open/close all folders
Comic Books – DC
- Wonder Woman was once caught up in this trope. For a time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wonder Woman lost her powers and familiar uniform, gained a wise old Asian mentor who taught her martial arts, and had espionage adventures wearing a white jumpsuit ... right around the time spy shows like The Avengers were popular. Most people hated this, Gloria Steinem even commenting how it was a needless depowering of the strongest female hero in comics, and it's pretty well in a Dork Age. Ironically, the spy concept as well as the white-jumpsuit were both used in a more recent volume of Wonder Woman following Infinite Crisis. Judging by some reviews, people liked it.
- Vibe, a member of the much-maligned Detroit-based Justice League of America, was a breakdancer with vibrational powers. To get an idea of what he was like have a look at this DC short
- Teen Titans:
- The original run of the Teen Titans comics featured two villainous examples who used then-trendy fads as covers for their criminal schemes: Ding-Dong Daddy (a caricature of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, whose shtick was Hot Rods) and the Mad Mod (whose shtick was the fashions of the "Mod" look). Appropriately, such villains have returned as part of a nostalgia fad, to evoke the era in which the original fads appeared. The animated series revealed that the youth-scene-oriented Mad Mod is actually a crotchety old man using holograms and stage magic to create his younger appearance, trying to steal and/or control youth.
- This trope is possibly a reason why Dick Grayson got new Nightwing costumes. His first one was very 80s◊ while his second was very 90s◊ with hair to match and that followed him into his more familiar costume for a time.
- The Calculator. Originally a supervillain with a giant calculator on his chest, pocket calculators having just come into wide use at the time. In recent years, he's matured into a costumeless Information Broker and plotter, and Oracle's archrival. Possibly her stalker as well.
- Green Lantern:
- Guy Gardner didn't become an actual Green Lantern until the 1980s, where he was essentially made into a walking parody of Reagan-era policies. He started a war with the USSR and frequently expressed admiration for the amoral corporate raiders of the era. His characterization has progressed since then, but his 1980s look remains intact.
- His fellow GL, John Stewart, was introduced amidst the racial turmoil of the 1970s as an Angry Black Man who railed against "The Man" and frequently provided a liberal counterpoint to conservative white Hal Jordan. Like Gardner, Stewart has grown into a complex and well-rounded character.
- The new Flash character Turbine seems like he was created to cash in on the renewed interest in the Tuskegee Airmen after the release of the movie Red Tails.
- The New 52 introduced a female villain named the Masochist, whose initial design bore more than a passing resemblance◊ to Lisbeth Salander, the title character of the then-recently popular film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Due to some Internet Backdraft, she was renamed Anguish, her design was altered and all of the tattoos, piercings, and fetish elements were removed from the final costume.
- Legion of Super-Heroes' Karate Kid, though not in the way you might think. He was born when there was a karate fad in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and he was reworked to fit the kung fu fad of the 1970s, so he actually predates the movie The Karate Kid by decades,note and as such he's not quite as derivative as he sounds. He has since moved beyond his fad into a fairly Rounded Character.
Beast Boy: "Karate Kid"? Ha! "Wax on. Wax off."
Apparition: Superboy said that, too. What does it mean?
Karate Kid: I have no idea.
- Super-Hip, who appeared in DC's Adventures of Bob Hope comic book, was a parodic example of this trope.
- Fire and Ice from the JLI had very 1980s-looking costumes, complete with big hair and T-shirts over spandex. Ice even Lampshaded this by claiming she and Fire looked like they belonged in a Hair Metal video. Needless to say, the more recent comics and cartoon adaptations have chosen to give them different outfits.
- Obscure Batman villain Magpie used to sport a mohawk and an outfit that made her look like a reject from an 80's hair metal video. They brought her back in the Beware the Batman. To modernize her look, she was redesigned to resemble Lady Gaga.
- DC's Super Young Team subverts this while trying to play it straight. They aren't tied to any specific trend, but they're obsessed with staying fresh and current. That said, Most Excellent Superbat, the most materialistic of the lot, is adamant that they're also somehow more than all that.
