The Shrinking of Superman
"You don't tug on Superman's cape..." Jim CroceSuper powers or not, a man can't go his entire adult life wearing both tights and a cape without his sexuality being questioned. Especially when his best friend is as freckled and flitty as Jimmy Olsen.So beginning in March, Superman undergoes a wardrobe makeover. He will battle evil doers while decked out in a blue and white tailored body suit, perfect for his complexion (he's a winter) and adorned with lightning bolt logos similar to the ones Elvis used to punctuate his TCB insignia.No cape. Utterly capeless. Inconceivable though that may be. Superman without a cape? That's like Popeye without spinach. Clint Eastwood without a squint.Frankenstein without neck bolts and lumbering gait. It's like Martha Stewart without a glue gun. RuPaul without cheaters panties. O.J. without alibis.It's another in a series of promotional sucker punches thrown at the once invincible Man of Steel who continues in a sharp downward spiral. A cheap shot ratings ploy. What's next, renting out a room in the Fortress of Solitude to a wacky Kramer-like character? Superman has vanquished a staggering array of mutants, robots, aliens, demons, thugs, imps and evil geniuses. But he can't overcome the most fiendish villain of all: focus groups. If the cape doesn't test well, it's a footnote, baby.For his first 50 odd years Superman endured with only minor tweaking. Since then it's been a long road of broken glass and hot gravel. He's been stripped of his powers, killed, resurrected, engaged, dumped, engaged again, married and put in touch with his inner child. Yet nothing will cause more long term damage than the loss of his cape. He's doomed without it.The cape is more than a daring fashion statement, chick magnet and slimming technique (similar to vertical stripes). The cape is the nexus between Superman and his legion of young admirers - those hordes of jelly-faced rugrats, 10 and under, who buy comic books as reading material not investments. And who still bounce around in front of Saturday morning cartoons cranked on Cocoa Puffs.There. Right there. When the mind is soft and pliable as fresh Play-Doh, that's when one falls under the Superman spell, latches on to the mystique. Not just for Superman's awesome and very handy powers (X-ray vision, hubba hubba) but because he's so easy to impersonate.A complete Look Like Superman kit is as close as the hall linen closet. All you need is a towel.A towel, loosely knotted around the neck and voila! The perfect cape. Muscles? We don't need no stinkin' muscles. We got a cape. Stick a wash cloth in the pooch's collar and you've got Krypto the Super Dog, ready, willing and able to help you thwart evil doers, soon as he finishes licking himself.Faster than a speeding Slinky. More powerful than a Big Wheel. Able to leap cluttered coffee tables in a single bound. It's Super Rugrat!Fueled by enough sugar to send a hummingbird into hypoglycemic shock, flying from the arm of the recliner to springy couch cushions, ricocheting off walls while Lex Luthor yells from the bedroom to knock off that infernal racket before he gets his belt, which is apparently laced with kryptonite because it really, really stings. It is mad impetuous fun, with undercurrents of raw human drama. Unfortunately, it usually ends the same way. Running through the house at super speed in a counter clockwise direction in an effort to go backwards in time (a device often used by Supes) hoping to arrive at a point, moments before the lamp went crashing to the floor.But without the cape, somehow it seems so absurd. Even immature. After March, Superman will fall by the wayside, discarded as a role model. The average kid has no access to a body suit. If they do, playing Superman is probably not a high priority.A terrible void will be left. One filled eventually by new heroes, easier to emulate. We are paving the way for a generation of miniature Cornholios. Cornholio, for the tragically unhip, is the alter ego of Beavis, Butt-head's minion. After consuming excessive caffeine or sugar, Beavis morphs into Cornholio, a mystical being whose primary power consists of discussing his butt in a Spanish accent. The transformation is completed when he pulls HIS SHIRT UP OVER HIS HEAD!All kids have shirts. All kids have heads. Will Cornholio be the standard bearer for truth, justice and the American way into the new millennium? The very notion, as Beavis himself in more introspective moments might say, sucks.Yet, it's easy to see how it will unfold. The plot line explaining Superman's switch practically writes itself. Imagine a typical day in Metropolis. Commuters scurry to work while trying to avoid giant flesh eating moon worms that have invaded. A distress call goes out. Clark Kent changes to his crime fighting garb and races towards the window. The voice of his bride pulls him up short. "You're not wearing that out again, are you?"Hello bodysuit.