Kraaaaaaaaaaaang!!! Since Nolan’s Batman hit there’s been this drive towards realism within cinematic adaptations of comic books, which is all fine and good; the Adam West era of comic book depictions just wasn’t going to fly in these our modern times. There is something to be said, something of value contained within the exaggerated/ stylized, and surreal depiction of comic book characters that was there in the 90’s. Heath Ledger’s Joker, Tyler Durden, while perhaps representations of toxic masculinity are powerful examples of how outlandish characters could subjugate realism and thereby become iconic by personifying certain archetypes, but it wasn’t tell ‘Suicide Squad’ and Harley Quinn, train wrecks that these movies were, that you got to see outlandish style in both character and in form. The 90’s era of cartoons, the era that this design references was a time of caricature, but not out of laziness. The characters ‘Rock Steady’ and ‘Bebop’ were the creators trying to point people towards culture… and sell an imperial buttload of toys. There’s none of that in the Michael Bay adaptations, because Michael Bay is a a fundamentally a mouth breathing philistine. What you may ask does any of this have to do with this design?
This design references a time when superheroes, supervillains were too fantastical to exist in reality. There were the powers, but there was also the style. Somewhere between the aesthetic sensibilities of WWE and Devo, Krang and his automaton exist and really should be f#$%king things up; that level of style, energy, knowledge or nostalgia ought to be harnessed in modern animation. This design is somewhere between blueprint, cutout, and 90’s in substance and early 60’s in style and references a bygone sensibility in which more things were possible.
Design by: Yema Yema
Price: $22.00 @ Teefury
Colors: Purple, Black, Grey, Navy
Sometimes we choose a design based purely on aesthetics, sometimes it’s more the affiliation (I’m a fan of x), but other times a design can be aesthetically pleasing and simultaneously unassuming or ambiguous in a way that invites conversation without forcing the wearer to pledge any loyalty. This design has multiple elements going for it. Within this design our elements pertaining to: mid-century modern patterns, the ‘minimalist art style’ of popular video games and cartoons, science fiction, art history, and sacred geometry; That’s a lot of contextual heft for a design that at first glance would merely seem decorative.
Upon first viewing this pattern one might think of the Jetsons. There’s a definite space age/ early 60’s vibe to the design; but why? The answer is the lack of outlines as well as the space theme. while the block colors is within the realms of cartoons, no cartoon of the era was done without outlines. Today this style is called “minimalist art style”. This style can be seen in everything from ‘Samurai Jack‘ to video games such as ‘Journey’ or ‘Thomas was Alone’. While you don’t see it in the animation of the late 50’s, early 60’s, you will see it in the prints and patterns of the era.
It’s unfortunate that this style seems to have been saddled with the ‘minimalist’ moniker as minimalism, within the American context, will generally be though of in terms of: a pretentious modern art movement, zen buddhism, and Japanese interior design; all of which are completely unrelated to the works being done in contemporary animation. A better term would be ‘Cutout’ as in cutout paper, such as those done by Matisse in the the 40’s, and those works in the same tradition that now fall under the label of ‘paper craft’ within the context of fine art today.
More than anything the celestial form seems reminiscent of the art style contained within the classic scifi film ‘fantastic planet‘. The airbrushed detail at the top sets it apart from most of mid-century art. The inclusion of a mandala or random piece of sacred geometry enhances the uniqueness of the piece for its incongruity. Why the juxtaposition is hard to say. The two images work together aesthetically, but the underlying meanings of the association is a bit vexing. If you are a fan of scifi (‘SF’ is supposedly the term that distinguishes the noob from true fans, but…) , animation, mid-century whatever, or sacred non-sense this might just be the shirt for you.