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Symbols that change meaning...

grendel824_grendel824_ Registered User regular
edited December 2007 in Graphic Violence
Okay, I'm teaching a unit on "The Scarlet Letter" and I've stumped myself trying to think of a comic character whose symbol (or something else identifiable about them) was originally supposed to be a mark of shame but has been turned into something else. I'm already planning to use the cross (pre-Christianity was a punishment for really bad criminals) and the swastika (co-opted by the Nazis from a couple of different sources).

I know Superman's "S" shield is technically his family crest, but that's not "Scarlet Letter" enough. The closest I've come is Destro from G.I. Joe whose ancestor was punished by having to wear the mask, but it has since become a point of pride for the family. Any ideas? It feels like there should be quite a few, but both my prodigious comics trivia knowledge and that of most of the people at my LCS have come up empty...

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    HooraydiationHooraydiation Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    The Confessor.
    The Confessor is a fictional character in the comic book series Astro City. Created by writer Kurt Busiek and artists Brent Anderson and Alex Ross, the Confessor was a Roman Catholic priest who fell victim to temptation during construction of a cathedral in 19th century Astro City. He was seduced by a vampire, who bit him, causing his transformation. As penance, he fought crime in Astro City, eventually constructing the identity of a religious-themed costumed hero.
    On his chest there is a large, shining cross, which causes him sufficient pain to prevent his temptation to drink blood, and remind him of his mission.
    For the Confessor, the cross is a symbol of his faith, a symbol of his weakness as a mortal, a painful reminder of what he has become, and finally a symbol of the good he does.

    However, you probably want someone more well known.

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    Rey Del AguilaRey Del Aguila __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2007
    The Absorbing Man's Ball and chain.



    Also Dare Devil's name and garb. In the origin mini Man With Out Fear we find that the school kids would make fun of little Mat Murdoch by calling him Daredevil which was supposedly a point of shame, maybe somehting to do with his dad's "Devil" boxing persona. But yeah point of shame for little Matt.

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    SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    This might get me shot, but in the last arc of Punisher: War Journal the Hatemonger co-opted Captain America's look while waging war on illegal immigrants. And by waging war, I mean slaughtering them. That seems like the opposite of what you want though... maybe the Punisher's skull? I dunno.

    I'll try and think of something later... it's too late right now.

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    Desktop HippieDesktop Hippie Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Right now all that springs to mind is Doctor Doom's mask. It's there to cover his scars, but it's also become a symbol of his own iron will. I don't know how well that fits though, since I'm fairly sure he'd ditch the mask if he could.

    You could make the same argument for Baron Zemo, although he kept his own mask after his scars healed.

    I *know* there has to be at least *one* X-Man or New Mutant whose name or costume reflects pride in being an outsider, but nothing is springing to mind! Does Bishop's M tattoo count? He doesn't really make a big deal of it as a point of pride, but he doesn't hide it the way Marvel Girl hides her "hound" markings.

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    WildcatWildcat Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Would Wondy's bracelets sort of count, perhaps, due to them being (at least in some versions of her backstory) reminders of the Amazons' time as slaves/subjugation to Hercules?

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    SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited November 2007
    V's Guy Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta.

    Guy Fawkes is traditionally remembered as a traitor and symbols depicting him retain negative connotations (In the UK, we immolate his effigy annually). Of course, V assumes Fawkes' persona, so to speak, as a symbol behind which to overthrow a corrupt modern-day UK government, so turning it from traitor to hero.

    Of course, some would consider the original Fawkes a hero anyway, but in general we make a point of remembering him in condemnation of what he and his co-conspirators tried to do.

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    Bob The MonkeyBob The Monkey Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Does Luke Cage's name count? Taking the 'cage' of his false imprisonment and subverting it in the creation of a vigilante identity?

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    Rey Del AguilaRey Del Aguila __BANNED USERS regular
    edited November 2007
    Does Luke Cage's name count? Taking the 'cage' of his false imprisonment and subverting it in the creation of a vigilante identity?

    If that is true it is a good one.

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    TachTach Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    You might be able to use Batman Begins...

    Bruce's fear of bats lead him to as his parents to leave the opera, which lead to their deaths. Later, he uses the image of a bat to intimidate criminals. "Bats frighten me. Its time my enemies shared my dread."

    A stretch, maybe.

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    SatanIsMyMotorSatanIsMyMotor Fuck Warren Ellis Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Tach wrote: »
    You might be able to use Batman Begins...

    Bruce's fear of bats lead him to as his parents to leave the opera, which lead to their deaths. Later, he uses the image of a bat to intimidate criminals. "Bats frighten me. Its time my enemies shared my dread."

    A stretch, maybe.

    I don't think it's a stretch, just another facet to the same idea.

    The Batman thing also gets into the concept of symbolic relativism. In short, how a symbol can mean one thing for one group while meaning the direct opposite (in extreme cases) for another. In Batman's case, the bat is generally looked at as an undesirable and "evil" creature. He banks on this idea in order to instill fear in criminals.
    To law-abiding citizens however Batman is viewed as a heroic icon and, as an extension of that, so is the symbol of the bat.


    Boy, it feels good to stretch that anthropology muscle.

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    grendel824_grendel824_ Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Nice ones, guys - thanks. Some are stretches but still appreciated, and others are ones that I can't believe I didn't think of. My class also mentioned "the Arbiter" from Halo.

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    ServoServo Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited November 2007
    in top 10 when smax has that handprint on his chest, you're like what the fuck is that like his symbol or something?


    then later it turns out to be his brand of shame

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I don't know if this counts, but Manji from Blade of the Immortal has a... well... manji on his kimono. A manji is essentially a reversed swastika, which used to have honorable origins...

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    GoatmonGoatmon Companion of Kess Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    The swastika is probably the epitome of a symbol having it's meaning corrupted and warped.

    It used to represent peace and harmony, and was often found imprinted on statues of Bhudda. Hell, it wasn't uncommon to find it in a Synagogue, up until Hitler came along.

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    matsurimatsuri Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Certainly Swastika. The Greater choice of master minded yet blurringly arising evil power of a human. I think the sign has something to defend itself and gets into the world attacking with its principal

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    BucketmanBucketman Call me SkraggRegistered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Servo wrote: »
    in top 10 when smax has that handprint on his chest, you're like what the fuck is that like his symbol or something?


    then later it turns out to be his brand of shame

    Yeah for most of Top 10 I figured the hand print was what made his laser chest thing happen. Then when I found out what it was.

    I would use that. Not really Batman famous but its a very good example.

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    grendel824_grendel824_ Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Heh, I got my evaluations back from the students, and a lot of them mentioned how I made stuff seem more interesting than their other teachers, using this topic, among others, as an example! Hooray! We made some kids' educations slightly better!

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