The Costumes of ‘Agent Carter’ that Already Make it Great

It may not have escaped your notice that a) there is an Agent Carter TV show about to start (but not in the UK because TV schedulers are ridiculously stupid) and b) I freaking love Agent Peggy Carter and Hayley Atwell. Proof to be found here, here,  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Told you. Agent-Carter-poster-570x760 So Agent Carter is set in 1946 after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) but before those of the Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (2013). Peggy is working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) dealing with the sexism that accompanied women working in the 1940s. The imdb synopsis for the show is ridiculously inaccurate: Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 20.01.18 Yes Peggy was involved with Steve Rogers but that wasn’t all that she was. Moving on. This post is mostly to appreciate the costume design work by Giovanna Ottobre-Melton that we’ve already seen in promo pictures. I’m excited and so should you. The images gathered below have been released by Marvel and, I think, are all from the first two episodes.HAYLEY ATWELL Peggy’s blonde! She’s undercover! In a gold low-cut dress – very different from the dresses we’ve seen Peggy wearing so far.HAYLEY ATWELL, DOMINIC COOPER I just included this for the shoes.agent-carter-1-800 Wide lapels with both the blouse and jacket and the blouse lapels are beautifully edged to add structure and focus. Adds a contrast with the stricter tailoring of the jacket.B6RrJ5XIYAAtvni.jpg-large More tailored 40s but with some gathering at the waist to soften the shape and pink detailing to brighten the navy blue.2051104_CA_Agent_Carter_KDM_ A different version of the earlier wide lapelled jacket and blouse but different shapes. My favourite part is the double lapels on the jacket.Agent-Carter-600x450 More blouse and fitted jacket combination but this time – check out those pinstripes! Amazing! The waist dart that finishes just below the bust changes the pinstripes and gives further detailing. The horizontal pinstripes at the centre front are another detail that adds to the suit.HAYLEY ATWELL

Here is a better photo of the edged wide lapelled blouse – reminds me a little bit of Peggy’s blouse in CA:TFA.

Ottobre-Melton is the fifth costume designer to take on Peggy Carter: Anna B. Shepherd in CA:TFA, Ellen Mirojnick and Timothy A. Wisnick in MO-S:AC and, briefly, Judianna Makovsky in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). She’s got some big shoes to fill but these images fill me with more anticipation and happiness.

S x

Natasha (Black Widow) Romanoff’s Journey from ‘Iron Man 2’ to ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

Natasha Romanoff has an interesting journey in the Marvel films, not least that her character arc moves through different films with different protagonists. As the only female Marvel superhero (at this point) she sits in the ground between “pleasing” fanboys and being a strong character in her own right. The success of this in the films can be argued, just as her costumes can, but her existence is something we should be happy about. As a starting point.

(Mild spoilers for all three films.)

Iron Man 2

Costumes designed by Mary Zophre

IM2 4

The first time we see Natasha Romanoff she is called Natalie Rushman and is applying to take over from Pepper Potts as Tony Stark’s personal assistant. She is dressed competently with elegance but not overstated. Her clothing isn’t threatening but still maintains an air of sex appeal – to gain the attention of noted womaniser Tony. The use of monochromatic colours also works to make her blend in with the background. An ideal situation for a spy.

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Now that “Natalie” is in Tony’s employ her costumes become much more fitted, colourful and sexy. She is doing all she can to fit in with his world. She is fulfilling his idea of the perfect personal assistant – she needs him to keep her around and to confide in her. (The dress looks like a combination of a few Roland Mouret designs.)

IM2 5

This dress is in a much more sober colour but still has the fitted look of the earlier dress. This dress fits more with the Pepper Potts personal assistant role – is she changing her cover to become more like Pepper because that’s who Tony trusts implicitly? (The dress looks very similar to Black Halo’s Jackie O dress.)

IM2 3 IM2 2

This party dress (Dolce & Gabbana) is much more in tone with the earlier coral dress. She is fitting in with the party crowd but still able to stand out. The second photo shows a scene cut from the film where Natalie is more openly and obviously flirting with Tony. This dress plays into that perfectly. She may be his personal assistant but she is also still a guest at his birthday party.

