Showing posts with label Cosplay. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cosplay. Show all posts

Friday, 9 November 2018

Cosmic Dress-up

” Mark Millar, Tom Peyer, Mark Waid, and I had approached DC in 1999 with the idea of relaunching Superman for a new generation in a series to be entitled Superman Now or Superman 2000, depending on which version of the story synopsis you read. We’d spent many enjoyable hours in conversation, working out how to restore our beloved Superman to his preeminent place as the world’s first and best superhero. Following the lead of the Lois and Clark TV show, the comic-book Superman had, at long last, put a ring on his long-suffering girlfriend’s finger and carried her across the threshold to holy matrimony after six decades of dodging the issue—although it was Clark Kent whom Lois married in public, while Superman had to conceal his wedding band every time he switched from his sober suit and tie. 

This newly domesticated Superman was a somehow diminished figure, all but sleepwalking through a sequence of increasingly contrived “event” story lines, which tried in vain to hit the heights of “The Death of Superman” seven years previously. 

Superman Now was to be a reaction against this often overemotional and ineffectual Man of Steel, reuniting him with his mythic potential, his archetypal purpose, but there was one fix we couldn’t seem to wrap our collective imagination around: the marriage. 

The Clark-Lois-Superman triangle—“ Clark loves Lois. Lois loves Superman. Superman loves Clark,” as Elliot S. Maggin put it in his intelligent, charming Superman novel Miracle Monday—seemed intrinsic to the appeal of the stories, but none of us wanted to simply undo the relationship using sorcery, or “memory wipes,” or any other of the hundreds of cheap and unlikely magic-wand plot devices we could have dredged up from the bottom of the barrel. 

Stuck with the problem, I found myself chewing it over with my JLA editor Dan Raspler at one in the morning in an airless hotel room overlooking the naval yards of San Diego harbor. We were there for 1999’ s Comic-Con. To clear our heads, we went downstairs and crossed the street, an oddly landscaped liminal zone between the rail tracks and the city. 

We were deep in discussion, debating earnestly the merits and demerits of a married Superman when we both spotted a couple of men crossing the tracks into town. One was an ordinary-looking bearded dude, at first sight like any of a hundred thousand comics fans. But the other was Superman. 

He was dressed in a perfectly tailored red, blue, and yellow costume; his hair was slicked back with a kiss curl; and unlike the often weedy or paunchy Supermen who paraded through the convention halls, he was trim, buff, and handsome. He was the most convincing Superman I’ve ever seen, looking somewhat like a cross between Christopher Reeve and the actor Billy Zane. 

I knew a visitation when I saw one. 

Racing to intercept the pair, Dan and I explained who we were, what we were doing, and asked “Superman” if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions. 

He didn’t, and sat on a concrete bollard with one knee to his chest shield, completely relaxed. It occurred to me that this was exactly how Superman would sit. A man who was invulnerable to all harm would be always relaxed and at ease. He’d have no need for the kind of physically aggressive postures superheroes tended to go in for. 

I suddenly began to understand Superman in a new way. We asked questions, “How do you feel about Lois?,” “What about Batman?,” and received answers in the voice and persona of Superman—“ I don’t think Lois will ever really understand me or why I do what I do” or “Batman sees only the darkness in people’s hearts. I wish he could see the best”—that seemed utterly convincing. 

The whole encounter lasted an hour and a half, then he left, graciously, and on foot I’m sad to say. Dan and I stared at each other in the fuzzy sodium glare of the streetlamps then quietly returned to our rooms. 

Enflamed, I stayed awake the whole night, writing about Superman until the fuming August sun rose above the warships, the hangars, and the Pacific. I was now certain we could keep the marriage to Lois and simply make it work to our advantage. 

Bumping into someone dressed as Superman at the San Diego Comic Convention may sound about as wondrous and unlikely as meeting an alcoholic at an AA meeting, of course, but it rarely happens at night, and of the dozens of Men of Steel I’ve witnessed marching up and down the aisles at Comic-Con, or posing with tourists outside Mann’s Chinese on Hollywood Boulevard, not one was ever as convincing as the Superman who appeared at the precise moment I needed him most. 

This is what I mean when I talk about magic: By choosing to frame my encounter as a pop-shamanic vision quest yielding pure contact with embodied archetypal forces, I got much more out of it than if I’d simply sat there with Dan sniggering at the delusional fool in tights. 

By telling myself a very specific story about what was occurring, I was able to benefit artistically, financially, and I like to think spiritually, in a way that perhaps might not have been possible had I simply assumed that our Superman was a convention “cosplayer.” 

Superman Now never happened, but I’d come to envisage a Superman project that would serve as the pinnacle of my work on hero comics, and a way to put all of my thoughts about superheroes into a single piece. 

There is, you’ll be heartened to discover, a cruel, ironic counter to the tale of glory and grace I relate above. Coincidences came with fangs in the 9/ 11 decade. 

During the 2002 Comic-Con, artist Chris Weston was in full enthusiastic flow, telling me just how much he wanted to draw a story featuring Bizarro, Superman’s deranged “imperfect duplicate.” 

At that very moment, as they say, a convention goer, dressed as the deformed, backward-talking Bizarro, appeared in the street ahead of us. Chris, sensing an opportunity for a spirit encounter of his own, dragged the green-painted stranger along to a party but unlike the courteous Superman of 1999, Bizarro refused to leave Chris’s side, becoming ever drunker and more belligerent, raucous and true to character. 

The more drunk he became, the more authentically possessed he was by the Dionysian spirit of Bizarro. Clearly distressed, Chris wailed, “I can’t get rid of him! What am I going to do?” 

In the end, much as Superman often found himself doing, we had to trick Bizarro into going home by using his own code of “uz do opposite” against him. 

On the topsy-turvy Bizarro world, we explained, a party was when you were alone, not with other people. Other people, in fact, ruined a party. 

He was forced to admit this made perfect Bizarro sense and marched backward up the stairs, blind drunk, while we all waved and yelled, “Hello, Bizarro!

 I imagined him being pulled over by the highway patrol an hour later, pissed at the wheel in his baggy costume, and flaking gray-green face paint. Running this fantasy to its inevitable conclusion, I couldn’t help but picture him on CCTV curled in a fetal position whimpering “Yes! Yes! Hit Bizarro again!” as his tormentors pummelled him back to sanity with rubber truncheons. “