Hair in comics, science fiction, cartoons, and action figures.


I notice haircuts. In itself this isn’t unusual, but it’s where and when I notice them that’s made people remark on this. I’ve been told that there are people who can tell how far along in a season an episode of the original Star Trek is, by gauging how overweight Captain Kirk is. Apparently further into the season, his girdle would appear, as he started to outgrow his sienna lycra shirt. (This is why I won’t wear my uniform unless I’m feeling particularly svelte, but that’s a story for another article.) Myself, I cannot tell, I suppose maybe I don’t look at his belly closely enough. But I do look at hair, and while it never wavered on Star Trek, it was a constantly evolving animal on Stargate SG-1. Back when I used to watch random episodes of it, I could tell how far into the series they were within 5 mintues, by the ratio of grey to brown in Jack O’Neal’s hair, the shortness of Daniel Jackson’s hair, and the general style of Sam Carter’s little hairdo. Of course later Teal’c stopped shaving his head, and I stopped watching it, but up until then, the hair clues were relatively vague, and still I could tell at a glance where in the series it was.

My attention to haircuts has also followed into comics. Hairstyles of established characters are often static and unchanging, or frequently simply rather dull, but some artists can pay attention hair, in the same way that they’re able to realistically depict characters and environments. I remember the moment when I knew that Love & Rockets really spoke to me, when the women of the book all hung out one and dyed their hair. Okay, in retrospect it sounds like a small detail, but it rang true, it was a mundane aspect of my everyday life that was echoed in a comic. Around the same time that I was discovering Maggie and Hopey’s hairstyles, I was also reading a book called Deadline, where Philip Bond was doing a serialized story called Wired World. Here were two girls who looked so much like people I knew, who’s hair, clothes, posture and environments echoed everything I was seeing around me. Over time, Bond’s characters in all of his books (both male and female) have continued that trend. Somehow he draws people who have hair like people I meet, or want to. Sometime a few years ago, Bond did some stories in the UK magazine; The Face. (I want to say in the late 90’s, but I’m not sure, and since I left all of my old copies of the Face at Ron’s house when I moved, I can’t look it up, sorry.) There, one of his girl character’s had a steeply angled bob which was short, and layered in the back. I got my hair cut like that, and have generally kept it in some variation of that cut ever since. It just fit me. And did you catch the men in his issues of The Invisibles? Their feathered haircuts and mustaches were hysterical. They looked exactly like tv cops from a seedy tv show in the ’70’s (which was the idea, but he still depicted them flawlessly). Speaking of which, I still think Bond’s Constantine had the best hair the character has ever had. Personally I’m a big fan of the hard-bitten old guy still fighting crime; Batman in the Dark Knight Returns is one, more recently Destroyer seems to be one too, and at the time, Bond’s Constantine was one, but with much more impressive sideburns than any of them even dreamed of. More recently there’s Paul Pope; Up untilĀ  couple of years ago, I really thought he had a vision of the future that none of us were privy to, because somehow everyone looked so perfectly coiffed in some slightly alien, future friendly way… but ever since I went to Tokyo, where everyone had hair like someone from a Paul Pope book, I wonder if perhaps he hadn’t made that visit himself. It really is incredible to be there, it feels like stepping into a Paul Pope book, and for me, that’s a chunk of why it was fun.

So it’s great fun to read comics filled with people who have haircuts (and clothes and mannerisms) that I recognize from daily life, but one of the things that makes it possible for Hernandez, Bond and Pope (among others) to exercise this delightful skill, is that none of them work full-time on previously long-established characters. The bulk of their drawings are of characters who have nothing to do with capes and villians wearing onesies. This is a pretty lucky thing (and a smart move on their parts), because I’d imagine it’s pretty dull having to draw the same haircut for 50 years or so.

I like to think of myself as a pretty easy-going comic reader, I love the medium, but I’m not so invested in the fictional characters that I ever let myself forget that I they aren’t real. It’s a little surprising to me then, that I’d be so rigid about them. When well-known characters have changed their hair, I’ve found it disturbing. My theory is that this is because I associate their hairstyle very closely with their character. When Superman had a mullet, he no longer looked reliable or trustworthy to me. It’s not that no one should ever have a mullet, of course that’s their own personal choice, but Superman definitely shouldn’t. His hair is part of who he is, no matter how dated and strange it might seem for a contemporary man to slick back his hair. The only hair change that ever made any sense to me, was in Kingdom Come, when Superman had retired, and grown a thick beard and a damn ponytail. Naturally that all went away the minute he donned the suit and went back to the work of saving the world, and that might be why it was so acceptable. Well, that and the fact that he was letting that happen because he was in such denial of who he is – it made sense to me.

