DC Heroes with Capes
Over the past few years, superheroes with capes have gotten a bad wrap — I mean, a bad rap. The popular costume accessory has been accused of being impractical, but that is often not the case. There are quite a few DC Comics characters and heroes that wear capes for a specific reason. Not only that, they’re some of the greatest DC heroes of all.
So who are these cloak-wearing crusaders? And why on New Earth do they wear capes in the first place?
Batman has many nicknames. The Dark Knight, the Defender of Gotham, the World’s Greatest Detective, and so on. Moreover, a character who is often referred to as the “Caped Crusader” has absolutely earned his spot at the top of this list. Batman has worn a cape in almost every iteration of his costume (save for high tech suits like in Batman Beyond.) His cape is a signature part of his design. You can hardly picture Batman without seeing the cloth draped around his body or hanging at his sides as he perches atop a Gotham gargoyle.
His cape may have been for decoration at one point, but in his modern portrayal it’s just as important as his utility belt. Batman’s cape allows him to glide through the city, using his grappling hook to build speed and momentum. It allows him a dexterity that others cannot achieve. It is also often designed to be flame resistant and bulletproof. Depending on the suit, it can even protect him from electric currents.
Superman’s cape has quite a few different origins depending on the story. In most stories, his cape is the very blanket that his Kryptonian parents wrapped him in before sending him to planet Earth. In other stories, it’s a fabric cape that his mother Martha made just for him. The origins of the cape differ, and the differences between those origins dramatically change the specific reason that Superman wears the cape.
If it’s a Kryptonian blanket, it is often just as resilient as Superman himself. Superman obviously doesn’t need a bulletproof cape like Batman, but he is able to use the resilience of the cape to protect other people. He can cover them without fear, and focus on flying them to safety.
If Superman’s cape is just a gift from Martha Kent, then he wears it as a reminder of his origins and as a connection to his past. Superman is always thinking about his family and his home. And with that cape blowing in the wind behind him, he feels like home is never that far. Such a cape also reminds him that everyone else he’s protecting has a family and a place they call home. It’s a reminder that he’s fighting to give everyone the same opportunities that he has had. The opportunity to find hope in every situation.
Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful characters in DC Comics. Her powers are often on par with Superman himself, though with fewer weaknesses. She is super strong, super fast, highly trained, and can fly! And yet, she has a different kind of power as well. She is the Princess of the Amazons. Starting in the recent DC Rebirth arc of DC Comics, Wonder Woman has a regal cape that she uses for ceremonies and important meetings.
Naturally, Wonder Woman’s recognizable cape comes from the Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter. Occasionally she would do her iconic spin and appear in full costume with the cape, but not always since the cape could get in the way of her action. And yet, the cape completed her costume and made her appear larger than life to even the biggest villains on the show.
Shazam is arguably even more powerful than Superman, but with significantly less training. After all, Billy Batson is just a kid! He hasn’t been through as many terrible fights as Superman. Still, with the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury, Shazam can do everything Superman does and more. The only difference is that Billy Batson grew up loving Superman.
Something important to note is that the original costume design was inspired by military uniforms. Short capes draped over one shoulder were often worn by drum majors, doormen, or ushers, and that design inspired Shazam’s overall look.
It’s unclear if Billy Batson changed Shazam’s costume when he was granted the powers, but it is absolutely clear that Shazam‘s costume is inspired by the superheroes that he grew up admiring. It fits that he has a notably shorter cape than most other heroes. It’s almost a sign saying that he has a lot of growing to do.
Who is your favorite cape-wearing DC Comics character? Who did we miss? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!