Let's Talk About Superheroes and Capes

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Batman Begins
Batman Begins
Image: Warner Bros. Studio

Why do some superheroes wear capes? I think it depends on one thing: purpose. The cape highlights a sort of dynamism. When you open up a comic book, the pages do not move, so the cape is drawn as cloth fluttering around a character to signify that the superhero is a vibrant, spinning dynamo of action and movement.

You have your vigilante types like Batman and Blade, who have utility uses for their capes (well, Blade wears a trench coat, but the way he swings the coat around, you would think otherwise). For them, their capes are indispensable tools. The coat/cape has many hidden pockets to store all kinds of items, devices, and weapons with various needs. The Batman suit is the biggest example of a cape that puts in work, and it’s a huge staple within the comic. He can swirl his cloak around him to distract and confuse his enemies. It provides cover from the enemy and is sometimes bulletproof, protects from shrapnel, and breaks his fall. They can also help our heroes fly or glide on air since he has no flight abilities.

What about when it’s just for fashion? The Incredibles fashion icon Edna Mode has a message about that:

Anyway, different heroes have capes for various reasons; some wear them to denote their rank, some for symbolism, and others because it just plain looks cool. In the end, it boils down to costume design more than practicality. Some costumes look fit for a cape, and for others, I’m not sure why they wear a cape at all. Are they necessary? Not always, but again the bottom line is what purpose it serves and whether it makes sense in terms of the character.

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