanted to do you harm. So what gives?
Well, in some cases that would be an obstacle, but more importantly, you do want to be picked out in crowd. In case someone needs to help, you can teach people to recognize the uniform and seek it out when they’re in danger or need assistance. You’re a symbol when you’re in the uniform, you’re on the job, you have a watchful eye out for trouble.
You want trouble to find you.
Now how does that work? Think about who Superman ends up fighting. The threats he faces are colossal, capable of taking out cities or planets with relative ease. Normal humans don’t posses the strength necessary to fight back, they’re in danger if no one stands up for them. But when Superman is around, a villain has to go through him in order to do real damage. Wearing something that sets you apart means threats want to go after him more and seek him out in a crowd. The point is to draw attention away from others who might be hurt in the conflict. Superman can take it, that’s what he signed up for. He would rather get the snot kicked out of him than someone who could die. So the big emblem on the chest, the bright blue suit, even the red cape are ways to flagging down opponents who want to fight, so they focus on him rather than any onlookers.
Like Bruce, I talked about how I thought the cape was silly, but I have to make an aside to mention why the cape is useful, at least in this instance. It has more to do with his symbolism than utility. See, throughout history, capes have been used to designate powerful individuals. Fabric was an expensive commodity, so wearing more than necessary over the shoulder was a symbol of status and wealth. And there really is no denying it, it looks really cool. It makes you look bigger and you feel big when you’re wearing a cape, it’s a mental trick that puts you in a certain state of mind. In the case of Superman, I feel like the utility outweighs the symbolism, but it’s quintessentially Superman. The cape makes the man in this case, so I’ll doubt they’ll ever get rid of it.
The Ultimate Super Suit
With all of these aspects combined, you can now design the ultimate super suit to defend you, to work with you, to utilize your powers, and represent what it is you fight for. I’ve given this a lot of thought, so I would be curious to hear if there was anything we missed while going through this journey. Let me know in the comments if you can think of anything we might have skipped over.
Now, get out there. Make that super suit and save the day. Our world needs you!