Novelist Michael Chabon writes affectionately in the New Yorker on the fantasy nature (ie., utterly unreal quality) of the superhero costume. Anyone who has been to a sci-fi or comic book convention in recent years can testify to the sagging-tights nature of “cos play” — fans obsessively dolled-up as their idols with capes and boots and home-made utility belts.
But even Hollywood’s more expensive, supposedly more sophisticated versions fail to soar:
In fact, the most reliable proof of the preposterousness of superhero attire whenever it is translated … from the pages of comics to the so-called real world can be found in film and television adaptations of superhero characters. George Reeves’s stodgy pajamas-like affair in the old “Superman” TV series and Adam West’s mod doll clothes in “Batman” have lately given way to purportedly more “realistic” versions, in rubber, leather, and plastic, pseudo-utilitarian coveralls that draw inspiration in equal measure from spacesuits, catsuits, and scuba suits, and from (one presumes) regard for the dignity of actors who have seen the old George Reeves and Adam West shows, and would not be caught dead in those glorified Underoos. In its attempts to slip the confines of the panelled page, the superhero costume betrays its nonexistence, like one of those deep-sea creatures which evolved to thrive in the crushing darkness of the seabed, so that when you haul them up to the dazzling surface they burst.