Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bosses From The Eighth Circle Of Hell: The Superhero

In the mid-1990s and I got a job as a graphic designer at a marketing firm. As my first official duty I was assigned to design an ad campaign for a client's new product. 

I had a meeting with my brand new Boss, the copywriter and the art director. It was decided that I would design two posters featuring a superhero. The first poster would be a teaser, featuring a Batsignal-like beacon in the night sky. Instead of a stylized bat though, the signal would incorporate the client's logo. Clever, eh? The second poster would depict the superhero holding and announcing the new product. As a long time comic book fan, this project was right up my alley. 

I drew a couple of quick mockups of the two posters in Photoshop and showed them to my Boss. He was confused about the "big light in the sky" on the first poster (even though he'd already approved the idea). I told him it was like the Batsignal. Still no comprehension. Amazingly he had little or no knowledge of the Batman mythos; something I thought was pretty much common knowledge by that point. I told him that when the Joker robs a bank, Commissioner Gordon goes up to the roof of the police station and turns on the Batsignal, which alerts Batman that a crime has been committed, he arrives at the police station, gets the relevant info and he then goes out to capture the crooks. Of all the things I thought I would have to do on my first day at this job, explaining how the Batsignal worked was way, way down on the list.

He then said, "What's the deal with Superman anyway (completely missing the point that we'd been talking about Batman)? He's the one they found in a basket in the river, right?" I said, no, that sounded more like Moses than Clark Kent. I swear to you I am not making up any of this.

The Boss then looked at the other poster (the one with the superhero holding the product) and very bluntly said the character looked "gay." When I asked him to elaborate, he said the guy was wearing form-fitting tights with his underwear on the outside, which apparently to him was a sure-fire sign of homosexuality. I realized then that this man had never in his life ever seen, much less read, a comic book. I pointed out that this was standard superhero garb and had been since 1938 when Superman first appeared. Several other people in the office backed me up, saying it just looked like the average superhero to them. Outnumbered, the Boss sighed and reluctantly approved the mockups.

I finished the posters and a week later accompanied the Boss to the presentation at the client's office. Before we went in he told me to keep quiet and let him do all the talking. "And for god's sake don't say anything about the superhero being gay! We'll lose the whole account if you say that! Don't say gay!!!" he exclaimed. I assured him I would have no problem with that.

We went into the client's conference room and my boss unveiled the two posters. Before the client could utter a single word my Boss blurted out, "I think it looks gay!" The client looked a bit startled and I just stared at the Boss, my mouth agape in amazement. He didn't stop there though, he went on about how he didn't think they'd want their company spokesman to be a guy flitting around in a purple cape and silver tights.

I have never come so close to beating someone to death with a tube sock full of Hot Wheels cars than I did in that meeting.

Luckily for me (job-wise and jail time-wise) the client liked the posters ("gayness" aside) and heartily approved them with only a couple of minor changes.

On the ride back to the office, the Boss looked over at me and said, "Well, I think that went pretty well, don't you?" I declined to comment.


  1. Oh, I could posts incidents with this particular Boss for years...

  2. Okay, so what happened to this guy? Still in business?

  3. Oh yes, against all odds and common sense, his company somehow keeps chugging along.

    I have a feeling that someday there will be a big puff of brimstone in his office and Satan will step out of it and say to this Boss, "It's time. Did you think I'd never come back to collect?"


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