Vogue, by Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases

Martha Thomases brought more comics to the attention of more people than anyone else in the industry. Her work promoting The Death of Superman made an entire nation share in the tragedy of one of our most iconic American heroes. As a freelance journalist, she has been published in the Village Voice, High Times, Spy, the National Lampoon, Metropolitan Home, and more. For Marvel comics she created the series Dakota North. Martha worked as a researcher and assistant for the author Norman Mailer on several of his books, including the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Executioner's Song, On Women and Their Elegance, Ancient Evenings, and Harlot's Ghost.

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16 Responses

  1. Rick Taylor says:

    Great article, Martha.Hope Charleston is fun.Why does it not surprise me the LCI doesn't see the potential in adult stuff.They've always only seen the kid potential.Look at the TINTIN store. There's a ton of stuff for grown-ups.

  2. Elayne Riggs says:

    I've always been far less concerned with fashions than with body types. Sadly, the lack of varying body types is something that comic book art and fashion seem to have in common. Yet another reason I'm so enamored of Fat Mama, one of the most ebullient folks I've met of late.

  3. mike weber says:

    Every so often wife Kate – not a comics fan, but she glances through the ones i bring home – shakes her head an mutters that most young males would be embarrassed to admit they'd never seen a nude woman but that some comic artists like to brag about it.

    • Joe in Philly says:

      They may not have seen a nude woman but with some of the artwork and outfits, they're not actually missing much.I miss the Warner Bros. stores, though they started going downhill when they merged or bought out Turner and they started throwing in Hanna-Barbera stuff in with Looney Tunes.

      • mike weber says:

        There are still eople who wear aluminum foil hats.Many of them support the current Administration, i think.

      • mike weber says:

        And i think you missed the point of Kate's comment. Take a look at Powergirl (as a forinstance) sometime and consider the anatomy involved.

  4. Russ Rogers says:

    What is the connection between the rise of the costumed Super-hero and the rise in popularity of Logo Fashion Wear? Was it a fashion before the 1930's to wear things like the NIKE swoosh on your cap or chest. (OK, NIKE wasn't around then.) Did Cab Calloway or Calloway Golf sell Calloway T-shirts or hats in the 30s? People want to identify with their niche in life. They want clothing that says, "I'm a BEATLES FAN," or "I drive a John Deere!"I think this is not only because we want to identify our own likes to the public, I think we also want to take on some the mystique and power of whatever brand we are wearing. Certainly that has always been part of the appeal of designer clothing. But, what I'm wondering is, is there a direct connection between the public seeing a POWERFUL character like Superman, who wears his BRAND LOGO on his chest, and our own desire to also carry a BRAND LOGO on ours?Not too long ago, it would have been the height of poor taste to wear the flag on your body. It was considered crass and uncouth. How much did Captain America and Wonder Woman help change that bias against patriotic clothing?

    • Alan Coil says:

      There were kids in the 40s who wore capes and acted like Superman.Re: Cab Calloway—don't think he led the way…maybe Astaire did…but many people wore spats.And there were people in the 50s who wore aluminum foil hats that looked a lot like the original Flash's helmet.

      • Mike Gold says:

        I think Cab helped sell a LOT of Zoot Suits for ok' Smokey Joe. Honest.

        • Russ Rogers says:

          I'm sure Cab affected style. But my question was, when did it become popular to wear LARGE BRAND LOGOS across our chest and is there a direct connection between that and the rise of the super-hero who carries their BRAND LOGO on their chest?How much has super-hero fashion directly affected everyday fashion? How much has everyday fashion emulated super-fashion?

          • Mike Gold says:

            It's funny, but I don't see the superhero symbol as a brand. Of course, that's silly — the reason the original Wonder Woman logo was changed from an eagle to a WW was because you couldn't trademark "just" an eagle. But it is a chicken-before-the-horse thing: the symbols were created for design reasons, and merchandising wasn't as big a concern… indeed, outside of a small handful, it rarely existed. Even the 1960s symbols — Flash, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four — were created long before the merchandising imperative took over driving the bus.

  5. MARK WHEATLEY says:

    Brand? I suppose that these days you could say people wearing a t-shirt that IDs them as a BEATLES fan is branding – but I think the basic motivation goes far back to our origins. I think this is still an acting out of tribal motivations. We still, in our hearts, desire to belong to a tribe. The Tribe of Superman, Wonder Woman, Obama, etc.I think this motivation just gets stronger as the world becomes more homogeneous. Maybe at some point we will abandon the trible urge – but I think that will be a long way in the future.

