Saturday, May 7 is Free Comic Book Day. In honor of this joyous day I present my nominations for the best dressed men in the funny books.
I love comics. I’ve read them off and on since grade school. I think they’re a unique American art form, like jazz and rock n’ roll. The industry and the collector fan base define the medium’s golden age as the late 1930’s through the early 1950’s. But I think we’re living in the true golden age of comics right now because there’s so much good material, both cape and non-cape, on the shelves. Remember, comics are medium for telling stories not a story genre. In other words it’s not all super-heroes, so don’t be afraid to try one. If you’re in D.C. you can find them at Fantom Comics in Union Station, Big Planet Comics in Georgetown, and Politics and Prose in upper northwest.
The ten I chose are franchise characters, mostly action/adventure related, because they are characters that I know and have read and also they have appeared enough times to be defined by a certain style.
My first pick almost didn’t make the list because I wasn’t sure he’s over 18. But Tintin is undeniably a sharp dresser. And the “clear line” art style of Hergé really lets the outfits shine. Here he is sporting a mackintosh, blue Shetland sweater (I actually don’t know if it’s a Shetland but that’s what I imagine it to be), white point collar shirt, brown pants and monk straps.
Again with the mac, this time over a brown suit, yellow v-neck sweater and black knit tie.
This panel from Tintin in Tibet, illustrates his good taste in sportswear. I dig the anorak. As a matter of fact, I might have to do a whole separate post on the virtues of the anorak.
2.Blake and Mortimer
These two get the nod for their post-war British nattiness. Captain Francis Blake is the dashing, military intelligence officer and Philip Mortimer is the tweed jacket and bow tie wearing professor. I can’t confirm it, but it looks like the Burberry house check is showing on Blake’s trench.
In all honesty I can’t recommend the comics themselves, too much expository text that slows down the story and breaks one of the fundamental rules of comics – the importance of a balance between pictures and words. However, the comics are great for images of post-war London streets, private clubs and bachelor flats with book-lined studies.
Denny Colt, aka The Spirit, always wore the classic combination of navy blue suit, red tie and fedora. Created by one of the giants of comics, Will Eisner, The Spirit’s groundbreaking visuals are still influencing the medium today. The mask was requested by the newspaper syndicate, as a nod to super hero conventions, but Eisner always envisioned his hero as a regular guy, although one that could take a serious amount of punishment at the hands of underworld goons and femme fatales he encountered.
4. Robbie Robertson
Spider-Man has one of the best supporting casts in comics. Robbie Robertson, editor of the Daily Bugle is intelligent, cool, levelheaded and a direct counter point to blowhard publisher J. Jonah Jameson. His look is always old school newspaperman, sleeves rolled up, top button undone calmly putting another issue of the great metropolitan daily to bed. Note the staple on the left side of the scan. Direct from the source! Drawn by John Romita, Jr., one of the all time greats of Spider-Man art.
Here he is again in a vest with knit tie rakishly loosened as drawn by one of my other favorite Spider artists, Ron Frenz.
5. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D
Intended to be Marvel Comics’ version of James Bond. In the early days he rocked a cigar, eye patch, shoulder holster, shark skin suit, and knit ties (sometimes with polka dots!). Later on he was given a skin-tight bodysuit but somehow still managed to look cool.
It’s hard to explain this book but it’s awesome. Part homage, part spoof of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, the title character looks like he just walked offstage after recording Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out with Keef and the boys. The story is wacky crazy with parallel time streams, copious drug use and pop culture references right and left. Artists Gabriel Ba and Fabian Moon render the hero sharp and angular in keeping with the whiplash tone of the story.
Heh, “gothic hobo”. I gotta start using that one in the field.
7. Jimmy Woo
Originally introduced in the 1950’s the character was resurrected (aren’t they all at some point?) by Marvel in the 1960’s as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and now leads the current day Agents of Atlas.
Who are the Agents of Atlas you ask? Well, they’re a group of 1950’s heroes, Namora, Venus, Marvel Boy, Killer Robot and Gorilla Man who fight world menaces while pretending to be bad guys. They also get advice from an ancient dragon who, um… It has a killer robot and a wise cracking gorilla, what more could you want?!
Here’s Jimmy woo channelling Steve McQueen with a turtle neck under a sport jacket.
8. Slam Bradley
DC Comic’s two-fisted private eye in the mode of Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. When he’s drawn and written by the great Darwyn Cooke, he never looks better. Dark suit, dark tie, white button down, cigarette dangling from a face that looks like Dean Martin went ten rounds with Sonny Liston.
So cool he gives Selina Kyle (a.k.a Cat Woman) a rain check. Damn.
Another triumph for Darwyn Cooke and a chance for him to really showcase his early 60’s design sensibilities. Two-button narrow lapeled suits with skinny knit ties and cuff links abound. Cooke’s version of Parker is based on the character of the same name from the Parker crime novels by Donald Westlake.
Parker shows his bad ass ways and the proper amount of shirt cuff (last panel).
Last year, Cooke released a follow up volume, The Outfit, which was excellent.
10. Max Weinstein
Max is the protagonist in Vittorio Giardino’s three-volume No Pasarán! Max, a former Republican volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, reluctantly returns to Spain to search for a missing comrade in arms. Intrigue and danger ensues. Despite the horror of war around them all the characters dress in high late-193o’s style.
I know I’ve seen this awesome cream-colored cardigan somewhere… Oh yeah, it was here.
The ladies can’t resist the tweed jacket, button down shirt, repp tie, and sweater vest combo.
Brown brouges with gray flannel pants is always a classic combination.
A look inside his bag, courtesy of the Republican intelligence service, reveals a man with good taste. Metal flashlight, flask, pipes and tabacco, box matches, swiss army knife, Moleskein notebook and fountain pen.
The series is also full of great depictions of rucksacks and millitary gear. Here are a couple of my favorites.
There’s no real dress code when reading comics but why not raise the bar a little like this guy in a university stripe shirt, vest and tie?
Or, make like Bogie in full pinstripe splendor.
Whether you read comics or not, don’t dress like this guy.
Worst. Post. Ever.