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"Doth mother know thou weareth her drapes?"
If you are a superhero (whether main hero, Sidekick
, or even just part of a heroic army), odds are you wear a cape.
Okay, not really that likely anymore, especially since the Silver Age
, but capes are a typical thing for superheroes.
The reason for the cape goes back to the first Comic Book Super Heroes
. Most prominently, Superman
's outfit specifically mimics that of early 20th-century circus strongmen, who often wore a similar cape/singlet design as a costume. Their simple bold colors were also conveniently easy to reproduce in early print comics.
Capes have long been a feature of comics and animation, as these media both work through visuals while allowing the creators to control the character's environment. Thus, any capes used can always be made to look cool. They were a particular feature of the golden age of superheroes.
More recently (as in, more recently than 60 years ago) there's been a bit of a trend against them, due to becoming something of a Dead Horse Trope
and because of some awareness of the practical downsides
. Most Marvel heroes are capeless, for example. The ones that do wear them tend to have some combination of otherworldliness, moral ambiguity and a less physical method of attack than others. The Vision, the Scarlet Witch
and Doctor Strange
all hit at least two of these.
On the other hand, capes have remained very popular with villains, especially the most important ones. Doctor Doom
fears no jet engine
. This probably relates to Evil Is Cool
By and large, if any character wears a cape, and it's not a historical or pseudo-historical setting, it should be taken as read that he is either very powerful/important (and probably a villain), or a vainglorious dolt with an inflated opinion of himself. Bonus points if you've got a huge collar and shoulderpads as well. Some rare ones would even be a Pimped Out Cape
Often paired with Superheroes Wear Tights
Compare Heroes Want Redheads
, Heroes Prefer Swords
, Badass Cape
(a cape used to signify a Badass
character), Caped Mecha
, Requisite Royal Regalia
, Ominous Opera Cape
Not to be confused with The Cape
, which is a character type.
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Anime and Manga
- Code Geass gives us Anti-Hero Magnificent Bastard Lelouch Vi Britannia as Zero, who is invoking this trope. After all, Lelouch's goal is to set himself up as a comic book hero of justice, so it would make sense for him to draw on every trope that will make people associate him with fictional heroes.
- Jeremiah "Orange" Gottwald in his later appearances.
- Also Susaku Kururugi, along with the other Knight Rounds as part of their non-battle outfit.
- Lance from Pokémon. In the anime Marina has an admiration for men in capes, which causes Jackson to start wearing one like Lance to get her attention.
- The Great Saiyaman from Dragon Ball Z wears a cape, as it's Gohan intentionally invoking super hero tropes to sell the whole "costumed hero" thing without making anyone suspicious of superhuman martial arts powers or his alien heritage.
- Miki Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- Mr. Legend, from Tiger & Bunny.
- Luffy lampshades this in One Piece when they meet Usopp's alter-ego Sogeking who is supposedly a hero. Luffy immediately knows Sogeking is a hero, and when Chopper asks why, Luffy replies "because he wears a cape! To be a hero, you have to wear a cape!"
- Anpanman justifies the reason why the superhero characters wear capes: they contain the flight abilities for the heroes, and if they're torn, they can't fly until they get them mended again.
- Batman is possibly the straightest example of a useful one... short of people who have magic capes, anyway. He uses it to glide (yes, even before Batman Begins), he uses it to hide his arms (so nobody knows whether he's about to throw a punch or a Batarang), it makes him seem larger and scarier than he is (going along with his motif of fear), and it gives a large amount of useless space for mooks to target. It's kinda necessary if you want to look like a giant bat.
- And it's got breakaway fasteners (that woefully underused yet extremely inconvenient bane of the "No Capes" Deconstructor Fleet), just in case some thug who watched The Incredibles tries to get all Genre Savvy and tangle up Bats' cloak.
- Robin, although when the original became Nightwing, he dropped the cape.
- Lampshaded, now that Dick Grayson is Batman, he keeps complaining about how impractical the cape is, pointing out that he lost his as soon as possible, and anyway it was a short fabric thing, not a couple of square metres of kevlar.
- Lampshaded in a story arc of Superman/Batman. Batman and Superman find themselves in an alternate universe where there are still superheroes, but none of them wear capes. When Superman appears, the locals find him strange not because of his powers, but because he's wearing a garment that went out of fashion centuries ago.
