THE BALD WALL: DR. MANHATTAN

March 31, 2009
The most powerful Bald of all.

The most powerful Bald of all.

Dr. Manhattan, of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal 1986 graphic novel “Watchmen”, stands alone as perhaps the most powerful Bald in the history of all fiction (though some might disagree).

Hair today, Jon tomorrow.

Hair today, Jon tomorrow.

When a scientific experiment goes awry, physicist Jon Osterman is transformed into a blue-skinned enigma with unfathomable control over every cell, atom, and particle in the known universe (the accident also takes his hair, a common DC trope).  The newly Bald Jon is immediately contracted by the United States government and given the name Doctor Manhattan.  He proceeds to carry out any and every order given to him by his Haired superiors, including wiping out indigenous Vietnamese soldiers with a mere point of his quantum-powered finger.  But his social life suffers the same fate:  Jon’s radically-altered perception of life is impossible for his friends and lovers to relate to.   Try as he might, his great abilities are unable to prevent every relationship he ever cherished from falling apart as a result of his “unexpected change”.

Many of us can relate.

It's not easy being Bald.

It's not easy being Bald.

Dr. Manhattan’s story in “Watchmen” centers around his increasing isolation and gradual withdrawal from the rest of human society as he comes to realize more and more how irrevocably different he is from everyone around him.  Whether it was Moore’s intention or not, the tale of Dr. Manhattan is an obvious parable for the Bald Experience in America in the ’80’s.

The abominable Sy Sperling, 1986.

The abominable Sy Sperling, 1986.

It was in the ’80’s that anti-Bald technology blossomed and led to the creation of a lucrative industry.  Surgeon William Rassman pioneered the use of micrograft hair transplants, and founded the hate group New Hair Institute.  Entreprenuer Sy Sperling introduced his even more successful Hair Club For Men to the world, with its famous slogan “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client,” featuring photos documenting Sperling’s own transformation from undesirable Bald to eligible Haired ladykiller.  Hundreds more companies sprung up in their wake.  With some 35 million Bald or balding men in America alone, there was clearly a fortune to be made.

The only problem:  in order to sell their many hair restoration products, companies like Hair Club For Men and NHI would have to convince the populace at large that being Bald was bad.   Awful, in fact.  A disease that needed to be cured.

Consumed by ’80’s era greed, they embarked on a remorseless marketing campaign that would forever affect the Bald community’s standing in the social structure, with hate-filled ads like this one:

The result:  their products flew off the shelves.  Entreprenuers like Sperling became millionaires overnight.  And a generation of Bald men became walking pariahs, wasting the best years of their lives pouring their hard earned money into a variety of different snake oils, or trading their dignity for a lousy toupee  (It’s no mistake that Moore’s Dr. Manhattan is depicted as flaccid and unable to please women sexually).

The Moore Code.

Moore's Code.

With such power and influence at their fingertips, these newly crowned titans of the Hair Restoration industry could shut down anybody who tried to challenge the Anti-Bald narrative they so efficiently concocted and weaved through 1980’s culture.  That Moore was able to hide such a damning indictment of them in the pages of the bestselling graphic novel of all time is just another testament to his unmatched brilliance…  and another layer to examine in his most unforgettable and tragic creation, Dr. Manhattan — the God who wasn’t Haired.


THE BALD WALL: LEX LUTHOR

January 6, 2009

It may seem odd that only the third Bald to ever be discussed on our site is a fictional character born in 1940 in tri-color pointilism on newsprint, rather than a living breathing human being.  Thus is the awful, lasting significance and influence of Lex Luthor, a man whose legacy has been so destructive, whose shadow has spread so darkly over the second half of the 20th Century and beyond, bringing pain and suffering to Balds everywhere, that he can conceivably be seen as the Bald Hitler.

