I was never much of a comic book reader, much less a collector. Most of my reading falls into the Star Wars graphic novels (particularly the Clone Wars collection) which is best done ala mooch-reading-at-Barnes & Noble while the wife is off shopping (and quite possibly making a better investment of her time, and of course, our money).
My first comics I remember reading around age six or seven… were from my parents’ collections. Well, they weren’t so much of a collection as they were several recurring titles in no particular order. Sadly, most of these perished in our various overseas moves between the US and Germany.
The titles they like to read were probably geared more to an adult audience … as they were somewhat morbid or (to my young eyes) rather scary affairs like Jonah Hex or Ghost Rider, and those old Captain America issues where he was fighting against the Nazis and Red Skull - occassionally with Union Jack.
The scarier stuff creeped me out sufficiently not to bother with them until many years later stuff like Tales from the Crypt and its related franchises. That, and it almost seems that the artwork from that era was just right for conveying that scary edge.
A few were positively campy (and for some reason , I was vaguely aware of campiness, even if I did not know the proper word for it) such as Iron Fist.
Iron Fist was a Caucasian kung-fu master in this green and yellow outfit that was quite queer and funky for its time… oh wait, that was in 1975. It seems that most things were a bit more queer and funkier. Yet the dude wore skin tight capri pants, lemon yellow slippers, and the pimpest butterfly collar ever… as part of his costume:
I mean, one had to possess a certain amount of personal courage to wear that get-up. Of course, if I were a (superpowered?) kung fu master with a killer physique… I probably would not worry much about what people thought of my costume either.
And of course, no comic "collection" would be complete without Superman. In what was probably my first subconcious identification with (albeit comic based) sexuality… Supes stood out head and feet above the rest. In fact, he was probably overdone in his hypermasculinity, save only for the outrageous ultra-muscularity of selected characters like Hulk or Juggernaut. Before the first Superman movie debuted, I had already built up this mental image of what Superman in the flesh would look like: needless to say, when Christopher Reeve donned the super-suit for the silver screen* I was a little disappointed. Arnold Schwartzenegger might have better fit my mold of Superman (in terms of physique at least), but he was being cast as Conan around that same time, or collecting bodybuilding titles.
After much discussion of the current user of the super-suit… in particular, Mr. Brandon Routh’s alleged over-endowments… this has lead me to look at the artwork a little more closely than I had done in the past.
Within the mainstream of industrial comic book artistry… very, very few male characters have a bulge. By contrast, most female characters have boobs you could poke your eyes out with if you weren’t careful.
Okay, I am not looking for anything along the lines of Joe Phillips (his work tends toward the opposite end of the illustration of malehood) or the like… but if you are out saving the world from itself and the occassional super villian dressed in tights, one would expect there to be at least the suggestion of something down there.
Although some artists are working on that item. Take this guy (Northstar) who is one of the first out-of-closet gay superheroes to be regularly featured… and the faintest hint of something in his pants.
I would guess that the disproportionate balance of lean body mass (huge muscles) vs. minimized wee-wee will likely remain a feature of male comic characters. I would reckon that the industry and the artists would draw some heat for drawing a character with a cruise missile in his tights.
That is probably a good thing then … I am not so sure I would have handled a Brandon Routh sized package in my 1970s Superman comics very well. After all, kids do read these things… and often from a very early age.
Side note: Ever notice that almost all drawings of a superhero/villian just standing around almost show the fists closed in a loose grip, with the forefinger extending over the thumb? Check out Northstar’s right hand. I learned that this is a gimmick most comic illustrators use in case they need to draw in a weapon of some sort (usually a gun) or other object on short notice.
It is also a good thing that we kids do not read between the lines as we will later learn to do. I am sure that the writers meant this in all innocence… :
(my apologies to whoever’s blog I found this on… but it was too funny not to share elsewhere). Poor Bats… between that horribly campy 1960s show and the Saturday morning cartoons from the 1970s, neither he nor his alter ego have outgrown thier (apparent) pederastic tendencies. Imagine the scandal it would cause the Wayne Foundation if it were ever leaked to the press that Bruce Wayne was a card-carrying member of NAMBLA…
At least Aqualad and Bucky (Capt. America’s sidekick) were retired somewhere between the Golden and SIlver Ages, before our current jaded generation started making such conclusions. Tsk, sign of the times, I suppose.
*Technically speaking, I did not see the first two Superman movies until returning to the USA in 1980, and possibly not until the widespread distribution of VCRs. I do vaguely remember seeing Superman II in a theathre…