We live currently of awesome cosplay costumes. The growth and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists with a savvy idea of fashion, and also 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 been an focal point in the market, because iconography helps establish character and make up a brand. But the price of costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters seems to be recognized now as never before, ultimately causing the increase of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even must be on the particular book to become called in to make-within the characters. This can be a great leap forward in understanding just what an effective costume is capable of doing – as well as the special skills required to get it done.
Moon Knight had been 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 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 at 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 then make him his man initially.
Moon Knight’s new costume at the same time underlines his insanity – his old white suit has never been 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. It can make him scary. And it makes him the one superhero detective who dresses such as a detective, which seems like a statement of purpose.
The suit is not Moon Knight’s only costume – with their six issues, the creative team also showed us a crazy bone outfit for fighting the occult as well as a more traditional but nevertheless refreshed handle his old cape-and-cowl look. Both costumes look wonderful and make perfect sense on 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 that will become Moon Knight’s new default. It redefines him. It gives him a new place which is uniquely his inside a town of heroes.
Great costumes will offer just this sort of redemption. Shatterstar, a joke of any character with his mullet and opera cloak, was suddenly credible thanks to a redesign (plus a fresh haircut) thanks to Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the most apparent trigger for the current “golden age” of spiderman costumes – was information on re-positioning Carol Danvers among Marvel’s premier heroes. The tailored military look drew a line between her present-day “top gun” persona and the old, victimized, drunken Carol, who seemed to prefer editing magazines to flying planes.
It’s challenging to imagine that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood what exactly he was tapping into as he handed Batgirl to the newest 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, although the torrent of fan-art that emerged in the 24-hours after 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 went down with Batgirl was the spark of the movement operating out of large part on a smart new costume that spoke to Barbara Gordon’s character, intelligence, style, and place in life. This design looked less such as a Batman cast-off, and more like something a young woman would make for herself to craft her identity within the bat-cowl.
Sure, there was 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 concept 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 know how this change will translate to actual sales – we might never learn how well the ebook sells digitally, where much of its market will likely reside – but the sort of word-of-mouth and online interaction generated through this costume redesign is hugely valuable to your publisher.
A good costume gets an audience excited by telling them what you should expect. 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 to your traditional crowd.
And it also works in reverse. Harley Quinn’s New 52 design clearly steered the type in the different direction in the ones fans expected, and sent a signal to readers as unambiguous since the one sent by Tarr and Stewart’s Batgirl.
Here’s an announcement I never imagined I’d make: I want Marvel to bring Gwen Stacy back in 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. Among them is a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, developed by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears what I think may be the best superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does lots of things with remarkable economy. It plays beautifully from the iconic model of the best superhero costume ever conceived, Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man costume. It strikes a contemporary tone with the hood and also the neon Chucks – though with sufficient restraint that we don’t think it will look dated in years to come. It produces shapes and breaks up space in a way that’s going to look powerful about the page. And it also immediately evokes character. I haven’t even read Spider-Gwen’s first Spider-Verse appearance, and that i currently have feelings of a tough, 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 as it is when women are killed off and away 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 love this costume a lot that, just before the Spider-Gwen issue of Fringe of Spider-Verse arrives, I understand I want Gwen back and kicking ass in this costume.
(I will accept a continuing that is set in Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, in the event the Ultimate Universe scales returning to just Miles Morales, a Miles book and a Gwen book can be perfect complements to one another. But I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
An incredible costume inspires stories – and tells viewers what kind of stories to anticipate. Catwoman created a new type 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 company to a tale that doesn’t respect the character. The shape-shifting Loki like a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – one more Jamie McKelvie design – sparks totally different stories towards the sinewy old guy with all the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men harley quinn costume place the time-tossed X-Men from the modern much better than any level of exposition.
Costumes have always 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 must be reserved for individuals 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 part of a generation of artists who take this task very seriously, and they also make superhero comics smarter and sharper for doing it.
And they’re not by yourself. Increasingly 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 play around with costume concepts – as well as the excellent Project: Rooftop curates 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 many more, to re-energize the genre for tomorrow.