Super, Thanks for Asking

Super, Thanks for Asking

Last Updated: 06 Oct 2014
Pete Kempshall

Dress up as a comic book character and go out in public? Scoop's Pete Kempshall discovers that only works if your special power is invisibility.

You'd think that, as a writer, I'd be able to pull out the right adjective, like a magician conjuring doves from thin air

"So how is it?" comes the voice from the other side of the curtain.

I stand there, in front of the mirror, and realise all my word-birds have flown.

"It's… good."

But it's more than good. It's Uncanny. It's Incredible. It's Spectacular.
I'm wearing Spandex. And I like it.

There are moments in your life when you find yourself on the brink of a decision that you just know you're going to regret. Like the time Lance Armstrong decided another can of Red Bull just wasn't going to cut it, or when any number of random Australians stood in front of a booth and thought, "I like the cut of that Abbott guy's jib". But even though all your senses scream that it's not going to end well, you just can't stop yourself. You're going to do it. You're the lemming right at the front of the pack that shrugs and says, "YOLO".

My lemming moment came when I clicked through to Facebook and found I'd received an invitation to a Fourth of July party. There was just one stipulation: "Come dressed as your favourite American stereotype".

Now, I read a lot of comic books. I know the difference between my Amazing Spider-man and my Superior Spider-man, my Justice League and my Justice Society. So when the dual ideas of 'costume' and 'USA' were dropped into my head, there was only one way I was going to go.
Captain. America.

Faster than a speeding bullet, I was at the costume shop – there were only three weeks until July 4, what if someone got in before me and hired the outfit? What if I had to go as a less-super superhero?
What if I had to go as Robin…?

But fortune favours The Brave and the Bold, and within minutes I had secured the outfit. And damned if I didn't make it look good.

It wasn't until later that I saw the problems.

Maybe it was the dim light in the changing rooms. Maybe my excitement had worn off. Maybe it was that three weeks had passed and I like beer and chocolate. But somehow, between hiring the suit and getting it home, I'd gone from looking like a finely honed, bulletproof athlete to resembling an overstuffed blue sausage.

I thought of my friend who'd announced she was going to the party as a hotdog, and wondered if she'd hate me for stealing her idea…

In that moment – and not for the last time that weekend – I wondered how the real-life superheroes coped (What? No really, what?).

To be fair, the material flattened certain features. Unfortunately, it flattened certain other features too... and considering the weather forecast for July 4 was very cold, it wasn't just my bravado in danger of vanishing. It's lucky the outfit came with a strategically placeable shield.

None of that mattered, though, when, on the big night, I made my grand entrance.
There's something to be said for the attention you get in full crimefighting regalia. Maybe that's how superheroes look so good in skintight PJs – the chest, swelling with pride as people cheer dementedly could be mistaken for hours spent working out at the gym...

If only I hadn't spoiled the moment by walking crotch-first into the kitchen counter.
When I'd tried on the outfit, I'd not really moved around in it – certainly not with the mask on. If I had, I'd have realised that I had no peripheral vision. At all. Eyes watering through my inadequate mask holes, I could only boggle at how the angle of the bench had managed so unerringly to hit a target that had been rendered so small by the longjohns and the weather…

To stay in character, I needed resilience, enhanced strength and presence. I needed beer. Four or five brews would do for me what the radioactive spider bite did for Peter Parker. Except… Lycra bodysuit.

When the time came – as it most assuredly would – for the 'breaking of the seal', how the hell was I going to do what came naturally? Miserably, I reconciled myself to curbing my intake. Forget smashing evil, I was going to be challenged smashing more than one beer.

Fortunately, Hotdog Girl was on hand to explain that my problem was one already mastered by generations of women in one-pieces. So, standing on a balcony in a cold drizzle, she mimed a technique for making use of the bathroom without stripping down to my boxers. All I needed was the flexibility of a teenage Russian gymnast. I took smaller sips of my drink.

By the time the party ended, I'd shucked most of the gear. As Batman'll tell you, protractedly standing under bright lights kind of ruins the effect. But I had fun, enough to count the costume as a success, against all the odds.

Until I saw the pictures on Facebook. One comment stood out, attached to a shot of me next to a friend who'd dressed herself up (down?) as white trash: "Surely a sex tape is imminent."

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