Travis Miller: Costuming Our Suspension of Belief
If there is one thing that sets the superhero genre apart from its cousins – science fiction, detective/mystery, fantasy and mythology – it is the garish costumes our heroes and villains wear. The practice dates back to the inception of superheroes, even in western comics like The Lone Ranger, to bring in young readers with heroes (typically in primary colors) and the bad guys who started off as mobsters then became such foes and fiends as the Joker and Doc Ock in secondary and tertiary colors… grab a color wheel guys I’m getting deep here… to help the young heads full of mush differentiate and keep their attention throughout the book…
Now, Let’s fast forward to today, and leave the past, which is always prologue behind.
Why are some of our beloved “superheroes” still wearing primary colored laden tights when it goes against the very fiber of the well established character that we have come to know over the past 50 years? Superman, I get that. Captain America? Yeah. Not a costume but a way of wearing Old Glory mixed with some armor. The Punisher wearing a big white skull on his chest, perfectly reasonable way to draw enemy fire towards the body armor he’s wearing. I can buy that. The Batman, as it has been explained over and over and over again is also wearing body armor mixed with a “flair for the dramatic” to “instill fear” into a “superstitious and cowardly lot.” It’s a stretch, but I’m still on board. The many Green Lanterns are wearing the Crops uniform.
Where my suspension of belief stops is Wolverine. Logan. James Howlett.
I can believe in all the fake science. As Denny O’Neil famously said, it’s fake, but it’s ours. I can believe Logan’s two hundred years old. I can go along with almost every nuance and minutia over the character. Until we get to that costume. It does not compute.
I understand that Wolverine was created, in the comics, to lead Canada’s superhero team. Fine. However, that was many years ago, both in real life and in comics continuity. So, are we going to continue with the idea that a guy that has killed more people that can be counted, used to smoke cigars (until someone took charge at The House of Ideas put a moratorium on smoking) and drinks like a fish, has been trained as a samurai, has fought in every major war since (well it varies, but we will go with) the American Civil War is going to put on skin tight yellow and blue spandex suit because Professor X told him to?
Can we look at the character again? This dude would look Professor X or General Patton himself in the face and laugh, light a cigar and go on his merry day to the nearest non-smoking bar. And, maybe stab a ninja or two on the way just for kicks.
Grant Morrison changed this dramatically, and generally fanboys (I’m a fanboy, too) booed and hissed and bemoaned the change. Larry Hama and Adam Kubert did a great run with Wolvie outside of the costume after the Fatal Attractions storyline. The point being, there are plenty of heroes that don’t wear costumes, that stick to their character and it works for them. Shouldn’t we look at our heroes and villains and see which ones work in “costumes” and more specifically which ones don’t? Don’t we owe it to a guy that we love like Wolverine to let him stop dressing like a clown and let him just be who he is?
That hair is bad enough, right?