- The Earth 2 version of Jimmy Olsen from the New 52 is an Edward Snowden-style "Hacktivist" rather than a print journalist.
- Another DC creation was the short-lived Brother Power, a hippie-themed hero whose exploits must simply be seen to be believed. In 2009, there was an issue of The Brave and the Bold that was written, which essentially put forth the idea that Brother Power was too tied to the past to exist in the present. The issue ends with him burning to death after realizing he doesn't belong in the 21st century.
- DC Comics announced in 2013 that they'd be debuting two new series, one a relaunch of the failed 1970s concept of rich-kid adventurers the Green Team, and the other a massive group of working-class heroes known as "The Movement". The idea is to represent "the 1 percent" and "the 99 percent."
- Hawk and Dove were created in response to the Vietnam War movements.
- Similarly, books like The Movement and We Are Robin were created in response to youth-heavy social movies of the 2010's, like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street.
- Superboy (The '90s version) was created to be a Totally Radical reimagining of the "kid Superman" concept.
- In his debut, he had a buzzcut fade, a hoop earring, a leather jacket (which nearly every hero had at the time), sunglasses, and a costume that invoked Too Many Belts. He of course, used hip slang and made constant references to pop culture.
- His next costume kept the jacket, earring and shades (although with a new design and color scheme), but his hairstyle was radically changed since a fade had been way past dated by that point. His slang got slightly toned down as well, but was still in use.
- The third costume (which he kept up until the reboot of the New 52) was an extensive overhaul. It ditched the jacket, skintight costume, earring, shades and Totally Radical attitude (the Civvie Spandex look took a heavy turn toward "civvie", with a t-shirt and jeans). Instead, he became more dark, brooding, and angsty, which became popular following the late 2000s.
- Lady Shiva was created to cash in on the 1970s Bruce Lee Kung-Fu craze. She debuted within the pages of Richard Dragon (a character similar to Marvel's Iron Fist), but her popularity outlasted that series. She's still a martial arts master, but no longer looks like a 1970s Dragon Lady.
Comic Books – Marvel
- Dazzler (pictured at right), who later became a member of the X-Men, was introduced with disco-based powers and costume (white jumpsuit and roller skates) just as disco was dying. It didn't help that she was given a big marketing push, meeting up with the likes of Galactus in a vain attempt to make the character cool, or that the entire project had begun as a proposal for a live action film in which character was at one stage to be black, and there are John Romita Jr. sketches◊ that exist of this early Dazzler. At one point they actually had a singer who was to play the Dazzler persona but the deal between Marvel and Casablanca fell apart. Later on, Jim Shooter put together a treatment for the aforementioned movie (also to feature Donna Summer, Cher, Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny and Squiggy, Robin Williams, the Village People and KISS), and the now revived Dazzler concept's appearance ended up based mainly on Bo Derek, who was slated to star (and when she was still attached to the role, People magazine even had her on the cover, the same month the character debuted, with her husband holding a whole bunch of Marvel mags for research!◊). But at least she wasn't called the Disco Dazzler, as originally planned.
- Her Ultimate version in 2000–09 was a punk rocker. But at least this time, the anachronism was deliberate.
- Once the "disco diva" gimmick was dropped, Dazzler became a fairly popular second-tier X-Woman. Dazzler revisits the disco diva gimmick during some of her performances as part of a tribute. She's a main character in Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness, and Ash hits on her repeatedly.
- In Dazzler's introductory issue, Scott and Jean look for Dazzler in a makeshift disco inside a dilapidated building, with Scott wondering "if this was where old discos went to die".
- Dazzler's sister/nemesis, Mortis, sports a costume similar to the Misfits from Jem and the Holograms. So one sister visually evokes 1970s disco, while the other evokes 1980s hair metal and glam rock.
- Storm was another X-Woman who got in on the punk trend - she sported a mohawk for a while in the 1990s. Word of God is that the mohawk initially began as a joke, with someone suggesting that they should make Storm look like Mr. T from The A-Team, which was a wildly popular show at the time.
