How did I end up with so much Iron Man stuff?
How is it that superheroes have overtaken our lives? Slowly but surely they’ve found their way into our hearts, our minds and our wallets too. It’s not unusual to see someone walking down the street wearing a recent film-inspired t-shirt or find out that someone has their favourite hero as a keyring. In this age of merchandise, superheroes and comics alike have become so much more than mere images on the page.
Take this cardboard cutout, for example. It’s not every day that you get to meet your sparkling hero in the flesh. Used as an advertising gimmick, these things are meant to grab your attention to what is on offer. In this case, Tech 2 pens from Cross. They rely on you to spot this guy from afar, instantly recognise him and use that bond you’ve created in order to make you buy their product. I know that these pens haven’t been designed or even endorsed by Tony Stark himself, I just know that it’s a pen with his face and colour on it. In receiving one of these pens, I then feel closer to the character, fuelling my obsession.
T-shirts are also a great example of this. Check your wardrobe and clothes drawers now. If you haven’t been living under a rock and have kept relatively up to date with either the MCU or the DCEU, then you’ll probably own a t-shirt with something from one of these things on. Even if it’s low-key, like a subtle Batman logo or a small S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, it’s still working as part of your enjoyment of the franchises. I have lost count of the amount of t-shirts I own with either Iron Man or the Avengers on. With each new and exciting edition to the big screen, it’s hard not to take away some of that enjoyment. Not only do you feel as though you’re a part of it all, but it works on your memories of a particular film or comic too.
Pop figures are great, too. They practically do them all now, covering most TV and film franchises to date. Seeing as how they follow such a simplistic style, they’re so versatile. And who says you can only have one figure for each character? Your favourite guy has over ten wardrobe changes and they’ve all made it to the shelf. They work as great collectible items as well because they look so great together. Who’d have thought that Darth Vader and Timon could live together in perfect harmony? But, of course, they look a little lonely by themselves. Why not give them Lady Sif and Daenerys for company?
Comic books themselves have also become quite the collectible. It’s not the same just seeing your heroes on the big screen anymore. You want to know about their background, you want to experience more of their adventures first-hand. How else are you going to find out about Karnak’s capabilities in shattering vibranium windows? They become tales you have to tell your friends, a form of knowledge with which you become superior. “Did you know that Tony Stark was the Crimson Dynamo at one point? I knoooowwww, right!”
In reading the comics, you also start to appreciate the little nuances on-screen, like how similar Gwen Stacy’s outfits are in the comics compared to the film, especially in the scene where she dies. What? The people working on a film adaptation are actually paying attention to original content that closely? Why, yes, dear reader, they are. And they do it for you and me: they do it for the fans.
But what does it mean to be a fan nowadays? So you’ve seen a few films, got a few t-shirts and maybe a nice light to hang on your wall. Are you any less of a fan than someone who’s read all of the comics associated with that character? Just because you know their birthday and every little detail about their life, does it make you the ultimate fan?
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter so much. You can appreciate a film and become a fan without needing the bad associations attached to it. You might even be surprised to find that a particular adaptation has changed your original thoughts on someone you never even gave the time of day to. The point is, there are so many channels to hone your appreciation on that it doesn’t matter how die-hard you are.
Comic books have had a massive impact on our lives, from influencing films and merchandise to generating fan clubs and societies. It’s been a fantastic time for them and for us too, with more and more ideas being generated every single day. Last week I saw some Avengers cushions being advertised on Facebook and I wanted to go check it out. It’s almost subliminal now.
Comic-con is one of the greatest things to have derived from comics. What better excuse is there to show your appreciation than to dress up as one of your favourite characters with the possibility of meeting your on-screen heroes in person? Nothing makes you feel more immersed in this world than really going all out. I want to dress up as Black Panther next time I go, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I know every detail about the character. It’s all about being granted this platform to really enjoy yourself.
I’m not saying any of this is bad. It’s just amazing to really see how much our lives have been influenced by comics. So the next time you’re picking up a Superman flask to give as a present, take a moment to appreciate the history behind the whole process. Look around you and notice just how much richer and more enjoyable our lives have become because of it. Also, there’s probably some merchandise calling your name right about now.