Lex Luthor, 1979

Lex Luthor addressing the Legion of Doom, 1979

Lex Luthor is a master supervillain, arguably the epitome of the Criminal Mastermind (Bald or otherwise) archetype that has permeated fiction since the days of Iago and Richard II.  As the arch-nemesis of DC Comics’ Superman — the uber-handsome idealized American male — Luthor is known the world-over for being two things:   the EXACT POLAR OPPOSITE of everything a man wants to be, and Bald.

luthor-1As if this combination wasn’t unfortunate enough, there is a much deeper and darker level to Luthor’s evil, something exhibiting true hatred for our people, a hatred that, through lifelong cultural osmosis, we have likely taken up against ourselves to degrees we’re unable (or unwilling) to admit.

Luthor is the worst criminal there could ever be, the Baddest Guy amongst Bad Guys, the villain all the other villains elected to lead of the Legion of Doom. And why, you ask?  Why would this clearly brilliant man, this unrivaled inventor, dedicate his unparalleled scientific mind and his vast financial fortune towards a lifetime of impractical aggression and periodic incarceration for no personal gain whatsoever save the sociopathic satisfaction of destroying the world, humanity, and everything that is good?

Why, it’s obvious:  because he is Bald.

superman_superboy-luthor

When We Were Haired.

That’s right.  Lex Luthor was actually once Superboy’s best pal.  They did science projects together, they might have even had a little thing going for a minute here and there, but they were unquestionably bros.  Such bros that when curious young Lex’s latest experiment went bad and started a huge fire in his basement laboratory,  Superboy flew in to save the day and pummeled the flames right out with the gale-wind force of his mighty super-breath.  There was collateral damage, however.  In the act of trying to save his friend, Superboy’s super-breath unknowingly blew off all of Luthor’s hair.

Who can blame him.

Who can blame him.

From this, it was a straight line to supervillainy.  No further explanation was needed for friendly Lex’s change in demeanor.  If someone made you Bald — even it was your best-est friend and they did it by accident amidst the greater act of saving you from a burning building — you’d want to kill them so bad that you would become Lex Luthor, the most infatigible cretin of 20th Century fiction.

Hackman's tastefully crafted image.

Gene Half-ass.

And if this stain on our history wasn’t dark enough, along came Gene Hackman to play Luthor in the 1978 “Superman” movie.  Although a respected actor known for his versatility and willingness to adopt unflattering appearances (“The Conversation”, “Scarecrow”) in selfless service of a meaty role, Hackman drew the line at tackling that single most irredeemable thespian sacrifice:  being Bald.  He compromised and wore a bald cap for just long enough to establish himself as the internationally-recognized character from the comics.  But as soon as the celluloid Lex Luthor breaks out of jail, the first thing he does is put on a toupee that will never leave his head for the remaining three movies (save the occasional swim or prison stretch).  For what else does a Bald Man dream of, but Hair?  Even if imprisoned, his peers’ shared fantasies of freedom are matched in their unquenchable need by his desire for productive hair follicles.

And don’t even mention the forgettable version phoned in by Kevin Spacey in Bryan Singer’s inanimate “Thuperman Returns”, in which we learn that a Bald villain is a villain so unsubstantial to our hero as to not even require defeat.

The ramifications of Lex Luthor’s Baldness have carved a thousand little Lindsay Lohan cuts into the wrists of every Bald man walking the earth today whether he consciously knows it or not.  Whereas the thickly raven-Haired Kal-El soars through the skies as the penultimate alpha male aspiration, the Hairless and piggish Lex Luthor is the Bald receptacle of our species’ most loathed self-images, perpetually hunching over his heartless control boards, cursing the world, in need of extravagant armor to counter his frail physical impotence, obsessively collecting every material possession he can in a futile effort to compensate for the one lone thing he truly ever wanted but can never have:      his hair back.

luthor-hair

Bald Man's Burden.

Could the most influential Bald of the 20th Century be its most despised villain?  These are the questions that will keep Bald historians awake for a millenia of nights to come.

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NOTE:  Lex Luthor is but one of many Bald Criminal Masterminds in popular fiction.