I know that this is an old chestnut, but it still irks me; Back in the ’80’s when Storm showed up with her mohawk, things got very odd. I understand that it’s now part of the character’s ancient history, and at the time it had it’s own skewed logic, but the whole idea of Storm in leathers and studs made the mohawk into such a ridiculous gimmick. It was more than a bad haircut, it was an entire fashion mistake. The haircut alone, I might have been able to live with, but changing her look in such a drastic way, and then trying to associate it with her personality changes? It just put far too much onus on what was, inevitably, a pretty weak and unlikely fashion statement in the first place. It’s ironic that I’ve enjoyed being able to experiment with different hairstyles, but at the end of the day, there’s a certain kind of unchanging permanence to these old characters who never age or leave that makes a dramatic hair change seem disingenuous.

Outside of science fiction, movies, and comics, more recently, I was personally inspired when I opened my first action figure (please don’t misunderstand me, this is by no means my first action figure, I have a great many action figures. No, this is just the first one that I’ve ever opened). It felt quite a lot like suddenly deciding it was my birthday, when for no reason at all, I just thought “Yep, that one is too hidden in her packaging, she needs to get out!”. I was on my way out the door, but there was suddenly an immediacy, so I put down my keys and sliced through the tape to let her out. And she’s a great figure, loks beautiful on the shelf. It’s the Major from the cartoon series; Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig. She’s not wearing the more frequently seen swimsuit and thigh highs (which I find silly, sorry but even if you’re mostly robot, how the hell do you kick ass in that outfit?) She’s wearing a full body suit, which is covered with chaps, stompy boots, and a jacket, plus (of course) her gun belt. My favorite part though, is her hair. She’s got the classic Major haircut that she’s had since her inception in the original Ghost in the Shell movie. It’s a slightly layered bob with a fringe, which angles so that it’s longer towards the front. The back of her hair is short and choppy so that it shows off the cable input ports on the nape of her neck. The most obvious difference between the SAC Major and the film version of her character, is that instead of an inky black, her hair is a strange shade of purple. When I looked at the Major on her shelf, I liked it so much, that the next day I died my hair purple too. Purple really doesn’t last very long, and the shade didn’t come out perfectly, so within a couple of weeks it had entirely washed out, but for a few days I got to pretend to be the Major and I did feel tougher.


Sonia Harris lives, works, reads and writes in San Francisco. She moved there from London ages ago, butĀ  it still influences her aesthetic. Her hair is almost brown right now, with a kind of reddish tint showing through. She’s already bored of it. You can email her about hair, or something else, at sonia@ifanboy.com.

Comments

  1. my personal fave hairdo is the Spock bowl cut

  2. Hair is the first thing I notice about a person, and about the last thing I notice in a comic character.

    Well done. I can’t wait for the next "real life aspect of a superhero" article.

  3. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I always liked Hellboy’s samurai style ‘chomage’ topknot. Just a great detail.  

    There’s some really bizarre hair ideas in comics. Wolverine, the Osborns, Superman’s front curl, Rogue’s white streak, Black Adam’s widow’s peak. And that’s not even touching on manga styles.   

    Also, big fan of Hawkgirl’s haircut. Or Catwoman’s shorter style these days. Something sorta sexy about the no-nonsense, no fuss crop for female superheroes. There’s plenty of room for both Starfire’s big 80s hair and Hawkgirl’s more spartan option.  

  4. Big fan of Captain Marvel’s hair. Don’t know why

  5. Hal Jordan has that late-50’s/early-60’s matinee idol hair and he’s had it pretty consistently over the years, even when he’s been in the military, even though that hair is OBVIOUSLY not regulation.  Hal’s hair is so important that his greying sideburns are a sign of the corruption of his soul by Parallax.  In ‘New Frontier’, Darwyn Cooke departed from the traditional Hal Jordan hair design to give him a look that was more realistic for a member of the military.  I *understand* that, I do, and I love Darwyn’s art, but sometimes looking at those images makes me twitch because it’s just not Hal.

    Yeah, I could do this all day.  Don’t even get me started on the tragedy that is Scott Summers’ cowl.  You just don’t cover hair that awesome, it’s WRONG.

