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Monday, June 18, 2012

THE TOP 10 GREATEST SUPERHERO CAPES OF ALL TIME


THE TOP 10 GREATEST SUPERHERO 
CAPES OF ALL TIME!

A COUNTDOWN OF THE 10 MOST CREATIVE, MOST DRAMATIC AND MOST INFLUENTIAL CAPES EVER


BY
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino




What makes a Superhero cape "Supa Dupa"?

A superhero is a type of stock character, dedicated to protecting the public, the innocent and the less fortunate. Since the debut of the prototypical superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes, ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas, have dominated comic books and crossed over into other forms of media (the word itself dates to at least 1916). Overall, superheroes are written to be larger than life, while saving the day during the most dire of circumstances. And they do it while being all dressed up in a dramatic costume that enhances their mythos into the readers subconsciousness. With one of the most impressionistic pieces of their garb being the character's cape.

While a vast majority of these superheroes do not wear capes, the garment is still closely associated with them, likely because two of the most widely recognized superheroes ever created, Batman and Superman, wear capes. In fact, police officers in Batman’s home of Gotham City have used the word "cape" as a shorthand for all superheroes and costumed crime-fighters due to their influence. 


Throughout the history of superheroes, no two capes have been more identifiable than the ones worn by Superman and Batman. Whether it be on toys, costumes or other types of comic memorabilia, these two capes are as iconic as the heroes themselves.

So why capes? Why does seeing or wearing them make such an impression on most people (especially small children)? And why do they create such wonderment in the readers mind? If you ask me, I believe it is because of these three reasons; 

1.) It gives off the thoughts of freedom and power. Being free is a state of mind that empowers your life and gives you a chance to believe that anything is possible. No matter how bad today was, tomorrow is another day and things can still change for the better. When a cape is draped over your shoulders and flows down your back, you can't help but get a sense of empowerment and confidence. And when this mixes with the freedom state of mind that it gives off, you feel you can take on the world! There is no doubt in my mind, that most children subconsciously get this feeling without even knowing it when they put a cape on! It's something we call wanderlust and it's truly beautiful to see, especially on the face of a child.

Nothing is better than the magic of childhood.

Just look at the impact a cape and costume makes on this kid?  Supa Dupa action all the way baby!!

The stuff dreams are made of.

2.) The sense of being able to fly! What kid (and most adults) does not want to fly through the skies like Superman or Captain Marvel? The thought of flight goes back to the freedom state of mind described in number 1. If you could fly through the air on your own freewill, life would be much more fulfilling and fun. And if you ask any child, fanboy or adult (whether they are a comic reader or not) what superpower they would want, chances are they will say the ability to fly.

Flying through the air like Captain Marvel would be a lifelong dream for just about anyone with an imagination.

3.) It just simply looks cool as hell! Think of The Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin swinging through the streets of Gotham City with their capes trailing behind them. What says superhero action and adventure better than that?

Is anything cooler than this?

Listed in this write up is a top 10 ranking of the greatest, most awe-inspiring superhero capes that ever graced a comic book page. All cape rankings are based on a number of different categories; how unique it is, how iconic it is, how influential it is, how dramatic it is, how creative it is, how timeless it is, how popular it is, how well does it represent the character wearing it and how useful it is to the hero. I tried my best to be fair and unbiased about how I rated them and I'm very happy with the results, I hope you will be as well. So without further ado, I give you the best of the best of the "Supa Dupa" capes in the comics world!




THE TOP 10 GREATEST CAPES EVER!



10. HYPERION


While most people won't have a clue who Hyperion is, this "Superman/Captain Marvel" copycat of the Marvel Universe does have a nice reputation as being the most powerful hero on his world. Actually, there are five notable versions of him flying around to date since his first appearance in 1969 - two super-villains belonging to the team Squadron Sinister, two heroes from alternate universes (both a member of the Squadron Supreme), and a zombified clone...sheesh. But that's not why this guy is here, it's because of his cape. With a combination of the two iconic capes from Superman and Captain Marvel and mixed with a little bit of Dynamic Man (a character from the 40's who had a one-shoulder-cape), creator Roy Thomas (who is a HUGE Captain Marvel fanboy) and John Buscema came up with a really creative concept. Let's just squish The Big Red S and The Big Red Cheese together, give him some glasses, make him a ginger/redhead and let's see what happens!! The result is the superhero known as Hyperion! And why he worked so well was because he was never intended on being a serious character. He was suppose to be an obvious carbon copy of those two icons appearing in DC Comics. And regardless, the results worked and a fresh innovative cape idea came shinning through. Hey, even the biggest "copycat" can look pretty cool if your taking ideas from the best of the best.


