Friday, February 24, 2006

Savagery In Pinstripes: The Future Mrs. Atomic Skull

The Skulls

The list of super-villain couples isn't very long. There's the Joker and Harley Quinn, the Sportsmaster and the Huntress, Punch and Jewellee, the Absorbing Man and Titania, and... and, um... there's probably more, but I plead ignorance. I also plead "devastating good looks." (Guilty!) Anyway, for a brief moment back in 1981, in the pages of "DC Comics Presents" #35, there was also the Atomic Skull and Felicia. Felicia was a woman mutated from a panther, which was not at all a rip-off of Barbara Carrera's character in "The Island of Doctor Moreau."

Let's turn things over to Superman for a minute, as he summarizes Dr. Albert "the Atomic Skull" Michaels' diary to guest-star Man-Bat -- all the while giggling like a schoolgirl, no doubt: "Dr. Michaels had developed an evolutionary ray for Heaven knows what evil purpose... and the creature he called Felicia was originally a test animal -- a lab specimen! His ray succeeded in transforming the female panther into a woman! Evidently she was so beautiful... so alluring... that, against all reason, Michaels fell in love with her!"

Oh, Superman, you sweet, naive moron. Here's how I see things going down: Dr. Michaels had a case of atomic blue balls because nobody wants to make love to a guy has a skull for a face (the actor who played "Gareth" in the original version of "The Office" being the sole exception to that rule). Knowing that what he planned to do might still be considered bestiality (and getting a sick thrill from that notion), Michaels invented an evolutionary ray for the express purpose of creating a girlfriend. And since he could keep her penned up on his skull-shaped hovercraft, she might never meet another human male and would therefore have no idea that the typical guy has skin on his face. She might get a glimpse of Harrison Ford on the TV -- before the Skull hastily switched it off -- and remark, "So who's the puffy freak?"

And here's the beauty part: he sewed a coordinating super-villain costume for her. He went to a lot of trouble and thought, considering what alterations a mutated panther woman would want from his own costume. More room in the hip and jug areas, that's a given. The sassy thigh-high boots were keepers, natch. Ditto the fun lemon-yellow helmet. But he added completely unnecessary pinstripes to the main part of the costume, and a fat, candy-stripe motif to the collar (making it look like her head is protruding from a small awning or perhaps from a really tiny circus tent). There's also the green, skull-adorned dickey and the crotch-riding gunbelt. The upshot: he took a somewhat girly, somewhat homely costume design and made it a pinch girlier and profoundly homelier.

Quick personal anecdote: I was at Footlocker a few months ago, returning some running shoes. The guy at the register said he'd have to clear it with his manager. When the manager showed up, she was dressed just like Felicia.

I wound up keeping the shoes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I'm About To Dis A Crazed Murderer

(Here I go!) For such a bad-ass psycho killer, Sabretooth sure had a stupid costume. I say "had" because I know he's had other costumes since the first one, and I assume, or at least hope, he ain't wearing this get-up anymore.

It's got a lot of problems, starting with the black underpants. You don't see the old underpants-over-spandex thing very often in new costumes, because most people have realized how silly and pointless it looks. Even Batman toyed with a trunks-free look for a while, although that didn't last too long. I assume the "overpants" feature was a staple of super-hero costumes because the original ones back in the thirties were heavily inspired by circus costumes. And the typical circus strongman way back in the day wore trunks over tights to conform to lingering Victorian standards of modesty. Sabretooth came along during a weird transitional period. In the late 70's/early 80's, genuinely homicidal super-villains started to appear -- something virtually unheard of after WW2. But the "street clothes" trend wouldn't take hold until maybe the late 90's, so these new characters still had to dress like their relatively harmless forebearers.

Another problem I have with Sabretooth's original costume is the color scheme. It's a hideous combination: black, orange, and a sort of "baby poop" brown. Pretty much the colors of a rotting jack-o-lantern. And it's trimmed in a sickly buttermilk-blonde fur that also happens to be a close match for Sabretooth's natural hair color. Nice.

But the absolute worst thing about it? The huge fur "mane" on the chest and back. The fur on the gloves? Fine. The furry boots? Okay, they match the gloves, so what the hell. But the mane? Yikes! It might work if Sabretooth had a similarly furry cowl, kind of like a more hirsute Wildcat. But no, Sabretooth's ugly blonde-headed mug is popping out of this mountain o' fur for all the world to see. This has the odd effect of making the ferocious Sabretooth look a bit like an aging drag queen with a mink stole around his/her neck. It also confused the holy heck out of me the first time I saw him -- in an old "Power Man and Iron Fist" comic -- because the colorist had made Sabretooth's hair the exact same shade of blonde as his fakey mane. I thought Sabretooth was really fur-covered and his costume had a plunging V-neck and an open back. Imagine my surprise and consternation when I found out that he just really went to town on the fur trim.

