In the first chapter of In Other Worlds, Margaret Atwood explores the worlds of superheroes and describes their outfits (from capes to skin-tight suits). She also discusses the notion of double identities or how superheroes are often “in real life” quite ordinary, to transform themselves in their superhero persona when they are needed. She also wonders about the ability to fly, which is often link to setting the story in a different universe where the laws of physics as we know them no longer apply.
One note to this chapter is particularly funny:
Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1891) presents a race of superior human beings who live in a vast cavern underground, harnessing an inner, electrical life force called vril for power. (Vril gave its name to the beef tea “Bovril”; bovine vril.) The Vril-ya fly around on vril-powered wings and display super-intelligence; the women among them are bigger and stronger than the men, whom they have to treat well lest the latter fly away. (page 36)
So there you go in case you were wondering where Bovril came from.
Atwood, Margaret. In Other Worlds : SF and the Human Imagination. McClelland & Stewart: Toronto, 2011.