IM2 1

Then we have the reveal of the worst kept secret – Natalie Rushmore is Natasha Romanoff who is Black Widow. A spy working for Nick Fury in S.H.I.E.L.D. This is the first iteration of the iconic catsuit. It’s very fitted (as you would expect) and the piped seams are there to draw your eyes down the whole of the suit. Add this to the low zipped neckline. Any ways that could be used to sex up a skintight catsuit without being too overt have been used here. It still works as a functional outfit but you wouldn’t exactly see this costume on a male spy/agent.

IM2 7

IM2 8

Although “Natalie”‘s cover is blown with Tony she is now employed as Pepper’s assistant. Her costume now takes on a more sombre tone that is more fitting for Pepper and less seductive. Her role is to observe and protect Pepper and she is more likely to be kept on by being competent at her job than by looking sexy. The dresses still fit with Natalie’s overall look but they’ve been adjusted for the scenario. The perfect spy.

The Avengers

Costumes designed by Alexandra Byrne

A1

We have a new film and we have a new spy position. We never hear Natasha’s spy name here because her cover has already been “blown”. From the dialogue we gather that the mission began as a seduction and this is where the fitted black dress comes in. (Fitted but with a noticeable flair in the skirt to enable the gymnastic fight moves.) The dress also works as her Iron Man 2 costumes did in lowering people’s expectations. She is able to overcome the three Russians aided by this fact. One great touch is the exposed zipper at the back of the dress. Not only is this a modern touch but its adds a layer of toughness to the elegant dress – toughness that we expect from Natasha. She is a highly competent and dangerous spy but uses her sexuality and femininity to trick men. Is this an act of strength or weakness?

A2

The next time we see Natasha she still seems to be undercover but in a different persona. She is dressed to fit in with the world of Calcutta and also to put Bruce Banner at ease. We see that she’s hidden a gun so she is prepared for violence but she needs Bruce to trust her and a catsuit just won’t cut that. The colours are all warm toned and combined with the warm lighting and colours of the set mean that she stays fairly hidden in the shadows. The shawl that Natasha is seen wearing here plays into Bruce’s red toned shirt, creating a comfortable colour scheme between them.

A3

Now we have Natasha as herself, as a fully fledged S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. She is not in any spy persona. She wears tightly fitted jeans (to allow for combat?), a tough leather jacket (her personal form of protection?) and a red top to keep the warm tones that we set up in Calcutta. This Natasha is practical, not overtly sexual. She works in a male-oriented world and needs to be taken seriously be those she works with. Particularly when one of them is the first ever superhero and the other can turn into the Hulk.

A5

The new catsuit. This is still fitted by the fabric seems much more hardwearing and likely to give protection. The seams are no longer piped but flat felled to add strength and stability. They made add a level of sexiness but they are more practical and less obvious. The zipped neckline is still low but there is much less skin exposed. The Black Widow belt buckle (first seen in a much smaller form on the Iron Man 2 catsuit) is more focused and obvious here; as are the number of Natasha’s weapons.

A4

The Avengers saved the world and are taking a break. Natasha has gone back to jeans, a warm toned top and a leather jacket. This time the jacket is much lighter (still playing into her warm tones) and is less of a “threatening” statement. She will always favour leather for its protection but she trusts the people around her ad has gained their trust.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Costumes designed by Judianna Makovsky

FZ-03642_R 97819_Medium

Another film, another catsuit. This suit seems to be a middle ground between Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. The neckline is closer to Avengers, but the fabric appears much more lycra-based as in IM2. The level of weapons seems closer to Avengers, with the belt buckle closer to IM2. There is much more panelling in this suit than in the other versions and means that, as a look, the suit has gone back to its more sexualised roots. There are leather side panels, bulked up shoulder pads, elbow and knee pads and a combination of flat felled seams and piped seams. But in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha is barely seen in the catsuit. She remains Natasha Romanoff rather than Black Widow.

CA TWS1

From now on we have Natasha as Natasha. Many of her costumes remind me of Veronica Mars’ costumes – the jeans, jackets (corduroy and leather), stripes, hoodies. As personality comparisons go Veronica and Natasha aren’t too far removed. We’ve got incognito look one but it’s worth noting that the green corduroy jacket is still in the warm tones that we established in The Avengers.

