Why do post-apocalyptic people dress like morons?

One note before I open up this week's mailbag: As last week's "PA" revealed, I am not infallible. I don't know why you would think so, given that I'm a fictional fake postman. I know a lot of junk, but I think I know more than I do, so I rely on you attractive readers to "augment" my answers in the comments. The fake USPS thanks you for your help!

Project Runaway

Gerard F.:

Why do so many people in the post-apocalypse dress like BDSM fetishists? What is it about the apocalypse that makes people want to wear spiked black leather assless chaps and a gimp mask, and consider that their normal, everyday outfit? The world’s ended in Revolution, and people there still dress sensibly (although there are weirdly clean.)

What gives, Mr. Postman?

Well, to be fair, many inhabitants of the post-apocalypse wear football pads as protection or animal furs too, although why they wear those instead of picking up a nice pair of slacks at an abandoned J.C. Penney’s is equally unclear.

Frankly, I think the nice part of the post-apocalypse is that you’re no longer bound by society’s fashion taboos. Do you want to skin a deer and turn it into a kicky scarf? Go for it. Do you want to dress like a professional wrestler/dominatrix? Go for it. Do you want to dress like a lawyer/clown with a big cape? Then why the hell not? I think the people of the post-apocalypse just aren’t afraid to show their personal styles, man.

If you want a real answer… I’m not sure, but I feel like it might be Mad Max and The Road Warrior’s doing. Before those two movies, I feel like most post-apocalypse movies either had people wearing regular clothes because society had recently collapsed, or it was so far in the future people were wearing rags, like in Planet of the Apes. Then Mad Max comes in and the future’s full of savage punks, and then Road Warriors arrives in 1981 and there’s Lord Humungous and all the other fashionistas, and it’s such a distinct style that pop culture — fueled by the many similar post-apocalyptic cheap-o B-movies of the ‘80s — just ran with it. Again, I would love to hear additional thoughts on this in the comments!



The Cats’ Meow

Chuck J.M:

As much as I love the superhero genre, I have to admit I'm not much of a comic reader. Not that I'm against reading them, it's just that I tend to drift off whenever I read in general, so most of my knowledge of the genre comes from movies, TV, or online sources like Wikipedia.

So with that said my question concerns with the love interest of two of the most popular superheroes, Catwoman and Black Cat from Batman and Spider-Man. As a non-comic reader, I can't help but think that Black Cat is just a blatant rip-off of Catwoman.

Aside from having different looks to them and using different weapons (Catwoman uses a whip while Black Cat uses a grappling hook), what are the differences (if there are any) between the two characters? And how would I be able to describe them to someone who had no knowledge of the characters?


Well, if you wanted to describe them quickly, you could say “Black Cat is indeed a total rip-off of Catwoman” and that would sum things up pretty accurately. They’re both burglars who are generally considered good guys nowadays, they’re both cat-themed, they're both not afraid to flaunt their sexiness, they both love a superhero and have macked on them on several occasions. Both have had horrible, women-in-refrigerators-esque pasts — Black Cat was date-raped in college, while Selina was a prostitute (although the latter has been retconned).

But you asked about differences. Catwoman was created in 1940, while Black Cat made her Marvel debut in 1979. Catwoman was straight-up evil in the Silver Age, while Black Cat has never been anything other than a hero with kleptomania. Meanwhile Black Cat has occasionally had actual superpowers ­— first a “bad luck” power that affected others around her, then retractable claws (Catwoman’s claws have always been part of her gloves). Black Cat is almost always presented as sexy, while Catwoman occasional zips her cat-suit all the way to the top.


You know, let me simplify it: Catwoman is a hero in her own right, and then to Batman she’s a stark reminder that the world is not as morally black-and-white as he supposes it is. Black Cat is a guest-star best known for having sex with Spider-Man.

Toys for Thoughts

Joseph D.:

I reread your article about toy collecting the other day, and it depressed me. I have so many toys in boxes in closets or my storage unit, and honestly, the way action figures are rising in prices I need to cut down anyways. How should I decide which series to stop collecting?


I’ve had to go through myself, so I feel your pain, good sir. Here’s how I pared down my collections:

• First: Am I getting a toy just because it’s a cool toy, or because I really want it? Don’t laugh, this is serious. When I was in the worst throes of my toy-collecting madness, I would buy any toy was a cool toy on its own, regardless of the series or the character.


