Hello folks and welcome to my first Saturday post for Living Between Wednesdays, where I share all of the odd things that I have found whilst reading hundreds and hundreds of comics from any number of metallic ages. Mad props to Rachelle for organizing the whole thing (though why she wouldn’t take my suggestion to name it “Rachelle and John and Tiina and Dave Review” I’ll never know), to her husband Matt for all of his excellent design-work and to my long-time pal and former blog-partner Paul for putting the whole thing together.
In honour of the occasion, I’m inaugurating a new feature in which I’ll critique the design choices made by super-villains of yesteryear when outfitting their henchmen. We’ll be looking at these costumes for utility, attractiveness and budget, as well as taking a look at the final fate of the head honcho involved, just to see if attention to detail in henchman-costume-design translates to long-term criminal success. Maybe someday I’ll do a chart, I don’t know.
The Villain: The Birdmaster! Appearing in Detective Comics No 348, this vaguely Middle Eastern evildoer used giant trained condors and eagles to shut down air travel around Gotham city in order to… collect ransom? Steal things? If this sentence is still here then I didn’t bother to go back and check. Actually, I did check: as far as I know this guy had no goal whatsoever. He was just... jealous? He didn't want anybody else using the sky.
The Henchmen: They never really get a name, but a couple of times they get referred to as Feathery Thugs, so that’s what I’m calling them. Let me tell you: these guys might prove the theories about henchmen having really low self-esteem.
Attractiveness of Costume: Not very. Aside from the fact that they break Blockade Boy’s “long sleeves with bare legs is verboten” rule, the only thing that I think of when I see these things is “bad Hawkman cosplay”. I think that the best explanation for this is that it’s like in a fantasy novel when the villain saunters into the nearest half-assed evil cult and takes over by killing the leader. Birdmaster obviously must have offed the president of the Gotham chapter of the Carter Hall Appreciation Society so as to have thematically-appropriate minions. Of course, he could just have horrible design sense. Whichever.
Utility of Costume: I don’t know if any consideration of the day-to-day duties of a thug passed through the mind of whoever created these things. Look at how they all have their arms held stiffly out to the side, even the guys with the net, kinda. I bet that those feathers fall off really easily and double-bet that these guys are never going to learn how to fly. Also, remember the first Tim Burton Batman movie, how Michael Keaton had to turn his whole torso to look to the left or right? You can’t tell me that these guys aren’t doing that constantly. Even if they weren’t obviously incompetent fighters, these outfits would do a fine job of making them so.
Nose-mounted knockout gas dispensers are a very nice touch. I could almost believe that the costumes were deliberately designed to look stupid so that this bit of cleverness would come as a surprise. Looking at the rest of the Birdmaster’s half-assed operation (his plane, for example, is not only not shaped like a bird but doesn’t even have a bird painted on it) I think that that might be giving him too much credit.
Budget for Costumes: I’d say that there’s a pretty good chance that those feathers are made out of construction paper, an excellent chance that the eagle heads are made of papier mache, and I’m near-certain that the whole thing was put together in the Birdmaster’s garage on a rainy day, possibly to get the henchmen out of his hair for a few hours so he could have a relaxing bath.
Chance for Bonus Points: Does the Villain Have a Lieutenant With a Marginally-Cooler Costume and Possibly a Name?: Nope.
So, out of an arbitrarily-decided fifteen possible Henchman Costume Points, Birdmaster scored a 4. And what was the final fate of this Sultan of the Skies? (see if there’s another one of these in the comic)
(these costumes are NOT APPROVED, by the way)