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.
In the modern era (late 20th to 21st century) there's been 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.
On the other hand, capes have remained very popular with villains, especially the most important ones. This 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.
- 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.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- The Great Saiyaman 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.
- When Videl becomes the Great Saiyawoman, she wears a cape as well.
- Miki Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Notice that she's the only one who acts like she's a superhero, while she's the only one of the cast with an actual cape.
- 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.
- Saitama, the protagonist of One-Punch Man, wears a cape as part of his superhero outfit.
- In My Hero Academia, this trope is lampshaded during Lemillion's fight with Overhaul and his minion, Chronostasis. Chronostasis comments on he always thought the capes were for show. However Lemillion reveals he makes practical use of his as a means of misdirection and, more importantly to his mind, to bundle up the scared little girl victimized by Overhaul's scheming. That little girl, Eri, clings to a torn piece of that cape like a Security Blanket for the remainder of the battle and it helps inspire her to start actively resisting her captors.
- Canimals: Fizzy dons a cape when he becomes a superhero in "Super Can".
- Mole Man from the Mole's World TV show wears a red cape.
- Inverted in Happy Heroes; the superheroes don't wear capes, but Big M., the villain, wears one.
- In the Simple Samosa episode "Comic Book", Super Samosa wears a cape. He loses his ability to fly when Dhokla removes the cape.
- Superman practically started this.
- Most other members of the Superman Family wear one as well: Supergirl, Power Girl, Steel, Mon-El, the original and Jon Kent versions of Superboy, the Bronze Age version of Superwoman; and even the animals like Krypto the Super-Dog, Streaky the Super-Cat, Comet the Super-Horse, and Beppo the Super-Monkey! The Kon-El version of Superboy is the most notable exception.
- Most Expies and Captain Ersatzes of Superman wear them too, such as the Sentry, Gladiator, Hyperion, etc.
- Flashbacks to Krypton sometimes show Jor-El and other Kryptonians wearing short capes, which is presumably where Clark got the idea.
- 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.
- While this use is never brought up in the comics, Batman operates in the northern east coast of the United States, an area of the country with generally low temperatures, and given that Batman normally runs around in thin, skin tight fabric, the cape would prevent him from freezing to death on a nightly basis without greatly restricting his mobility.
- 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 tangle up Bats' cloak.
- Capes are also standard issue for Robins, although when the original became Nightwing, he dropped the cape. Tim Drake's cape as Red Robin has the same "glider" functionality as Batman's and as Robin he weaponized detaching his cape when someone grabbed it by making the thing contract around whatever was touching it at the push of a button on his wrist.
- Lampshaded when Dick became Batman; he kept 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.
- It also applies to Batgirl (Barbara, Cassandra and Steph), Batwoman and Huntress. It's easier to list the Batfamily members who don't wear capes.
- 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 and his Cloak of Levitation. Justified since his cape is 1) part of the inheritance of the Sorcerer Supreme and 2) very useful.note
- 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 Who's cape was pretty much the only piece of clothing he wore.
- Spawn's 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 wears a cape. 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.
- Justice of the New Warriors and Avengers wears one. Being telekinetic, he can pretty easily keep the cape from getting in the way.
- Prodigy has a big red one. Back when he was an alternate identity of Spider-Man, the character was specifically designed - out of universe - to evoke Golden Age heroes, so it fits rather well.
- Wonder Woman wears one occasionally — usually just when she's making a public appearance and wants to look impressive or regal, not when she's out there fighting.
- Captain Carrot and Alley Kat Abra of the Zoo Crew wear capes. Hers has an optional hood.
- Surprisingly rare in Legion of Super-Heroes, but there are a few examples, such as Mon-El, Princess Projectra, and Thunder. Lightning Lad wore one in his early days.
- Last Child of Krypton: When Shinji makes his Superman costume, he adds a cape to it.
- Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka's Power Girl and Supergirl costumes include a cape. She invokes the trope because when she decided to become a super-heroine she automatically thought she needed to wear a cape.
