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Superheroes and stylish copycats pack a visual punch

india Updated: May 06, 2008 16:37 IST

Newsflash: A cadre of superheroes has invaded one of Gotham's top cultural institutions, bringing swaths of bright color, pop graphics and an everyman theme to the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Have no fear, though. Their mission is friendly.

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and hero-of-the-hour Iron Man have been employed by the Costume Institute to illustrate the parallel worlds occupied by fantastical creatures with super powers and creative fashion designers who dress mere mortals -- or at least the stars including George Clooney and Julia Roberts expected at the Met yesterday night.

Sound like a stretch? There's no Plastic Man ploy at play.

"Superheroes are about issues of the body, identity and transformation, about acting your fantasies and transforming yourself into anyone or anything you want to be," said Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton. "Those are all the things at the heart of fashion."

"Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy" begins with an examination of Superman, the first modern superhero when he appeared on the page in 1938. He stood for all things good and patriotic during a time when the American public was trying to shake off the Depression while also watching what was happening in Europe in the days leading up to World War II.

Thanks to an old smoke-and-mirrors trick used by Victorian-era magicians, Superman is presented to museumgoers as both Clark Kent (in a 1950s Brooks Brothers suit) and the Man of Steel in the 1978 film costume worn by Christopher Reeve.