Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Random Thoughts: Costume Design and Telepathy

Here is a pet peeve of mine. One of many I guess. The artwork to the left is from JMS' new series Superman: Earth One. Forget that the concept itself is a bit over-done and only serves to dilute the power of the original and we saw exactly where this kind of thinking and publishing goes with Marvel's Ultimates line. No, my peeve here is about the costume redesign as it illustrates perfectly one of the more inane features of 21st Century costume designs. In ten years or so, we'll be talking about the bad designs of the early two-thousands and this will stand out much the same way we talk about 1990's costumes with mullets, shoulder-pads, bulky pouches on every single body part that could conceivably hold one and over-sized handguns that are in inverse proportion to the size of the hero's wrist holding it. This modern costume feature? Piping. Blow the image up and you'll see it, clearly used to define the edges of the chest and overly rendered sixpack abs. Another bit is on his inner thigh.

The stupidity here is that the piping in superhero costumes come from movies and television shows such as "Who Wants to be a Superhero". There the piping makes a bit of sense as its purpose is to do for real life costumes worn by real people what the comic book artist does for the costumes and characters in the comics. In real life, a person wearing tights, the costume isn't going to show off or delineate his muscles. Depending on the costume and fabric, it's going to wrinkle and be a little bulky looking or it's going to flatten the build and muscles (the difference being the George Reeves Superman look and the Christopher Reeve Superman look). Depending on the person's build and proportions and the costume design, the large areas of flat color with no detail may not be all that flattering a look. Thus, piping makes sense. It generally follows the contours of the human body, highlighting the shape and musculature of the body underneath while breaking up large blocks of flat color/no detail area. It's not needed here because you have the artist already working overtime to render every single muscle as if the hero has been flayed open. Here, the only purpose the piping could serve is to re-assure the reader that Superman is indeed wearing a costume and not just having his body painted blue and big "S" sticker affixed to his chest.

No Ordinary Family: This has been a guilty pleasure of mine. I say guilty because in many ways it isn't really very thought out or well done. Chiklis is a police artist, his job is drawing pictures of suspects, yet he routinely goes out to fight crime without the least care in disguising himself, especially since he is physically very memorable looking. Last week's episode showed the dangers of such and he does attempt a bit of a disguise with a hood, showing they are aware of the problem. This week? Back out confronting criminals with no type of disguise. Julie Benz keeps doing things with her super speed that works fine in comics but when you see it played out on the screen, it just screams that in no way it would work. The son deciding to use his math play football makes sense as a decision that a teenage boy would come up with, but again, the reality of it would play out very different. Knowing the angles and what to do is one thing, being able to physically do it is another. Thanks to this week's episode, I got to thinking about telepathy and mind-reading. It is so ingrained in us through tv, comics, classic sci-fi, and movies, I don't think anyone has really given it that much thought. Even when not talking about telepathy, when we see/hear/read people's thoughts in novels, comics and film, it's almost always in printed form, we get their thoughts spelled out for us in complete sentences. To the point, that we take it for granted, forgetting that the presentation is really a short-hand for something that is abstract and nebulous. We don't actually think that way (or only that way) and thus telepathy would probably work very differently.

Think about this, you're driving down the highway with the radio on. Your mind is doing several tasks at once. One, paying attention to where you're driving. You may be singing to the radio, thus you're also thinking of the song and the words coming up and the tune. You're also processing all the fall leaves and color, reading the signs for your exit. The song itself may summon up images of a childhood sweetheart or a scene it's illustrating. Now, as a writer I spend time driving thinking about things to write, or in this case, telepathy. Otherwise, most times, we don't think in concrete direct complete sentences. Trapped in a secret or to tell a lie, we don't think in sentence about what we're trying to cover up, but often what can we say instead and does the person in front of us believe us. If I look at someone that's attractive, I don't usually literally think, "wow, she's attractive" but is a far more visceral response. If I tell you to think of a Pink Panther, are you thinking the words, the cartoon character, Steve Martin, or Peter Sellers or all of the above. A telepath wouldn't hear sentences, and if they did, most of them would be jumbled, stream of consciousness or one word responses. They should pick up the various stimuli the person is being exposed to and maybe in the varying degrees of strength that those are imprinting on the person's thought processes jumbled with words and abstract thought that the person may be going through. A few times, someone will be shown to be telepathic in such a manner, but in those cases, the thought processes are even more fragmented, to be almost all dream-like and nebulous, as if the person being read is high on some kind of mind altering substance, it's all external stimuli but no reading of actual thought processes.

Imagine what it really would be like being a telepath in high school and not being able to turn it off, able to read the minds of every hormone sexually charged and frustrated teen-ager, of all their insecurities, focusing on class subject matter, dreading tests. It would be a nightmare. And, probably not at all conducive to any kind of linear storytelling.

1 comment:

Chuck Wells said...

Cash, the "nu-age" artists and publishers who do this are too stupid to understand your quite valid points on costuming, but us chickens definitely agree with you.