TO CAPE OR NOT TO CAPE? CONSIDER THE CASE OF CAPE-CAPPED CAPERS…

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Capes.  When you think about it, they’re kind of a stupid addition to a hero’s costume, as they’re more likely to be a handicap than a help.  (With the possible exception of Dr. Strange’s cape, which gives him the power of levitation.)  Batman, however, when he’s fighting five thugs in an alley, runs the risk of being dragged to the ground by someone pulling on his cape from behind.  “Ah,” you say, “but Batman’s cape (along with his cowl) is designed to strike terror into the hearts of criminals, by giving him a fearsome, bat-like appearance from which superstitious, cowardly villains will flee!”  Trouble is, if those five thugs in that alley didn’t get on their toes the second they saw him, then it would seem the cape isn’t quite doing its job now, is it?

Superman’s cape isn’t likely to work against him in a fight, mainly because he’s just about the strongest man in existence, and besides, it looks good trailing behind him when he’s in flight.  So Superman’s cape gets a pass.  But guess what just recently occurred to me?  There’s quite a few DC heroes who have capes, but not so many Marvel ones.  In the Marvel camp, there’s Thor and the aforementioned Dr. Strange, but apart from Gladiator, who was an ’80s creation (and Marvel’s answer to Superman), I just can’t, off the top of my head, think of any other Marvel heroes who wear capes.  Okay, the Scarlet Witch does, but she was originally a villain (of sorts), and Moondragon (originally), but are there any others?

Sure, some of the villains wear capes, such as Dr. Doom (though in his first appearance it wasn’t quite clear whether he was wearing one or not), and Magneto, and I think Baron Mordo does as well, and I bet there are probably a few others, but not, in the main, the heroes.  Why is this?  Could it be down to Jack Kirby perhaps?  As the visual designer of most of the costumes in the MU, generally speaking, he didn’t tend to give the good guys capes, and I wonder if it’s because he realised a cape on a hero would be more of a liability than a benefit.  In the case of Steve Ditko’s look for Dr. Strange, the cape performs a function, but would a sorcerer need such an accessory in order to fly – surely he could achieve it by his own inherent magical powers?  So it’s really there to increase Strange’s dramatic appearance.

It would therefore appear (if you have an inquisitive  imagination like mine) that Marvel, as well as giving heroes problems and personalities, and making them more realistic, were also issuing a quiet-though-obvious statement that capes were silly and that heroes would be unlikely to wear them if they existed in the real world.  Capes were mainly for bad guys because it increased the sense of drama around them, but good guys didn’t need them, unless they were Norse gods or mystical magicians (who didn’t really require a cape, but it looked good so we’ll let that one through).

So whaddya think. Crivs?  Am I talking my usual load of old pants, or do you think there might be something to my (hopefully) interesting observations?  The comments section awaits your enlightening input.  

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