Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Elemental Avengers

This semester I (Jaime) took an art class on surface design. Most of what we learned to do involved fabric, sewing, and creating quilt pieces. For one project we were assigned to design and then create four quilt pieces that had a theme such as four seasons, four elements, four virtues, or something that represented an idea in four different ways (for instance one of the other students showed four different ways to tell time because she likes clocks).

As I thought about my project, I immediately was drawn to the idea of the four elements but also another option on the list of possibilities: heroes. If anyone knows me, they probably think of two things first: dragons and superheroes. Thus, I decided to create four pieces to represent each of the main Avengers (apologies Clint and Natasha). But the idea of the elements still tugged at me until… lightbulb (or maybe it was JARVIS)… why not do both?

Hence the Elemental Avengers.

As I began preliminary design sketches, I had to match each hero with one of the four elements—and things began to fall perfectly in place. I asked multiple people—who I know are superhero fanatics and know enough about the Avengers team to assist—whether I had paired the element to the correct Avenger. Everyone agreed my matching was sufficient and spot-on. I was excited.

I finished my designs and created them. After many (long) hours, I had my Elemental Avengers.

Bruce Banner (the Hulk): Earth

According to my good friend Wikipedia, the element of Earth is associated with qualities of matter, heaviness, the terrestrial world, and even life and death. It’s obvious that some of these qualities fit with good old Bruce Banner. Not only is our Hulk friend down-to-earth in his personality (side effect of experimentation gone wrong), but he has a heaviness to him because of carrying around the “other guy.” He also has a big struggle with life and death because of his abilities. Plus the idea of green goes well with him.

"Earth Smash": Technique: I used dry brush strokes to create a brown, dry-earth background, then used extra fabrics to create the purple "pants'" of Bruce and the green-brown of the Hulk with the gamma radiation symbol made from the inside of a chip bag.
In addition, astrological signs associated with the element of earth point to a person who is calm (“I’m always angry”), practical (“Really? They want me submerged in a pressurized metal container?”), hard-working (he wouldn’t have become the Hulk without hard work or learned to control the Hulk either), brave (he turns into a giant green rage monster and lives with himself every day. He’s brave.), smart (science bros), wise (“we’re a time bomb”), stable (“I’m always angry”), and patient (did you see how he handled being in the same room as Tony?). In addition, they could be stubborn, possessive, nearsighted, and harsh. Again, some—if not all—clearly define our Bruce Banner, which is why I find it perfect to compare him to the element of Earth.

Thor: Air

I find many connections between the element of Air and the God of Thunder. Air is considered by the ancient Greeks to be both hot and wet, an in between of Fire and Water. For Thor, this is highly accurate. He can have the boiling heat of anger (like when he pulverized the Frost Giants of Jotunheim) but he can also be laid-back and cool like a wetness or a dew (such as when he learned his lesson and returned to Asgard). In addition, one Chinese tradition is to associate their element of metal or wood closely to the element of air. Who has a metal and wooden hammer?

"The Breath of the Gods": I splatter painted blue "rain" on the fabric and used a monoprint to create the "wind swirls." I embellished the background with the fabric hammer. 
For the astrological signs, the personality comparisons to Thor are almost dead-on accurate. They include kind (who could resist that adorable smile), intellectual (he does live on Asgard where Science and Magic are one), communicative (if yelling about Asgard and his hammer when he first arrives on Earth isn’t communicative I don’t know what is), and social (he seems pretty social, especially in Asgard with all eyes watching him). In addition, air-like people are selfish, superficial, vicious, and insensitive to other people’s emotions: all qualities of Thor before he came to Earth.
His ability to fly and control the “air” (aka thunder/rain/lighting) only adds to the idea that this match is perfect.

Steve Rogers (Captain America): Water

Now you might be thinking I’m just comparing Cap to water to make a bunch of capsicle jokes. Well you would be right (and wrong). For Steve Rogers, water was the first element to pop into my head as a match. Nothing is as cool and laid-back as water is or as he is. In addition, water can be a pretty powerful force and Steve is all power. Water is considered cold and wet; both relate to Cap and his capsicle state. And of course, water is also associate with the season of… Winter. (Hmmm, who does that make you think of???)

