We live currently of awesome cosplay costumes. The growth and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists using a savvy idea of fashion, as well as the slow diversification that’s making heroes palatable to some broader audience, have contributed to a costuming culture with a lot more to provide than capes and pants.
Superhero costumes have always been an focal point in the market, 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, creating an upswing of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even must be with a particular book in order to be called in to make-within the characters. This really is a great leap forward in understanding precisely what an excellent costume can perform – and the special skills required to do it.
Moon Knight was actually a mess of a character before his 2014 revival at the disposal 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 intended 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 – plus a new look; a natty white suit. Both elements helped pull Moon Knight out of the mire of Marvel’s many failed faux-Batmen making him his own man the first time.
Moon Knight’s new costume at the same time underlines his insanity – his old white suit was never the sane strategy to fight crime, now it’s a real white suit – and exerts his outer calm, his cool lunar placidity. It gives him authority. It makes him scary. And it also makes him normally 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 – in their six issues, the creative team also showed us a crazy bone outfit for fighting the occult plus a more traditional yet still refreshed take on his old cape-and-cowl look. Both costumes look good and then make perfect sense on the character – these aren’t Stealth Strike Scuba Assault Batman action figure costumes. But when there’s any sense on earth, it’s the white suit that will become Moon Knight’s new default. It redefines him. It gives him a whole new place which is uniquely his own within a town of heroes.
Great costumes will offer just this kind of redemption. Shatterstar, a joke of a character regarding his mullet and opera cloak, was suddenly credible as a result of a redesign (and a fresh haircut) thanks to Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the most obvious trigger for the 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 appeared to prefer editing magazines to flying planes.
It’s hard to believe that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood just what he was tapping into as he handed Batgirl onto the brand new creative team of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr, with Stewart and Tarr collaborating on the character’s fresh look. I’m sure Doyle expected great things, but the torrent of fan-art that emerged from the 24-hours following the reveal of Batgirl’s new costume was unprecedented. Such was the mania that cosplayers very quickly bought out the world’s flow of Drench Wellington yellow rubber Doc Marten boots.
What happened with Batgirl was the spark of the movement located in large part over a smart new costume that spoke to Barbara Gordon’s character, intelligence, style, and set in everyday life. This design looked less similar to a Batman cast-off, plus more like something a young woman would make for herself to craft her own identity underneath the bat-cowl.
Sure, there was critics. Fans whose philosophy on everything from high-heeled shoes to strapless tops has long 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. But 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 may never recognize how well the publication sells digitally, where much of its market is probably going to reside – but the sort of word-of-mouth and web-based interaction generated with this costume redesign is hugely valuable to some publisher.
A good costume gets a crowd excited by telling them what to anticipate. 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 for that 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 from your ones fans expected, and sent a signal to readers as unambiguous as being the one sent by Tarr and Stewart’s Batgirl.
Here’s an announcement I never thought 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 and a few new ones made for the celebration. And this includes is really a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, created by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears what I think could be the most popular superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does many things with remarkable economy. It plays beautifully of your iconic style of the highest superhero costume ever conceived, Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man costume. It strikes a contemporary tone with the hood and the neon Chucks – however with sufficient restraint which i don’t think it would look dated in years to come. It generates shapes and breaks up space in ways that’s planning to look powerful around the page. And it immediately evokes character. I haven’t even read Spider-Gwen’s first Spider-Verse appearance, and i also have feelings of a tricky, haunted, edgy young woman. I’ll eat some 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 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 get undone. Yet I like this costume so much that, just before the Spider-Gwen issue of Fringe of Spider-Verse originates out, I know I want Gwen back and kicking ass in this particular costume.
(I will accept a continuous occur Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, when the Ultimate Universe scales back to just Miles Morales, a Miles book as well as a Gwen book could be perfect complements to each other. Nevertheless I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
An excellent costume inspires stories – and tells a crowd what sort of stories can be expected. Catwoman made a new sort 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 any time that costume appears in company to a narrative that doesn’t respect the type. The design-shifting Loki as being a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – one more Jamie McKelvie design – sparks completely different stories towards the sinewy old guy using the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men superman costumes put the time-tossed X-Men inside the present day superior to any quantity of exposition.
Costumes have been vital that you superheroes – but perhaps much more than many editors realize. Some artists are fantastic at it, and some are… less great. Like lettering, coloring, inking, editing, or dexrpky99 art, it’s a specialized job that perhaps should be reserved for people that have 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 career very seriously, and they also make superhero comics smarter and sharper for doing 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 play around with costume concepts – as well as the excellent Project: Rooftop curates some of the finest examples. The musty superhero industry would benefit hugely from embracing 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.