Brandon Routh, Superman Returns
Credit: David James

Somewhere, William Shawn, John Hersey, and Rachel Carson are spinning in their graves, but I was delighted to read in the New Yorker this essay about superhero costumes, written by a guy who knows a thing or two about the topic, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay author Michael Chabon. Chabon’s thesis is that the superhero costume is an impossible paradox, one that reveals the musculature of the body it means to disguise, advertises the secret history (the hero’s origin story) it means to conceal, and divulges the secret it’s designed to hide: that this flamboyant hero is someone with a secret identity that needs protecting, lest the hero’s enemies find it out and use it against the hero. Also, don’t tell Edna Mode, but the superhero costume is literally impossible, as anyone knows who’s ever tried to wear one to a comics convention or squeezed into one on Halloween or dreamed he or she could fly like Superman just by tying a towel around his or her neck. The only places superhero costumes work is on the page and in the vivid imagination of the reader. Chabon manages to deconstruct the superhero costume without ripping it to shreds as an object of fantasy and wonder.

Tell us, PopWatchers: which comic book hero or heroine has the best costume, in terms of practicality, style, or fit? (By fit, I mean, of course, whose suit is least likely to bunch or ride up in a way that will create unsightly puckers and bulges?) And if you have superhero costume stories of your own to share, now’s the time; don’t worry, your secret identity is safe on our message boards.

addCredit(“Brandon Routh/David James”)