We live currently of awesome superhero costumes. The growth and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists having a savvy knowledge of fashion, as well as the slow diversification that’s making heroes palatable into a broader audience, have contributed to a costuming culture with a lot more to offer you than capes and pants.
Superhero costumes have invariably been an asset to the industry, because iconography helps establish character and create a brand. But the need for costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters seems to be recognized now as never before, ultimately causing the growth of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even must be over a particular book to be called into make-on the characters. It is a great leap forward in understanding just what an excellent costume can do – and also the special skills required to make it happen.
Moon Knight had been a mess of your character before his 2014 revival in the hands of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire. Contradictory efforts by multiple creative teams to get 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 through the night – plus a new look; a natty white suit. Both elements helped pull Moon Knight from the mire of Marvel’s many failed faux-Batmen and make him his own man for the first time.
Moon Knight’s new costume right away underlines his insanity – his old white suit was never the sane way to fight crime, and from now on it’s a genuine white suit – and exerts his outer calm, his cool lunar placidity. It gives him authority. It can make him scary. Plus it makes him usually the one superhero detective who dresses something like a detective, which feels as though a statement of purpose.
The suit will not be Moon Knight’s only costume – within their six issues, the creative team also showed us a crazy bone outfit for fighting the occult as well as a more conventional but nevertheless refreshed carry out his old cape-and-cowl look. Both costumes look fantastic and then make perfect sense towards the character – these aren’t Stealth Strike Scuba Assault Batman action figure costumes. But when there’s any sense on the planet, it’s the white suit that may become Moon Knight’s new default. It redefines him. It gives him a new place which is uniquely his very own in a town 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 due to a redesign (plus a fresh haircut) courtesy of Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the most obvious trigger for 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 hard to suppose that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood precisely what he was tapping into as he handed Batgirl over to the new creative team of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr, with Stewart and Tarr collaborating in the character’s change. I’m sure Doyle expected great things, but the torrent of fan-art that emerged from the 24-hours after the reveal of Batgirl’s new costume was unprecedented. Such was the mania that cosplayers quickly bought out of the world’s flow of Drench Wellington yellow rubber Doc Marten boots.
What actually transpired with Batgirl was the spark of the movement operating out of large part on the smart new costume that spoke to Barbara Gordon’s character, intelligence, style, and place in 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 very own identity underneath the bat-cowl.
Sure, there was critics. Fans whose philosophy on from high-heeled shoes to strapless tops has always been, “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. However 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 change will translate to actual sales – we might never understand how well it sells digitally, where most of its market is likely to reside – but the kind of word-of-mouth and internet based interaction generated by this costume redesign is hugely valuable to your publisher.
A good costume gets viewers excited by telling them what to prepare for. Cliff Chiang’s undertake Wonder Woman played up her warrior strength and her status as both mythic figure and iconic hero. Jamie McKelvie’s costume for the new Ms. Marvel respected her youth and heritage rather than pandering to your traditional crowd.
And it works in reverse. Harley Quinn’s New 52 design clearly steered the character inside a different direction through the ones fans expected, and sent a transmission to readers as unambiguous as being the one sent by Tarr and Stewart’s Batgirl.
Here’s a statement I never imagined I’d make: I want Marvel to bring Gwen Stacy back in the dead. And it’s all because of a 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 plus some new ones made for the case. Among them is a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, produced by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears things i think could be my favorite superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does several things with remarkable economy. It plays beautifully of your iconic model of the highest superhero costume ever conceived, Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man costume. It strikes a contemporary tone with all the hood and the neon Chucks – although with sufficient restraint i don’t think it would look dated in many years to come. It makes shapes and breaks up space in ways that’s likely to look powerful in the page. And it immediately evokes character. I haven’t even read Spider-Gwen’s first Spider-Verse appearance, and that i curently have a sense of a difficult, haunted, edgy young woman. I’ll eat a couple of neon Chucks if that’s not who she is.
Gwen Stacy is meant to stay dead. As grotesque since it is when women are killed away and off to further the stories of male heroes, the death of Gwen Stacy feels too crucial that you Spider-Man’s development to get undone. Yet I really like this costume a whole lot that, just before the Spider-Gwen issue of Side of Spider-Verse originates out, I know I want Gwen back and kicking ass in this costume.
(I am going to accept a regular set in Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, in the event the Ultimate Universe scales to just Miles Morales, a Miles book plus a Gwen book will be perfect complements to each other. But I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
An incredible costume inspires stories – and tells viewers what sort of stories to anticipate. Catwoman produced a new kind of sense when redesigned by Darwyn Cooke in 2004 – finally she wore the costume of your master thief, not an Olympic luge rider. It causes whiplash at any time that costume appears in company to a narrative that doesn’t respect the character. The contour-shifting Loki as being a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – an additional Jamie McKelvie design – sparks different stories to the sinewy old guy using the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men superman costumes set the time-tossed X-Men within the modern a lot better than any amount of exposition.
Costumes have always been vital that you superheroes – but perhaps much more than many editors realize. Some artists are fantastic at it, plus some are… less great. Like lettering, coloring, inking, editing, or dexrpky99 art, it’s a specialized job that perhaps should be reserved for those that have the skill set to excel at it.
Thankfully the comic industry has never had such a wealth of designing talent. Jamie McKelvie, Kris Anka, Cameron Stewart, Robbi Rodriguez, Cliff Chiang, etc., are element of a generation of artists taking this task very seriously, and so they make superhero comics smarter and sharper for doing this.
And they’re not by yourself. Increasingly 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 try out around with costume concepts – as well as the excellent Project: Rooftop curates some of the best examples. The musty superhero industry would benefit hugely from turning 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.