9. THE VISION


Today, when comic fanboys say the name "The Vision", most people think of the android character created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema that made his first appearance in 1968 and became a long-standing member of The Avengers. But that Vision was actually a copy and revamped version of this Timely Comics character created in 1940 by legends, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Yes my friends, this Vision or "Aarkus from the Dimension of Smoke World," had the awesome design of this iconic cape first, which the current Vision get's so much praise about. Truth be told, it was originally based on Bella Lugosi's design that he wore in Dracula (1931) and that Universal Monster's cape design is as iconic as they come! Since this is an article about Superheroes, Dracula can't make the list (sorry horror fans). But this is the closest thing I can put on the list to pay homage to such a dramatic and legendary cape design. Too bad it never really helped out Aarkus in the long run who fell off into obscurity. Somehow he eventually came back and became modernized into the new age of the Marvel Universe, but he never really caught on or matched the popularity of the current Vision (who still remains an on and off again member of The Avengers to this day). So here's to you buddy, and your fantastic cape.



8. SPAWN


While I am not a fan of just about anything that came out of the horrid 1990's decade for comics, I have to give credit where credit is due. Spawn was a character created by artist Todd McFarlane in 1992 and while this character has fallen into obscurity today, back in the 90's he was arguably the most popular superhero in comics that wasn't named Spider-man or Batman. And speaking of those two characters, if you look closely at Spawn's design you can clearly see the similarities he has of both of them. Yup, Spawn was made up of everything that was considered cool in the 90's...big chains, big poses, big claws and a big, dramatic, flowing cape! It made such an impression on kids that they just gravitated too it and thought, "Awwwww man, this guy looks cool as hell."  Spawn was everything kids wanted to see and his cape-imagery was pure Batman/Dr. Strange-cape on steroids (it is literally alive). And despite my personal feelings for this character, the cape and look went into the subconsciousness of kids and teens around the world and made Todd McFarlane a millionaire! Hell, even Batman himself was having his cape being drawn to mimic what Todd was doing at this time. How influential is that? So, if you happen to ask why is Spawn's cape on this list? Just go ask any comic collector from the 90's about Spawn and the first thing they will tell you is how cool his cape was.



7. THOR



Look up the word majestic in the dictionary and you will see that it perfectly explains the look of Thor's long flowing red cape. Created and reinterpreted by the masters, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber in 1962 from the famous Norse myths of the past, The Mighty Thor has been one of Marvel Comics most enduring characters. Thor's unique look had really taken form when John Buscema took over the drawing chores in the 70's after Kirby left that truly modernized the Thunder God into how we view him today. Sure, Thor's hairstyles, outfits and capes have changed during the years, but the protruding shoulders that flowed into the long ankle-length cape dynamic that Buscema perfected usually stayed the same. It was nothing short of a spectacular look that screamed...GOD! Even when you look at Thor in the movies today, you can see all the elements that the designers of his outfit used to pay homage to what makes Thor's cape and design look so iconic. This ones for the glory of ASGARD!!



6. ROBIN


Originally conceived by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson in 1940 as a vehicle to attract young readership, Robin, garnered overwhelmingly positive critical reception from readers, doubling the sales of all the Batman related comic books. And despite what a lot of Batman purists think, the Boy Wonder brought so many new concepts and elements to the medium that it's hard to discredit his value in comic book history. Simply put, Robin stands tall next to all the true royal legends of the comic mythos that includes; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-man...he is that iconic and so is his look. Robin was the lighter side to the darkness of Batman. Where The Dark Knight Detective was all shadows and brooding, Robin was all bright colors and youthful exuberance, it was a perfect blend. Along with being comic books first true sidekick, Robin is also credited with being the first character to sport a short, waist-high cape with a collar. It was very different, as well as very dramatic that it complemented his entire outfit and attitude into one flawless cohesion. So whatever your feelings for the Boy Wonder, there is no doubt in my mind that he ranks up there as one of the most influential characters ever created...KA-POW!!!