CA TWS2

This is the most Veronica Mars-y costume. Natasha has chosen greys and more muted tones to help blend in to the background and hide from S.H.I.E.L.D. The greys are still warm in tone and we’re seeing layers as an off-duty form of protection.

CA TWS4

We’re back to pre-hiding Natasha. Black jeans, black top and a leather jacket. The main interest in this leather jacket is its clear 1940s Aviator influence. We’ve had those influences before surrounding Captain America: on Steve in Captain America: The First Avenger, on Peggy in CA:TFA and on Steve in The Avengers. This is one of the few obvious ’40s costume references in the film and it’s interesting that it’s found on Natasha rather than Steve. His costumes are much more modern than they were in The Avengers when there were clear repeated ’40s links.

CA TWS5

The last time we see Natasha is after her Senate subcommittee interview before she is off to find a new identity for herself. This is ‘blank-slate’ Natasha, but ‘blank-slate’ with leather protection everywhere. The leather blazer is smart and practical but tightly tailored at the waist. This is probably overkill and done to stop any chance that she won’t look like “sexy Scarlett Johansson”.

[I left out one costume due to major spoilers, lack of photo and specific spy mode.]

Natasha’s next appearance will come in Avengers: Age of Ultron, once again designed by Alexandra Byrne. Personally, I’m hoping for a return to The Avengers catsuit and hair. And maybe a comment on the arrow necklace she was spotted wearing in CA:TWS.

S x

Saw This And Thought It Was Cool: Avengers lights

I know. I know. My first post since the age of the First Men. BUT AREN’T THESE PRETTY?

avengers light

(Picture from here.)

If anyone knows where I can buy them – or knows where I can look at them and cry because I can’t afford them – do let me know. Somebody needs to take my money.

@thatmissdeen x

Superhero Sunday: Watchmen

We’ve mentioned that our Superhero Saturday posts are coming to an end. Before that happened we asked friend and past collaborator @LydiarghGrace if she could contribute for one last post (all pretty short notice so we thank her greatly for taking the time to write this for us!):

When my sisters from other mothers told me they were winding down their Superhero Saturday posts, I was a little sad. A fan of comics and superheroes myself, Ive been finding it fun reading everyone’s unique favourites. That’s the joy about superheroes; everyone loves someone different and even if they love the same one they have different opinions. There’s a lot of passion. So when I was asked to contribute to one of the last posts, I jumped. So here it goes…

Watchmen Characters
‘Watchmen’. Yup, ‘Watchmen’ for me is not only one of the greatest comic book series/graphic novels ever created but one of the best pieces of literature ever written. Written by the legendary Alan Moore, drawn by Dave Gibbons and coloured by John Higgins, ‘Watchmen’ is a dense story set in an alternate universe in the 1980s where ‘superheroes’ are real, are known publicly to the world and have ‘helped’ society in various ways.

The Comedian
I say superheroes and helped in inverted commas for two reasons. Firstly, like many famed characters from other franchises and stories, only one of those involved in the group known as ‘Watchmen’ is a superhero, Doctor Manhattan. The rest are costumed crime-fighting vigilantes. I say ‘help’ because the ideologies of each separate character are so different at times that they each purport to have contrasting ideas on actions that might help one person, to actions that might help society.

Doctor Manhattan
But that is the joy about reading ‘Watchmen’ – it really makes you think. It’s hard to talk about a book that is so rich in such a short piece, but also one doesn’t want to give anything away to anyone who has yet to read it. So in a nutshell, the plot of ‘Watchmen’ focuses on a group of ex-costumed vigilantes (now outlawed by government), living in a time when the threat of Third World nuclear war is around the corner, who uncover a radical conspiracy when one of them is killed. I’ve think I’ve summed it up as basically as I can without giving too much away…
Rorschach
And it’s not just the plot and the themes that the story explores that make it so fabulous but the characters at its heart. Personally, I love all of them in different ways. The aforementioned Doctor Manhattan provides a detached narrative on the qualities of humanity, Rorschach stands as a maniacal bar of morality, The Comedian depicts the complex nature of the human soul and psyche, Silk Spectre and her daughter Silk Spectre II are foils for discussing a woman’s role in society and the different faces of the feminist movement. These are characters presented with (at times) real dilemmas, they have flaws, they are not perfect and upon repeated readings prove incredibly Multi-faceted.
Silk Spectre
I could go on, and on and on and on and on and on… But I don’t think I’ve been given enough time. Maybe another day. All that’s left to say is ‘Watchmen’ truly is one of the best reads on the planet, a great critique on what being a ‘superhero’ really means. So if you’ve not read it, do this feature a good send off by going and getting the book. Your mind will be blown.

