Dennis O’Neil: Superhero Haute Couture
Anyway, almost eight years ago, in a precursor of this weekly blather, when I was younger and less evolved – I still had fur on top – I wondered if the meme of the costumed superhero was passé. Quoth I: “…what we’re asking now is, are costumed heroes an idea whose time has gone? Has the genre become too sophisticated for this part of its yesterday? Apparently, those who labor in television think so. None of video’s superfolk wear stuff that couldn’t be gotten at an upscale mall…”
That was then and this is now and the fortune telling implicit in what’s quoted above was as accurate as your newspaper’s daily horoscope. That is, not very. But it might be accurate in a year or seven; technology has hugely accelerated pop culture and the times are always a’changin. But that may be then and this is now and now superhero costumes are in no danger of extinction.
Look no further than the nearest movie screen. Superman, Iron Man, Batman, Thor, Green Lantern, The X Men. Spider-Man, Catwoman and, waiting in the wings, truth-inducing lariat at the ready, Wonder Woman. None of these people buy their business wardrobe at Marshall’s. Can’t get to the movies? (Yeah, well, ten bucks a ticket is kind of stiff, especially if you’re a fast food worker or a Walmart employee.) Go to the television set. There are currently two comic book-derived prime time shows on the tube, not counting cartoons, and one of them, Arrow, puts characters in costumes – maybe not costumes as blatant as the comics incarnations of those characters sport, but not what you’d wear to Sunday services, either. And more costume-wearers are in Arrow’s future, among them The Bronze Tiger and The Question. (I’ll plead that The Question’s mask is a costume as Will Eisner apparently thought The Spirit’s mask and gloves qualified as a costume.)
The Flash, who currently appears in Arrow in his alternate identity, will have his own show soon and, boy, The Flash – now there’s a costume-wearer! (Minor trivia note: The Flash was the hero of an earlier television program that ran in 1990-1991 and was largely written by comics’ own stalwart Howard Chaykin.)
The other comic book show is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and there is no spectacular apparel on view in it, but maybe there ought to be. We find the program, well…okay. If we want an action show with a twist of heroic fantasy, S.H.I.E.L.D. does the job. But if we yearn for a superhero fix, the show doesn’t deliver. Mentally bracket it with Covert Affairs, globe-trotting adventure stuff that has a slightly different vibe than the fantasy-melodrama that’s the realm of the super folk.
Next week, a different topic, but I can’t foresee what it will be.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Tweaks!
FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases