In the Dark Knight Consterns post, Trooper brings up one of his favorite points: That comic book movies are good now because the people doing them are people who understand and like them.
To which I would only add: And technology makes possible reasonable approximations of the graphics in those comic books. You can’t make a movie about The Human Torch if you can’t come up with a reasonable looking man-on-fire effect. You can’t do a Superman movie unless you can reasonably make it look like one or two normal sized humans can incidentally trash a large city.
Another issue, however, is costumes. What comic book artists do is draw naked human bodies and color in where the costumes would be. Real life costumes, of course, hide definition. Take, for example, Superman.
Besides the bicep definition and the pronounced ribs, he’s impossibly barrel-chested. Compare to Chris Reeve, who bulked up for his role as The Man of Steel.
He looks almost scrawny, doesn’t he? This is a still, so he’s in the best light they could put him in. In the movie he almost looks slender. Probably few, if any, humans actually have even an approximation of that form.
And Brandon Routh’s not much better. Although obviously in superb condition, there’s no way to create a fabric that doesn’t hide definition.
Batman, on the other hand, started out pretty slender, and ultimately grew into Frank Miller’s monstrosity. Miller, of course, is not what you’d call “naturalistic” in his styles. The angrier The Batman gets in The Dark Knight Returns, the broader and squarer his jaw gets. In this picture, here, he’s actually dwarfing the horse he’s riding on.
There were early actors who wore Batman’s gray suit, culminating in Adam West–100% pure West. But by the time Keaton rolled around, they were adding fake muscles to the suit. Bale’s Batman outfit is, at least, supposed to be bulletproof, giving some justification for the articulated look.
Meanwhile, if you take a bodybuilder and paint a costume on him, the look is much closer, though without the exaggerated V-shape of the torso, and of course without the scale alterations. (Comic book artists change the size of the hero for dramatic effect, which is a little dodgy in live action.)
(You knew that, right?)
Curiously (heh), the X-Men movies go this route for Mystique who, I believe, is usually depicted as wearing a long dress (though split on both sides to the hip). Rebecca Romijn hardly needs clothing, however. Does she look like a superhero? Who cares. We haven’t seen hot blue chicks since the original Star Trek.
The X-Men movies made a lot of successful visual changes from the comic books. Could we take even Hugh Jackman (that guy’s ackman is huge!) seriously if he were in yellow-and-blue spandex with giant eye-flarey-thingies? (Seriously, what is up with those?)
Another X-Men character is Dark Phoenix. Here’s an inspirational photo.
Here’s the lovely Famke Janssen in that role, though looking a bit less provocative.
And lastly here’s our friend with the camera and models who like to be painted. Stirring, no? This guy’s flickr page has a set of superheros, including higher-resolution versions.
The point, of course, is that one medium (comic book art) uses tricks that don’t translate to other mediums.