Ozymandias

So now we end our Superhero Saturday posts with this Superhero Sunday post on our first birthday! Keep your eyes peeled for our next Saturday related posts.

(Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s blog and follow her on twitter @LydiarghGrace.)

Superhero Saturday: The Women in Phase One – ‘Avengers Assembled’

Now that we’re winding down our Superhero Saturday posts I thought that I’d focus on the women featured in the set of films in the Marvel Universe that have been titled ‘Phase One’. So this really means no X-Men characters or Mary-Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy or Invisible Girl. I’m going to look at the female characters from the films, JUST the films, leading up to Avengers Assemble. There may be spoilers so if you haven’t seen a film just scroll past!

Iron Man (2008)

The first Iron Man film only has two female characters worth mentioning: Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb).

Pepper Potts in 'Iron Man'We first see Pepper handing dry-cleaning to Christine and escorting her out of the building. Then Pepper spends most of the film mothering and pining over Stark. Having said that, she’s still a highly intelligent, motivated woman. Her career may have been slightly stalled by her love for one man but she made the best of her situation. And she helps with the final fight by using her wits to unveil Stane’s true plans and then drawing Agent Coulson in to help. With someone dangerous hovering near her she is able to think on her feet and act quickly. I don’t think I’d have the calmness that she did. And don’t forget her helping to replace Stark’s arc reactor and he announces that he “doesn’t have anyone else”.

Christine Everhart in 'Iron Man'Christine starts off looking like a dedicated, intrepid investigative reporter. That doesn’t last very long. Sadly she then reverts to one of Stark’s one-night stands. She tries to make a comeback by using her reporting skills and, actually, if it wasn’t for her then Stark might not have found out about Stane’s evil plans. I do kind of wish that she hadn’t gone through the stereotypical sleeping with her investigative subject though. (Maybe that’s one reason Hammer was so keen to be her subject in Iron Man 2.)

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Betty Ross in 'The Incredible Hulk'We pretty much just have Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). And that’s nothing to rave about really. As I mentioned when we attended the Avengers marathon at The PCC, The Incredible Hulk was my least favourite film – and the audience’s from the reactions throughout. And a lot of the disappointment came from Liv Tyler. Betty has a few strong moments but for much of the film she just seems to be controlled by her father. Obviously not all female characters have to be strong, not all male characters are strong, but when you are the only female character to speak of, with an army general a father and the love interest of ‘The Hulk’, you expect a bit more.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Back to Iron Man and we have a new female addition to Pepper and Christine: Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).

Pepper Potts in 'Iron Man 2' Pepper gets to take on a much stronger role in this film. Yes, it’s mostly because Stark gives her the job as CEO but she does a great job with it; including removing Stark when necessary. She no longer needs to “look after” him as part of her job – that responsibility belongs to Natalie. Pepper can concentrate on proving herself in the job that she has been doing behind the scenes for years. This film shows Pepper’s emotional strength. She may need saving by Tony in the end but she is instrumental in helping save members of the public and having Hammer arrested. This may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things but when you realise that Pepper has no special powers and only her wits and bravery you’ve got to give her points for that.

Christine Everhart in 'Iron Man 2'Christine returns briefly but her only purpose seems to be to further the rivalry between Stark and Justin Hammer. She has no investigative journalism input and doesn’t seem to aid the plot in any way. This is a little disappointing because we saw some sign of her intelligence and skill in Iron Man but all we have here is bickering, the attempt to witness arguments between Stark and Hammer and to get an interview with Pepper for Vanity Fair’s ‘Powerful Women’ edition. Saying more about Pepper than Christine.