  6. Interesting thing about Superman’s long hair in Kingdom Come was that it was actually an editorial mandate from DC, as at that time Superman had the mullet in the current continuity and DC wanted to retain that ‘look’/link for DC’s possible future as depicted in KC — I guess DC editorial intended for the mullet to stay at that time.  This was all revealed in an interview with Alex Ross, but I can’t remember where or when I read it, but I’m pretty sure it was around the time of the KC stuff in JSA.

  7. I’m also a fan of the Major’s hair cut from ghost in the shell. it’s one of the better modern manga/anime hair cuts.  I’ve also been a big fan of the poofy male haircuts from some late 70s early 80’s anime like Captian Harlock and that long strait hail on all the women. 

    On the note of Star TreckTOS the the short female starfeet uniforms.

  8. I never read Superman, but when he had the mullet I’m assuming Clark Kent had the mullet too.  I’ve never seen a picture of that or anything, but it would be pretty funny if Lois and Jimmy paid as much attention to hair as Sonia does…"Hey, those mullets are exactly the same!"

  9. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    @ludusmaximus: During the mullet days, Clark Kent was sporting a ponytail.  Plus, Superman’s mullet totally had an "S"-curl in front, which Clark’s didn’t.  So, you know, no one was able to put 2 and 2 together.

  10. I couldn’t stand Storm’s punk rock look! I know it was adopted to express her new edgey assertiveness, but goddamn, this was overkill! My interest in her really takes a nosedive whenever I see her like that, she looks like she’s going to go mosh at a Bad Religion show.

     But how can you hate on Supes’ mullet, thats where he derived most of his power from! People see the mullet and this "Oh shit, Superman is rocking the mullet, he means business!" It’s not the most hilarious one, however, as that honor goes to Longshot, with the Magician Perm Mullet! I’m pretty sure if you saw one in real life, you’d truly be scared for your safety!

  11. I started reading X-Men just after Storm made the switch to the mohawk, so it always seemed right and appropriate to me, even more so when I read back and found out what led up to it. I still like that part of her character. Yes, I realize now that the look is a bit overdone and cliche, but I think it was a necessary step for her to walk away from the goddess persona she had before that.

  12. I love when characters have crazy hair, or lack of hair.  Ragdoll in Secret Six has a few long strands here and there and it totally works!  If a deranged character like him had long flowy locks or a buzz cut, it would totally not work.

  13. I hate when there’s a hair in my comics. Such bollocks…

  14. That crazy hair Wolverine had in his early days. Especially the one from the Weapon X story….*shudders* Hate it so much

  15. Everyone should just get a No.1 and a shape up like I do.

  16. I love how, when Wally was Kid Flash, his hair would change brown when he put the costume on. and how Dinah used to wear a blonde wig as part of her Black Canary costume.

  17. Storm’s mohawk was the pinnacle of comic books in the latter half of the 20th century.

  18. Random hair thoughts: 

     I wasn’t so much dismayed by Superman’s long hair as I was by Clark’s ponytail.

    John Stewart needs new a new haircut.

    Love Jericho’s perm-fro and porkchops.

    Triathalon had a high-top fade ten years too late.

    Nathan Fillion had much nicer hair in Serenity than he did in Firefly.

  19. Ah common misconception #357 Superman had a mullet in the 90’s .WRONG

    He had long hair a mullet is I believe as the saying go’s  "business in the front, party in the back"

  20. It flairs out, flairing out is a mullet.

  21. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Oh, it was a mullet. 

  22. The mullet, AKA a Tennessee Waterfall, is vastly underused in comics today.  Bring it back people!

  23. @drakedangerz

    I think we can hold off on it for a bit after the 90s overkill of mulletry. I mean, yeah Supermullet is bad (although, I’ll agree that it’s not quite as mullet-y as some we’ve seen; thankfully he wasn’t sporting a full on "business in the front" look) but didn’t Sue Storm have a mullet around then, too? That is far worse than Supes and evidence that we need to avoid mullets from here on out.

    ("Tennessee Waterfall" = awesome mulletary vernacular)

  24. @captbastard: Wow, you’re aptly named! Thanks for putting that image back in my head. I thought I was safe, but apparently not. That was a horrific era, when she turned evil and worse bondage gear, suspiciously like Jean Grey had just done on X-Men, and oh, what a surprise, John Byrne just happened to move from one lady to the next. Grrrrrrrrrr

  25. @sonia: Longshot’s mullet kicks all those other mullet’s asses!

  26. What was that hairdo that Black Canary had in the Giffen/Maguire era?  Wasn’t it like a Sarah-Connor-in-Terminator-do?  Feathered hair used to do it for me, back in the day.