That's not to say a cat-themed, fur-trimmed costume can't look great. It's just that some restraint needs to be used.

black cat

There, isn't that better? The fur is kept to a tasteful minimum, and the color scheme is a timeless black and white. Hell, even Sabretooth would look bangin' in this costume! (And I'll leave you with that image floating around in your head.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Starman: Pimp Of The Spaceways

Starman (a.k.a. Prince Gavyn of Throneworld) has two of the most classically handsome superhero costumes I've ever seen. One is red and yellow; the other is blue and yellow. The symbol on his chest is a simple five-pointed star. There's no unnecessary embelishment. I would never design something that simple myself, but only because Starman has worn that sort of costume already. And he's done it so well, it cannot be improved upon. When I see Starman's costume, I think, "That is the mark of a great hero."

When Starman decides to accessorize, however, it's with such flamboyance that I start to wonder if he's working a second job.

pimp cape

That job would involve him strutting down conveyer-belt sidewalks in the skeevier parts of the galaxy, sweet-talkin' the alien ladies into joining his stable of astro-hos, and screaming at hapless star-johns through the windows of their primer-gray space shuttles. For one thing, there's the staff. Not just a fancy walking stick, like a regular pimp might have. No, it's a huge crooked shepherd's staff which he carries with him everywhere he goes. (Compensating for somethin', Prince?) And then there's the fur cape. Or maybe it's "capes," plural, since as a show of just how fantastically dope and fly and crunk and what-not he is, he'll throw a cape away while he's flying off.

cape be gone

Some pimps like to wear expensive chapeaus. Some of these same pimps like to brandish gem-encrusted chalices. Only Starman is cool enough to display that much bling... on his head.

bling hat

Of course, the sheer crushing weight of the thing gives him a tension headache to beat the band, but Starman would never let you know it.

He's crunk like that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tights + Lights = Zero

Let's say, hypothetically, that you're a super-powered ultragenius who's been manipulating world politics for God only knows how long. No, you're not Dick Cheney. Pipe down and pay attention. Anyway, it's 1988 and you decide you want to pretend you're a super-hero. What would you wear for maximum popularity? Well, if you're Doctor Zero, instead of having the confidence or skill to design your own costume, you'd bow to the findings of what amounts to the world's largest focus group.

focus group

Can't fail, right? Let's see the finished product.

pants brite

Huh. Really, guys? You told Doctor Zero the American public was craving that? Yeah? You're not just pulling a prank on the guy? I just wanna make sure, as a friend, 'cause Doctor Zero can totally jack your shit up. You're not kidding? You're not. Really. Huh.

In "Doctor Zero" #1 (Epic Comics, April 1988) I learned that focus groups are used not only to make films and television crappier, they can also be used to ruin super-hero costumes! Taking the bedazzler one step beyond, Doctor Zero decorated his pants not with metal studs or rhinestones, but honest-to-goodness little lights.

I just about shit a brick when I saw this get-up. Don't get me wrong, I like trim on costumes just as much as the next guy, but this looks freakin' insane. I mean, is he afraid of the dark? A huge Lite Brite fan? If someone plays a Miami Sound Machine CD, will his pants flash in time to the music? Or maybe he wears the pants on dates, and the lights on his legs work as a sort of "landing strip" for the ladies, if you know what I mean and I think you do. ("Marjorie, let's play 'I'm the air traffic controller and you're Pan Am flight 3981.'') Or are they just meant to make putting his clothes away easier? ("Where on earth did I put those pants? Oh, there they -- MY EYES!") Honestly, I'm baffled.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Snappy Answers To Stupid Costumes

snap dragon
Beware the Cylon Ninja Whore, my son.

Maybe you thought that Jericho had the ugliest George Perez costume design ever. Well, you were wrong. This here is Snap Dragon, from a Black Widow story in "Marvel Fanfare" #12 (January 1984). Everything about Snap Dragon's costume is unattractive and contrived, which renders further analysis pointless. So instead, I'll just make fun of her. Oh, snap!

- Oh, so that's Rob Liefeld's mom!

- Christo chose her crotch as the site of his newest installation.

- Okay, so she's got all the rest of that crazy shit going on, and yet there's a man's necktie clipped to her panties. Does her cooter have a job interview?

- Snap Dragon, about your hair... Sasquatch called; he wants his pubes back.

- I hope Mister Sinister is paying her well for these Cyclops fantasy sessions.

- Rom: Spaceknight has fatter thighs than I remembered.

- That's not a bustier. That's just a really bad case of dermatitis.

- That boxy little thing on her right forearm? Pez dispenser.

Okay, I'm done. Your turn!