- Deconstructed (like everything else in Watchmen) with the character of Dollar Bill. He was a former football player hired by a bank when they realized that having their own personal superhero on payroll was a great way to cash in on the masked vigilante craze. The costume was designed by the marketing department, who were going for style over practicality and thought that the cape added visual appeal. It ended up getting caught in a revolving door while he was trying to stop a robbery, at which point one of the robbers shot him point-blank in the chest. Aside from Captain Metropolis and the second-generation Nite Owl, none of the other superheroes wear capes.
- Nite Owl I's original costume had a cape, but when he failed to master the art of walking around his own house with it on without the cape catching on things, he got rid of it.
- This deconstruction was carried over into the CGI animated film The Incredibles with heavy nods to Watchmen.
- In Love and Capes, it is said that the reason superheroes favour capes is because they cover your butt (an important consideration when you're running around in spandex).
- Generally, characters designed by Jack Kirby tend not to wear cape, unless they are supposed to appear regal (Thor, Magneto, Doom...)
- Doctor Strange: Justified since it's 1) part of the inheritance of the Sorcerer Supreme and 2) very useful.
- Captain Marvel
- Astro City examples: Samaritan, Beautie, The Confessor and Altar Boy, El Hombre and Bravo, Mermaid, Starwoman. The series, typically, acknowledges the potential disadvantages but posits that people will work around them, for instance by applying low-friction coatings that prevent adversaries grabbing the cape during a fight.
- When Captain America stopped wearing the stars and stripes and took the name "Nomad", he stitched himself a costume and decided to include a full-length cape. Why not? He'd always sort of wanted one. The first time he went into action, he tripped on that cape and missed catching the bad guys, one of whom snarked as she was escaping that she'd always hoped she'd see that happen. Promptly he tore the cape off. It was never seen again.
- This old desire for a cape was revisited with one of the revamped and expanded origin story issues - Steve Rogers, training during the day to toughen himself before being hit with the Super Serum, spent his evenings drawing the imaginary superhero "American Eagle", writing in the margins that he had to have a cape, capes were boss. The military rifled through his drawings, based the design of his costume off of them without telling him, much to his embarrassment, and left out the cape.
- Cap's spoof, Major Glory from Dexter's Laboratory, wears a cape. Of course, he's also a Superman spoof, so he probably doesn't have the same problems Cap did.
- The Spectre
- Spawn, his cape is a Badass Cape all by itself thanks to its Voluntary Shapeshifting.
- There's a Polish superhero spoof Chinchilla Man. Chinchilla Man's team employs one caped hero, who is rather useless, but teams with caped heroes receive funding from European Union.
- As befits its founding in the 1940s, the Justice Society of America has had a multitude of caped members: the first Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, the Spectre, Hourman, the Sandman, the Atom, Doctor Mid-Nite, Batman, Superman, Robin, Power Girl, the Huntress, Red Tornado, Miss America, Captain Marvel, Obsidian...
- The Mighty Thor
- The Sentry, Marvel's version of Superman.
- Storm from X-Men
- Scarlet Witch
- Booster Gold was told by Superman that he couldn't handle wearing a cape.
- Spider-Man villain Mysterio
- Quantum. Woody thinks they're stupid.
- Orient Men, as part of his origins as a parody superhero.
- Magneto and Mr. Sinister, both of X-Men books usually wear capes.
- Deconstructed: the protagonist of Joe Hill's The Cape had a blanket that was turned into a costume cape, and he wore it as a kid when playing with his brother as superheroes. As an adult, he discovers that the cape makes him able to fly. His full "costume" is just his cape.
- Then he kills his ex-girlfriend and we discover that, as a child, he played the supervillain. In its first issue, the main character starts as the Woobie, becomes an Iron Woobie and then treats us to a sudden Face-Heel Turn to became a Villain Protagonist. Brilliant.
- Calvin and Hobbes presents: "This is a job for..."
- Outside of the above example, one of Calvin's alter-egos, Stupendous Man, also wears a cape.
- Mandrake wears a cape.
- In The Cannonball Run, Victor dons a cape when his 'Captain Chaos' alternate personality takes control.
- Carefully averted in The Incredibles, citing numerous superhero fatalities that have stemmed from their capes.
- Of course, this doesn't stop the villian, who is killed in one of the ways that had been spelled out earlier, in the No Capes rant.
- Given the Reality Ensues treatment in Man of Steel. Superman's cape puts him at a disadvantage in a fight several times, being so easy for his enemies to grab.
- Lampshaded in The Avengers, with Tony Stark poking fun at Thor's cape. Thor and Loki are the only characters in the movie who actually wear capes.