- The Last Daughter: Taylor's Supergirl outfit includes a red cape.
- Queen of the Swarm: Taylor decides to add a cloak -and a shirt- to her hero costume when she realizes that she can use them to conceal more bugs.
- Subverted in Superman story Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation. Although Superman always wears a cape and Supergirls traditionally wear capes, Katherine decides against wearing one.
- In Power Girl story A Force of Four, most of heroes wear capes. Wonder Woman's daughter Fury is the only Amazon to wear one.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Buffy swiftly recognizes Kara for, among other clues, her red cape.
Buffy looked at her, taking her in as quickly as possible. A very pretty blonde woman in her late twenties or early thirties, in a blue and red outfit with a red cape.
- Inverted in Puzzle Hunt Precure: None of the Precure wear capes, but all of the villains do.
- In Worm/DC Echoes of Yesterday, PRT's fashion designer Arnold Adams intends to dissuade Supergirl from wearing a cape when she joins the Protectorate, but Kara replies she will wear a cape, and that's non-negotiable. After a thirty-minute-long argument, Arnold gives up.
Supergirl: They look good Arnold, but where's the cape?
Arnold Unofficial policy for the Brockton Bay ENE dress code; no capes.
Supergirl: Okay, but I want— no, I need a cape with my costume.
Arnold: They're impractical and can represent a danger to the wearer.
Supergirl: Okay, but I want one, and I have super strength. If the cape doesn't break before I do, then I would agree. Also, I want a cape.
Arnold: You already said that.
Supergirl: Only because it's true.
Arnold: You don't need a cape.[...]
Supergirl: I won't budge on this; if you want to play this game Arnold, go for it, but I'm not walking out of this room without a cape.
- In Hellsister Trilogy, a large number of heroes -Superman, Supergirl, Power Girl, Superboy, Mon-El, Princess Projectra, Batman, Mister Miracle, the Spectre...- wear cape. Out of all members of the Super-Family, Dev-Em is the only to not wear one.
- The Worm Protocol: As the Knights take on the function of Superheroes they raise the percentage of Capes who actually wear a cape in Earth Bet.
- In the course of Kara of Rokyn, Kara makes some modifications to her super-hero costume suck like removing her headband and swapping her red skirt with a blue one, but she never considers to ditch her red cape.
- Defied in The Incredibles, where Edna Mode, superhero costume designer for Mr. Incredible, cites numerous superhero fatalities that have stemmed from their capes. This doesn't stop the villain, who is killed in one of the ways that had been spelled out earlier, in the No Capes rant.
- In The Cannonball Run, Victor dons a cape when his 'Captain Chaos' alternate personality takes control.
- 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 Avengers: Age of Ultron, when Vision first comes out of the sarcophagus, he doesn't have a cape. However, after he sees Thor's cape, he uses his shapeshifting abilities to spontaneously create one for himself.
- Baśń O Ludziach Stąd: Scarlet Leon fancies himself a superhero, so of course he has to wear one of these.
- DC Extended Universe:
- Superman and Batman have floor-long capes in red and black respectively. while Wonder Woman has a blue ceremonial one attached by a clasp around her neck and shoulders.
- 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.
- Referenced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, when Batman saves Martha:
Batman: It's OK. I'm a friend of your son's.
Martha: I figured. The cape.
- SHAZAM! (2019): Shazam wears a white cape with gold trim that ends just above his knees, although it's actually more of a cowl, since it comes with a hood. The Shazam Family have similar capes, although some are slightly longer than others.
- Zorro was wearing an awesome black cape long before anybody else on this page.
- 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 it's Flame Reitant and Kevlar, which helps occasionally when saving people who aren't as bulletproof as she is.
- Archvillain: Mighty Mike wears a green cape, which leads to capes becoming a popular fashion accessory at his school. His enemy the Blue Freak/Kyle Camdon also wears a cape, since Kyle publicly hates capes and wants to throw people off his trail.