    Invisible Woman’s hair may have been the only bad thing about Byrne’s FF run.  She Hulk will always be my favorite FF member!

  27. Hey, I sort of liked the Super-mullet.  It reminded me of how funny the 90s could be.  The hair that bothers me the most though is Lois Lane how it would sometimes go from black to brown and back for no apparent reason. 

  28. I’m a big fan of how Messina crosshatches hair in his Star Trek comics, so that Riker’s beard looks like’s composed of really large hair over a 5 o’clock shadow.

    Some of my favorite comic book hairdos:

    Guy Gardner’s bowl cut with cowlick. Havok’s current entirely spiked hair. Any haircut on Luke Cage. Bishop’s dreadlocks back in the day, as well as his curly mullet in the 70s. Shard’s cropped hair with her 6ft long braid.

  29. Anyone remeber Diva from the early ninties StormWatch that had like nine feet of hair? It dragged behind her on the floor when she walked and trailed like a flag when she flew I never understood that. But probably some of my fave crazy hair is Storms mohawk and Rogue’s bicolor mullet.  

  30. @voodoomama – Stormwatch volume 1 is one of the most underappreciated titles of all-time, even the pre-Ellis stuff.  Not even collected in trade!

  31. always wanted Colossus’ metallic Flatop circa issue Uncanny#171!!

  32. Has anyone EVER seen hair on real life like Norman Osbourne and the Sandman have in marvel comics? I can not, for the life of me, understand what that is supposed to be. 

  33. @JohnVFerrigno: When I was a girl in London, I remember sitting on the bus and staring at this guy in his layers of black clothing, shaved arms, every visible bit of skin covered in white make-up, thinking "where does he find the time for all of this maintenance? And why bother if he looks so stupid?" His hair looked a lot like the Sandman’s.

  34. @JohnVFerrigno: But you aren’t talking about that Sandman are you… ah well, can’t help you then.

  35. I was wondering about how The Osborn hair in real life, just the other day. Thanks also for reminding me of Sue Storm’s femmullet. That thing was nightmare inducing.  Rogue’s white streak has always been a nice touch to me, and is of rougish properties. I have been a longtime dyer of my hair, also been a long time since I’ve dyed it. I remember a lot of my hair choices have been influenced by comics or other fiction in the past. Don’t know what inspired me to go red….definitely not Ben Affleck trying to be DareDevil.

  36. I’m pretty sure Superman’s long hair didn’t qualify as a mullet, but I agree that it didn’t work for longer than the few minutes he was in that black costume after his "death.

    I liked every hairstyle Storm ever had.

     

  37. Superman definitely had a mullet.  It was short in the front and long in the back.  It almost seemed like the artists didn’t know how to draw long hair – they just drew Superman as normal and then made his hair long in the back.

  38. Superman did not have a mullet. A condition of a mullet is that it cannot be pulled into a ponytail, which is how he wore it as Clark Kent. Now, early Nightwing? THAT, sir, was a mullet. And a hell of a mullet at that. Top 3 mullets had to be Nightwing, Longshot, and Rogue (when she was in the green and black on the team with Dazzler, Longshot, Psylocke in the Jedi robe, etc.).

  39. @ActuallButt: You can indeed pull a mullet into a ponytail. I’ve never heard of such thing.  I’ve seen plenty of people with mullets pulled into ponytails.  Hell, iFanboy’s most popular feature when it first started was chronicling comic con mullets, many of which were in ponytails.

  40. "The Mullet’s sleeping position is known as a Ponytail. Originally it was thought the Ponytail was a subspecies of Mullets, but it is now known that the Mullet will reduce its width and be allowed to be tied back." – Source: http://www.mulletman.org/mullet.html

    "Men who wear their hair long, or sometimes in mullets, frequently tie it back into a ponytail, but avoid the top- or side-of-the-head variants." – Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponytail

    "In the 80s, when the mullet first came to be popular with men, it was worn by all types of men. It offered a choice in hairstyles that allowed a man to have long hair, yet be able to look ‘neat and well-groomed’ by pulling the hair back in a ponytail and tucking it under a collar. This is where it earned its slogan, ‘Business in the front, Party in the back’." – Source: http://www.hairfinder.com/info/mullet_haircut.htm

  41. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I need to agree with Conor on this one.  After all, he cited sources!  And hey, you can see it for yourself.  Look up at Sonia’s article and see that picture of Superman therein.  He’s got a little S-curl in the front of his hair.  If he had long hair in the front, he couldn’t have that little curl happening.  Hence, it it indeed short in the front and long in the back.