Natalie Rushman in 'Iron Man 2'Natalie’s role is a little more interesting. She starts out as Natalie Rushman – the over-qualified, ex-model, assistant to Stark. Having said that, the first time we meet Natalie it becomes clear that she can take care of herself after beating Happy in a boxing ring without breaking a sweat. Then (no surprise to the audience who was alerted to her true identity at casting stages) we find out that she is really Natasha Romanoff, working undercover for Nick Fury. From this point she becomes key in the world of SHIELD but remains slightly on the periphery, but does play a key role in saving Rhodey from Vanko’s control. Then she’s gone. Just disappears. But then, that’s what spies are meant to do. The role always felt slightly like a trailer for Natasha’s role in Avengers Assemble. She is very capable but never seemed entirely necessary to “watch over” Stark when they realised he was ill. Her best work as ‘Natalie’, rather than Natasha, is when she works for Pepper not Stark – two strong women together in a male dominated industry.

Thor (2011)

Thor has many more female characters than you may initially remember. We have the obvious Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) but there is also Frigga (Rene Russo) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings).

Jane Foster in 'Thor'Jane’s interest in Thor stemmed from a scientific angle. He somehow landed on Earth and she wants to find out how, why and what he knows. Then she wants to help him and get ‘revenge’ on SHIELD. Her motives are never initially romantic so when a romance does unfold it feels more worthwhile and less forced. Her main role in the film is to help to humanise Thor by giving him a greater understand of the world (both his and ours) and of people. Although she isn’t involved in any great battle she enables Thor to win his; for the right reasons.

Sif in 'Thor'Sif is one of the warriors on Asgard – the only female warrior as far as we can tell. All she has wanted to do is to fight for her world and be seen as a strong fighter rather than “just” a woman. She has followed Thor into battle many times (including into the forbidden Jotunheim) and comes to Earth, along with the Warriers Three (Fandral, Volstagg and Hogan) to help Thor return to Asgard and stop Loki. Sif was willing to die in the battle against The Destroyer if Thor hadn’t convinced her to run. To live and tell her own stories.

Frigga in 'Thor'Frigga gets a little bit of a short shrift in Thor but she still gets moments to shine. We first see her taking amusement in Thor’s brash walk to his planned coronation. We don’t see her again until she tries to explain to Loki that he is still her and Odin’s son – despite his true birth. She is a consummate mother. Then we see her try to protect Odin against the Frost Giants. They are dangerous foes but she manages to strike one down before Loki defeats Laufey. Sadly, Frigga ends mourning her son and maybe never knowing completely how far he had strayed. This is what we shall discover in Thor: The Dark World.

Darcy Lewis in 'Thor'Darcy is the more average girl. A student who has taken on Jane’s study for the college credits; despite being a political science student. She likes Thor because he’s hot and funny. She is snarky but still seems to have developed a fondness for Jane and Selvig. And she helps save the inhabitants of New Mexico when The Destroyer attacks. That’s something we could all do.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

This film may have my absolute favourite female character from this universe: Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Sadly, she is really the only female character beyond the briefly seen, disastrously for Steve and Peggy, Private Lorraine (Natalie Dormer).

Peggy Carter in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'The first time we see Peggy she is calling new recruits to attention and punching one who wouldn’t accept her superiority. Strong enough entrance? Pretty sure she wins there. Throughout the film she takes a hands-on approach to training the new recruits and fighting battles. She even goes against Colonel Phillips’ orders by taking Rogers, with Howard Stark’s help, to enemy territory. Breaking rules may not seem like that big a deal but in the army it can be career ending. That’s bravery and then some. That decision also helped Rogers to believe in himself in the way that Erskine believed in him. She helped Rogers to fully become Captain America.

Private Lorraine in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'Private Lorraine has a horrible role to play – to separate Rogers and Peggy. Why? So that they’re not a couple when Rogers goes off to attack Hydra’s base and he can “earn” her respect back before their one and only kiss. She has clearly worked hard to get to her position in the army but all we get her used for is the mildest attempt at a love triangle; following the failed attempt at a Stark love triangle.