- A little earlier in Spider-Man's history, we have supervillains Rocket Racer (skateboard) and Hypno Hustler (disco). Sadly, Hypno Hustler never appeared again as a villain (aside from some cameos here and there) after his first appearance but has acquired a certain notoriety-based cachet among fans; Rocket Racer cameos every few years - his latest appearance portrays him as a genius Basement-Dweller with confidence issues, based on the engineering skills he often displayed in earlier stories.He's recently popped up in Avengers Academy, seemingly back to using his old board.
- There's also Screwball, a traceuse who likes recording her exploits and then uploading them to YouTube and talking about them on Twitter. Peter himself has apparently begun studying Parkour as well, as showcased by an issue where he's forced to operate in an area without high-rise buildings from which to web-swing.
- Ghost Rider is actually a combination of two different fads at the time the character was created in the early 1970s: stunt cycling and characters with horror-themed origins, which were then popular at Marvel Comics. Thankfully, his occult adventures and highly distinctive design fit in during the 1980s and '90s, especially with the influx of anti-heroes in the 1990s. His popularity has faded considerably in recent years, however.
- The 2001 Re Tool of X-Force (later X-Statix) cast the new team as a group of fame-hungry Primma Donnas right around the time Big Brother and other reality shows were becoming wildly popular.
- U.S. Archernote was a Marvel character based on the truckin' citizens band radio craze of the 1970s... created in 1983. Way to jump on that trend. Razorback was an earlier CB-based character.
- Night Thrasher, leader of the New Warriors in the Marvel Universe, was created in 1990 with a skateboard grafted onto his urbanized Batman schtick to cash in on the rising popularity of the sport in the late '80s. As the '90s progressed, he used the board less and less and settled on a Cool Bike early in the series, plus as any connection between skateboards and the term "thrashing" largely passed out of public awareness, his name just sounds awfully nasty (although Spider-Man made a joke along this line in 1991.) He fought with twin eskrima sticks so the thrashing part of his name could easily be applied to his weapons of choice. An odd detail that downplayed it with time was that he's a black skateboarder. For the uninitiated - his heyday was long before there were any big-name black skaters. (The aforementioned Rocket Racer, Marvel's other black skateboarding superhero, has much the same problem at first.) The concept has become less baffling now, since there is a subculture of African-American skateboarders. Lupe Fiasco's hit "Kick, Push" is credited with helping popularize the sport among black teenagers.
- Marvel's Angar the Screamer, an angry radical type whose screams cause intense hallucinations.
- You also used to get a lot of "kneejerk reactionary" villains in the 1980s, like Captain America villain Warhead, who held the Washington Monument hostage until the United States started war with somebody, anybody. Strangely, he was an inversion of a real-life incident where a peace protester threatened to blow up the monument unless the United States disarmed.
- Adam X the X-Treme, from the early, well, guess which decade, who was almost made a completely unignorable Old Shame by virtue of being the third Summers brother. Fortunately, he vanished before the writers revealed that, and it ended up being someone completely different about a decade later. He hasn't disappeared completely, considering a few recent appearances - and it's still entirely possible he's the fourth Summers brother, if only a half-brother.
- The Heroes for Hire, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, capitalized on the popularity of blaxploitation and kung fu movies, respectively, by combining the two trends. As did their female counterparts, the Daughters of the Dragon Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. And the vaguely affiliated Sons of the Tiger.
- Marvel's Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, first appeared in 1972 as part of the '70s kung fu revival. Not only was Shang-Chi meant to invoke Bruce Lee, but his origin came because Marvel owned the comic book rights to both Fu Manchu and Kung Fu at the time.