• Are you collecting something in hopes that it will be worth something later? Stop it. All of it. Immediately. Go to a casino, because your odds of making money are as good there or better, and you don’t need storage space for it.

• Are you keeping multiples of the same line? For instance, are you collecting the original Transformers, the Transformers animated series, the Transformers Prime stuff and the Transformers classic figures? Can you foresee yourself ever displaying all of those, or will you only display your favorites? If you’re only going to display one or two, stop collecting the others, and get rid of them so you won’t be tempted to buy more. I got rid of my original He-Man toys, because I knew they’d never be displayed while I had the MotU 200X line and the Masters of the Universe Classics (and I’m still trying to decide between those two).


• Ask yourself: Are you really ever going to be able to complete this collection to your satisfaction? At a certain point, I realized I was never going to be able keep up with all the Hasbro Star Wars toys (or afford them, or even find them) and that was enough for me to stop blowing my money on them. I love Futurama and Toynami’s Futurama line, but they haven’t put out a figure in like three years. If I’m not going to get a Llrr, a Scruffy or a Hedonism-Bot, there’s no point in me keeping them any longer.

• Last but not least: Think about how much room you really have to display your collection with. What percentage of your toys will you ever really be able to show at any given time? I won’t pretend you should only keep the things you can display — I mean, you should, but you’re a toy collector, not a monk — but having too many toys that will never see the light of day is bad. My personal goal: Be able to display 50% of my collection at a given time, meaning I only allow myself to store at many toys as I have out. It makes me picky about buying future toys, which is good because 1) I have way less storage issues and 2) way more money for booze.



Tron It Up

Brett O.:

What the hell are the Programs drinking in Tron? And whatever it is, why the hell are they drinking it? They’re computer programs.


Because it’s energy, man! We need food to fuel our bodies, and programs need energy to run theirs. The electricity that we pump into our computers gets sent into the Grid as glowing blue water, which fuels pretty much everything — buildings, vehicle, even people. Remember in the first Tron, when Tron and Ram are drinking right from a river? That's energy, man, and it’s the same stuff the End of Line clubs serves in Tron: Legacy (albeit refined). If a program goes too long without energy, he/she will derez and die.

And if you’re wondering why programs need to go to a club to get this energy, it’s because you know how when you leave a program on too long, and things start to get janky and bugs start piling up and eventually you have to turn the program off and restart it? Programs need breaks, just like humans do; by turning off the programs, even for a few seconds, you’ve allowed the program to go get a drink. I have thought waaaaaaay too much about the logistics of the Tron universe.



Lord It Over

Paul F.:

So, disclaimer, have not seen Man of Steel. Wasn't really interested in seeing it. But after hearing about Superman execute Zod, all I can think of is that scene in Justice League in the DCAU where the Justice Lords version of Superman lobotomized Doomsday. Since we've got an executioner in Superman, a Batman who is willing to let his enemies die when he has a chance to save them (e.g. Ra's), and the most self-absorbed Green Lantern ever, what do you think the odds are the movie version of the JLU ends up more like Justice Lords than Justice League?


Shit, I hadn’t thought of that. Even if they tied in Nolan’s Dark Knight movies to Justice League — a big if, especially now that Bale swears he’s not going to be part of it — and the Green Lantern movie — which is impossible because everyone at DC/WB is trying to ignore that shit ever happened — they’re still not going to be as evil as the Justice Lords were. On the other hand, a Superman who is okay with killing his enemies even as a last resort, a Batman who lets bad guys die (which is a crime called “depraved indifference,” by the way) and a self-absorbed Green Lantern who is a complete asshole is definitely a step away from the normal JL and towards the Justice Lords, which is one step closer than I’m comfortable with.


For the record, I think it’s worth noting that the Justice Lords Superman started down his path to — well, not evil per se as much as just regular old fascism — when he finally killed Lex Luthor in order to stop his evil forever. The Justice League cartoon knows why it’s a bad idea for Superman to kill anybody, and then Man of Steel does it anyways. Sigh.

And one more note, while I’m probably pissing people off, this is also why I hate Batman Begins.


Liam Neeson: Bruce Wayne, kill this criminal!

Bruce Wayne: I’m not going to kill this criminal!

Liam Neeson: Then you’re going to die!

Bruce Wayne: I will fight you all to the death because of my conviction about not killing this one person! I will kill my fellow trainees and comrades by the score in order so I don't take a life! Also I’m going to set your house on fire, killing god knows who else, just for kicks!


Liam Neeson: Dick.

Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!


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