Hair Color

August 21st, 2009 by | Tags: ,

Yes, hair color.

Is it me or is comics over-loaded with redheads, blonds, and . . . there’s no noun for black-haired people?

The detective on Batgirl, Nick Gage (or as I christened him Hunter B.B.Q. Picklejaropener), has black hair and the standard superhero body (tall, football-player shoulders, large muscles, and a jaw so square that you could pack a dozen of them evenly in a cardboard box).

He also has black hair, in a town that, now that Tim Drake has grown out of his skinny-kid phase, is overloaded with square-jawed, muscled, tall, broad-shouldered, black -haired men. 

Of course you could argue that any one of those characteristics is overdone in comics.  But I have to wonder about the hair.  It’s a pretty common hair color.  Why do comics artists almost never make characters brunettes?

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10 comments to “Hair Color”

  1. Maybe it is at least in part a company thing, at least it never seemed to me that the shortage of brunettes was that pronounced in Marvel Comics, at least since the 1960s:
    Fantastic Four: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm (before he became the Thing), Dr. Doom
    The Hulk: Bruce Banner, Rick Jones, Betty Ross. Jennifer Walters also is brunette when not in her She-Hulk shape.
    Spider-Man: Peter Parker, Betty Brant, John Jameson (auburn), Ned Leeds, Norman and Harry Osborn (auburn), Dr. Octopus, Sandman. Spider-Girl is also a brunette, albeit a very dark one.
    X-Men: Scott Summers, Bobby Drake, Hank McCoy (before he became blue), Kitty Pryde, Rogue. Also occasional ally Colleen Wing (a rare example of a character with Asian roots who isn’t black-haired).
    Avengers: Janet Van Dyne, Wanda Maximoff (auburn), Hercules (auburn). Captain America is blond, but his caucasian sidekicks (Bucky, Rick Jones, Nomad) had/have brown hair, as did his one-time fiancee, Bernie Rosenthal and his WW2 buddy Nick Fury.

    Let’s also not forget that some ethnic groups tend to be colour-coded in popular enterntainment, thus people with a Southern European (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek) background tend to be given black hair and there must be some kind of unwritten law against Irish and Irish-American characters having hair that isn’t red or reddish-blond.

  2. Black Hair can be a bitch to ink and to color correctly. The only time it ever really works is when the artist/colorist/inker play it up. There is some great Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz stuff where they use Eletkra’s hair as part of the page.

  3. There are also tons of characters at both companies that are Brown Haired, Hal Jordan is a popular one. Here is 635 at DC alone – http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Brown_Hair

  4. I recall reading in a book that there was a bit of a convention in the old days (i.e. up until the 1960s at least) to give heroes either black or blond hair (and usually the black hair would have blue highlights) for a more striking look. If this came from newspaper strips, then one of the reasons could be that black and blond hair was easiest to convey in black and white (i.e. in weekday strips). A lot of DC’s heroes’ looks date back to the 1930s and 1940s, so perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that so many of the Golden and Silver Age heroes of either sex have black or blond hair. Black hair is what an awful lot of DC’s most classic heroes have: Superman, Batman, Robin (which kind of set a trend for Dick Grayson’s successors as well), Wonder Woman (and thus perhaps not surprisingly, Donna Troy, even Cassie Sandsmark originally wore a black wig), Captain Marvel, Plastic Man, even prominent supporting characters like Alfred and pre-Crisis Lois Lane.

  5. I’m betting it started out that way because black, blonde, and red were easier to ink. But it’s 2009, dangit – we ought to have more brown haired folk than just Hal Jordan.

    Or maybe people just think a brunette hero would be boring?

  6. I think black-haired people are described as ‘brunettes’. I know, it was news to me too.

  7. I thought brunette was a term that only applied to women?

  8. @versasovantare: I believe it’s both men and women who are brunettes, although men are often referred to as brunets.

  9. @Esther Inglis-Arkell: Isn’t it like that for blondes, as well? Blond is male, blonde is female? Bizarre.

  10. Not bizarre, French.