- In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, Lone Star always did. Some characters object to a costume that doesn't on that grounds.
- 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.
- In My Brother Is A Superhero, Luke makes Zack a cape out of a pair of drapes—they even have stars on them, fitting his superhero theme! Zack refuses to wear it as part of his general trend toward Not Wearing Tights. Not that Luke is bitter or anything. Zack finally relents at the end of the first book, when Lara claims that her sister, whom Zack has a crush on, "has a thing" for capes.
- The Heroic Wannabe villain of the first book does wear a cape, for the record.
- Super Powereds: as a rule, averted for close combat Heroes, at least experienced ones, since they know that a cape is a liability in a fight. Only ranged or support Heroes tend to stick with them. Also averted for Subtlety Heroes (Heroes tasked with intelligence-gathering), since their role involves not being noticed, and capes tend to attract attention. Even their costumes tend to be nondescript. At graduation, though, all newly-minted Heroes are issued ceremonial white capes to symbolize their new status.
- Villains' Code: while superheroes are called "capes" by the villains, it's never stated if most of them actually wear capes.
- Captain Underpants wears a red "cape" with black dots on it, which is always a cape-like cloth that isn't an actual cape, usually a curtain. Parodied at least twice:
- In the sixth book, the Captain refuses to do his job until he finds such a curtain. George points out that they are hiding behind such a curtain.
- In the ninth book, the Captain again can't find a red cape-like cloth, so he buys an actual cape from a store.
- In The A-Team episode "The Taxicab Wars", 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 Cape. It's in the title.
- Doctor Who:
- Ralph's alien-bestowed super suit in The Greatest American Hero comes complete with a hip-length cape.
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Harvey's superhero alter ego in one episode, "Mighty Teen", does indeed wear a cape.
- Sabrina comments on this when she's yelling at Hilda for running in the election:
Sabrina: I will not let you make a mockery of what this town stands for! (pause) That would sound a lot more convincing if I was wearing a cape.
- Sabrina comments on this when she's yelling at Hilda for running in the election:
- 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.
- Supergirl (2015) justifies the cape as necessary for aerodynamics in flight. Before using one, Kara/Supergirl crashes trying to make a sharp curve in flight.
- 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.
- Aja Perera wears short capes as part of her "Supergirl" gimmick.
- 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.
- Kingdom Hearts
- The Hi-Jump ability has Kirby dress up like a superhero complete with a cape from Nightmare in Dream Land onwards.
- Moshi Monsters has the ability to turn your monster into a "Super Moshi". All Super Moshis wear red capes, in addition to masks and utility belts.
- Preferred by Ms. Terial in the Fashionably Heroic cartoons of The KA Mics.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot as a superhero wears a cape, though this is used to show that most of his knowledge of superheros comes from Pop Culture Osmosis.
- Superheroes in Sidekicks get given capes that have a superpower imbued inside them upon being promoted into a superhero.
- In Spinnerette, the Canadian superheroes greet the American ones as "Caped Crusaders." Tiger notes that no one is actually wearing a cape.
- In Sinfest, Slick wears a cape while heroically intervene to unite.
- Dumbing of Age has Amazi-Girl, the self-appointed vigilante, whose home-made costume includes a cape (which at one point, is stated to conceal the zip up the back of the bodysuit)
- In Axe Cop, illustration of the concept of the moon turning into a superhero that kills all the bad guys on it involves the moon wearing a cape. There are also plenty of other caped superheroes in the stories.
- Lady Spectra & Sparky: Lady Spectra follows many old-school superhero traditions, including this one.
- The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Epic-Man and Epic Fail both wear capes and are superheroes.
- 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 billowing 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.
- Linny, Tuck and Ming-Ming, the Wonder Pets!, all wear capes when on the job.
- WordGirl wears a cute little yellow cape.
- Mighty Mouse has a red cape that leaves a characteristic red streak behind him when he flies through the air. Being a toon, he can even use the streak itself as a physical object to tie up bad guys.