What would Batman be without the Batcave, Superman without a phone box or Spiderman without his closet? writes Steve Farrar.
Not much, according to a study that suggests the source of the comic book superhero's masculine powers lies in his ability to privately change costume and hence assume different identities.
Friedrich Weltzien, research fellow at Freie Universitat, Berlin's cooperative research centre, labels this an extreme form of masquerade.
"What makes (superheroes) really special is not their powers or gadgets but their ability to change between hero and nerd as signified by their costume," Dr Weltzien said. "This ability to change between two different identities depending on the situation is the true ideal of masculinity."
Dr Weltzien will outline his thesis this weekend at the Courtauld History of Dress Association's annual conference in London.