- In Soon I Will Be Invincible, Dr Impossible grumbles about the impracticality of his cape a couple of times (it gets in the way of fighting and is heavy and cumbersome when he's fleeing), but continues to wear it because "I promised myself I wouldn't go down in street clothes".
- in Tales of an Mazing Girl 'Mazing Girl Wears one, which has the slight practicality that its Flame Reitant and Kevlar which helps occasionally when saving people who aren't as bulletproof as she is.
Live Action TV
- Ralph's alien-bestowed super suit in The Greatest American Hero comes complete with a hip-length cape.
- Sesame Street's entry into the world of superheroes, "Super Grover" also includes the requisite cape — along with a decidedly non-standard knight's helmet.
- The Cape.
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Harvey's superhero alter ego in one episode, "Mighty Teen" does indeed wear a cape.
- On an episode of The A-Team, Murdock created a superhero alter ego named Captain Cab (the team was helping a cab company at the time), complete with cape and mask made out of a tablecloth.
- The Hurricane regularly wore a cape to the ring. Early on, he'd put it on during matches whenever he went to the top rope.
- As did his first sidekick, Mighty Molly.
- During his "Super Hero In Training" phase, Rosey wore a towel tied around his neck as a cape. He later got a real one when he became a full-fledged superhero.
- This is one of the many, many costume options in City of Heroes. Annoyingly, you normally have to reach level 20 and do a specific mission to get one.
- Notable cape wearers among NPCs are Statesman, whose former cape was refashioned into the flag atop Paragon City City Hall; his Evil Counterpart Reichsman; Hero 1, whose disappearance at the end of the Rikti War is the reason new heroes can't wear capes, and Rikti warrior Honoree, who wears a suspiciously familiar cape.
- Nowadays you can unlock certain capes that can be worn before level 20, including a Doctor Strange-style 'magic' mantle with a huge collar and even bigger cape. Looks extremely awesome when done right.
- Pajama Sam is only regular Sam without his cape. He puts it on automatically in No Need To Hide When It's Dark Outside, but asks the player to help him look for it in Thunder and Lightening and You Are What You Eat and before he can start his adventure.
- Justice Squad: While these show up on a number of characters, Capeman (being a Superman Expy) uses it as his defining feature.
- Capes are worn by several members of the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions.
- Comes and goes in the Whateley Universe. Shroud of Team Kimba wears a cape, because she is animating all the parts of her uniform with her powers and can use it as a weapon. Gloriana has found another advantage: provides warmth when wearing a skimpy costume that is nothing more than a maillot.
- Delta Spike wears a cape to hide the power harness she wears on her back to jack up her superstrength and blaster powers.
- Very much averted in Worm:
It was hard to make capes look good. They had a way of clinging to the body, or flowing the wrong way, getting caught around an arm… it took a measure of majesty to make it work...Ironic, that the slang for a parahuman was ‘cape’, and so few of us wore them.
- Darkwing Duck
- Corporal Capeman in the second season of Inspector Gadget.
- Captain Caveman, the superhero who wears only a cape.
- Quail Man, Doug's superhero alter-ego, wears a towel for a cape, going with the character's general make-believe nature (he even wears his underwear on the outside!).
- This trope is lampshaded in an episode of Danny Phantom. When Danny split in two, his superhero side donned a cape to emphasize his 100% dedication to world-saving. The cape spends the better portion of the episode bellowing in Dramatic Wind.
- Robin in Teen Titans wears one, what with his origins. Raven wears more of an All-Encompassing Mantle with a hood. None of the other Titans wear capes.
- When Fry and Leela gain superpowers in an episode of Futurama, they form a team with Bender, and all wear capes.
- Played with in Rugrats where Chuckie and the other babies thought that he's a superhero but he needed a cape to have super powers. So, Chuckie put on a towel and began to think of himself as a superhero.
- Prevalent, though not universal, in Young Justice. Robin and Miss Martian both wear capes, as do several other superheroes.
- Taz-Man, Taz's makebelieve superhero persona in Taz-Mania, wears a cape (of the bath towel tied round your neck variety).
- In one episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a superhero by the name of "The Mysterious Mare Do Well" (actually just some of the main characters teaching another an important Aesop) appears and saves the day several times, and is shown to wear a stylized cape. This persona is an obvious Shout-Out to both Darkwing Duck and Batman, and even looks the part.
- Averted in the Season 4 episode Power Ponies, where the main cast become in-universe comic book superheroes, yet Spike, filling in the standard powerless sidekick role, is the only one to wear a cape.