Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Business Cards of the Superheroes

Sense & SensibilityBusiness cards! What do they have to do with comic books? And that's a very good question. Me, I say instead to you...what don't they have to do with comic books? (And that's another very good question.) To answer one or another or maybe both or perhaps neither of those questions, let's go right to the expert, Marvel Comics writer "Jolly" Jane Austen:
"I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley Street last Tuesday, and very much regretted that I was not fortunate enough to find yourselves and Mrs. Jennings at home. My card was not lost, I hope."—Willoughby to Elinor in Sense and Sensibility
Also, Jane Austen wrote that dynamite Marvel Team-Up which teamed up Peter Parker and Lizzy Bennet against the Mephisto-possessed Mr. Darcy. Oh, how I read that comic again and again and again until it fell to pieces. Pity they published it on a cracker.

In any case, today's modern business cards have their origin in the calling cards of Victorian days, and just like the those gas-lit, cobble-stoned, horse-dunged years, the strict etiquette of leaving behind a calling card when visiting another's house isn't followed much anymore. Especially by Ben Grimm, whose calling card is your front door busted into bits.

But today's superheroes and villains and mutants and aliens and Galacti need to advertise themselves and their services, and in the absence of spinning a spider web around a crook or punching a nogoodnik in the chin so hard he has a skull scar for the rest of his life (and I think we all know how fateful that can be), a simple printed 3.5 x 2 inch pasteboard card can bring in the business opportunities every leotard-wearin' crimefighter craves. In other words: 1: Business card. 2: ??? 3. CRIMEFIGHTING!

Now, we're not talking about one of those newfangled identity cards:

Captain America #125




...but rather an informational, if somewhat obscure, guide to contacting someone who may be able to help you (emphasis not mine). Once in possession of this card, you can then go to Westchester, New York and...well, I dunno, stand in a field and yell "XAVIER?" for a while.

FF #203




Superheroes were slow to adopt the idea of handing out business cards, but they were continually surrounded by employees of industries who used them daily. Like, say, the mad men of the Carter & Lombardo Advertising Agency: "Rascally" Carter and "Smilin'" Lombardo. They didn't have a phone, but they had a lot of heart. Also, five-martini lunches.

Amazing Spider-Man #126




To avoid being pestered by the millions of readers who bought Marvel Comics monthly, local businesses often blurred or faded the phone numbers on their business cards when they let the Marvel Bullpen product-place 'em in a story:

Vision & the Scarlet Witch




Of course, there are other businessmen...even other Normans...who don't mind if you give 'em a ring. Go ahead, dial the number! Maybe you can ask him why his base of operations is in midtown Manhattan and his phone number is in Seattle. Then, ask him if his refrigerator is functioning properly!

Dark Reign: Young Avengers #4




Yes, even cool execs with hearts of steel and yet no necks use business cards:

Iron Man v.3 #70




Sometimes you can trace a business's evolution through archeology of its business cards. When irrepressible private jokester and professional hair dye model Matt Murdock thrusts his business card at a crook under arrest (or, at least, a crook kept moving), it's lucky that he can't see what it is that he's offering.

Amazing Spider-Man #16




No, no, he hasn't handed out his loyalty card for one free gyro with purchase of ten at Natchios' Greek Diner! (He can tell that one by its distinctive scent of tahini sauce.) Instead, take a big steaming gawking gander at this beauty of hip swinging fab groovy typography, baby!:

Daredevil #130




Later, Matt developed a certain knack for blindly handing out business cards to purple-and-green suited master criminals. Yep, gentlemen that Mr. Murdock was certain were already guilty because he "saw" them commit the crime and apprehended them as Daredevil, but hey, what the heck, he'll defend them in court anyway. What a unique way to keep your secret identity, Matt! So much for all that "I will not counsel or maintain any suit_or proceeding which shall appear to me to be unjust,_nor any defense except such as I believe to be_honestly debatable under the law of the land" nonsense, huh?

Spidey-Super Stories #43




Still, and this is the important part, at least his business card looks a little more professional now. Don't try to find their offices, though! Just for a laugh, they've relocated from Hell's Kitchen to New Jersey, judging by the area code.

Alias #3




And then there's the phone number you can give to your clients when you don't care if they know you're a fictional character:

Spider-Woman: Origin #5




In today's cutthroat modern executive world, a great logo is also a must-have. Then again, comic books are the medium in which the very first issue of a series can have a logo completely obscured by Rob Liefeld's giant, giant heads. So it's probably no surprise that you could look at this one and pronounce it "Zorporation."

Cable & Deadpool #1




But remember: a really sharp, professionally designed business card with a great logo is worth the price of checking proofs and matching fonts and unrasterizing pdfs and putting a really cool spider design on your card.

Spider-Man Noir #3




Why, you can get great publicity with your business card simply by it being better designed than the local daily newspaper!

Spider-Man Noir #3




Business cards: before there was Facebook, they were around. They're a great way to spread the message of your firm or cause and handy and portable enough to hand out to girls on the street who lost out on their big audition for the cast of NYX:

Spider-Man: Extra #2




Still, just like avoiding predators (and aliens) on the internet, be cautious: you might wind up having a date with swingin' septuagenarian May Parker!

Spider-Man: Extra #2




Sometimes, to maintain a sense of mystery, your business card can be a "teaser" for your services. One look at this business card and you'll know for sure who's the hero behind the card:

Daredevil #122




That's right...everybody knows and loves Blackwing! Oh wait. I got that wrong. Nobody knows or loves Blackwing. Why do you think he was handing out those business cards? That is, until he was sued by Wayne Industries and Batman Inc. Now he has 34,979 cards sitting in his garage.

Daredevil #122




Of course, then there's the criminals too cheap to order personal business cards. You know how Batman always has trouble tracking down the Joker before the end of the story? How about asking game stores and playing card manufacturers about the guys who is buying several hundred decks of cards and tossing away fifty-two of them?

Batman #1




Or, y'know, you could just toss your business card in the gutter. Along with that dog carcass in the alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. Mmmm, beans.

Watchmen




So, let's do a roundup of some of the most important rules to remember about business card usage. Number one: If you're an employee of the United States government in the 1960s and you're handing a card to a black woman, your business card is probably gonna be blank.

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #2




Two: Never print a card with script typography in all-caps. Seriously, you idiot. Don't do that. That's the reason people hate mutants, not the wings.

Astonishing Tales #2




Finally, supervillains: there's a wrong way and a right way to design a business card. Check out this design! It's the lamest of all possible worlds. Also, it's about six inches by four.

Taskmaster #1




Whereas this is the most freakin' awesome business card in the universe, folks!

Man-Thing #3




So in conclusion: for best results, hand out your business card and make certain your customer hangs onto it.

Ultimate X-Men #14

4 comments:

Evan Waters said...

The final alt-text killed me. Nicely done.

SallyP said...

I remember personal cards. My grandmother used to leave them, and turn the corners of the card down, to indicate if she was coming or going. It was all very esoteric.

Bully, you've taken a dry as dust premise and spun it into gold. I would in particular love to read the story with Peter Parker, Lizzy Bennet and a devilish Mr. Darcy.

Johnny Sorrow said...

Uh... Did Spider-Man really make a deal with Paul Williams? Didn't he ever see Phantom of the Paradise? This can't end well for ol' webhead.

Al the Chi said...

Where does the "Foolkiller" card come from? It sounds like he and Mr. T would have some competition between them.