Age: 27. Height: 6 foot. Weight 88kg.
T-shirts with a comic character or logo on it used to be the principle way to recognise a fellow comic book geek in the street. It was an easy identifier. And all of them in an XL size. Simple, a nod of the head, nothing more need be said. Which is quite handy as the odds were one of us would have halitosis, a stutter or the desire to say how crap the subject of the other person’s T-shirt was.
But over the last couple of decades, things changed. I blame Tim Burton’s Batman. That iconic symbol potrayed in such a smooth stylised design was worthy wearing in and of it’s own right, no baggage required. These days, it’s quite common to see a bleeding Superman logo, a Green Lantern symbol, a Captain America shield on people who’ve never read a comic book since Archie. They’re wearing the shirt not because they want to let people know that they read comics, but another unspoken act entirely, that the visual is cool and they most likely DON’T read comics.
As a result the comic fan has to find more and more obscure choices to provide identifying points. A Fantastic Four logo won’t do, but a Jack Kirby cover might. An obscure Batman villain is another, Me, I have a Gunga Diner T-shirt, featuring in Indian restaurant from Watchmen. Trouble is, the more obscure the reference, the more obscure the comics fan who recognises may be. Obscure as in, follow you home and slit your throat obscure. I was trying to be euphemistic but it just didn’t work.
Of course what happens is that the more obscure designs suddenly become less obscure, especially as movie studios plump the depths of comic industry vaults for characters and concepts to exploit.
And how long will this war of attritition last? I was reading a copy of New Avengers on the train the other week, when I noticed an stunning mid-twenties woman with a Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt on. We exchanged glances, she leaned over and asked if I read a lot of comics, and if so, did I know if her T-shirt was cool or not?
Boy things really have changed, haven’t they? I told that it probably would be for the next nine months, and she seemed happy enough. I guess we’re going to see a lot of that one.
And at least there’s some kind of after-market for when you find you just have too many.
Rich Johnston is married with children and is pleased that Threadless do kids sizes.