It is difficult to separate comics and costumes. Most comics are all about superheroes that save the world in flashy suits. But i will not deny that i have quite a number of problems with the idea, and more so now, with the amount of anime that i watch. I just don’t get the idea behind it; okay, i get it and sometimes i just don’t think it is necessary.
When i think about costumes, the first think that comes to mind is necessity; and admittedly i don’t always see the necessity. But that in itself is secondary. Costumes, at least as afar as i and other novice comic book reader are concerned can make or break a title, in that it will decide whether or not i decide to read a book. It is like the welcoming mat to every story; before you read the summary or synopsis of a new title, first thing most novice comic book readers like me will do is stop and look at the cover, at the world portrayed in that short image and more importantly the heroes and their suits. I will try to describe the two factors as briefly as possible:
I don’t mind superheroes, i believe i have gotten over the whole idea of colored heroes of justice that save the world and all that. But all in all, with the few titles i have read recently, i can appreciate the amount of effort put into creating decent stories beyond caped heroes saving the world from asteroids. But i will admit that i reached a point as a child where i would go to the only store that sold comics (and ice cream) and i couldn’t find anything that i thought was worth reading. It wasn’t that the synopsis didn’t impress me; it was the fact that most of the heroes my eyes came across just looked ugly in suits. It would take me a few years later to realize while i had began to dislike heroes such as superman and batman, characters that i was fascinated with at a younger age. They were starting to look very silly and campy to me. i just couldn’t get over the cheesiness of superman with his cape and underway and batman’s entire unappealing look.
Let’s face it, someone more ignorant might say that superhero suits are all about protecting one’s identity and allowing one to perform their superhero duties without interference. But that would be a lie. Superheroes mostly wear suits to look cool or appealing or even to make a statement. If it was all about protecting one’s identity and all that, then a colored ski mask along with a basic shirt, jeans and sneakers could do the job. There is no need for Spiderman to don an entire full body suit if all he cares about is keeping his identity secret.
Same thing goes for superman. The fact that all he needs to change his identity is remove his eye wear means that his costume is unnecessary to keep his identity. So superheroes wear suits because they care how they look. And we as readers care that they look good doing what they do. But the problem is at least half of the superhero costumes i come across just look silly. This is probably why the XMEN where my favorite comic book characters as a child, and i was obsessed wit XMEN Evolution. There was some effort put into designing their suits. But with everything else that i saw, i just couldn’t bring my self to take it seriously (which is probably why i was so into power rangers as a kid, they simply looked cool to my simple mind).
I didn’t watch the first season of young justice because of how silly the suits looked. I tried to give it a fair shot, but three episodes in, the shallow part of me just couldn’t take it seriously. That changed with the second season. I am now a young justice fan mostly because i was impressed by the story and depth of the characters, and its this show that got me to take comics a little more seriously as i got to know some of these characters. But i only got that far because the suits attracted me to the show. I don’t know what they did, but for some reason everyone looked like they had undergone some sort of make over. Maybe the colors were darker, i don’t know, but i knew i had to know these characters. Suddenly characters that i couldn’t stand like the Martian girl were more appealing. Somehow even batman and superman looked more impressive. As someone trying to follow some of the new 52 titles in DC and as someone that has just never understood the point of superman (outside of smallville), i am happy that the suit looks more like armor than cloth. Because suddenly i am seeing it in a whole new light. Why else would you stitch an entire full body suit if it wasn’t going to provide some sort of protection.
I point out the bit about costumes because i rarely see any such element in manga. Sure, there are characters with costumes, but that is usually armor or mecha of some sort. And even outside of these, most anime characters of the superhero nature that i have watched will try to incorporate what could be called a costume into their ordinary clothes, in that what they are wearing would fit in out in space, fighting aliens, as well as on an ordinary street, socializing. Basically i feel that anime gets the point of costumes. If hiding your face is the point, then put on a smart trousers, jacket, and a simple mask. There is no need for some elaborately designed outfit with a logo and everything.
