We live currently of awesome cosplay costumes. An upswing and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists having a savvy understanding of fashion, and also the slow diversification that’s making heroes palatable to your broader audience, have contributed to a costuming culture with a lot more to supply than capes and pants.
Superhero costumes have been an asset to the marketplace, because iconography helps establish character and make a brand. But the value of costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters appear to be recognized now as never before, creating the rise of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don’t even have to be on a particular book in order to be called directly into make-on the characters. It is a great leap forward in understanding just the thing an excellent costume are capable of doing – along with the special skills required to do it.
Moon Knight was 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 obtain 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 through the night – along with 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 for the first time.
Moon Knight’s new costume at the same time underlines his insanity – his old white suit was never the sane way to fight crime, and from now on it’s a real 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 main one superhero detective who dresses something like a detective, which feels as though a statement 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 more conventional 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. But when 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 new place that may be uniquely his inside a town of heroes.
Great costumes can offer just this type of redemption. Shatterstar, a joke of your character along with his mullet and opera cloak, was suddenly credible because of a redesign (and a fresh haircut) thanks to Valentine De Landro and David Yardin. Jamie McKelvie’s Captain Marvel design – arguably the obvious trigger to the current “golden age” of d.va costumes – was 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 and the old, victimized, drunken Carol, who seemed to prefer editing magazines to flying planes.
It’s tough to believe that even Batman group editor Mark Doyle truly understood just what he was tapping into as he handed Batgirl to the brand 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, however the torrent of fan-art that emerged within the 24-hours after the reveal of Batgirl’s new costume was unprecedented. Such was the mania that cosplayers almost immediately bought out of the world’s flow of Drench Wellington yellow rubber Doc Marten boots.
What happened with Batgirl was the spark of any movement operating out of large part with 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, and a lot more like something a young woman makes for herself to craft her own identity under 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 notion 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 elements of design, and that’s how good costume design should work.
We don’t yet understand how this new look will translate to actual sales – we might never know how well the publication sells digitally, where most of its market is probably going to reside – but the type of word-of-mouth and online interaction generated by this costume redesign is hugely valuable to a publisher.
A great costume gets viewers excited by letting them know 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 that new Ms. Marvel respected her youth and heritage as opposed to pandering to your traditional crowd.
And it works in reverse. Harley Quinn’s New 52 design clearly steered the character inside a different direction in the ones fans expected, and sent a signal to readers as unambiguous because the one sent by Tarr and Stewart’s Batgirl.
Here’s a statement I never thought I’d make: I want Marvel to give Gwen Stacy back from the dead. And it’s all because 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 plus some brand new ones developed for the case. Among them is actually a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, created by Robbi Rodriguez – and Spider-Gwen wears the things i think can be the best superhero costume in years.
The Spider-Gwen costume does many things with remarkable economy. It plays beautifully of the iconic form of the best superhero costume ever conceived, Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man costume. It strikes a contemporary tone with all the hood and the neon Chucks – but with sufficient restraint that I don’t think it would look dated in years to come. It produces shapes and breaks up space in a way that’s gonna look powerful on the page. And it also immediately evokes character. I haven’t even read Spider-Gwen’s first Spider-Verse appearance, and i also have a feeling of a difficult, haunted, edgy young woman. I’ll eat a pair 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 off to further the stories of male heroes, the death of Gwen Stacy feels too crucial that you Spider-Man’s development being undone. Yet I love this costume a great deal that, just before the Spider-Gwen issue of Side of Spider-Verse originates out, I understand I want Gwen back and kicking ass in this particular costume.
(I will be happy with a continuing occur Gwen’s alt universe. Heck, in the event the Ultimate Universe scales to just Miles Morales, a Miles book as well as a Gwen book can be perfect complements to each other. Having Said That I don’t think that’s where Marvel is heading.)
A fantastic costume inspires stories – and tells a crowd what sort of stories to expect. Catwoman made a new sort of sense when redesigned by Darwyn Cooke in 2004 – finally she wore the costume of the master thief, not an Olympic luge rider. It causes whiplash whenever that costume appears in company to a story that doesn’t respect the type. The design-shifting Loki as a puckish young man in swashbuckling adventurer’s attire – one more Jamie McKelvie design – sparks totally different stories for the sinewy old guy with the giant horns. Stuart Immonen’s stylish All-New X-Men harley quinn costume position the time-tossed X-Men in the present-day superior to any level of exposition.
Costumes have always been vital that you superheroes – but perhaps more so than many editors realize. Some artists are great 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 wealth of designing talent. Jamie McKelvie, Kris Anka, Cameron Stewart, Robbi Rodriguez, Cliff Chiang, etc., are a part of a generation of artists having this job very seriously, and they make superhero comics smarter and sharper for doing this.
And they’re not by yourself. A growing number of 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 perform 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.