Before I start, I want to point out that I know today is Monday and it’s time for “Brainiac On Banjo,” where I wax on and on about comics and pop culture. I realize it is not Thursday, where, in “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind,” I do my seditious and sometimes salacious political rants. So, given today’s location, I’m going to do something I rarely do in “Weird Scenes.” I am going to let Donald Trump off the hook.
For a week now, the wires and tubes have been buzzing about the new, official costume of the new, official U.S. Space Force. Allegedly our sixth branch of the armed forces, it’s merely a part of the U.S. Air Force, the way the Air Force – then called the Air Corps – used to be part of the U.S. Army. But don’t bother Mr. Trump with that. Right now, he’s busy.
Yes, I know that some people call them uniforms but my pal, writer, former DC Comics editor and New Jersey bon vivant Jack C. Harris called ‘em costumes when he was in the Air Force, and so, I’ve absconded with it. If that pisses you off, well, no disrespect is meant… to you. Unless your last name is Westmoreland or Schwarzkopf. Damn, I am getting political.
This just-revealed costume is being widely mocked because… well, because it’s “cammo”, which is military-hip for camouflage. One might ask, as many have already, “Why the hell do you need camouflage while waging war in space? You’re going to hide behind some trees?”
The fair response is, we are not waging war in space. Not yet. Be patient.
But the U.S. Space Force, even though it sounds like an early 1960s breakfast cereal, was not Trump’s idea. Obviously, he liked it, but the whole thing dates back several decades, well before either Ronald Reagan’s or George Lucas’ Star Wars. I don’t think Don was a Boy Scout (if so, they aren’t bragging about it), but when discussing war, be prepared.
Right now the members of the U.S. Space Force corps can wear any costume they desire, or go naked if that’s the order of the day. Nobody’s going anywhere near an airlock.
We have romanticized space travel for about 150 years. We know how people are supposed to dress when doing weightless acrobatics in the vast dark void. We’ve seen the footage of our astronauts bouncing around and playing golf on the moon.
Prior to the invention of reality, though, costuming for outer space was defined by great fantasy artists who grabbed our sense of wonder and made love with it. These folks inspired our early space scientists and rocketeers when they were children, and when they grew out of making bottle rockets they became engineers and astrophysicists. What they did for decades after World War II was what, prior to World War II, we called magic.
So when I gawk at the costume of the U.S. Space Force, I think of the legion of great fantasy artists – I’m doing a disservice by only representing three here in this week. Perhaps we now know too much about the realities of space travel to continue to embrace that sense of wonder. If that’s the case, we are worse for it.
So many of our scientific advances come from or were honed by our military efforts, particularly in the realms of the health sciences. I’ve never been a pacifist, but I do see that as a worthy goal, so I can’t help but be disappointed that our future battlefield might be off-planet. But… such is reality. We may or may not ever be threatened by a Ming The Merciless, but I guess fighting in outer space is akin to “taking the fight outside.” Warfare, as just a huge western bar-fight.
Maybe the U.S. Space Force will inspire in our children a greater sense of wonder. We need that, and let’s face it, we’re going to fight with each other wherever we go. You can divorce your spouse, but you can’t divorce your species.
But you can inspire them. I hope that, as we get closer to that inevitable time when we do prepare for battle way out there, we’ve got costumes that reflect the work of Alex Raymond, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, and their brothers and sisters who herald our imagination.