ByEmily Browne, writer at
Twitter: @emrbrowne
Emily Browne

We all remember that cliche of comic book movies, when Peter Parker or Tony Stark cobble together some exemplary outfits out of bits and bobs lying around the house/Afghan cave:

The reality, however, is slightly more complicated. Superhero costumes have become so synonymous with comic book law and culture, that it is imperative to get them right on the big screen – but it takes more than just being handy with the sewing kit. Eric Molinsky, host of the Imaginary Worlds podcast, explored what it takes to create a modern day superhero costume, in an era beyond red underpants and spandex suits.

1. Bane's Costume Was An Illusion

Tom Hardy's Bane is the ultimate in ingenious supervillain costume design. The Dark Knight Rises costume designer Lindy Hemming took the comic book interpretation of Bane and mirrored it in a way which reflected the gritty reality of Christopher Nolan's Gotham, while also staying true to the characters comic book design.

The mask Bane wears in the comics is replaced by the breathing apparatus of the movies, which was used to turn Bane's 'liquid steroids' from the comic, into a gas that he inhales to dull pain receptors in his body. As you can see in the image above, the movie design is the same shape and colors as the hood from the comics, but cleverly adapted for Nolan's semi-real adaption. Secondly, in place of Bane's ridiculously enormous shoulders, Hemming gave Hardy a large leather coat, with a very high, thick woolen collar to mimic the bulky silhouette of the character in the comics.

2. Michael Keaton Couldn't Move His Head

In Tim Burton's 1989 movie Batman, actor Michael Keaton wore a thick rubber cowl, and couldn't really move his head, or even fight unless the bad guys quite literally ran into him. A little useless if you're, ya know, a superhero.

3. Superman's Costume In 'Man of Steel' And 'Batman v Superman' Has A Back Story — And No Red Underpants

Image: Screenrant / Man of Steel
Image: Screenrant / Man of Steel

Michael Wilkinson has been the costume designer for Man of Steel, Watchmen and the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and made the decision to bring Henry Cavill's Supes into the burgeoning DCEU with a few key changes — most notably, without those infamous red underpants.

Image: Warner Bros.
Image: Warner Bros.

In the early days of comic books, only a limited number of colors were available to artists, which worked well to begin with, and meant the colorful costumes popped off the page. However, once Wilkinson and his team removed the red pants, the suit was suddenly all blue, which doesn't translate quite so well to the big screen.

The solution was to a add metallic silver under layer to the suit, and use a 3D printed texture to give it muscle definition, and extra ridges for lighting and cinematography — however to fit with the story, writers said it was armored chainmail worn by the people of Krypton.

4. The Iconic Yellow X-Suits Are More Than Just Stylish

In 1963, American conglomerate DuPont discovered Kevlar, a brand new synthetic material that was both strong and versatile. The yellow costumes from the original X-Men comics were likely a product of the discovery, one which X-Men: First Class costume designer Sammy Sheldon tried to replicate in the movie — the majority of which is set in 1962, making Kevlar the very cutting edge of super-suit technology.

It was also an awesome Easter Egg for fans of Deadpool and the X-Men, when Negasonic Teenage Warhead was shown head-to-toe in that iconic yellow and black suit in 2016's juggernaut Deadpool.

5. Spandex Will Not Make You Look Ripped

Guys, stepping into a leotard won't make you look as jacked as Daredevil. In fact, it smooths you out, hiding all that hard work you've put into your bod before you've even had a chance to show off all your superhero-ing.

6. Toby Maguire's Spidey Costume Had 70 Versions Made

Since the Captain America: Civil War trailer dropped last week, fans of Marvel and Spider-Man lost their minds when Tom Holland's much rumored take on the web-slinger was revealed.

But cast your minds back to 2002, when a young Tobey Maguire was stepped into the red and black lycra suit for the first time... or should we say 70th time.

That's right, costume designer James Acheson created 70 versions of the famous costume while trying to figure out how to get the webbing to stay put while still remaining flexible. Speaking to Imaginary Worlds, Acheson recalled a time when it all went belly up:

"We had a stunt man on a wire, and they flew him straight into a tree and the whole suit, I mean, half the webbing unglued from the suit, I mean it was sort of like a terrible waffle hanging in the trees. It was a disaster.

7. Despite all the badass fight sequences, in real life the costumes are EXTREMELY fragile

For every superhero movie you see on screen, at least 20 or 30 of the same suit is made to fit the specifications of each scene; a new suit for every tear, rip, or upgrade - each one usually costing thousands of dollars to produce!

8. Wolverine's claws are sometimes a little... floppy

Wolverine's claws are as iconic as his sideburns, so how would you go about creating them? Check out this clip from 2013's The Wolverine:

Visual effects supervisor Tim Crosbie spoke to fxguide about the practicality of those adamantium claws:

"Those metal claws are pretty sharp, you can put an eye out pretty easily - they are polished aluminum. They had to be sharp otherwise they wouldn't play properly in close-up. But only a certain level of stunts can be done with them, beyond which even the slightest bump can cut his knuckles - so that's where CG takes over."

Not only CGI, but depending on the scene Hugh Jackman would sport plastic claws, rubber claws, or just small two-inch long stubs! Kind of takes the bite out of the wolf, doesn't it?

Which superhero (or supervillain) costume is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: Imaginary Worlds, The Frame, Vulture, Alux, fxguide


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