Friday, June 09, 2006

Turtleneck Of Righteousness

Simon "Wonder Man" Williams was way ahead of the non-costume trend for superheroes. Sure, the original Mister Terrific wore a jacket, but did he pair it with a comfy sweater? I think not. After debuting in a hopelessly complicated red-yellow-green Jack Kirby number, he switched to this tasteful ensemble -- seen here on the cover of "Avengers" #203 (January, 1981). When I was younger, I absolutely hated this costume. I think part of it was that the jacket seemed dated, and I also wasn't ready for the concept of superheroes in casual wear. As a grown-up Blockade Boy, though, I think it's boss as hell.

(Above panels from "Avengers" #207, May, 1981.) It holds up from all angles, doesn't it? The safari jacket and the boots say "I'm off for a dangerous advenure in the great outdoors" while the turtleneck and the tight black pants say "But meet me in my tent for martinis later -- and come alone!" Comic fans liked Simon because he was shy and self-effacing, and his fear of death was a very human flaw that others could relate to. These qualities, combined with his movie-star good looks and his sheer physical power, made for an irresistable combination.

In a two-year story arc in "West Coast Avengers," Steve Engelhart had Simon overcome his insecurities and "blossom" into a raging asswipe. No longer ashamed of his goopy energy eyeballs, he ditched his trademark sunglasses and traded in his Banana Republic duds for a new costume. Which sucked donkey balls.

God DAMN but it's an eyesore. Note the "old school" zig-zag edges on the boots and gloves. Just because Kirby did it doesn't make it right, people. And the massive, wrap-around logo, with the pointless yellow diamond in the middle? Very nasty. Maybe if the letters were thinner, and if they didn't touch, it could work. But as it is, it's too bulky and clumsily proportioned. But in any event, the costume would still be sunk by its color scheme. It makes Simon look like a Christmas elf on steroids. Thankfully, my opinion was shared by legions of comic book fans, who inundated the letters pages with complaints. And so, at the end of "West Coast Avengers" #24 (September, 1987) we were treated to this little scene:

I love how that tacky little creep is giving somebody else directions on how to dress. (Nice sunglasses, jerk. What did those things cost you, three bucks at Spencer's Gifts?) And so on the very first page of the very next issue, Wonder Man appears in a new costume!

It's a leather bar pile-up in the Mighty Marvel Manner! This outfit isn't terribly interesting but at least it doesn't give me a headache. Red and black are always a good combo for a superhero -- it's one of the things I like about the new Batwoman costume. But I'm not thrilled about the overly blow-dried hair. Didn't it used to be naturally curly? Don't tell me Simon has taken to getting it chemically straightened. Like Ryan Seacrest. (Ew.) Well, let's get a side view of his new look.

It's the Abomination! Oh, and there's some kind of scaly green monster as well. What? "The Abomination" is my nickname for Simon's mullet. I think he kept this look for quite a while, until he died the second time. And then he came back. And the last I remember, his superhero look was kind of a bubbly lavender coating of ionic energy with a red "W" on the chest. *sigh*

I miss the safari jacket.


Anonymous said...

Not to let Kitby off the hook for the original Wonder Man costume as such, but it always struck me a case of Jack going, "Another one?! How many unique metahuman outfits do you want me to design today, Stan?!?!" With volume inevitably comes the intermittent clunker.

Also, I have to say I do like the zig-zag glove/boot motif, just not on this character, and definitely not that costume. Skrulls rock that look on their collars.

Anonymous said...

I always liked the turtleneck outfit as well. It has sort of a classic Hollywood, swashbuckling thing going on. It was very suave. I'd join him for martinis.

Anonymous said...

You missed an outfit...the gray/red/blue number he wore at the end of his solo series. When he blew up in Force Works #1, and then came back, the outfit didn't come back. Maybe Death kept it for herself. It had infinity symbols on the belt and was pretty nifty.

I do think the tanktop/jets on belt look is his best ever.