"Red, White, and the Deep Blue Sea": I used bubble wrap to stamp my watery design (using a mixture of blue shades). Then I did a photo transfer with masking tape to sew on my "capsicles." I created the shield out of extra fabric scraps and white fabric paint, sewed it on, and added the cheese cloth embellishment for ice texture.
For the astrological signs associated with water, the personality traits include: emotional (I see Cap as having the soft side, and he got emotional when Bucky died, among other moments), deep (he did get buried deep in the ice), nurturing (hmmm… I think I see Cap as being this toward others), sympathetic and empathetic (being “just a kid from Brooklyn” helps humble Cap), imaginative (he definitely has a big imagination pre-serum if he thought he could take on all the bullies), and intuitive (Cap is definitely intuitive: how else could he have rescued all those soldiers or figured out some of SHIELD and Hydra’s secrets). However in addition to these good qualities, water personalities are associated with cold, moody, sentimental, sensitive, escapistic, irrational and jealous. While Cap may not be all of these, he is some; despite our desire to hold him as noble and upright, he still has faults, especially seeing eye-to-eye with other (less traditional) ideas. But that makes Steve—serum and muscles and all—not perfect but still good. That makes him a hero.

Tony Stark (Ironman): Fire 

When I thought of the elements, I knew that Tony was most like Fire, but at first I didn’t know why. Yes, his suit is red and yellow, very “fire-like,” (not to mention his blue and white chest piece reminds me strikingly of the hotter parts of the flame) and of the four, he’s got the most “fire” power. But those felt like lame reasons… until I thought of Tony’s story.

Tony Stark doesn’t have the easiest, most smooth life. His back story is filled with heartache, anguish, and betrayal. It’s a wonder Tony has any piece of his heart left at all. His parents were murdered, his dad’s best friend betrayed him, he has villains chasing him down for past mistakes, and when he tries to do good, sometimes he fails. His story is filled with fire, smoke, and embers. But he still has a heart.

"Flames of Iron": I painted black with flames, then added the blue "arc reactor symbol" ad ironman helmet outline. I use masking tape to photo transfer my "fallen" hero. I rusted fabric and cut it up into flames. I sewed everything on and added in smoky scrawl: I am Ironman in black fabric paint.  (this piece got displayed in my school's student show!)
Fire is associated with energy (which his suit certainly has), assertiveness (Tony Stark is the living embodiment of this trait), and passion (Um, yeah). In addition, it’s hot and dry, qualities I think Tony possesses as well. In addition, fire is considered the fundamental element, the element to give way to the rest. I believe Tony Stark is the reason the Avengers Initiative works. He was approached first for the task; and he is the reason the team can come together and stay together. Yes, Cap might give the orders, but Tony is the heart.

The astrological qualities for fire only enhance the connection Tony has to this element: good leading qualities (you know, telling people what to do right?), enthusiastic (yes, just yes), extroverted (he doesn’t reveal he’s Ironman to get people to leave him alone), rebellious (excuse me, but did you see him sitting in the giant donut?), passionate (he’s definitely got passion for his suits and changing the world), brave and valiant (Avengers movie. End. That is all.). However, they can also be hot tempered, snappy, uncontrollable, and angry. While Bruce might win for always being angry, I think Tony has had his fair-share of moments that fit these qualities.

Tony is fire; and in the midst of the burning ruin, he comes out blazing bright. (okay, so that was totally lame.)

In addition, the symbol for fire is a single triangle… remind you of any glowing arc reactor you know?

While some of these may not fit perfectly, I think these comparisons only add to the character and arcs of Earth’s—and the Fangirl Initiative’s—Mightiest Heroes.

What do you think of these comparisons? Agree/Disagree?? What element would other heroes (like Clint and Natasha) compare to? 


  1. Ooh, these are spot-on! Especially Tony's and Bruce's.

    Clint would probably be air or water and Nat would be earth or fire. It's hard to tell, honestly.

    1. I thought it was more difficult to pin them down as well. I think Nat might be on the fire side... or she could be scorched ground XD

      I see Clint as being water-ish, but I don't know his character as well because he isn't as developed yet. Fingers crossed for more Hawkeye in the movie. :)

  2. This is perfect! Besides your designs--which are wizard, by the way--I loved seeing your reasoning behind all your picks. Also, it was just fun seeing them all sorted using a less common test.

    1. Thank you!

      Initially it was gut instinct but when I actually looked into qualities of the elements they happened to fit perfectly. I was internally fangirl screaming. :)