We live in a time of awesome superhero costumes. The increase and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists by using 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 additional to offer than capes and pants.
Superhero costumes have been an focal point in the business, because iconography helps establish character and make a brand. But value of costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters appear to be recognized now as never before, ultimately causing the rise of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even should be with a particular book in order to be called in to make-on the characters. This really is a great leap forward in understanding precisely what an excellent costume are capable of doing – as well as the special skills required to make it happen.
Moon Knight was a mess of the character before his 2014 revival in the hands 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 during the night – plus a change; a natty white suit. Both elements helped pull Moon Knight out of your mire of Marvel’s many failed faux-Batmen and make him his own man initially.
Moon Knight’s new costume at once underlines his insanity – his old white suit has never been the sane method to fight crime, now it’s a genuine white suit – and exerts his outer calm, his cool lunar placidity. It gives him authority. It can make him scary. And it makes him normally 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 – in their six issues, the creative team also showed us a crazy bone outfit for fighting the occult plus a classical but nevertheless 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. But when there’s any sense worldwide, it’s the white suit which will become Moon Knight’s new default. It redefines him. It gives him a fresh place that is uniquely his own in the city of heroes.
Great costumes can provide just this kind of redemption. Shatterstar, a joke of your character along with his mullet and opera cloak, was suddenly credible due to a redesign (along with a fresh haircut) courtesy of Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the most obvious trigger for that current “golden age” of spiderman costumes – was all about re-positioning Carol Danvers as one of Marvel’s premier heroes. The tailored military look drew a line between her present-day “top gun” persona along with the old, victimized, drunken Carol, who did actually prefer editing magazines to flying planes.
It’s hard to imagine that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood exactly what he was tapping into when 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 fresh look. I’m sure Doyle expected great things, although the torrent of fan-art that emerged within the 24-hours pursuing the reveal of Batgirl’s new costume was unprecedented. Such was the mania that cosplayers quickly bought out of the world’s supply of Drench Wellington yellow rubber Doc Marten boots.
What actually transpired with Batgirl was the spark of your movement based in large part with a smart new costume that spoke to Barbara Gordon’s character, intelligence, style, and put in life. This design looked less similar to a Batman cast-off, and more like something a young woman makes for herself to craft her own identity under the bat-cowl.
Sure, there were critics. Fans whose philosophy on 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 idea of a leather jacket that hid the character’s boobs. Although 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 understand how this new look will translate to actual sales – we may never recognize how well the ebook sells digitally, where most of its market will probably reside – but the kind of word-of-mouth and web-based interaction generated from this costume redesign is hugely valuable to a publisher.
A good costume gets a crowd excited by telling them what to prepare for. Cliff Chiang’s handle Wonder Woman played up her warrior strength and her status as both mythic figure and iconic hero. Jamie McKelvie’s costume for your new Ms. Marvel respected her youth and heritage as an alternative to pandering into a traditional crowd.
Plus it works in reverse. Harley Quinn’s New 52 design clearly steered the type in the different direction from the ones fans expected, and sent a transmission to readers as unambiguous as the one sent by Tarr and Stewart’s Batgirl.
Here’s a statement I never imagined I’d make: I want Marvel to take Gwen Stacy back from your dead. And it’s all due to a costume.
Marvel’s upcoming Spider-Verse event brings together Spider-Men and Spider-Women from multiple alternative realities, including many that readers have witnessed before as well as some brand new ones made for the big event. And this includes can be a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, produced by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears the things i think might be the best superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does lots of 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 using the hood and also the neon Chucks – though with sufficient restraint which i don’t think it can look dated in years to come. It makes shapes and breaks up space in ways that’s likely to look powerful in the page. Plus it 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 some neon Chucks if that’s not who she actually is.
Gwen Stacy is supposed to stay dead. As grotesque because it is when women are killed away and off to further the stories of male heroes, the death of Gwen Stacy feels too important to Spider-Man’s development to become undone. Yet I really like this costume a whole lot that, prior to the Spider-Gwen issue of Edge of Spider-Verse arrives, I realize I want Gwen back and kicking ass in this particular costume.
(I will settle for an ongoing that is set in Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, in case the Ultimate Universe scales returning to just Miles Morales, a Miles book along with a Gwen book would be perfect complements to each other. Nevertheless I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
An excellent costume inspires stories – and tells an audience what sort of stories should be expected. Catwoman produced a new kind of sense when redesigned by Darwyn Cooke in 2004 – finally she wore the costume of any master thief, not an Olympic luge rider. It causes whiplash whenever that costume appears in service to a narrative that doesn’t respect the type. The form-shifting Loki as a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – one more Jamie McKelvie design – sparks completely different stories to the sinewy old guy together with the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men deadpool costume set the time-tossed X-Men from the modern better than any amount of exposition.
Costumes have invariably been important to superheroes – but perhaps more so than many editors realize. Some artists are fantastic at it, and a few are… less great. Like lettering, coloring, inking, editing, or dexrpky99 art, it’s a specialized job that perhaps ought to be reserved for individuals with the skill set to do well 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 career very seriously, and so they make superhero comics smarter and sharper because of it.
And they’re not alone. A lot more artists are showing their designer flare along with their grasp of contemporary style. Sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt provide fertile ground for artists to perform 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 looking at the likes of Cory Walker, Mingjue Helen Chen, Dean Trippe, Corey Lewis, Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle, Jemma Salume, Sean Murphy, Ron Wimberly, and more, to re-energize the genre for tomorrow.