Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spider-Man looks like a terrorist

Does Spider-Man ever wonder if the public would be less suspicious of him, if he were to wear a less menacing outfit? The defining characteristic of most superheroes is that you can tell nearly everything about the character just by looking at them:

Superman, the superheroic ideal.

Batman, dark avenger. And so on -- Captain America is literally draped in the American flag, the symbol of all he represents; and even Wonder Woman, who is some kind of Amazonian goddess (I guess?) runs around in USA panties, so that everyone knows what she stands for. This strong visual identity is what separates the iconic superheroes from the middling, second-tier characters:

Greetings, reader, I'm the Green Lantern! See, I was a pilot, and then an alien gave me this ring -- yeah, no, it's actually a ring, not a lantern -- that enables me to do... things. You know, green things.

Spider-Man is an exception to this rule, in that he's become an icon in spite of the direct conflict between his visual image and his character. He's Peter Parker, everyman, trying to live up to his powers and his Uncle's legacy, all while having to pay his bills, keep his girlfriend happy, and deal with a boss who hates him. He's a regular guy! To illustrate this, he has chosen to dress like a villainous French art thief:

Hand over the fucking Picasso, or I'll ensnare you in my disgusting webs and devour you at my leisure

One of the recurring themes of Spider-Man stories is his constant frustration that, no matter how often he saves the day, the public at large still distrusts him. Is he really this oblivious about his image? Do the feelings of alienation he developed in high school run so deep that, unconsciously, he longs to remain an outsider? Did Steve Ditko design this bitchin' costume before giving any thought to who was going to be wearing it?

The untimely death of the Human Torch has given Spider-Man the chance to live out his dream and become a member of the Fantastic Four. Will he make the most of this opportunity to reinvent himself?

Nope, still looks like a terrorist. Spider-Man: Public menace since 1962