5. DR. STRANGE


What makes Dr. Strange's cape so iconic is that not only does it have such a unique look, it also represents the characters power and personality so well. Just by looking at it screams, magic, mysticism and occult. Rarely something like this can be matched on a pure artistic level. Created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the Master of the Mystic Arts has always looked cooler and more dynamic than just about any other magician or sorcerer to ever grace a comic book page. And that is largely in part due to his cape. With an atypical collar that sports the ever-powerful Eye of Agamotto and occultist writings/designs/hieroglyphics on the trimmings, rarely has any cape been as detailed and yet so simple to understand. Ditko went wild in the concept of this creation, that it has to be considered a genius body of work. Throw in Dr. Strange's costume, weird-hand gestures, mustache and eccentric personality and you have one of the truly unique characters in the Marvel Universe.



4. DR. DOOM


Sure, the title says "Superhero" capes, but truth be told, only one Super-Villain cape is able to crack into this top 10 list. And that malevolent mastermind of malice is none other than the Monarch of Latveria, Dr. Doom!! Created in 1962 by the masters Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (once again), Marvel's number #1 bad guy has an iconic look and hood/cape design that is so flawlessly perfect, only a select few characters can boast to have a better overall look. The "Latvarian" dark green color meshes perfectly with the cold steel-plated armor to show off this guys fearsome aura that sends chills down the spines of even the most bravest of heroes. With leather brown belt, gun sheath and yellow (gold) buckles that hold his cape into place, this outfit gives off such a perfect blend of awe and fear that only enhances Von Doom's tyrannical rule of the land. There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Doom not only wears the greatest cape ever made for a Super-Villain, but also sports the greatest look of a Super-Villain...period!!! Now all kneel before the power of DOOM!!!



3. SUPERMAN


Cracking into the top 3 capes ever separates the men from the boys. It starts right here to where all the other capes on this list and in the entire comics world get their inspirations and designs from. Coming in at number #3 is the the first and arguably most famous cape ever worn by a super-heroic figure, the Man of Steel, Superman! He was created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and he literally took the world by storm! With the success of his adventures, Superman helped to create the superhero genre and establish its primacy within the American comic book. Yes, Superman is the biggest of the big and his cape is very hard to rank because it remains the standard of all capes. It represents everything that makes a cape great; influential, iconic, inspirational, and it tells who the character is; a "Super" being that is much more than any human. With its stylized pure-yellow "S" shield in the middle of the back, it complements the colored "S" shield on his chest so well. It has also been updated throughout the years, but despite some minimal changes, it has usually stayed fairly consistent to what makes it so timeless. Now after all that praise, one may ask how I didn't rank this as the greatest cape ever. That is because after you get through all the influence and iconic power that this cape exudes, it remains quite dull and less exciting or unique when compared to the other 2 that rank ahead of it. Either way, this is the cape of the "Supa Dupa" medium, so its gotta be respected...Up, Up and AWAY!!!





2. BATMAN



When you take the look, agenda and idea of Superman as a character and completely go dark, vengeful and obsessive with it, you get the Batman! Now take that same formula with Superman's cape and you get Batman's dark, twisting and scary one because visually, there is no comparing of the two. For The Caped Crusader possesses what could well be considered the most dramatic and iconic cape ever created. Yes, Bob Kane and Bill Finger brought The Dark Knight Detective to life in 1939 and took the inspiration of what Superman created and went to a whole new dark place. Superman fought crime for a liberal, social agenda, but the Batman fought crime, plain and simple. While being just a human, Batman needed his cape to help him inspire fear into the criminals as well as making his arsenal of gadgets more effective, Supes had his cape to...well, look heroic. And while Batman was as "heroic" as Superman was in every sense of the word, he wasn't as all-powerful, so he needed an edge. How many times has the wreath-like silhouette of the Batman brought many of a criminal to his knees? That image is almost as timeless as the bat-symbol on his chest! Yes, Batman's cape and cowl is as legendary as any image in the history of comics. And you can't think of Batman without thinking of his cape and knowing it is also so useful to the character himself. Only one other cape in my mind can be said to be greater than this...





