The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction

The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction


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Costume defines the superhero, disguising and distinguishing him or her from the civilian alter ego. The often garish garb expresses a hero's otherness and empowers its wearers to seek a primal form of justice.

This book provides the first interdisciplinary analysis of the superhero costume and investigates wide-ranging issues such as identity, otherness, ritual dress and disguise. Analysis focuses on the implications of wearing superhero costume, exploring interpretations of the costumed hero and the extent to which the costume defines his or her role. Using examples across various media (comic books, film, and television) with case studies including The X-Men, Watchmen, real-life superheroes such as Phoenix Jones and Pussy Riot, and audience activities such as cosplay, The Superhero Costume presents new perspectives on the increasingly popular genre.

A lively and thorough account of superhero fashions throughout history, The Superhero Costume will be essential reading for students of visual culture, popular culture, fashion and cultural studies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781472595911
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 11/19/2015
Series: Dress, Body, Culture
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Barbara Brownie is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, where she leads online postgraduate study in graphic design and illustration, and lectures in fashion theory.

Danny Graydon is a jourbanalist, critic and author specializing in film and comics. He is a Contextual Studies Lecturer at The School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, teaching model special effects and interactive media.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Part 1: Origins and Evolution

Chapter 1: Superman: Codifying the Superhero Wardrobe
Physical Labour and the Construction of Masculinity
Performance in Combat
The Costume as Biography
Superman the Brand
The Archetype and his Imitators

Chapter 2: Identity, Role and The Mask
The Mask and Issues of Identity
The Identity of the Mask
Power, Authority and the Privileged Few
How Dress Defines Role
The Deceit of the Masquerade

Chapter 3: Evolution and Adaptation: Form v. Function
'Sucked Into Silliness'
Real-life References: The historical and the sporting.
Technology and Utility
The Pursuit of Credibility: Hyperrealism and assemblage
The Decline of the Costume

Part 2: Identities and Ideals

Chapter 4: Wearing The Flag: Patriotism and globalization
Stars and Stripes… and Spandex
Conflicted Identities: Nation v. Race
Exoticism and Primitivism in Batman Incorporated

Chapter 5: Dressing Up, Dressing Down: A Spectacle of Otherness, and the Ordinariness of the Civilian Alter-ego
Performing Ordinariness
Playing to the Reader
Unmasking Clark Kent
Method in the Masquerade

Chapter 6: Channelling The Beast
Physiognomy and Anthrozoomorphism
The Bird Men
Ritual and the Animal Spirit

Part 3: Harsh Realities

Chapter 7: Superheroes and the Fashion of Being Unfashionable
Fashion Outsiders
The Gender Divide
The Cycle of Superhero Fashion
Evolution into Eternity

Chapter 8: Superhero Cosplay
Participatory Fandom / Imaginative Reconstruction
'I'm your biggest fan': Competition and Authenticity
Spectatorship and the Cosplay Spectacle
Sewing and Making: Masculinity and Manufacture

Chapter 9: Real-life Superheroes
Masked Vigilantes and The Reality of Costumes
Masks and Manifestos
Parent Power

Part 4: Case Studies

Introduction to Case Studies

Chapter 10: Watchmen
Deconstructing the Costume
Men without Humanity
Masks without Men

Chapter 11: Iron Man
Who is Iron Man?
Automated Dressing
The Hyper-abled Hero

Chapter 12: X-Men
Uniforms and Unity
The Yellow 'X': Marking the Mutant 'Other'


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