Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Hey, Aquaman Does Not Need A New Costume!
I moved from Texas to Nevada in my teens, and when I attended school with my thick accent, kids used to start singing Boys Don't Cry's "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" at me. They'd ask about where my horse was, and wondered why I didn't wear a ten gallon hat. I guess I should have looked like a redneck, just like they should have looked like mobsters or Vegas strip whores, right?
Bill Willingham had an Indian super-heroine in his Texas Comics series Pantheon called Dynasty who wore a costume emblazoned with a Chinese dragon. Some pseudo-pedantic readers tried to "correct his mistake" regarding the mixed cultures. I wonder if those same readers ever bothered Marvel about the rather Aryan Iron Fist fighting crime in sandals with an Oriental dragon tattooed to his chest.
Jill "Nerdy Bird" Pantozzi decided to debut her Newsarama column Hey, That's My Cape! with the old saw Aquaman Needs A New Costume. She considers the plight of the poor artists who have to draw all those scales on the Sea King's and Mera's outfits. She then goes on for paragraphs about the impracticality of the scales, and how what they really need are hydrodynamic bathing suits made by Speedo, just like Olympian Gold Medalist Michael Phelps.
Remember early in Joe Quesada's term as Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, around the time of the Bryan Singer X-Men movies, when everybody started revealing their secret identities, wearing practical clothing, and generally being more "realistic?" What happened to that? Oh yeah, everybody realized that they wanted to read comic books where people in colorful skintight outfits flew under their own power shooting lasers at each other. They saw the Spider-Man movies with a dynamic, distinct hero looked cool doing amazing feats, instead of a bunch a barely distinguishable douche bags in black leather getting out of Wolverine's way. There's nothing practical or realistic about comic books, and most people get their fill of both in the drudgery of their actual lives. That's why blockbuster movies are spending incredible amounts of money to be more like comic books, and the great advantage of comic books costing no more to destroy a universe than to show a guy crossing the street.
Aquaman is a comic book super-hero. He was created during the Golden Age, when every conceivable angle on the premise was being tried. Aquaman was a rip-off of Sub-Mariner, a guy in a speedo. To differentiate himself, he wore lots of clothes instead of barely any, and chose the colors of the mighty pumpkin, because green and orange was one of the few uncommon combinations still available in 1941. It worked well enough that he stuck with it for 45 years. Then they tried to dress him like a figure skater with water-colored waves all over his costume. After drawing a series set in and near water all day, I know I'd sure get excited about drawing a figure with waves all over his costume. Nothing contrasts with blue water like a blue costume. Let's all get excited about the hero who looks like a disembodied head in his natural environment. Hey, I live in a city, so my costume should be concrete gray with reflective glass highlights, right? I'm active in an invisible oxygen environment, so I should just run around naked, okay?
John Cassaday likes to draw every single scale on Captain America's costume, and his fans also like him to do so. Cap then performs complex gymnastics while wearing 50-100 lbs. of body armor, and no one complains. You see, he's a super hero, and people are constantly trying to kill him, so he needs the armor. Aquaman: also a super-hero, and one of his powers is to be far faster and stronger in water than Captain America is on land. Do I have to do the math?
There are plenty of artists who only imply that Cap wears scaled armor, and that's okay too. Todd McFarlane made a lot of money drawing every detail of Spider-Man's webbing, but other guys do okay obscuring it at every opportunity. Today, with computers, you could easily lay in textures like scales on Aquaman's costume without the artists drawing a single one. Maybe that's why Ivan Reis, who just got finished reworking Aquaman's old costume, didn't seem to have a problem keeping them in. Besides, how many artists draw a character for more than six months these days?
So anyway, Aquaman's got a great costume that's stood the test of time and is readily recognizable on lucrative merchandising the world over. In fact, that costume is more valuable as licensing than the actual Aquaman character is overall. Mera... well, Mera's got flippers, and that's kind of wrong, but everbody's staring at her chest and hips. She's the Christina Hendricks of super-heroines. No one would mind if she had a tail.
In closing, could everyone on the planet Earth never gripe about Aquaman's costume or make fun of his talking to fishies again? Even if you're just trying to get a rise out of people, try harder and use more imagination. Keep up with the rest of society, would you? It's tired, and only reflects badly on you.