I am reminded of the first XMEN movies. I was grateful that they kept most of the costumes uniform (black) rather than adapting the exact multi colored designs from the comics. While they worked on paper, i think they would have looked awful in real life. Which is another issue i take with costumes. I remember watching Dragon Ball Evolution and thinking that most of the characters looked natural in the mostly perfect replicas of the anime clothing. It couldn’t have taken much work designing them, where as i expect i takes a lot more work that is seems to dress the superheroes of recent blockbuster superhero movies.
But really, i have to ask, are costumes even necessary? Yes i have heard the reason, to protect loved ones and all that. But ironman gets by without a costume, and i don’t see him complaining. Heroes like batman and captain America have costumes, but that hasn’t stopped people they know from dying. I remember watching a TV show called charmed years back. All i will say about it is that it focused around three powerful witches. One of them has a baby and as he grows up, a few demons make attempts to harm and/ kidnap the child. Now can you guess what the three witches do? They don’t hide the child, if that’s what you are thinking. They walk into the underworld and unleash untold death and havoc upon a portion of the demon world for an hour or so. They were sending a message, there enemies could what they wanted to them, but their families, unless direct threats, were off limits. And with who knows how many corpses of demons and warlocks, they got the message across.
Now who doesn’t know that Bruce Banner is hulk, but i don’t think he needs to worry about such trivial matters. The point is if you are a hero that has proven over and over again to be stronger than your enemies, it should clear where the line lays and what you will not tolerate. I don’t think masks matter. Fine, there might be a joker or two, but if you are a hero, it can’t be too difficult to restrain one mad man permanently, even without killing them, unless these heroes aren’t as smart as they make it seem.
Anime and manga works in a different way. Most times the heroes of any show are usually fighting some sort of secret war, so the public doesn’t even know the existence of these heroes. I just watched code Breaker where these super powered people would kill there assigned enemies in cold blood, sometimes in public, and not once did they have to wear some suit. Most of them use fear with regards to family. I mean, what kind of villain, crazy or not, would attempt to harm lelouch’s innocent school friends; they know that lelouch would give them hell. It seems much simpler.
Costumes only encourage heroes to indulge in secret identities, which are bad for business. If they have to call you to a crime scene, that might have began while you were off doing ‘normal stuff’, people will die. Most anime heroes i have seen are usually on standby, waiting to jump in action when needed. It’s efficient and avoids silly arguments about having a normal life and all that nonsense which only serves to show that one doesn’t the hero title. Anime heroes don’t lose precious seconds trying to escape from an engagement just so someone around them doesn’t become suspicious about there true identities. The real heroes in anime, not the few teenagers that happen to find power, rarely have to worry about snooping friends that place themselves in danger to find out what they happened to be hiding. Most of the time when the loved one’s of a hero in anime face danger, it is within the line of duty, in that, most heroes in anime find a circle of friends in the same field. The most obvious example here is Goku, 99% of whose entire family and friends list is filled with powerful martial artists and aliens that are more than capable of defending themselves.
So you could say that heroes in anime will choose there social circle carefully in relation to the needs of the job. So i guess that would make batman an anime class hero; he lives his job day and night, even if he doesn’t have have the coolest part of being a superhero, powers. Then there is that guy with a horrible name, power man i think, who doesn’t even have a costume (or so i have been told, i can’t tell what is a costume and what is normal clothing with some of these characters); oh, and punisher. These guys get the job done without having to worry about little things like costumes.
For that matter most of anime gets by without needing masks and costumes. How many times does a hero allow a dangerous situation to escalate just because he can’t take action until he is in costume. So my conclusion is costumes are not necessary. But even when they occur in anime, there is some thought put into beauty ad most of them will manage to look good; and the few times they don’t, it is intentional,. based on the genre. So maybe it is time comics caught to the non costumed age.
Or maybe it is the fear of humans that drives them. It is clear to the population in anime that they need the heroes. Most populations in comics seem convinced that they have no need of their heroes, which makes the masks necessary, which seems stupid to me. Takascichea advised me to keep these posts short, so i will leave this topic at that