Robbie’s Comic Corner: The problem with comic book apparel

By Robert Johnson Jr.
Arts and Features Editor

Let’s get one thing on the record: most comic book apparel on the market just plain sucks. 

Yeah, I said it – absolute trash.

I have a Deadpool-themed shirt in my dorm, one that, as I’m writing this, I have never worn. 

It has Deadpool’s insignia emblazoned on the front, which is pretty cool, but then you have “DEADPOOL” written down both arms, and it eventually becomes something that most official, comic book-adjacent apparel ends up being.

Flashy. 

When it comes to comic books, making things over-the-top is part of the goal – it’s about pushing the boundaries of the readers’ imagination, while exceeding those limits in a cool way. 

However, this axiom should not be applied to T-shirts and sweatpants sold in Hot Topic or on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart. Should a graphic designer or a manufacturer follow this axiom, it just looks tacky.

Superman’s “S” on a blue shirt or Batman’s yellow, oval-shaped emblem across the chest? That’s totally fine – it actually makes sense, given their respective, culturally accepted designs.

As for that Deadpool shirt, there are better – and more accurate – ones out there. You can get a shirt of just his torso, for crying out loud. 

Now, I’m not as good at finding out what’s “fashionable” or not, as compared to, say, the women who write “State Street Style,” (See page 15) but I like to think I know what’s good, apparel-wise. 

Unfortunately, this does not apply to most comic book fans. If you were to go to any convention, you  would find someone wearing one of these trashy, generic, cash-grabbing pieces of garb.

And, yes, I do know I’m harping on you “Deadpool” fans out there, but, seriously, his merch is always the cause of many deep, frustrated sighs in my day-to-day life.

Fan-made apparel is not spared from this criticism, however, especially when it comes to those irritating, pathetic “minimalistic” designs that people put out on Redbubble or other storefronts. 

“Yes, let me plaster a comic series’ logo or a generic speech bubble across the chest. This is totally going to get me some degree of financial payoff, despite the minimal work I just did in Photoshop.”

All fan-made products are not bad, thankfully – there are many diamonds in the minefield that is comic book apparel. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve been ogling a Rogue-themed shirt by Stacey Lee that has been making the rounds throughout the convention circuit, and I’m in serious need of one. It’s green, it’s vibrant, it exudes the love and labor of the artist, and it’s just an all-around, genuine product.

The only officially-made pieces of comic book apparel to which I can give that same praise to is an “X-Men”-themed shirt that takes influence from the animated series from the ’90s and a “Gwenpool” shirt that depicts her as different emojis. 

“OK, Robbie, we get it – get to the point!”

My problem with comic book apparel – and this applies to T-shirts, sweatpants, and what-have-you – is that most things on the market are just not unique enough to justify a purchase.

There are too many comic book-adjacent pieces of fabric out there that just scream, “We’re going to put this out to make a quick buck,” like a red hoodie with “Red Hood” written across the chest or a shirt with a solid color and some hero’s insignia on it. 

That’s not making a “good design” – that’s “Photoshop 101.” 

So, next time you think about buying that “Thor” T-shirt, I recommend, rather, implore you to take a look around the internet and see if you could find something better first. Supporting independent artists will always feel better – and more genuine – than buying something from a company that only wants to capitalize on your movie-induced hype.

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