1. CAPTAIN MARVEL
While not as iconic or legendary as either the Superman or Batman capes, Captain Marvel can still make the claim of having the greatest cape of them all! Yup, The Big Red Cheese has the most original, most dynamic, most flashiest and most unique cape ever created. It has such a distinct look that it is almost impossible for creators to steal from it without making it so obvious. How many times have Batman and Superman's capes been copied and put onto other characters? Captain Marvel didn't have that problem. Plus his cape was never static, every panel on the comic page (even on his toys) showed it in different positions, whether it was hanging on his left side, right side, straight down his back, blowing in the wind, or just hanging over his arms, this cape had a life of it's own and the kids loved it. No other cape during the Golden Age of Comics other than Batman's can be said to be as dynamic, mobile or innovative.

And if you readers still have a hard time believing that this cape is the greatest ever, know that it played such a major role in making Captain Marvel the number #1 comic character in the world back in the 1940's when comics were selling greater than they ever did as a whole in the history of the medium. Yes sir, Captain Marvel was that popular and that colorful that both Superman and Batman had to take a back seat to him. And another thing to think about; throughout the years even Superman and Batman's capes were upgraded and tweaked to fit into a new generation or contemporary art style. Never once, not once did Captain Marvel's cape or costume ever change to fit the times! Even when DC Comics got the rights to the character from Fawcett Publications and revived him in 1972, his cape, costume and overall look stayed exactly the same and he had not been seen in a comic for over 20 years prior! And even the greatest and most legendary Rock 'n' Roll singer/entertainer of all time, Elvis Presely had his stage outfits pay homage to CM's cape and costume during the 70's! Ask yourself how iconic and inspirational Elvis' image is to the whole world?? It simply doesn't get any bigger than that! With that many accolades, Captain Marvel's cape is what I call a perfect and timeless creation! 

Sure, today with the new 52 going on, CM's costume and cape have been upgraded, but so wasn't every character in the DC Universe, so does that really count? Captain Marvel was said to be a knockoff of Superman when he was created back in 1940 by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker, but his adventures, look and success made him so much more and the longevity of the idea of his cape is a testament to that. To this day, DC Comics still tries to keep him in the shadow of Superman with consistent horrible revisions of his origin and having him being written by creators that don't have a clue on how to write him (I'm talking to you Geoff Johns!!). Only a select few have carried the flame of what truly makes the character great (Roy Thomas, Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Jerry Ordway and Mark Waid stand tall among them). Regardless, Captain Marvel will always be an enduring reminder of a simpler time when comics were based on the "fantastic" and the "whimsical" and the look of his cape is an homage to that...SHAZAM!!!!!!!


Even this panel from Captain Marvel's first appearance in Whiz Comics #2, you can see that The Big Red Cheese has something totally different that captivated kids instantly.

Captain Marvel's cape was never static, even on his merchandise throughout the years.

Doubt Captain Marvel's cape as being the greatest ever? Just look at its inspiration on the King of Rock 'n' Roll!


THE END??
Well there you have it, these are the top 10 greatest and most influential capes ever in my opinion. And whether you agree with these rankings or not, you have to admit that any one of them can make a top 10 list that most of you readers might come up with. But I'm egocentric and I live within the confines of my own reality, so the list that is up is the definitive list!! But if you come up with a list of your own, send them to me in the comments section because I'm all about what other fanboy opinions are (the good and bad). Also, I would like to give an "honorable mentions" shout out to a few superhero (and villain) capes that didn't crack my top 10 but still need praise for their awesomeness; Storm, Magneto, Black Panther, Moon Knight, Batgirl, Captain Marvel Jr. and Power Girl. Now let's hear from you fanboys!!!

"Superman vs Captain Marvel" in the battle of the better cape...


Check out other Hero Envy "Top" Lists:

Top 10 Most Evil Villains in Comics

Top 4 Wrestling Tag Teams of All Time

Top 50 Greatest Marvel Slugfests of All Time (1961-1999)


John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino - "Hero Envy" Central
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles". He buys, sells and gives appraisals on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR Magazines from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He has written and starred in the "Hero Envy" webisode series, is the host of the Reckless Sidekick "Swass-Cast" and has contributed to the "Hero Envy" comic book. John also thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.