Avengers Assemble (2012)

We have the return of Natasha, now splitting more fully into her Black Widow persona, a brief return of Pepper and the introduction of Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).

Natasha Romanoff in 'Avengers Assemble'We meet Natasha apparently held hostage by Russian terrorists. But then we see that she’s playing stupid to allow their pride to take over with revealing answers. And that she beats them all despite being tied to a chair. Her first responsibility is to recruit Bruce Banner. This is not an easy task and shows how much faith and trust SHIELD have in this spy. Throughout the film we see her taking on tough odds whether they be the cause, to rub out the red in her ledger or to help her friend (Hawkeye). We also see aspects of her spying in her using the expected female vulnerability against people. Is this playing to female stereotype or playing to male weakness? The assumption that women are weak and emotional… There is one key scene where it’s spelled out to the audience that she’s a spy and not a soldier and yet here she is willingly going to war. She has made bad choices in her life but is now trying to make amends.

Pepper Potts in 'Avengers Assemble'Pepper’s appearance is very brief. We see her convince Stark to follow his heart in helping Coulson, we see her fear at the news footage of the battle in New York and then helping Stark redesign their damaged home. What can we learn from her here? Both times we see her she is concerned about Stark but she is also busy working as the CEO and furthering their clean energy projects. A confident and happy career woman with a seemingly healthy home life.

Maria Hill in 'Avengers Assemble'Agent Maria Hill is the first female character we encounter in Avengers Assemble. We see her interacting with Nick Fury and Coulson, already established within the Marvel universe, so she needs to mark herself out fairly quickly. She is clearly a woman in power. After Loki’s attack on the base she takes it on herself to follow Hawkeye and Loki. After this she went back to try to save any trapped SHIELD workers. Maria may not have had too much more involvement despite a few great shots when the Helicarrier was attacked but that’s due more to the fact that the film is called The Avengers. With her appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its greater focus on SHIELD, there is more of a chance of her character having the chance to shine.

And that’s the end of Phase One. Phase Two is well underway with Iron Man 3 already released, Thor: The Dark World due to be released in November, Captain America: The Winter Soldier filming, Guardians of the Galaxy due to start filming in the next few months and Avengers 2 due to film early next year. We’ve had cases of interesting female characters so far with Thor probably boasting the most, but with characters now appearing in other films (Black Widow and Maria Hill both in The Winter Soldier along with the return of Peggy and the new Agent 13) hopefully these strong characters will continue.

Final Note on The Bechdel Test

Helen referenced this when looking at female sitcom stars and it occurred to me to mention it here. There are three basic rules:

  1. There has to be at least two named female characters
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than a man.

If you go through the Marvel Phase One films the result is a little depressing, if not altogether surprising when you see the “vast” range of female characters.

There is debate as to whether Iron Man passed all three rules because of the conversation Pepper and Christine have but, to me, it is so clearly about Stark that it means it gains only two out of three.

The Incredible Hulk passed one test. There is another named female character (Major Kathleen Sparr) but she and Betty never interact.

Iron Man 2 passed three out of three because of Pepper and Natalie’s brief business discussion (and possible Pepper and Christine discussing the Vanity Fair article).

Then we come to Thor where it easily passed three out of three.

Despite the strength of Peggy’s character in Captain America: The First Avenger, the film only passed one out of three – for the two named female characters.

And finally we come to Avengers Assemble. Only passed one out of three. There are three strong named female characters. Who never interact with each other.

Out of the six Phase One films we have two films successfully passing the Bechdel test even if some of the other films still contain strong female characters. We’ll see what happens with Phase Two. (Iron Man 3 passed three out of three.)

S x

Superhero Saturday: Powdered Toast Man

He's no Henry Cavill, but Cavill probably doesn't taste like toast either. DTSFT would like to find out, mind.

He’s no Henry Cavill, but Cavill probably doesn’t taste like toast either. DTSFT would like to find out, mind.

“Are you holding tenaciously to my buttocks?”

