All the most iconic superhumans have a symbol right on the front of their costume: Superman’s S; Wonder Woman’s eagle/dubyas, Batman’s varying bats, Spider-Man’s creepy ol’ bug. But what about the best of the rest? Welcome to Ten Things!
Whooshman-Bicarbonate Films, in conjunction with ‘An Amateur Comics Historian’, and ‘It Stands For Hope’, Presents:
TEN OF THE GREATEST CHEST-SYMBOLS OF ALL TIME!
10) ATOM EVE
There are a lot of valid complaints about the writing of Robert Kirkman; his love of punny names is not, in my opinion, one of them. Not only does Eve have one of the cleverest names in recent superhero history, she has a super-cute logo: The classical symbol for Venus/Woman, with the round portion serving as the nucleus of an atom. It’s easy to draw, immediately iconic, and quite clever, as well as using the standard comic book three-election pattern, as seen with The Atom, Captain Atom and dozens of nuclear-style heroes. (I think that three electrons makes it a lithium atom?)
There are a lot of chest-eagles in comic book history, but Relampago’s is doubly cool in that it is also evocative of the coat or arms of Mexico, a golden eagle eating a snake. Relampago is, to my knowledge, the first Mexican-American superhero, and one of the earliest Hispanic superheroes of all (though he is predated by Hector Ayala, Marvel Comics’ White Tiger), so his heraldry is both cool to look at and a symbol of his Mexican heritage.
8) THE FAT FURY
Less a “chest emblem” than a “tummy emblem,” Herbie Popnecker’s symbol, like his entire costume, serves as the perfect parody of traditional superhero heraldry. Designed by veteran artist Ogden Whitney, the circular symbol is deceptively difficult to replicate, and both the placement and the use of his full superhero name are kind of hysterical. I’ve had a number of arguments about this character and whether he is even really a superhero, but for my money, The Fat Fury is a simply perfect hero design…
Another sorta-kinda parody hero, E-Man’s existence as a being of pure energy is entirely explained, if you understand a tiny bit of science. Most impressively, it makes the ‘E = mc2‘ formula stylish, much as Superman’s ‘S’ shield isn’t a traditional letter s, and fits it into his costume design perfectly. Next up, I want a super-duper whose costume features differential calculus…
6) KITTY KELLY
In the style of the Golden Age, Kitty Kelly had inexplicable super-powers, attributed to her adrenal glands, and used her powers to fight off mooks and criminals. Unlike Scoop Scanlon, Hop Harrigan and other alliterative sleuths, she eventually took on a costume, but not a superhero alias. Thus, crooks in the city were confronted with a very angry social worker in hot pants, with her initials emblazoned on her blouse, who then beat the bajeezus out of each and every one of ’em. (There are actually multiple Kittys in the Golden Age, with varying accounts as to whether they’re all meant to be the same woman or not, including one who went by Yankee Girl, without a costume, meaning she ditched her nom de guerre BEFORE taking on a superhero suit.)
Most people remember Shadowman as the guy in a t-shirt and jeans, fighting New Orleans voodoo-crime with a saxophone and a lot of retcons in his origin, but for my money his original costume is actually better. Along with the mask, the only element of this uniform that stuck around was his logo, a stylized “man casting a shadow” that combines the simple iconography of a road sign with a clever use of negative space.
4) MAN OF WAR
Personally created by Roman god Mars, he probably doesn’t have a whole lot of ticks in the column of “subtlety.” Still, of all the walking flag-type heroes of WWII, he is among the best put-together, with his more photo-realistic eagle symbol standing out as special. Though the number of stars tends to vary from issue to issue (and occasionally from panel to panel), it’s a memorable emblem across the board…
3) WILD DOG
Borne of the “Relevant” comics of the 1980s, Wild Dog’s uniform is all about practicality, from his under-armor to his taser gloves to the combat boots, topped off with the jersey of his favorite sports team, the Red Dogs. Everything you need to know about the character is visible at first glance, including the fact that he respects the conventions of the superhero genre enough to make sure he has a symbol. (The fact that it’s an adorable cartoon dog is the cherry on the sundae.)
His original costume was pretty bland (although, weirdly, people keep bringing it back over and over), but when Wally Wood took over the Daredevil title, he redesigned the character’s look with the familiar dark red uniform and interlocking D’s. I maintain that it the startling originality of the costume and symbol is one of the primary reasons he lasted so long at Marvel before being reimagined as ninja/ladies’ man, as no one wanted to cancel a hero who looked that cool.
1) ULTRA BOY
Yes, you knew there would have to be some Legion on this list, given their huge number of member with chest symbols. Though Wildfire’s “star with flames” motif probably inspired Rodimus Prime, it’s Jo Nah of Rimbor who makes the list. A stylized representation of the ultra-energy beast that gave him his powers, Jo’s emblem has been likened to a thunderbird, a spacecraft and a totem pole, and it’s height and dimensions have changed over the years, but it is the only element of his iconography to be a part of all versions of the character throughout the LSH’s many variable futures.
Feel free to follow along (@MightyKingCobra) for more Ten Things madness on Twitter! As with any set of like items, these aren’t meant to be hard and fast or absolutely complete, given that 83% of the skrabillion super-dupers created since 1938 all sport some sort of ceremonial symbolic regalia. Either way, the comments section is Below for just such an emergency, but, as always: Please, no wagering![signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-cog”][/signoff]