- Marvel Zombies. It's probably not a coincidence that an alternate universe where all the superheroes have become zombies became a recurring theme at the same time that books and movies about zombies were trendy, though there's a bit of "retro on purpose" there, though. The Marvel Zombies universe (the first one, at least, before they go dimension-hopping) is a bit further back in the timeline than the "real", 616 Marvel Universe but doesn't perfectly match any particular era. Captain America was a colonel, Earth has never seen Galactus before, and most of the zombified heroes wore costumes that those characters hadn't worn since the 1970s. However, Magneto had acolytes, which didn't come along until the 1990s in the 616 Marvel Universe.
- It's hard to tell whether Marvel: The Lost Generation's Hipster, a skinny, goateed beatnik and total Jive Turkey operating in late 1950s San Francisco, is intended as a spoof or a completely straight portrayal of this trope. However, he's definitely an example. When he meets Sunshine, a woman with psychadelic powers, he changes his costume and name to become Captain Hip.
- Marvel tried to introduce a new hacktivist version of U.S. Agent. He came into conflict with Captain America and the Secret Avengers after he leaked the names of a bunch of former criminals who had been made into S.H.I.E.L.D. informants, using the justification that the government had no right to hide secrets from the public.
- It's easy to forget the Silver Surfer is a fad super. He was created in the 1960s when surfing first gained popularity, but since he's an alien who never knew anything about surfing (the Human Torch gave him that name) and the board is actually just an extension of himself he uses to fly through space and not technically a surfboard, the fad aspect of his character never distracted readers.
- Doctor Strange owes a lot of his influences to the upswing in Asian spirituality among America's hippies and artists in the 60's.
Comic Books – Other
- There were a lot of black superheroes created in the wake of the Blaxploitation trend. In addition to the aforementioned Cage and Misty Knight, there was also Black Lightning, Black Goliath and Wonder Woman's black "sister" Nubia.
- There are plenty of Goth superheroes, like Marvel's Nico Minoru (formerly Sister Grimm until they decided to ditch the codenames) and DC's Black Alice.
- In Teen Titans, Raven was worked to fit the Emo and Goth fads as well, with... varying levels of success.
- The Goth subculture's also not even close to dead (though the music's unrecognizably different now, of course) ... its corresponding superheroes tend to be about ten years behind the current popular "look."
- The mutant Negasonic Teenage Warhead, or Why It's A Bad Idea To Let A Goth Teen Name Herself. (She's less goth, but still a moody teen, in Deadpool.)
- Neil Gaiman's Death is also now an example. She typically dresses as a 1980's goth, even in time periods before the 1980's. From a modern perspective, she has an odd fixation on death imagery from one historical time period to the point that she even uses it in another.
- Naturally, any Soviet-themed comic character that is now hopelessly dated. Granted, the USSR was around for more than seven decades, so it's a pretty long fad.
- Combining this with Comic-Book Time gives nearly every one of these characters his or her own Continuity Snarl.
- The only aversions are Omega Red, an intentional throwback who, in his first appearance, was explicitly kept in stasis since the Cold War until woken in the post-Soviet era, and "Cold Warrior", a similarly stored surplus-parts cyborg whose whole schtick is trying to bring back the People's Glory Days.
- Ironically, Omega Red was created in 1992, early enough that stasis could not have been needed.
- Averted in the case of Nazi-themed villains, since Nazism is such an enduring symbol of evil, but played straight for any villain based on Japanese Imperialism.
- Combining this with Comic-Book Time gives nearly every one of these characters his or her own Continuity Snarl.
- Grunge from Gen13. Adam Warren had one of his sparring partners mock his name by calling him "Easy Listening" and other musical genres. Gail Simone's run explains this as a reference to the fact that he has "grunge under his fingernails", although Roxy provides a Lampshade Hanging with the comment "Grunge? You mean the stuff dinosaurs have on their iPods?"
- Skateman was made at a time when all skates had side-by-side wheels.
- Skateman is interesting because the other two major facets of his life, being a karate blackbelt and a Vietnam vet, are also heavily tied to the early 1970s.
- Occasionally employed in a self-aware manner by Astro City — for instance, flashbacks to The Fifties might feature an appearance by a hero called "The Bouncing Beatnik".
