Sunday, March 13, 2005

In comics, the clothes make the antihero

Oh, how I love The New York Times.

In today's style section, the newspaper considers how fashion -- particularly, the trenchcoat -- helps to define the antiheroes that populate comics like Sin City, 100 Bullets and The Originals. For answers, The Times goes to the experts: Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello and Dave Gibbons.
It makes sense that comic-book artists would yearn for a cape substitute, something that, according to Miller, ''gathers and drapes and lights beautifully, and that makes a guy look like a guy.'' But Miller doesn't just turn to noncape capes in his artwork. Any time he finds a good trench, he buys it for himself; he's still shedding tears over a Giorgio Armani coat that he lost 10 years ago at Musso & Franks.

Gibbons says that a character in a trench ''sets up the expectation that you're going to get a story for grown-ups.'' A noir hero knows that saving the world is beyond his talents, and so he doesn't bother. Indeed, the moral relativism of Constantine may be a more appropriate fit for today's world than the moral absolutism of Captain America. The corrupt politicians who run Sin City can never be beaten, and in 100 Bullets, a lot of energy and blood is expended settling personal grudges.