    • Adriane Nash says:

      I think the tribe thing is pretty dead on. And as for people not wearing logos, what about all those college kids in the 30s and 40s wearing their school colors/letters on their sweaters. And kids sported baseball caps so you could tell who was a Dodgers fan and who was a Yankees fan.The cult of the logo as fashion really bloomed out of the designer jeans craze of the late 70s and early 80s. You were a Calvin or a Jordache. Then specific pieces that were identifiable became must haves (think: the Bennaton rugby shirt or the Guess teddybears sweatshirt) Shoe and sneaker companies came to realize they could rake in a whole bunch more cash cuz kids wanna "be like Mike" and wear more than just his Air Jordans. Of course I'm talking about mass marketed items, luxury goods, especially the accessories, have always had logos (Louis Vuitton luggage looked the same 70 years ago and Chanel & Gucci also had their logos on sunglasses and jewelry for decades)

      • Russ Rogers says:

        Yes, I agree with Mark Wheatley, the origins and motivations for most clothing with graphic designs and logos is tribal. It goes back to the uniforms of schools, sprots teams, even military uniforms. We are marking that we belong to a certain group, we route for a certain team, we belong to a side.And yes, as Mike Gold points out, super-hero costumes were created for basic design reasons. But the design isn't so the hero will look like they conform to some group. The design of a hero's costume is so that they graphically STAND OUT and STAND APART from the crowd. It's bold INDIVIDUALISM over CONFORMITY.A hero's costume isn't generally an expression of conformity. There are a few costume exceptions, notably "The Fantastic Four," and "The X-men," where the concept was a TEAM LOOK rather than an individual look. But with both of these super teams, the conformity in the costume is offset by WILDLY differing body types with many non-human or extraordinary-human shapes. There is a Marvel Family, the Miracleman Family and even the Superman Family, where there is a repeated theme or motif in the costume. But for the most part, the job of the superhero costume or the super-villain costume is to distinguish the INDIVIDUAL, to separate them visually from everything around them.I guess the predecessors to superhero costumes are comedia del arte characters. Where stock characters like Harlequin and Valentine had a certain LOOK, a motif, that was repeated again and again by many players and many acting troupes.. These stock characters had exaggerated features from masks and bright, bold costumes. There is a direct line between comedia del arte to the modern clown and circus performer. Here the costume immediately identifies the roles of the performer to the crowd. We have clowns, acrobats, animal tamers and ring masters.The super-hero's costume is there to immediately identify their role in the story to the reader (the audience, the crowd).And I think that radical INDIVIDUALISM is a recurring theme in super-hero comics. It's the LONE vigilante fighting against the corrupt gang or the string of super-villains. For whatever reasons, superheroes don't work for the police. Maybe because then they would have to work WITH the police and somehow be on the same level as ordinary people.I'm 46 years old. I don't know when Superheroes began being licensed and marketed. I do know that my mother has a photograph of me, when I was four (so 1966, the height of the Batman TV show), wearing Ray Ban style shades and my BATMAN LOGO sweatshirt, standing on my head. It's that "Batman Logo" where the word is shaped like a bat, with Batman's head there in the middle. I got a T-shirt with that same design for father's day just last year!I remember in junior high school, designing my own "Super-hero" logo and drawing it out on a white t-shirt with permanent markers. I was "Super-Guy!" I wore the shirt to school several times. Because I was a geek and didn't care what my peers thought about it. This pegged me both as an incorrigible nerd and as somebody with radical confidence. I think I earned both the respect and disdain of my classmates.Now, I'm a house-dad and a children's entertainer. I have my own music and comedy show called, "Rusty's Rocking Jamboree." A few years ago, I designed a logo for my show. It's a stylized exclamation point. It owes something to the "Madman" logo, maybe something to "The Atom." Check it out at http://www.rockingjamboree.com or here the logo is animated! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiCJHu0rtkQI want a BOLD GRAPHIC logo for two reasons. One, I want a fun way for people to easily identify my show; that it is fun and exciting; something that will stand out and be readily remembered. Secondly, I have this deep seated desire to somehow BE a super-hero.I do think that there is a connection between the popularity of super-heroes and the desire of people to graphically express themselves with their clothing, in t-shirt designs for example. I think this has gone beyond identifying ourselves with a group or team. Fashion has become an expression of RADICAL INDIVIDUALISM. But it's an oxymoron when radical individualism becomes an expected norm in society.It's a chicken and egg issue. Did the rise of the super-hero foster a growing sense of individualism over corporate, religious or societal norms and did that get reflected in clothing that more and more, mimics superhero style? Or did the individualism expressed in the "Roaring 20s" explode in the creation of the superhero in the 30s? Are superheroes an expression of escapist fantasy?Why do I bother mulling about concepts like, comedia del arte, radical individualism and escapist fantasy? Am I really that much of a mental wanker?

  6. Martha Thomases says:

    Well, having been on the road for a week, the brand I'm wearing is Vermont Bike Tours. However, I was quite the fashionista in my ComicMix t-shirt on the road.

  7. John Tebbel says:

    Can we invent the super briefs that won't let you break your hip when you fall? And you will fall.