The Superhero Costume : Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction

Author(s): Danny Barbara; Graydon Brownie

Social Sciences

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.


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The first scholarly study of the superhero costume phenomenon in fiction and real-life, its communities, participants and multiple meanings.

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 journalist, 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.

List of Illustrations Introduction 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 Face-ism 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 Self-Objectification 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' Notes Bibliography

General Fields

  • : 9781472595904
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Academic
  • : November 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Danny Barbara; Graydon Brownie
  • : Paperback
  • : 192