15 comments:

  1. I don't agree with the ranking and I would put X-men's Ororo Munroe aka Storm and Magneto and delete Hyperion and Vision on the list.

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  2. Nice list! As I was scrolling down, and not seeing Captain Marvel, I said to myself "Captain Marvel had better be on here somewhere!". Good job. I might add the Shroud, from Marvel comics to this list. He's a relatively minor character, but his large, flowing black cape adds to his mysterious and threatening aura, much like Batman, plus I believe the cape actually has some inherent powers, which makes it even more cool.

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  3. When DC Co-Publisher sends me a message about my blog, I'm putting it up!!! Thanks Dan...


    I agree with 7 out of 10. not bad. :)

    -Dan DiDio

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  4. Here's a response from the legendary Roy Thomas about this blog. And thanks for the help on Hyperion, which I already updated. Thanks again!

    Hi John--

    Nice little article. If I had room, I'd be tempted to run it in Alter Ego. Flattered that one character I designed visually, down to the point of drawing the first sketch of him, is on it: Hyperion. But I don't believe the article mentions the one unique thing about that cape... the fact that it fastens only on one shoulder. The point of my design, of course, was that Hyperion would be a copy of Superman but match almost none of his costume lines precisely (Captain Marvel had had a similar approach in 1939, though they did give him the same hair color). Of course, it wasn't really quite unique: I swiped the one-shoulder-cape from Dynamic Man back in the 40s... it's the only thing I remembered (or remember) about that character.

    Roy Thomas

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  5. I firmly believe the BEST super-hero cape will ALWAYS be the kitchen towel Mom pins onto our shoulders as we run across the backyard pretending to fly with our arms outstretched. :)

    NOTHING will beat that! :)

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  6. Personally I would have put Spider-man 2099's tattered web cape on there. Bump Hyperion off the list its nothing special.

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  7. Cloak of Cloak and Dagger at least deserves an honorable mention.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, but WAY too much Batman and Spawn in Cloak. The Shroud is another character that has an "All Batman" cape

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  8. Nice list, but it's really nice to see Hyperion get some exposure (and featuring a comment from the characters creator! Detailing his design! On what was my birthday!).

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  9. When the legendary Captain Marvel actor from the SHAZAM Live-Action series, Jackson Bostwick sends me a response on this article, you better believe I'm posting it up for EVERYONE to see...SHAZAM!!!

    "Holy Moley, John, you've done it, again. Great work and good explanations as to how you selected the capes and their rankings. The Good Captain, with his transformation from a young waif to a mighty hero with the utterance of a single word, will always capture the imagination of kids and adults alike. But the appearance of the Big Red Cheese in his wonderfully arrayed and colorful costume with it's classically imaginative cape totally cinched his immortality among adventurous minded readers and viewers of all ages.
    And, yes, he has always been the "red-headed stepchild" of DC ever since they adopted him after selfishly snatching him from his parent company (there's a hero's journey in itself) and shamelessly slighting and leaving his name dangling in the wind for any opportunistic interloper to grab on to and... Wait! What! Oh yes, that did happen with the ever watchful and opportunistic Marvel Comic boys. And as a further affront to Cap and his loyal followers, DC and the gang have now seen fit to drop his good name and, further, totally besmirch his innocent upbringing with a demonic look and personality overhaul of such Biblically epic foolhardiness that it can only be commented on with, "C.C., forgive them , for they know not what they do."

    -Jackson Bostwick

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  10. Hello I would like to use the first image for college as part of my course. I would be appreciated if I could use this for educational use only.


    Thank You


    Faz

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  11. I'm doing a 5k run as The Mighty Thor at the Super Hero Run 2013 on the 19th May in Regents Park, London for Bowel Cancer UK. Please sponsor me via this link, everybody who does will have their name put on my cape! - http://www.doitforcharity.com/TobyR

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  12. I would have to say Superman's cape is the greatest of all because it was the first and generated an industry. Batman and Captain Marvel wouldn't have jobs if it wasn't for him.

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