No, this isn’t a He Could Get It. This week’s Superhero in focus is a bit-character from 90s cartoon Ren and Stimpy. He obscure, yes – but he’s a hero so he definitely counts. He does. This post has been on the back burner of my brain since losing the remote one Saturday night and watching the last five minutes of an episode called Powdered Toast Man vs Waffle Woman.

Powdered Toast Man has a piece of toast for a head and is the ambassador of a breakfast treat that “tastes like sawdust”. If that wasn’t weird enough, powdered toast doesn’t taste the way it’s supposed to unless Powdered Toast Man farts on it. Like most things, really. It’s precisely this bizarre aspect of this hero that not only makes Powdered Toast Man (as he shall henceforth be known) brilliant, but Ren and Stimpy a classic cult cartoon.

We will, food. We will.

We will, food. We will.

What made Powdered Toast Man (or PTM as he shall henceforth be known) so great was that he was a spot-on send up of comic book superheroes. He was spoof superhero created with care and attention to detail, a love-letter to caped crusaders.

PTM was over-earnest, over dramatic, over-muscly, over-patriotic. He possesses traditional superpowers such as flight, but also others that are very fitting with the show  such as super-powered farts and the ability to fling toast shavings from his head at will.

He had cheesy catchphrases (“Leave everything to me!”) and even a reserved, introverted alter-ego (sound like anyone familiar?) in the form of a youth deacon who wears glasses and a clerical collar – BUT STILL HAS A PIECE OF BREAD FOR A HEAD. Yet no one knows who he really is.

Like all good superheroes he owned an arsenal of villain-busting weapons – namely slices of olive loaf that could read and send emergency codes, a phone in his tongue, the ability to shoot raisins from his mouth and inflatable briefs. Everything a fully-functioning superhero could want. Can you imagine being able to shoot raisins from your mouth? You would cinnamon swirl everything in sight.

At his core he was a good person who wanted to help those who are vulnerable, like all the decent heroes. What made him especially hilarious, was the fact he accomplished banal things at the expense of something massive i.e. he helps a cat cross a road but a plane gets completely totaled in the process.

When PTM first popped, it was only a matter of time before self-professed "cult TV show appreciators" started dressing up like him to barbecues for the LULZ.

When PTM first popped, it was only a matter of time before self-professed “cult TV show appreciators” started dressing up like him to barbecues for the LULZ.

His assistant, Catholic High School Girl, with whom it is suggested he has a romantic relationship, is a bit less heroic however; but that was the cheeky dash of adult-humour PTM was loved for.

What was particularly cool about PTM was that Marvel – that giant of comic book heroes – even featured the bread-headed character in one of their comics. He fought Spider-Man after Dr. Donut turned him to the dark side, and Spidey uses milk to re-instill PTM’s good-hearted nature. When Stan Lee and the Gang want you in their pages, that’s the sign John Kricfalusi created something a little bit special.

Genius

Genius

Superhero Sunday: Radioactive Man

This is what happens when the Superhero Sunday posts get left to me.  You asked for it, people.

399px-Radioactive_Man

Yes, every little boy needs a hero to look up to, and while this week sees the release of the latest Superman film, it’s important to remember that there are other heroes out there, and who better to focus on today than Radioactive Man?

The nuclear nice-guy has appeared in several episode of The Simpsons, as early on as the second ever episode ‘Bart The Genius’  when Bart finds it stuffed in between larger, more impressive books on the bookshelf at the ‘Enriched Learning Center for Gifted Children’.

Although his costume was a little different back then...

Although his costume was a little different back then…

Clearly, he was already a fan, and the comic book and its eponymous superhero have featured at the heart of some classic episodes – even getting his own feature length film (well, sort of) in the Season 7 episode, ‘Radioactive Man’.

So how did Claude Kane II end up with his radioactive powers?  Well, as explained in the episode ‘Three Men and a Comic Book’ where Martin, Milhouse and and Bart pool their cash to buy the first ever issue of Radioactive Man, he was caught up in an atom bomb test when his clothes were snagged on barbed wire, after which he developed nuclear superpowers:

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Totally plausible.  Since then, Radioactive Man comics have become a regular feature in The Simpsons and really, couldn’t we all stand to be a little more like him?