- The Washington Times - Friday, October 8, 2004

With comic-book characters in the pop-culture spotlight — thanks to multiple big-budget movies, TV shows and cartoons during the past few years — the costume industry has gone above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate children and adults looking to don the mask or hood of their favorite caped crusader.

“There is a huge resurgence right now to be a hero,” says Deborah Zahm, senior marketing manager for Disguise, a costume producer located in Poway, Calif.

“Heroes are coveted and have been more so for the last three to five years. So that has translated into their popularity in Halloween costumes for not only top-tier characters such as Spider-Man, Batman, Superman and Wolverine, but ancillary characters as well.”

Two companies, Rubie’s Costume and Disguise Costume Co., have led the way in developing brands synonymous with sequential-art heroes.

The New York-based Rubie’s Costume has been in business since 1951 and began manufacturing garb based on DC Comics characters when Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” was in theaters in 1992. Since then, the company has placed great importance on giving children a chance to dress up as their favorite heroes from the Dark Knight, Justice League, Teen Titan and Superman universes.

“Superhero costumes have done really well for us since we got involved selling them, says Howard J. Beige, vice president of sales for Rubie’s Costume. “Kids associate with superheroes, and it has traditionally always been a very, very popular theme ….”

The 17-year-old Disguise holds the Marvel Entertainment license and has put together more than 30 types of costumes based on Stan Lee’s favorite friends.

Product lines from both companies feature a wide range of sizes for infants through adults. Buyers also will find muscle chest enhancements and plenty of authentic detail to satisfy the younger sequential-art lover.

Here are a few of the cooler costumes available — not just for Halloween, but year-round — with purchasing tips and recommended books to inspire an adventure.

Raven (Rubie’s Costume, $34.99)

Created within George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s revitalization of the Teen Titans in the 1980s and personified by Cartoon Network’s hip animated show, this daughter of a human and demon can astral project. She must also maintain control of her emotions lest she unleash her violent powers. Her costume features a purple hooded cape, gray-and-black bodysuit with attached boot tops and an ornate belt. Owners will need to find some ghoulish facial makeup to complete the ode to this mystical beauty.

• Inspirational reading: DC Comics offers a monthly chronicle of Raven and her teammates in Teen Titans Go (priced at $2.25 each), which happens to mimic the art style of the Cartoon Network series.

Robin (Rubie’s Costume, $34.99)

Those who wish to become the Boy Wonder have big shoes to fill. Dick Grayson, aka Robin, not only teams up with his mentor, Batman, but also leads the Teen Titans. The costume features his traditional garb — a green, red and yellow bodysuit, black mask and yellow utility belt.

• Inspirational reading:In addition toTeen Titans Go ($2.25 each), the trade paperback from DC Comics, “Robin: Year One” ($14.95) compiles the 2000, four-issue miniseries and presents the beginnings of the Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson Dynamic Duo.

Daredevil (Disguise, $49.99)

Younger males hoping to assume the role of Matt Murdock’s alter ego are in for a treat. This costume features a soft and comfortable red bodysuit with padded muscles, and a red vinyl half-mask (complete with eyeholes and attached horns) that can be pulled over the head. It’s easily the best-looking version of the hero — who was created by Stan Lee and drawn with the red costume by Wally Wood back in the 1960s.

• Inspirational reading:Marvel Comics’ current monthly Daredevil series is a bit too graphic for the younger generation. By contrast, the best bet for tykes to enjoy the exploits of the old horn head comes through the child-friendly Marvel Age Spider-Man No. 15 ($2.25), which features a pair-up of the costumed clowns.

Wonder Woman (Rubie’s Costume, $41.99)

The Amazon princess in the family will appreciate this very detailed costume based on William Moulton Marston’s character. The costume features a gold headband with red star; a red cape; the red, white and blue leotard; Wonder Woman’s gold belt; and silver bracelets. Also included are red-and-white boot tops and a golden lasso of truth. The invisible plane, however, is extra.

• Inspirational reading:DC Comics offers a monthly comic, Justice League Unlimited ($2.25 each). It highlights the Cartoon Network’s version of the Justice League, in which Wonder Woman plays a prominent role.

Thor (Disguise, $45.99)

Children wanting to embody the powerful god of thunder receive a colorful bodysuit featuring blue-and-black armor with padded muscles, flesh-colored sleeves, yellow boot tops, an attached red cape and a plastic silver helmet. His favorite hammer is not included. For that, parents will need to fork over an additional $13.99.

• Inspirational reading: Comic-book legend Walter Simonson did a great job chronicling the hero’s dialect and adventures in the 1980s. The trade paperbacks “Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson,” “Thor Legends II” and “Thor Legends III” ($24.99 each) offer a combined 32 issues. On the other hand, parents should avoid passing the Thor miniseries, Vikings, to any youngster because of its over-the-top violence from Punisher scribe Garth Ennis.

Thing (Disguise, $45.99)

The Fantastic Four movie is coming next summer, and junior will be ahead of the pack by securing this slick fitted homage to the orange rock curmudgeon Benjamin Grimm. The garb features a one-piece bodysuit with blue pants, the Fantastic Four logo on a black belt, and rocky torso muscles along with a vacu-form plastic mask.

• Inspirational reading: Marvel Age: Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ child-friendly monthly title ($2.25 each) presents the Thing with his pals Sue Storm, Reed Richards and Johnny Storm in a contemporary version of the hero’s greatest adventures.

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