When I was a teenager, the cool thing to do was to get your ears pierced. It was more than that though. It was all about gauging your ears. I saw friends make the holes in their ears large enough to fit a bottle cap through. I had myself a gauged ear piercing. I got it all the way up to 10, and I could fit the non-cotton part of a Q-tip in there. I took the earring out of my ear almost 6 years ago, and I still have a hole there that won't close. It's not too noticeable, but I can only wonder what happened with my old friends with those giant holes in their ears.
Now-a-days, it's all about tattoos. Tattoos say a lot about who you are, what you do, and what you're into. Many times, when passion becomes obsession, a tattoo is quick to follow. It's not uncommon to see someone covered in the things, and the stigma of "a person with a tattoo is a tough guy or a criminal" has quickly faded away.
I love tattoos. In fact, I have clocked roughly 33 hours under the needle. Does it hurt? Yes, but it's worth it. I described the tattooing process last year in another article called "The World of Comic Book Tattoos." As previously mentioned, I got the Alan Scott Lantern tattoo to commemorate the history of comic books and the golden age. It's not just me though. People around the world are also getting comic-related tattoos. Even in my own backyard of the Chicago suburbs, I see people coming into the local comic book shop covered, sometimes head-to-toe, in tattoos, and quite a few are comic book related. Even though I know why I have these tattoos, I've always wondered why other people get comic tattoos. I talked to people I personally know about their artwork to find out why some people feel the need to put their love on their body permanently.
Chris Tennyson is a regular at the local comic book shop who has many interesting pop culture related art work tattooed on his body, including pieces related to the game Hitman, and the television shows Heroes and Lost. Aside from that, Chris also has two comic book related pieces: A Superman shield on his right shoulder and Wolverine’s claw sheaths on the backs of his hands, exactly where Wolverine has them. “I’ve got a lot of minor but annoying health problems, and Wolverine’s primary ability is accelerated healing. Getting his claws was the closest I figured I could get to “being” him. As an artist & comic fan, the sheathes & their placement seemed the most visually appealing, as opposed to just getting a picture of him on my somewhere” states Tennyson.
Tennyson got the tattoos at Taylor Street Tattoo in Chicago and it set him back $100 in total (without tip), which is pretty darn cheap for a tattoo. Tennyson has been a fan of Wolverine since the X-Men FOX cartoon during the 90s and he has a very specific first comic book memory: “The first issues of Wolverine I ever read were issues #65-66, and what sticks in my head…was him getting into a bar fight… and his eyeball being shoved into his skull, and his jaw being dislocated. That bloody, violent image was definitely burned into my young brain.”
He doesn’t want to stop there though. He would like to get all 9 lantern symbols tattooed on him as well. He’s not sure where he’d like to get them though, but he says that realistically, he’d probably just get his favorite symbol, Hope, possibly on his spine.
Corey Stevens has been a comic book fan since he was two or three years old, almost 30 years now. He’s taken his lifelong passion for comics and permanently inked it onto his body. “My current comic book tattoos are a Batman symbol on my left upper arm and a half sleeve of Ghost Rider cover from the Road to Damnation series #1.”
Stevens grew up in the far west suburbs of Chicago and he spent his youth riding dirt bikes, snowmobiles, and three wheelers. He had a couple serious motorcycle accidents and survived them including one where he flipped over his handlebars going 65mph and slid across the gravel and grass. This event, and a love of the character, prompted him to get the tattoo which is on his left arm.
“I started it out with the gray line at Outer Limits Tattoo in Long Beach CA when I lived out there” explains Stevens. “Then started it up again with the color at Inktown in Lombard, IL with Jerry Cross. Both places doing it for roughly $100/hour… So far I have 9.5 hours in and still going.”
Stevens has been a Ghost Rider fan since 2004, when he first saw the Road to Damnation series in a in the Comic Shop Newsletter, and in 2008, when he moved back to Illinois from California someone gave Stevens a stack of comics they didn't want anymore, including the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider volume. From there it seemed to be love.
Aside from finishing up the Ghost Rider tattoo, Stevens has some other plans for comic book tattoos. "I want to add in an Angel drawing that Paolo Pantalena drew. I want to add that to the back half of my arm and from the recent Johnny Blaze series before the Heaven's on Fire, #31 with the fallen Angels in the background of the cover... After that is finished I'd like to do a half sleeve of Batman. I've been collecting Batman and Batman related character comics for artwork ideas, such as the 90's purple costume, Catwoman series."
Lastly, I talked to another rabid comic book fan. One that many members of the Comic Vine community will be familiar with. His name is Joe Lonergan, also known as jloneblackheart on Comic Vine. He has quite a few comic book tattoos including Ghost Rider on his right forearm, Majin Buu's symbol, a Boba Fett related tattoo on his right shoulder, and a Blackheart tattoo on his forearm. "I loved Blackheart in the Marvel Super Heroes fighting game. I like the way he looks and his name suits (or suited) my demeanor" explains Lonergan.
Unfortunately, the tattoo did not come out the way he originally wanted, so he had to go to numerous places: "I actually got the tattoo done in two locations. Long story short, got an apprentice to do it in three sittings for the tune of about $350. Realizing it was kind of [poor] looking, I went and got it fixed at Guyama Ink in Longwood, FL in two more sittings for about $300." Lonergan, in total, sat for five to six hours to complete this tattoo.
Lonergan doesn't have too much planned for his future in the world of comic tattoos though: "I don't have much planned as far as getting any more work done, but I want to. I'm a lot older now then I was then, and it's harder to justify and get around to getting more. If I did get a comic character, it would for sure be Thanos."
People get tattoos for a plethora of reasons, but there's an underlying theme with each reason: love. Whether it's because of health issues, a bike accident, or just because you think it looks cool, the reason these characters get tattooed on someone's body is because they love these characters and love comic books. It's a tribute to an art form that everyone is familiar with, and it's an art form that has consistently remained popular for over 70 years. As long as there is a love for comic books, there will be tattoos to follow.
Mat "inferiorego" Elfring is a comedian, writer, teacher, and a big fan of tattoos.
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