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TORONTO (TheStreet) -- This summer more big-budget superhero movies are set to biff, bam and pow their way onto the silver screen -- among them Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, Green Lantern and X-Men: First Class.

With each comes the costume merchandising, typically for kids relying on Underoos or the plastic mask/smock combos that hang on racks each Halloween to play superhero. But for the adult who wants to dress like a fantasy figure -- and has more than allowance money to spend --

UDReplicas

is where to turn.

Disney joined the list of movie companies merchandising with high-end leather garments by asking UDReplicas to make outfits based on Tron: Legacy.

The company creates, makes, markets and distributes high-end, licensed leather movie replica garments. The suits, impeccably detailed as a result of direct consultation with studios and filmmakers, cost $1,000 or more and are proving to be sought-after collectibles.

Movie merchandising is often as lucrative as the films that inspire the products. Once relegated to action figures and T-shirts, movie-themed products now target older aficionados and often go upscale. There is, for example, even an Iron Man cologne.

UDReplicas has found a niche in catering to geeks and buffs who want to do more than just put a trinket on a shelf or in a Mylar bag.

The company's origin dates back in 1993, when owner David Pea worked in Italy's clothing industry. That led to traveling the globe to learn and perfect his craft, in particular creating leather clothing.

Returning to Toronto in 2001, his larger company, Universal Designs, initially focused on costume making, working with individuals and companies (mainly video game makers) to bring their artwork, products and ideas to life.

"We were basically doing movie-quality suits out of rubber," he says, by making life casts, molds and mannequins of actors or models and injecting them with rubber.

"It's a very time-consuming process," he says. "We made quite a name for ourselves in the whole 'We can get the details right' category and not look like a cheapo knock-off costume."

One day Pea had an "aha" moment that changed everything: "We knew leather garments and we knew how to make costumes. What would happen if we combined those techniques?" he asked.

He had noted a trend in superhero movies -- that costuming was becoming more "realistic." The Ben Affleck vehicle

Daredevil

, was a case in point, with its lead covered from head to toe in a red leather ensemble.

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"That was the first time I had seen Hollywood bring a comic book character to life with a real-world, wearable, believable and modern suit using leather," he says. "That's what really tipped me off and had me thinking that we could do stuff like that."

The first studio he approached with the idea was

Warner Brothers

(TWX)

, with a plan to make Batman-inspired leather outerwear.

"It was rather ambitious on our part, but they seemed to think we were onto something," he says.

With their approval and help, Pea crafted and sold a motorcycle suit like the one seen in

The Dark Knight

.

"It was a well-designed suit for a motorcycle and, in fact, in the film he rides the Batpod," he says. "They designed it with that kind of comfort and practicality in mind, so it really made my job that much easier bringing it to life as a real-world, practical motorcycle suit. Well, when I say 'easy,' really nothing about that suit was easy. We created the technology for it, using leather and Kevlar. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears."

Pea stresses two things. First, that his job is to "replicate" what is seen on film, and that the behind-the-scenes creativity and skill of a movie's costumers is worth recognition and praise. Secondly, his creations are not meant to be "costumes."

"They are wearable motorcycle suits," he says. "You don't ride a motorcycle? No problem, the body armor slides out and it becomes a regular everyday jacket and pants, whatever combo you wish to use it as. We work hard to make them look like they walked off the movie set, but they are not costumes."

The success of the

Dark Knight

suit offered a calling card for other studios.

Disney

(DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report

came aboard with outfits based on the cyberspace world of

Tron: Legacy

. Next up was

Marvel

(MVL)

, with suits based on Iron Man and Wolverine.

"Really, all of this all evolved into something by chance," Pea says. "It started by just asking, 'How cool would it be to do this?'"

Last weekend, at the Wizard World comic convention in Toronto, he made a "really, really exciting announcement":

Lucasfilm

is working with him on suits related to all six

Star Wars

movies.

"I won't confirm yet what we are doing, but how cool would it be to see stormtroopers made of form-molded, leather body armor?" he says. "Darth Vader? How about Boba Fett? With

Star Wars

we are really going to push the limits of what we are capable of."

At the convention, Pea was approached by several women who asked, in effect: "You are making all this cool stuff for the dudes -- what about us?"

It led to an idea he may pursue -- a motorcycle suit based on the

"Slave Leia"

bikini from

Return of the Jedi

.

"I think it would be really cool if we had a leather jacket and pant combo where the bikini is form-molded over the jacket," he says.

Pea has been hard at work readying a suit based on the forthcoming Captain America movie.

"It is not going to be a walk in the park," he says. "But if we are able to replicate that faithfully, you are going to see people riding bikes as if they walked off the

Captain America

set. That's the goal here. We are not looking to improvise or modify or change anything. If that's what Marvel has put to life in their film, we will accept nothing short of it looking identical."

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here:

Joe Mont

.

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