Fri
Feb 4 2011 2:36pm
Capes Do Not Work That Way!

Batman’s capeBatman has been a multimedia star since almost his inception. From comic to serial, to TV show to cartoon to movie, Batman, and specifically Batman’s costume, have been depicted by multiple talented artists and designers.

But there is one aspect of Batman’s costume that live-action takes always get wrong. Always, in fact, must get wrong, and that’s Batman’s cape.

BATMAN’S CAPE DEFIES THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.

Batman’s capeHere's a fairly clean image of Batman. Note in particular how long the cape is. The bottom points of the scalloping barely hit the middle of his calves, about two feet lower than his hands, more or less. Also note how the cape just kind of falls flat. There's stiffness and support around the collar, but by the bottom is light enough to by caught playfully in the breeze.

Okay, below, in this classic image of Batman leaping to catch his prey, notice how the formally lank cape juts out stiffly to the sides to simulate wings. This also casts an imposing shadow on would-be muggers Batman is about to beat the everloving hell out of.

Batman’s cape

CAPES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!

Without support, the cape should follow behind, like Superman's does under the same conditions. God bless Batman Begins for trying. At least there they have Lucius Fox explain the cape is made from “memory cloth” that can form certain shapes with a jolt of electricity. That at least acknowledges that something else would be required to pull that off the bat-shape, but doesn’t explain why Batman would do that, or how it doesn’t create enormous drag.

Batman’s cape

Also note that the cape seems to have grown by two more feet on either side as well. The cape grows even longer when Batman wants to loom menacingly. Suddenly, a cape which barely hits the top of his boots completely covers his feet AND can be wrapped around him like a shroud. And why doesn't Batman trip over this extra long thing every time he throws a round house kick?

Click for larger image

Answer: CHEATING!

The artists “cheat” the size and shape of the cape for dramatic effect, of course. This is something that you just cannot do with real, physical capes, but pencilers and animators do all the time.

And Batman is a hell of a lot less scary when his feet are poking out the bottom of his cape.


Steven Padnick edits comics books. By day.

This article is part of Bat-Week: ‹ previous | index | next ›
17 comments
Korban
2. Korban
Wait...are you saying artists sometimes depict things to look cool, that wouldn't be entirely realistic or practical in real life???

Whew. Consider my mind blown. (Do yourself a favor...don't ever read "Spawn")

(By the way, in regards to BB "memory cloth" cape, it forms that shape when stimulated PRECISELY to create drag, so he can glide down short distances, so he doesn't injure himself like he did on his first attempt to jump down to a fire escape on another building. Maybe a refresher viewing is in order .)
Korban
3. goodfellow_puck
Pretty sure the drag in the cape is intended. He certainly glided in the show! Also, Bats did often make use of crouching to make his cape cover his legs when sneaking around. Artistic allowances are obvious, of course.
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
When I read the title I thought you were refering to the hilarious stupidity of The Cape. I finally had to stop shouting "CAPES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!!!" at the screen and just enjoy the awful ride.

I've always been annoyed about superheros wearing capes. Soooo not aerodynamic. And you can't have a cape that is also a hanglider. No. Absolutely no. Furthermore: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THYkMUD_JOE
Kent Aron Vabø
5. sotgnomen
Physics has long been batman's bitch, and will always do as he says.
Korban
6. Dr Science
In the Chris Nolan movies, his cape is made of a material that stiffens and turns into an airfoil when a small electrical charge is applied. Maybe something unspoken like this is also the case in the comics. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire after all!
Korban
7. JoeNotCharles
I love how "always show both ears, even in profile" is RIGHT NEXT to an image in profile showing only one ear.
Korban
8. Korban
You can tell it's the last day in "Batman Week", and they're really scraping the bottom of the Caped Crusader content barrel.
Sky Thibedeau
9. SkylarkThibedeau
No Capes! Do you remember Thunderhead? Tall, storm powers? Nice man, good with kids. November 15th of '58! All was well, another day saved, when... his cape snagged on a missile fin!

Stratogale! April 23rd, '57! Cape caught in a jet turbine!

Metaman, express elevator! Dynaguy, snagged on takeoff! Splashdown, sucked into a vortex!

NO CAPES!
Korban
10. Hammerlock
Physics? Conservation of matter? Maybe for regular types, but he's the goddamned Batman!
Brandon Daggerhart
11. BDaggerhart
"Physics" is for people who aren't The Goddamned Batman!
Chuk Goodin
12. Chuk
@8, No way is this barrel scraping. It was short, but I liked it.

(I liked the pic at the bottom. "Ears can sweep back for emphasis" -- that must have set WayneTech back a few mil)
Jeff Soules
13. DeepThought
Nah, it's simple. The cape's lined with curtain rods.

He hooks those spiky things on his arms into a special socket so that the whole arm moves like a wing.

. . . sure.
Thomas Keith
14. insectoid
Skylark @9: ROFL!! I was thinking the same thing. Incredibles FTW! ;)

Bzzz™.
Korban
15. batFan
well...physics & comics and all that. but this article is a pile of rubbish. you just cannot compare batsuits/capes across different artists/series. the form is not as rigid as you might think. while stylistic elements are indeed preserved , various aspects of the outfit changes . Anyways, I am not saying that you cannot spot inconsistency within the same episode/comic but that this attempt at an article was lazy & lame.
Korban
16. DarrenJL
More Bat-hate from Mr. Padnick, this time with physics™! You know what else Batman can't do? Swing from building to building. Have grappling hooks that pull him up without some sort of engine. Go to the bathroom on those rooftops without taking off his whole outfit, apparently. And on and on and on. It's a comic, Mr. Padnick (or in this case, a cartoon).

What's your next big expose.... Donald Duck... Ducks can't really talk!

?
Korban
17. JNasty
I hope your next piece will tackle the disgustingly fake notion that there is a planet called Krypton, upon which a race of beings evolved that are similar to humans in every way except that their cells become supercharged with magical powers when exposed to yellow sunlight.

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