- The Beatnik's an interesting case, since he changes identities to match social trends of the time — ragtime, jazz, hippies, etc. (It helps he's not human, but a mystical entity.)
- The "Dark Ages" story arc references the kung fu fad of the '70s with the Jade Dragons, and the space race with the Apollo Eleven.
- Older stories have featured brief glimpses of the Frontiersman, complete with coonskin cap. If you don't get it, there was a popular Davy Crockett TV show in the 1950s.
- Just to prove that this tendency isn't going anywhere anytime soon, late in 2012 Valiant Comics relaunched its 1990s property Archer and Armstrong, retooling the concept of a superhero Odd Couple to fit current cultural labels. While Armstrong is still an ancient immortal with a “proclivity for inebriation”, the reboot reimagines Archer as a home-schooled Christian teenager, who is described by writer Fred Van Lente as “well-intentioned, brainwashed, and naïve”. Moreover, one of the villains in the new series is an inherently evil organization of devil-worshiping stock-brokers known only as “The One Percent”.
- In the current continuity, Faith Herbert holds a secret identity as a writer for a BuzzFeed knockoff in Los Angeles. Also, while Ax was always a hacker, his rebooted version (now called "@x") was introduced as a Snowden-style hacktivist.
- The Acclaim relaunch re-imagined Ninjak as a teenage gamer who got superpowers from a Bland-Name Product version of Ninja Gaiden. Somewhat justified, as Acclaim was actively trying to tailor the relaunch for video game adaptations, with Ninjak simply being the most explicit.
- Spoofed in an Astérix one-shot from the 1960s in which Uderzo was (in Kayfabe) bowing to reader pressure to Re Tool the characters to fit the then-trendy psychedelic craze. In the story, drawn in the style of Yellow Submarine, he removed Astérix and Obelix's usual Super Serum-induced Super Strength in favour of giving them hippie-themed Emotion Bomb flower magic that causes attacked Romans to experience a Design Student's Orgasm of enlightenment, peace and love. Obelix is not amused by this and opines that he prefers punching people.
- The selection of villainous foreign governments in comics is governed by fads. Although fictional countries became the rule in the Silver Age, the flavor tends to be drawn from whatever nation(s) the US is currently taking a hard line against. One solid example is Marvel's wholesale switch from using Soviet-style Commie lands to nations with a more Asian bent in the mid-sixties.
Live Action TV
- VR Troopers, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, and Denji Sentai Megaranger all had 1990s-high-tech cyberspace/virtual reality themes (though Power Rangers modified Megaranger into an outer space theme).
- Similarly, Mahou Sentai Magiranger was made to cash in on Harry Potter's popularity, whereas its American counterpart Power Rangers Mystic Force was remade in the style of Lord of the Rings.
- The producers of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger justified its Pirate theme by literally arguing, "Well, One Piece is popular, innit?" (Averted when it came time to adapt it for Power Rangers, though; you'd think they might attempt to piggyback on Pirates of the Caribbean but instead they tried to downplay the pirate theme as much as possible; Super Megaforce focuses on the anniversary aspect instead.)
- Then there's the dance-based Battle Fever J (1979). And yes, one of the Rangers there danced disco (Miss America).
- Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger/Power Rangers Ninja Storm seemed fit to muscle in on a piece of the ninja pie inspired by Naruto, as did Juken Sentai Gekiranger/Power Rangers Jungle Fury.
- Doctor Who incorporates a certain amount of this with both heroes and villains, to the extent that watching the extensive archives becomes a crash course in British obsessions over the course of the late 20th Century. Just a handful of more obvious examples:
- Some argue that Vicki (1965) is a mod-themed companion, though it's mostly expressed with her fashion sense, which has generally stayed in style. In "The Space Museum", though, she arms the Xerons, who are portrayed as a load of young, coffee-drinking beatniks, and has them start a revolution over their middle-aged oppressors. Youth power!
