I Will Tell You #98:
Every Day is Halloween
It was a dark time, kids.
There was an era in history known as The Dark Ages. In the days before comic fans ever dared dream that not one, but several superhero movies would make it to the big screen; and that these films would not only be respectable, but incredible; and that they would not only set but often shatter box office records in the process; there was that sad, empty and desolate pop-cultural landscape known simply as . . . the 1970s. It was a time before comic book characters had gained true public acceptance among adults as well as kids, so reading comic books and dressing up as your favorite comic book characters were activities that were largely restricted to children, and mostly scoffed at by anyone old enough to, say, drive a car, and almost certain to be shunned outright by those old enough to pay for one.
I myself was a kid during those dark times, but one who didn’t really get hooked on comics until a little later than most, at the relatively ripe old age of fourteen. It was only a couple of weeks after Halloween that particular year, and my final year of trick-or-treating, in fact, when I started buying comics on a regular basis. Since my eventual and still ongoing comic book addiction never overlapped with my days of wearing Halloween costumes, I had never dressed up as a superhero when I went trick-or-treating.
Of course, there weren’t many superheroes to dress up as, back then, at least beyond the already commonly licensed franchises of Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. And even then, the only widely available options for these characters were those cheap and horrid plastic / vinyl Ben Cooper outfits that were lucky to survive one full night of trick-or-treating without a seam splitting or a rubber band breaking. Hardly the fixings for any kid trying to look cool while dressed as a superhero. Nostalgia has cast a far warmer glow of remembrance over these wretched “costumes” than they deserve.
Superheroes: Both the Movies and the Costumes Got Better
No, back when we were all trick-or-treating with blankets tied around our necks or draped over our heads with two holes cut out, we couldn’t even imagine that there would be a successful launch, and relaunch, of Batman on the big screen. Or that The X-Men, of all superhero groups, would be one of the first comics to generate a string of successful films, and even a spinoff or two that would continue for well over a decade, and counting. Or that the kind of formula and success that Marvel had with The Avengers comic for all these years could be replicated in a big budget and live action medium. And we certainly didn’t think for one second, any of us, that properties like Guardians of the Galaxy would ever; ever; would translate into any kind of film at all, let alone one that was so wildly popular and successful.
We also didn’t think that the triumph of these efforts and penetration into the mainstream pop-culture world would yield and inspire a far wider range of options for Halloween costumes. Instead of wondering if we should dress up either as Superman or Spider-Man, as many of my childhood pals agonized over, kids today can now ponder going out as Hawkeye. Or Bane. Or Drax the Destroyer. Revel in this diversity, youngsters; you don’t know how good you have it, he said in his cranky old man voice. If only kids from my era had those kind of choices today.
Cosplay: Is That What They Call It Now?
Wait a minute; we do. How so, you ask? Well, I will tell you, but it doesn’t involve drumming up some kind of justification for a fully grown adult to dress up as an overgrown Rocket Raccoon and go door-to-door begging for candy; an action that will likely get a door slammed in your face, and that would probably be in a best-case scenario. No, we have the opportunity to finally dress up as our favorite characters, and we don’t even have to wait for Halloween to do it, as anyone who’s attended any major, or even not-so-major, comic convention in the past decade or two can attest. Convention cosplay has practically become its own event at shows where it’s prevalent, and often a worthy reason to attend on its own, for both the participants and the observers. And there’s a far bigger variety of costumes to be seen than one normally would on a dark and rainy Halloween night in some random suburban neighborhood.
That’s right, kids, we actually have it better today than we did in our youth. Better still, we’re not at the potential mercy of our parents, with costume choices limited by not only what they would buy us, but much worse in many cases, what they would make for us; putting on Grandpa’s old plaid shirt and stuffing it with weeds from the back yard doth not a scarecrow make. No, we’re our own bosses now, and we’re only limited by our own budgets, imaginations, and / or costume making skills. Or if we’re not so enterprising, we can find plenty of costumes on the internet or wherever a seasonal Halloween USA store sprouts up; Ben Cooper no longer holds an entire generation of kids, or anyone else, in its cheap and thrifty stranglehold. We can still be Superman or Spider-Man if we want, but we can look a lot more convincing doing so nowadays. After a routine trip to Target or Wal*Mart, we can be Starlord or The Falcon, too; characters who existed back in the day, but ones who weren’t too well represented in the costume aisle at Toys ‘R Us back then.
Halloween is the New Christmas
So: lesser-known comic characters have been given exposure to mainstream audiences, we have the means to pretend to be these characters if we so choose, and we have a lot more opportunities to do just that; just about every day is Halloween now, or can be. In fact, it’s a lot like Christmas, even, for the idea of some of our favorite comic book heroes becoming such a popular and accepted part of entertainment culture is a gift to anyone who ever felt the need to enjoy comics only in secrecy, or had hopes of seeing their favorite characters being enjoyed by a far wider audience. It’s nice to see the world understand that superheroes really are a lot of fun.
We’ve emerged from the Dark Ages, comic book fans. So put on that costume and strut around proudly; after all, we’ve all earned the right. Be safe and have a Happy Halloween!
Cover photo (c) Terry Trammell
Galactus photo (c) JJ
Other photos (c) internet