We live currently of awesome superhero costumes. An upswing and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists with a savvy understanding of fashion, along with the slow diversification that’s making heroes palatable to a broader audience, have contributed to a costuming culture with additional to offer you than capes and pants.
Superhero costumes have been an asset to the industry, because iconography helps establish character and make a brand. But the price of costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters appear to be recognized now as never before, creating an upswing of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even should be with a particular book to become called into make-over the characters. It is a great leap forward in understanding precisely what a good costume are capable of doing – along with the special skills required to accomplish it.
Moon Knight was a mess of your character before his 2014 revival at the disposal of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire. Contradictory efforts by multiple creative teams to obtain the character’s core only served to layer junk upon junk. Moon Knight was meant to be complex; he became cluttered.
Ellis, Shalvey and Bellaire streamlined him down and gave him a clearly defined new role – the hero who protects travellers at nighttime – as well as a new look; a natty white suit. Both elements helped pull Moon Knight out of the mire of Marvel’s many failed faux-Batmen and then make him his very own man the first time.
Moon Knight’s new costume right away underlines his insanity – his old white suit has never been the sane approach to fight crime, and now it’s a real white suit – and exerts his outer calm, his cool lunar placidity. It gives him authority. It will make him scary. And yes it makes him normally the one superhero detective who dresses something similar to a detective, which feels as though a statement of purpose.
The suit is not really Moon Knight’s only costume – in their six issues, the creative team also showed us a crazy bone outfit for fighting the occult plus a more conventional but still refreshed handle his old cape-and-cowl look. Both costumes look wonderful and then make perfect sense for the character – these aren’t Stealth Strike Scuba Assault Batman action figure costumes. However, if there’s any sense on the planet, it’s the white suit which will become Moon Knight’s new default. It redefines him. It gives him a brand new place that may be uniquely his within a city of heroes.
Great costumes may offer just this sort of redemption. Shatterstar, a joke of any character along with his mullet and opera cloak, was suddenly credible thanks to a redesign (along with a fresh haircut) thanks to Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the most apparent trigger to the current “golden age” of d.va costumes – was exactly about re-positioning Carol Danvers among Marvel’s premier heroes. The tailored military look drew a line between her present-day “top gun” persona as well as the old, victimized, drunken Carol, who did actually prefer editing magazines to flying planes.
It’s challenging to imagine that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood just what he was tapping into as he handed Batgirl up to the latest creative team of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr, with Stewart and Tarr collaborating around the character’s change. I’m sure Doyle expected great things, although the torrent of fan-art that emerged in the 24-hours following the reveal of Batgirl’s new costume was unprecedented. Such was the mania that cosplayers almost immediately bought the world’s flow of Drench Wellington yellow rubber Doc Marten boots.
What happened with Batgirl was the spark of the movement based in large part on the smart new costume that spoke to Barbara Gordon’s character, intelligence, style, and place in everyday life. This design looked less similar to a Batman cast-off, plus more like something a young woman will make for herself to craft her own identity beneath the bat-cowl.
Sure, there were critics. Fans whose philosophy on everything from high-heeled shoes to strapless tops is definitely, “it can’t be impractical if she’s wearing it” were suddenly in revolt at the thought of a leather jacket that hid the character’s boobs. Nevertheless the thrift-store style, the snap-on cape, the zips and buckles, were all character-first design elements, and that’s how good costume design should work.
We don’t yet recognize how this fresh look will translate to actual sales – we may never understand how well the book sells digitally, where a great deal of its market will likely reside – but the sort of word-of-mouth and internet based interaction generated by this costume redesign is hugely valuable to a publisher.
An effective costume gets a crowd excited by letting them know what to expect. Cliff Chiang’s carry out Wonder Woman played up her warrior strength and her status as both mythic figure and iconic hero. Jamie McKelvie’s costume to the new Ms. Marvel respected her youth and heritage as opposed to pandering to a traditional crowd.
Plus it works in reverse. Harley Quinn’s New 52 design clearly steered the character in the different direction in the ones fans expected, and sent a transmission to readers as unambiguous since the one sent by Tarr and Stewart’s Batgirl.
Here’s an announcement I never thought I’d make: I want Marvel to bring Gwen Stacy back through the dead. And it’s all because of costume.
Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Verse event brings together Spider-Men and Spider-Women from multiple alternative realities, including many that readers have seen before and a few new ones created for the celebration. Among them can be a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, developed by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears a few things i think could be the best superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does many things with remarkable economy. It plays beautifully from the iconic design of the best superhero costume ever conceived, Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man costume. It strikes a contemporary tone with all the hood and the neon Chucks – however with sufficient restraint that I don’t think it will look dated in many years to come. It produces shapes and breaks up space in a way that’s planning to look powerful around the page. And it also immediately evokes character. I haven’t even read Spider-Gwen’s first Spider-Verse appearance, and i also curently have feelings of a tricky, haunted, edgy young woman. I’ll eat a pair of neon Chucks if that’s not who she actually is.
Gwen Stacy is meant to stay dead. As grotesque as it is when women are killed off to further the stories of male heroes, the death of Gwen Stacy feels too vital that you Spider-Man’s development to get undone. Yet I really like this costume so much that, prior to the Spider-Gwen issue of Side of Spider-Verse is released, I am aware I want Gwen back and kicking ass with this costume.
(I am going to accept a continuous that is set in Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, when the Ultimate Universe scales straight back to just Miles Morales, a Miles book and a Gwen book would be perfect complements to one another. But I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
A fantastic costume inspires stories – and tells an audience what kind of stories should be expected. Catwoman created a new type of sense when redesigned by Darwyn Cooke in 2004 – finally she wore the costume of your master thief, no Olympic luge rider. It causes whiplash at any time that costume appears in company to a narrative that doesn’t respect the character. The form-shifting Loki being a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – another Jamie McKelvie design – sparks totally different stories towards the sinewy old guy together with the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men deadpool costume put the time-tossed X-Men from the present-day better than any volume of exposition.
Costumes have invariably been important to superheroes – but perhaps more so than many editors realize. Some artists are excellent at it, and some are… less great. Like lettering, coloring, inking, editing, or dexrpky99 art, it’s a specialized job that perhaps ought to be restricted to those with the skill set to do well at it.
Thankfully the comic industry has never had such a great deal of designing talent. Jamie McKelvie, Kris Anka, Cameron Stewart, Robbi Rodriguez, Cliff Chiang, etc., are component of a generation of artists taking this task very seriously, plus they make superhero comics smarter and sharper for doing this.
And they’re not alone. A lot more artists are showing their designer flare as well as their grasp of contemporary style. Sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt provide fertile ground for artists to perform around with costume concepts – and the excellent Project: Rooftop curates some of the finest examples. The musty superhero industry would benefit hugely from switching to the likes of Cory Walker, Mingjue Helen Chen, Dean Trippe, Corey Lewis, Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle, Jemma Salume, Sean Murphy, Ron Wimberly, and much more, to re-energize the genre for tomorrow.