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The Costume So Bad That They Had To Write Its Awfulness Into the Comic

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
The Costume So Bad That They Had To Write Its Awfulness Into the Comic

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here, the joke was on the creators themselves!

In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, I discussed how an interview that Steve Englehart gave about the Beast become a furry “beast” in the early 1970s. What’s interesting, though, is that that same interview has a fascinating line in there about Wonder Man’s mid-1980s costume that was so good that I just had to do this feature on it.

Now, listen, I have given Wonder Man a hard time about his terrible costumes many times over the years. I even did a Drawing Crazy Patterns over it, but seeing Englehart’s comments about the “Christmas Tree” costume made me feel like we should take a bit more of a deeper look at the worst of his costumes and how it was even made fun of in the comic itself!

One thing that Steve Englehart has always been open to was to work with the stuff that other writers came up with with characters. A lot of writers aren’t necessarily good at that, as they like to do their own take. Chris Claremont has always impressed me with how much he has synced with other people’s characters. Bishop, for instance, was created after Claremont left Uncanny X-Men after many years and yet when Claremont launched X-Treme X-Men, he had Bishop on the team and Claremont did a LOT with Bishop. Perhaps more than any other writer has ever done with the character outside of maybe Scott Lobdell. Similarly, when Englehart took over West Coast Avengers when it went to an ongoing series, he was handed a bunch of characters with a ton of baggage and he really did play off of that baggage well.

With Wonder Man, the baggage was twofold. One, his residual fear of death (and the low self-esteem that came with him always being so scared) and two, his desire to make it in show business (which is why he was in Los Angeles to begin with when the West Coast Avengers were formed).

In West Coast Avengers #2 (by Englehart, Al Milgrom and Kim DeMulder), Hank Pym gives Wonder Man a pep talk and Wonder Man finally decides to look past his fear and become a “man”…

In the next issue (now Milgrom is finished by Joe Sinnott, the regular art team on the book)…

We see him decide to make an important decision when he is booked to be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson…

Once on there in the following issue, he decides to admit to his past as an embezzler…

After an issue of waiting to see what would happen with the public’s reaction to his reveal, he got his answer in West Coast Avengers #6 (Kyle Baker doing finishes over Al Milgrom’s layouts) and it is a good one – he’s been booked in his own movie!

After defeating Ultron in West Coast Avengers #7, he is flying high the next issue. His self-esteem is at an all-time level…

In fact, later in the issue, he practically seems cocky…

In his scenes in the movie, we see that he is embracing his ionic eyes as part of his new self-esteem…

So he is now embracing his new view of himself and he is also trying to market himself as a big time movie star superhero. That leads to the reveal of his new costume in West Coast Avengers #12…

(As an aside, pretty creepy Tigra comment there, Iron Man).

Okay, wow, that is a hideous costume (it was designed by Englehart, Al Milgrom and Mark Gruenwald, the editor of the comic). I also like that they pretty much admit that the location of the rockets don’t make any sense. “Don’t worry, my butt is fireproof” is not exactly a good response when it comes to designing a costume. “Yeah, but even if it is fireproof, you wouldn’t want to set it on fire, right?”

Plus, did anyone notice that Wonder Man was supposed to have grey hair? Weird.

So, how did this catch Englehart by surprise?

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