Evan Filarca, Youtuber, wants you to know his “Top 5 Issues With Spider-Man PS4”.
Issue no. 2 is a fairly fringe complaint.
A 2016 press release by Insomniac, who is developing the game, promised a slightly embossed logo on Spider-Man’s suit.
However, more recent gameplay footage shows the logo to be flat, as if stitched directly into the costume.
Filarca, around the six-minute mark, mounts a brave, if doomed, defence of an unintended victim of this aesthetic flip-flop.
“But I just wish that they didn’t end [the original logo design], and then switch it down the line”, Filarca begins, before continuing, with a tremble in his voice, “because there are people with tattoos of this Spider-Man costume, and they tattooed the logo on their bodies”.
At this point, a corroborating image flashes onto the screen, and there it is, sure enough, a picture of a man with a large, impossibly bright tattoo, stretching from his left shoulder to the small of his back, of something he saw in a Sony press release, the looming figure of Spider-Man, gallant, poised, unmistakeable, armless, one of the knees not quite filled in — “so”, Filarca concludes, “people might be kinda really irritated that they got a tattoo of a costume that’s not the official costume now anymore for the game.”
Who are these people, who to most onlookers straddle the boundary between punchline and tragedy? Do they live in sealed underground bunkers with their mothers, bathed in the blue light of their laptop screens as they etch pop-cultural icons into their torsos? Are they really, in Livarca’s eternal prose, “kinda irritated that they got a tattoo of a costume that’s not the official costume now anymore for the game”?
I spoke to the man behind the Spider-Man tattoo, the supposed victim of Insomniac’s caprice, who for the purposes of anonymity will go by the name ‘Joker’. He’s hardly the vimto-enraged mega fanboy Filarca paints him as; “the motivation behind this tattoo was just that I love being tattooed, and I had been itching for a new big piece at the time.”
Why, I asked, did he choose artwork from a promotional? For Joker, it hardly factored into it; “I’m a huge Spider-Man fan. I’ve been reading Spider-Man comics since I was a child and still like to keep up [with] the films and comics as much as I can. Spider-Man has always been a big part in my life.”
Filarca was, at best, a little dishonest, then. And thankfully, Joker’s Spiderman now has two intact knees — the image in the video was the first of a process that consisted of “multiple sittings” in Albuquerque, New Mexico by artist Osiris Kieth.
He’s not even bothered that the logo is potentially no longer part of the upcoming game’s lore, a sticking point in modern fan culture, lest we forget the change.org petition ordering Disney to “Strike Star Wars VIII from the Official Canon”, an egregious piece of nerd activism that’s still, somehow, amassing signatures.
So, whilst Joker believes it’s “still the official costume of the game”, he makes it clear that “even if it wasn’t” he still loves the tattoo — he didn’t get it for the game, he “got it because I wanted a Spider-Man tattoo, and I personally really loved the costume they’re using for the game”.
Neither is Joker’s gamble as drastic as it may seem — he realises there are “people who think my Spider-Man tattoo is stupid, because people tend to lean towards the argument “what if the game sucks?” He says that “even if the game does suck it’s still a badass Spider-Man tattoo that I love”.
Is there anywhere he’d draw the line? “I don’t think there is anything that’d be considered stupid, just because if someone wants a Pickle Rick tattoo and they like it, it’s not my place to judge.”
Pickle Rick is the title Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty’s mad scientist, bestows on himself in the episode when he — you guessed it — transforms himself into a semi-sentient pickle to escape family therapy.
As with Insomniac’s new Spidey costume, members of the Rick & Morty Schwiftposting Facebook group (a place to post memes based off the show) were tattooing themselves with images of Pickle Rick long before the episode’s release. Whilst a brine-spewing gourd isn’t the most obvious choice for body-art at even the best of times, there are some truly awful specimens.
One Pickle Rick tattoo still looks damp, the green torso of the pickle resembling a gangrenous wound. Comments range from the sympathetic to the downright hostile. One commenter has posted a lone image of a cheesegrater, alongside the words “The Cure…”
Underneath another Pickle Rick tattoo, which has been smeared with a McDonalds novelty condiment, the comment section reads like a particularly brutal Comedy Central Roast.
“This post gave me Mesothelioma, now I am entitled to financial compensation”
“This gave me children cancer — I don’t even have children yet”
“It’s like a visible, physical version of autism”
Observing these minor atrocities is perversely entertaining. Another tattoo has a Nike logo above it, partially concealed by the sleeve. An observer asks in reference to the hastily drawn Rick tattoo beneath it “Your Nike endorsements fall through?” while another advises the original poster to “just amputate your leg”. Even the better tattoos aren’t let off; “2/10 you didn’t actually ruin your life”.
I asked Cody X Parsons, a professional tattoo artist, what he thought about such low-standard body-art.
It’s worth mentioning that Cody has tattooed his fair share of pickles himself; he gets it. He puts the demand for them down to the “mystery behind Pickle Rick” and says that his clients “didn’t even care if the episode could potentially be a dud.” Like Joker, it’s not so much out of mad fan obsession than simply being enamoured by a cool new character.
However, when I asked Cody what he thought of the less-than-professional tattoos, he responded forcefully:
“To me unsafe tattooing needs to die. That tattoo looks like it was done by an untrained home tattooist. It’s honestly a mockery of what I do as a career and what I do with every ounce of passion in my soul. People who tattoo because of some ‘job’ or ‘image to be cool’ are pathetic. I wholeheartedly believe if you will be tattooed it needs to be from a professional licensed artist in a tattoo studio.”
Cody then raises a second possibility:
“Seems to me either that person was blind or was aiming to get a rise from people for shits and giggles.”
Are there really trolls out there who’d go to such lengths as to permanently tattoo themselves just to piss people off?
Since my messages saying “Hi, I’m a journalist, I saw your tattoo, it’s terrible, I’d love to know if you’re a troll and what’s it like”, have so far received no response, I’ll just assume the answer is yes.
Troll body-art is no longer just a World of Warcraft customisation option, but an almost definitely real part of the modern world. Oh boy.