Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leather Fetish

I’m currently in the process on working on a fairly epic series with video whiz Rich “The Dragon” Herrera that should hopefully be up in the next couple weeks on the site in time for the 600th issue of Fantastic Four. Without giving away the game, we’ve got about three hours or so of footage interviewing Tom Brevoort about the history of the FF from start to finish with plenty of anecdotes and neat facts along the way. It was basically like taking a master class in Marvel from a gent very qualified teach it and one of the cooler experiences I’ve had in a very cool career.

One of my favorite bits from the whole thing, oddly enough, was when we got to the 90’s and Tom spent a substantial spot of time talking about the period where the Fantastic Four got leather jackets and specifically that The Human Torch had a leather jacket (“Was he cold? He’s on fire!”). Tom of course acknowledged that the folks working on the book at the time, Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan, were just going with the general trend in the industry at the time, but as those were the comics coming out when I was a kid and I was part of the audience who more or less said “we would like to see The Human Torch in a leather jacket,” it got me thinking (again).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (right now, in fact): If you wanted your comic book character to look cool in the 90’s, you gave them a leather jacket with option of earring, ponytail and possible razor stubble. But did “looking cool” actually translate to “being cool”? Heck, did it even look cool? Let’s examine…

Y’know, from a functional standpoint (if not a fashion one), leather jackets really aren’t that out of place on the Fantastic Four. After all, they’re more explorers than super heroes at heart, so it does make a degree of sense they’d want plenty of pockets to carry around gear for wherever they’re headed and whatever they’ll encounter so they can always be prepared (and also stay warm, I suppose). Although Tom is right that a jacket offers very little use to the Torch, since he’s got built in weaponry and it would take excess time to treat anything he’s going to be carrying around or picking up in asbestos or whatever. And The Thing would never actually use anything but his fists so long as those are handy, plus he’ll tear through those suckers frequently enough to make the Hulk’s purple pants budget look frugal. And a jacket would actually hinder The Invisible Woman since at least part of her power hinges on not being noticed, which becomes more difficult with something making noise, causing wind resistance, etc. Ok, so maybe Mister Fantastic could wear a leather jacket from a functional standpoint.

Covered this recently, but the answer is no, Wonder Woman should not wear a leather jacket (in my opinion). Her gear is more than just a costume, it’s a uniform; the honor guard of a proud people symbolizing their greatest champion yada yada yada. You can alter it slightly (as has been done currently), but in story there’s a certain level of prestige and heritage that’s integral to Diana’s character, while on a real world level Wonder Woman has one the most recognizable costumes in comics and you shouldn’t be covering that up with a leather jacket (or bike shorts). To be fair, there was a very valid story reason why she wore what she wore—she wasn’t Wonder Woman anymore so keeping the garb would be disrespectful to her mother and her people—plus it was only ever designed to be a short term gig, but Diana should never be a slave to fashion trends.

X-Men and leather go together like peanut butter and jelly; it’s a beautiful and symbiotic relationship. In the 80’s, you had Mohawk Storm’s gear, in the 90’s you had the brown jackets that carried over from the comics to the animated series, and this century you had the black and yellow (and white) gear Frank Quitely introduced. It’s my belief that the reason the X-Men floundered commercially in the 60’s and early 70’s was not due to lack of Wolverine, but because they were hung up on spandex. Also, Gambit would probably curl up in the fetal position and weep if you took his duster away from him, and that’s a story nobody wants to see (unless Mike Carey has a really good angle on it, maybe).

A thousand times yes. That Superboy to this day is not sporting a leather jacket, an earring, John Lennon sunglasses and a fade cut is a crime against fashion. And since he was supposed to be not that much older than me when he was introduced, it made total sense he would emulate the same looks I did (particularly when his genetic role model had a mullet). I only wish his aesthetic dynamic had stopped aging along with his physical body.


There are aspects of the Five Years Later run of Legion of Super-Heroes that I enjoy, but on the whole, making the best bright and shiny future in comics into the typical dystopian fare was a misstep. It felt wrong all the way to the way the characters dressed, since colorful attire with potent symbolism was central to the “carrying on for the greatest heroes ever” Legion conceit while the drab gear the FYL crew wore signaled how out of place they were. Only Ultra Boy and Timber Wolf are street enough to rock leather jackets (Karate Kid could if he wanted to, but he would never want to).

What I said about Wonder Woman, probably magnified. Cap is literally draped in the American flag; play that all out, or don’t play it at all. Covering up the symbol he’s proud/brazen enough to wear in that manner is not Steve Rogers at all. He’s also all about grace and agility, so all that extra weight is no good (again, there was a reasonable story reason, and the character was actually against the change, but it was still not so hot).

Actually never wore a leather jacket, but he made a disco collar and mullet reasonably cool well past their respective expiration dates, so if anybody is gonna bring it back, Dick Grayson is the man. Also: pixie boots.