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Monday, February 11, 2008

Dumb Question - Why Phone Booths?

Okay, this is probably one of those things that gives away my utter cluelessness as to certain aspects of superhero comics still, but...

Why does/did Clark Kent change in a phone booth at all?

I mean...every phone booth I've ever seen is transparent. Glass. Can see in and out. Which means if anyone glances over, they're gonna see some guy changing in there. Okay, presumably, he can change faster than the human eye can see, but...then why does he need a phone booth?

I mean, okay, he probably doesn't want to change in mid-step, in case someone should see that where Clark Kent was standing a moment ago, Superman is now. But I hardly see how seeing Clark Kent enter a phone booth and Superman step out is any better. Phone booths are small and have only one exit. It's not like passing someone in the hall.

So. Um. Why a phone booth?

16 Comments:

  • At February 11, 2008 5:53 AM, Anonymous suedenim said…

    This interesting article points out that Clark Kent actually *didn't* use phone booths all that much:

    http://www.supermanhomepage.com/other/other.php?topic=phonebooth

    But the '40s phone booths he did use were apparently much more enclosed than the kind we're used to (think more Doctor Who's box than the more modern all-glass sort.) Not *completely* enclosed, but more plausible that nobody would notice anything unless specifically trying to see if the booth is occupied.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 9:17 AM, Blogger Sea_of_Green said…

    Old-fashioned phone booths actually hid quite a bit! Weren't they used primariliy in films, though? I always thought it started out as a very convenient film gimmick.

    Personally, I always associated phone booths (or call boxes) more with Dr. Who than with Superman. :-)

     
  • At February 11, 2008 10:03 AM, Blogger Siskoid said…

    I once played an improv where I was a superhero who tried to change in a phonebooth, or what passes for phonebooths today.

    "Damn it, everyone can see me. And there's no door."

     
  • At February 11, 2008 10:26 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    And God forbid, he should drop something. Have you ever tried to bend over in a phone booth?

    Actually, he did seem to use that old storage closet at the Daily Planet a lot more than phone booths. Although I imagine that he had to throw Jimmie out a few times, when he caught him smooching or smoking or napping.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 10:28 AM, Blogger Rob S. said…

    I think the phone booths started with the TV show, serials or cartoons. Essentially it became shorthand for changing clothes. Since they might not have wanted to show Clark undressing, the next best thing was showing him going into an enclosed, 1-person space with no exit, and then coming out as Superman.

    By the time the Christopher Reeve movie came out, it was a trope well known enough to give us a gag with a modern phone booth (if I remember right) and also a great change in a revolving door.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 3:52 PM, Anonymous Jeff said…

    The phone booths were big in the 40's Fleischer Cartoons (Which you should see as they're awsome, and inspired alot of the Timmverse look).

    Whenever Clark would use the old radio line "This looks like a job for Superman" and then change, they tended to show the change in shadow or silhouette, which the old phone booth designs worked well for.

    Jeff

     
  • At February 11, 2008 5:06 PM, Blogger K. D. Bryan said…

    Clark Kent is an exhibitionist. It's his not-so-secret shame.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 5:09 PM, Blogger Sleestak said…

    False modesty? Can't have him changing clothes in the middle of the street regardless of how fast he is.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 5:51 PM, Blogger Scott (The Mad Thinker) Anderson said…

    Well, you know this was from the same guy who thought transparent glasses were a disguise.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 7:14 PM, Blogger Siskoid said…

    If it's burned into our memories, I think it's partially because it was at the top of so many letters pages.

     
  • At February 11, 2008 7:21 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    http://stars-and-garters.blogspot.com/2008/02/in-response-to-kalinara.html

     
  • At February 12, 2008 12:13 AM, Blogger Tom Foss said…

    It's Superman's personal Somebody Else's Problem field. Like the Doctor said: ""You put a mysterious blue box slap bang in the middle of town and what do they do? Walk past it." Same with a guy in a phone booth.

     
  • At February 12, 2008 12:32 AM, Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said…

    "Clark Kent is an exhibitionist. It's his not-so-secret shame."

    Wait, wait, wait. A guy who likes to ponce about in skin-tight blue jammies, a cape and bright red tighty-whiteys is an "exhibitionist"? Oh, why must we label people?!?!

     
  • At February 12, 2008 2:17 AM, Blogger Mike Haseloff said…

    Yeah, I can't ever get my head around how weird it must be to live in Metropolis and always be finding complete suits everywhere.

    Do you think the MPD are aware of this? Are they on the look out for a notorious nudist? Have these suits never been connected to Clark Kent? Does Superman have to kiss every person that finds one of these suits, to blank their memory?

     
  • At February 12, 2008 10:10 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Mike, as far as I can tell, the various cities in the comicbook universes are FULL of either temporarily discarded regular clothes, or actual superhero outfits, deposited with disgust in the closest trash can.

    Wolverine went through at least one brand-new leathre jacket a WEEK! Spider-Man was always dumping his suit in the garbage, and walking away with his shoulders slumped. Plenty of other heroes got into the act as well.

    Hobos have it GOOD!

     
  • At February 12, 2008 10:25 AM, Anonymous Jeff said…

    Sigh...now I feel all old. Superman was established in the Silver Age (possibly before) as having a hidden pocket in his cape. He'd use his super strength to fold his suit extra small to fit in it.

    Whether or not he had a Super Iron to get all the wrinkles out was never established to my knowledge.

    Jeff

     

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