- Wotan from "The War Machines" (1966). It's a 1960s computer that lives in the Post Office Tower, which was then an emblem of the bright and glorious future. It is capable of 'ringing up other computers to talk to them', a simplification of what we'd now recognise as the Internet, only this was portrayed as having it actually call up the computers to talk to them over the phone in a creepy whispering voice.
- The Second Doctor (1966-1969) wears a Beatles-esque moptop, plays folk music and has elements of psychedelia incorporated into his powers, monsters and world view. For just one example, Word of God says that his regeneration was modelled after an LSD trip gone wrong.
- The Third Doctor (1970-1974) wears what was referred to at the time as 'a stylish modern suit' (what is referred to today as 'a frilly velvet monstrosity'), was suddenly proficient in kung fu, and was interested in Buddhist mysticism and the environment. Many have also pointed out an influence of Glam Rock on his era, particularly the use of trippy visuals also seen in Top of the Pops glam performances. (And check out how Ziggy Stardust Kronos's female form is in "The Time Monster"!)
- The companion Sarah Jane Smith was based initially around the fad of 'women's lib'. Since this involved portraying her as a liberated woman, it is largely for the better. Future 70s Fourth Doctor companions are also influenced by 70s feminism and are loved for it.
- There was a wave of nostalgia for Universal Horror tropes in the early-to-mid 70s, which gave rise to the Fourth Doctor's portrayal as a bohemian Victorian Swashbuckler fighting aliens that resembled classic horror monsters.
- Lord Skagra from "Shada" (1979) wears a shiny white disco outfit, complete with a silver fedora, a sparkly cape, an open chest and a medallion. His power is that he sucks people's brains out with a shiny silver (disco) ball.
- Adric was based on the optimism surrounding personal computing in 1980 and the rise of nerd culture, giving us an insufferable maths geek.
- Any of the numerous Margaret Thatcher-themed villains in the mid-to-late 80s would qualify, but especially Helen A from "The Happiness Patrol", a crazed, bigoted, hedonistic fascist with a ghastly hairdo and a Henpecked Husband, fitting the contemporary satirical shorthand.
- The Eleventh Doctor (2009-2012) is modelled after the particular Hipster subculture in the late 00s - lots of vintage tweed and talking at length about how various obviously uncool things are cool.
- "The Bells of St John" (2012) gives us Twitter 'Egg' Wi-Fi monsters from The Shard (which had been recently completed).
- Series 10 is set to give us "killer Emoji".
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, there is Headbanger, a hair-metal themed supervillain (who shows lots of chest hair, has big poofy 1980s rock-star hair, and makeup) who uses The Power of Rock as a weapon. Glitterball was a disco-themed hero active in the late 1970s. Speedway is a NASCAR-themed speedster. Yo-Yo uses gimmicked yo-yos as weapons.
- The Koopalings, introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3, were generally given a punk aesthetic to reflect Eighties-era trends (the most notable exception being Ludwig von Koopa). They went on hiatus after Super Mario World, which would seem to reflect on Nintendo abandoning past fads. Luckily for them, they got a comeback in the last dungeon of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, followed by top billing in New Super Mario Bros. Wii; "Weird Al" Effect is definitely present, though.
- Hinako Shijo was based almost entirely around a very short-lived fad that revolved around petite women and high school girls that wanted to learn how to sumo wrestle. Seriously.
- Coinciding with the popularity of Rozen Maiden and the rise of the Elegant Gothic Lolita subculture, almost every work of popular Japanese media produced from 2002 to 2008 or thereabouts had to have at least one character that was a 10-14 year old girl dressed in frilly, modified Victorian dresses armed with mystical powers, if not total command over the forces of darkness. Characters include but are not limited to Ninon Beart, Amy Sorel, every character of the Touhou Project, and more.
- Videoman, of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, was based on arcade-style video games. Other characters of similar vintage are Marvel's Megatak and DC's Colonel Computron, and Bug and Byte. The latter three could potentially be made into credible threats again considering the incredible advances in computer technology since their creation, but Megatak's entire thing is being a character from an eight-bit arcade game.