We live in a time of awesome cosplay costumes. An upswing and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists by using a savvy comprehension of fashion, and the slow diversification that’s making heroes palatable to your broader audience, supply led to a costuming culture with increased to offer than capes and pants.
Superhero costumes have invariably been an asset to the market, because iconography helps establish character and make a brand. But the price of costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters appears to be recognized now as never before, resulting in an upswing of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even need to be over a particular book to be called straight into make-across the characters. This can be a great leap forward in understanding precisely what an effective costume can do – along with the special skills required to get it done.
Moon Knight was actually a mess of the character before his 2014 revival at the disposal of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire. Contradictory efforts by multiple creative teams to find 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 night – along with a new look; a natty white suit. Both elements helped pull Moon Knight out of your mire of Marvel’s many failed faux-Batmen making him his very own man for the first time.
Moon Knight’s new costume right away underlines his insanity – his old white suit was never the sane method to fight crime, and today it’s a genuine white suit – and exerts his outer calm, his cool lunar placidity. It gives him authority. This makes him scary. And yes it makes him the one superhero detective who dresses such as a detective, which seems like an announcement of purpose.
The suit is just not Moon Knight’s only costume – within their six issues, the creative team also showed us a crazy bone outfit for fighting the occult and a classical but still refreshed take on his old cape-and-cowl look. Both costumes look good making perfect sense for the character – these aren’t Stealth Strike Scuba Assault Batman action figure costumes. But if there’s any sense worldwide, it’s the white suit that can become Moon Knight’s new default. It redefines him. It gives him a brand new place that is uniquely his inside a city of heroes.
Great costumes can offer just this sort of redemption. Shatterstar, a joke of a character with his mullet and opera cloak, was suddenly credible thanks to a redesign (as well as a fresh haircut) courtesy of Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the obvious trigger for that current “golden age” of spiderman costumes – was all about re-positioning Carol Danvers among Marvel’s premier heroes. The tailored military look drew a line between her present-day “top gun” persona and also the old, victimized, drunken Carol, who appeared to prefer editing magazines to flying planes.
It’s challenging to suppose that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood what exactly he was tapping into as he handed Batgirl over to the latest creative team of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr, with Stewart and Tarr collaborating on the character’s change. I’m sure Doyle expected great things, but the torrent of fan-art that emerged from the 24-hours using the reveal of Batgirl’s new costume was unprecedented. Such was the mania that cosplayers almost immediately bought the world’s availability of Drench Wellington yellow rubber Doc Marten boots.
What happened 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 put in daily life. This design looked less such as a Batman cast-off, and a lot more like something a young woman would make for herself to craft her own identity under the bat-cowl.
Sure, there are 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 notion 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 elements of design, and that’s how good costume design should work.
We don’t yet learn how this change will translate to actual sales – we might never recognize how well the book sells digitally, where a lot of its market will likely reside – but the kind of word-of-mouth and internet based interaction generated from this costume redesign is hugely valuable to your publisher.
An excellent costume gets an audience 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 to the new Ms. Marvel respected her youth and heritage instead of pandering to a traditional crowd.
And yes it works in reverse. Harley Quinn’s New 52 design clearly steered the type within a different direction from 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 give Gwen Stacy back from the dead. And it’s all as a result of 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 created for the celebration. And this includes is really a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, created by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears the things i think may be the most popular superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does several things with remarkable economy. It plays beautifully in 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 as well as the neon Chucks – however with sufficient restraint that we don’t think it can look dated in years to come. It produces shapes and breaks up space in a way that’s planning to look powerful in the page. And yes it immediately evokes character. I haven’t even read Spider-Gwen’s first Spider-Verse appearance, and that i curently have feelings of a difficult, haunted, edgy young woman. I’ll eat a set 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 and away to further the stories of male heroes, the death of Gwen Stacy feels too crucial that you Spider-Man’s development to be undone. Yet I like this costume a great deal that, just before the Spider-Gwen issue of Edge of Spider-Verse arrives, I know I want Gwen back and kicking ass with this costume.
(I will be satisfied with a continuing that is set in Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, in case the Ultimate Universe scales returning to just Miles Morales, a Miles book and a Gwen book will be perfect complements to each other. However I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
An incredible costume inspires stories – and tells viewers what type of stories to anticipate. Catwoman produced a new type of sense when redesigned by Darwyn Cooke in 2004 – finally she wore the costume of a master thief, no Olympic luge rider. It causes whiplash whenever that costume appears in service to a narrative that doesn’t respect the character. The design-shifting Loki like a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – one more Jamie McKelvie design – sparks different stories for the sinewy old guy with all the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men deadpool costume place the time-tossed X-Men inside the modern much better than any amount of exposition.
Costumes have been important to superheroes – but perhaps more so than many editors realize. Some artists are excellent at it, plus some are… less great. Like lettering, coloring, inking, editing, or dexrpky99 art, it’s a specialized job that perhaps should be restricted to people that have the skill set to excel at it.
Thankfully the comic industry has never had such an abundance of designing talent. Jamie McKelvie, Kris Anka, Cameron Stewart, Robbi Rodriguez, Cliff Chiang, etc., are part of a generation of artists taking this task very seriously, and they also make superhero comics smarter and sharper for doing this.
And they’re not the only one. Increasingly more artists are showing their designer flare in addition to their grasp of contemporary style. Sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt provide fertile ground for artists to play around with costume concepts – and also the excellent Project: Rooftop curates among 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.