Martha Thomases: Conventional Fashion
As you read this, I’m riding the rails to Baltimore for the Baltimore Comic Con, one of the more pleasant shows of the year. I expect to have a weekend of discovering new comics, seeing old friends, and spreading the word about ComicMix Pro Services.
However, as I write this, instead of thinking about comics, I’m obsessing about what to pack. I need to wear my ComicMix shirts, because that’s the brand I’m promoting. I need to wear comfortable shoes, because I’ll be on my feet a lot, either welcoming people to our booth or walking the floor. And I’ll need a garment – pants or a skirt – to go in-between the shirt and the shoes.
I could wear blue jeans (most people do), but I don’t think they look right with a dark blue shirt. I could wear my white jeans, but it is after Labor Day. How much of a rebel do I wish to be? Will I get credit for being a rebel, since no one seems to be aware of this rule at all anymore? I could wear a skirt, but then I have to sit with my knees together and shave my legs. Which I mostly do, but I have the illusion of choice when I wear pants. I could wear khakis, but I don’t own any, since they make my hips look ginormous.
My choice of garment is also determined by other factors. If I select something snug, I might look thinner, but not be able to comfortably eat. If I opt for something baggy, then I might look like I’m not taking my job seriously. I want to look somewhat cute, because then I look friendly and approachable. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to be 40 years younger than I am, because that is pathetic and sad.
It occurs to me that there are certain parallels between my fashion quandary and telling stories in mass market comic books. There is the licensed character, which media moguls insist on calling “the brand” instead of calling it the character, which is what it is. There is the story, which must be appropriate to the medium and the genre. I might want to wear my favorite shirt, but it’s not appropriate to the task at hand, nor for the people whom I’m trying to reach in this particular venue. Similarly, if I’m hired to write a Superman story, it should feature Superman, and it should follow certain conventions. One does not wear a t-shirt with a taffeta skirt.
My convention look is not made up of only three elements. I may choose to wear jewelry, or a scarf. My hair is styled a certain way that is uniquely mine. I may add layers, a jacket or a sweater. Similarly, my Superman story might have Superman, super-powers, super villains and threats to humanity, but it will also have elements that are unique to me, to the way I write and what I value in the character.
None of this has anything to do with high art, but it does have to do with respecting one’s audience. I want to give the reader not only what she paid for, what she wants, but also what she doesn’t even know she wants. A unique discovery, a bit of joy, that cements our relationship.
So, that’s settled. Now, what should I wear to the Harvey Awards?
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
SUNDAY: John Ostrander