Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Weather Week: Metropolis

In this series, we're examining the weather in the DCU's fictionopolises (starting yesterday with Gotham City).
When I first had this idea, I thought, "I can just go through every single story set in each city to which I have access, mark down the apparent season based on visual clues, tabulate, and look for patterns!'
Then I thought, "Sh'yeah, as if!  That's a job for my fleet of post-docs."
Then I realized, "Oh, wait; I don't have a fleet of post-docs."
So, my 'analysis' of the seasonal ratios in the various DCU cities is cobbled together purely from my own recollections of stories I've read. Now, that is a fairly large sample, but perhaps my own impressions of the weather in those stories is distorted.  After all, unless the weather is part of the plot, the creators don't usually bother with making it any particular season at all.  Unless they're John Byrne. 
A lot of artists take the easy way out and have the same characters wear pretty much the same thing all the time.  For example, in the pre-Crisis DCU, Clark Kent was famous for wearing the same blue suit/red striped tie combo every day for about, oh, 40 years. 
"And I'm not coming back until YOU stop wearing those stupid public underpants and get yourself a proper mandarin collar on your shirt!"

Some of those habits stem from the origins of comic books as a medium for children thanks to The Golden Rule of Color Conservation.  It states that whenever convenient, characters should wear the same colors in their civilian identities as they wear in their superhero identities; it makes them easier for the readers to identify.  Golden Age Dick Grayson did this a lot, and Clark Kent's habit of wearing a blue suit and red tie comes from the fact that Superman wears a blue outfit with red accents, too.
Bruce Wayne: easy-going guy, good sense of humor, fun date. 

Even when the color carries no semiotic signifigance, it's just easier for artists to draw the same character the same way all the time.  Bruce Wayne wore the heck out of that nasty brown suit yellow shirt combo in Batman The Animated Series, until he swapped it out for the black suit red tie look when his eyebrows got all frowny. 
Bruce Wayne: Uptight, dour, control-freak. With tiny, tiny feet.

John Byrne is not one of those lazy artists; he's the opposite, in fact.  Sure all his people look the same, with their giant lipless frog mouths brimming with explanations of how their powers work.  But their clothes!  John Byrne believes that no one ever wears the same outfit twice.  In John Byrne's DCU, the clothes donation bins are full to bursting all the time.
Therefore, John Byrne makes the seasons change in his stories not because it is relevant to the plot, but so he can draw different clothing.  He'd have been happy as a pig in slop if he'd been working back in the day on Katy Keene.
In fact, without John Byrne, I'm not sure Metropolis would have even seen winter. The only time I can remember seeing winter in Superman’s city was when John Byrne was writing it. He really bit down hard on the idea that, "okay, sure, Metropolis is an expy for Chicago," where it's cold and windy a lot. 
Wherever Metropolis is, it’s seldom been imagined as being in the south or somewhere winterless; yet winter is almost never seen (except for, of course, an occasional Christmas story, because it’s ALWAYS snowing in Christmas stories). 
As a result, I visualize Metropolis's seasons as something like this:
Spring is definitely the season where Jimmy undergoes amazing transformations;
In Summer, Superman can often be seen loosening fire hydrants so that, say, poor hot children can play in them, endangering thousands of lives if a fire breaks outin one of their homes.
In Fall, Superman remembes he owns a superpowerful dog and take him for a romp.
In Winter, Lois Lane runs around in ridiculous runaway winterwear and Superman answers his mail at the Metropolis post office. 


Jeff R. said...

Metropolis is weird, because it's called upon to be simultaneously the largest major city to Smallville (which is in Kansas) and pretty darn close to [sometime twin-city-type, something as much as 90 minutes drive away] Gotham (which is on the East Coast). Which might work if it were as big as Keystone, but nothing is as big as Keystone...

SallyP said...

Even if you live in San Diego, it automatically starts snowing on Christmas!

But I digress. John Byrne can drive me crazy sometimes, but I will admit, that he had an amazing fashion sense! And so does Amanda Connor for that matter.

Nathan Hall said...

Ah, the Thirsty Thursday story made the summer. That comic is Silver-Age crazy. Superman saves the city by blowing up an underground storage unit full of sleeping gas, leaving time travelers befuddled because they always pass out when they go back in time. The result: Superman is the miracle of Thirsty Thursday!