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Become a Caped Crusader (in Five Easy Steps)

So you can't fly without Delta's help. You were the slowest kid in gym class. Your 5-year-old niece hits harder than you. Big deal! You don't need superpowers to be the stuff of comic book legends, or at least to look like you are.  

I'm Exhibit A:

Step 1: Choose Your Hero (Wisely) doubt, submit to the better judgment of comic book creators like Stan Lee, Brian Pulido and Frank Miller. Be honest about your body. You don't have to be a dead ringer for the character, but a 400-pound Spider Man or a stick-thin Penguin won't cut it. "Most superhero men are physically fit," says Aaron Forrester, the Iron Man costumer featured in New Times' Phoenix Comicon cover piece, by Niki D'Andrea. "I'm not out of shape by any means but I believe that if you're going to try to accurately portray a character, then you should do your best to physically resemble them as well... not just wear a costume. Armor is nice because I don't have that worry about being as huge as Lou Ferrigno."

I chose X-Men villainess Mystique in hopes of joining Forrester's nonprofit Arizona Avengers costuming group. (Despite the X-Men film franchise's desperate bid for more male viewers, the "real" Mystique isn't naked or covered in blue scales. Sorry, boys!)

Step 2: Stretch Your Limits

Next up is the worst part of Arizona superhero life: Spandex. Damn you, Stan Lee! Were the early comic book creators secretly in league with DuPont? Doesn't matter if you're male or female, super strong or telepathic. You're literally stuck with Spandex, and very likely The Dreaded Unitard. It's the worst possible garment for anyone to wear unless you have a perfect body and live in Alaska. 

Cons: Doesn't breathe, expensive, tacky looking, cuts off circulation, shows every micro-inch of fat on your thighs.

Pros: Will keep you warm in the event of a sudden ice age.

Tip: Don't lift your arms while in superhero mode. Clearly, DC heroes lack sweat glands and scientists in the Marvel Universe developed some sort of Supermegaultra deodorant, because I don't remember ever seeing Cyclops or Supergirl with pit stains.

Step 3: Say Goodbye to Clear Skin

If your superhero just wears a little lipstick (or if you're a dude, has the same approximate skin tone), awesome! And I hate you. Those of us tasked with having blue, green or tiger-striped skin, be prepared to look like a pimply teenager again.

For the body, you can follow my lead and purchase The Dreaded Unitard in your fabulous new skin tone (see Step #2 for cons). Alternatives include hiring a body painter like Mark Greenawalt or purchasing an airbrush kit and airbrush makeup. You can also go crazy with food coloring if your boss doesn't mind you coming in with blue skin next week or buy stage makeup ar places such as Bubbles of Joy in Mesa, Fun Services in Tempe or Easley's in CenPho.

Tip: I use Mehron's Barrier Spray as a primer before putting on my Ben Nye Cobalt Blue. You'll still look like streaky-eyed Courtney Love as you desperately try to get the greasepaint off, but at least your pores won't look like a freaky alien landscape when the makeup's gone.

Step 4: Wig Out

I molded Mystique's unusual belt out of Paperclay pressed into Halloween soap molds and attached to a handmade vinyl belt with screws. Voila! A scary skull belt that's light and durable.

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Tip: Ditch the glasses in favor of contacts. No one trusts a myopic superhero. And thanks to the Clark Kent paradox, you can put the glasses back on when you change back into your regular clothes and no one will recognize you even though you look exactly the same!      

You could cheat and purchase a pre-made costume, but then you risk the horror of turning up in the exact same outfit as someone else. You'll also be missing out on the pride of ownership that comes with designing and fabricating your Supersuit. "Although it took me about a year of work and about $1K, there is something very satisfying about making something on your own," Forrester explains. "You have this sense of pride in knowing that all your hard work paid off in the end."

Are you ready for some real superhero action? Our Best Of Phoenix issue hits stands this Thursday, Sept. 30. Stay tuned for more superhero coverage (our superhero collection was yesterday and we'll have a superhero costume designer tomorrow) ...

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