Post by Adamant Ace on Jul 6, 2014 21:11:01 GMT -5
Alright, let's get to the basics: Batman and Superman. Batman's costume is designed to be scary to his enemies and unintentionally to civilians. Depending on the universe/writer, Batman can be loved or feared by the populace of Gotham, largely due to his costume. Superman doesn't wear a mask, as he is able to fool people into thinking that he doesn't have a secret identity. His costume is bright, catches the eye and is vaguely patriotic due to it's color scheme (to Americans). Superman is almost universally loved in the DC universe, particularly in Metropolis. In large part this is because his costume shows him to be more than human, yet still 'down to earth', so to speak (IMO).
The costume is vital to how a hero is perceived. One of the problems that Sidekick Girl probably has in being taken seriously by the Hero Agency is that she's not really dressed like a hero, but more similar to normal person on the street. Mack/Illumina, despite her inadequacies as a hero, is perceived better due to actually dressing/looking like one. Some better examples might be Impact, Maelstrom or Cyclone, all of whom have distinct superhero costumes that strongly identify them as such.
An extreme (but more realistic) version of this is Christopher Nolan's Batman series. In the Nolan-verse, Batman is wearing what is very clearly body armor with a theme. This helps state that he's very serious and not someone to mess with. It also is a more realistic costume in a job where people are very likely to try to shoot or stab you than Illumina's would be. The only reason that Sidekick Girl can get away with no armor is that she's essentially Wolverine without the claws or body hair.
Edna Mode of The Incredibles would argue that capes are REALLY bad idea since they can lead to a hero's death very easily and since most heroes in both DC and Marvel don't have them, it appears that she's being proven right. Even some versions of Batman and Superman ditch the cape, though these are usually alternate future versions etc. Unfortunately, there aren't as many no-nos as there should be. For example, cleavage windows like Powergirl's and belly revealing costumes like Huntress' should be major no-nos. Powergirl at least has the excuse that she's bulletproof and thus it doesn't really matter how much skin she shows (which appears to be a (very thin) justification for Starfire's costume design), but Huntress is a normal human and thus should avoid having so much open skin in vital areas where a knife could very easily prove fatal.
A superhero's costume acts much like an animal's coloration does in nature. A more vulnerable or stealth-using hero should have camouflage of some sort, whether it be an actual Ghillie suit or simply form-fitting dark colored armor. Examples of this include Batman (in basically all iterations) and the current Avengers iteration of Hawkeye. Conversely, a bruiser who wants to be in the thick of things tend to have a brightly colored outfit, deliberately eye-catching so that they can always be made out in the thick of the fighting. Captain America fits this archetype well, as does the Hulk (yes, the skin totally counts.) Lastly, a costume generally gives some indication of the super's abilities. For example, Juggernaut could not be mistaken for anything other than a tank, elemental powers tend to be reflected in the costume's motif, speedsters will have streamlined costumes that have distinct lines that pop when running at blur-speeds, and the list goes on.
A costume is basically a first impression, both to the masses, and between supers. This is the reasoning behind a lot of the thought that goes into "good guy" or "bad guy" costumes. "Good guy" costumes tend to be representative of ideals, and have smooth lines and curves, creating a calmer impression. By the same ticket, jagged edges and spikes or costumes reminiscent of hated regimes create a much more aggressive first impression, and tend to be favored by "bad guy" costumes. However, exceptions do exist to these categories. For example, in the case of shapechangers, brawlers, and elementalists, aggressive themes are popular regardless of affiliation. Speedsters of either camp also favor lightning bolt motifs, skewing the list even more. Mythic supers can also have anachronistic garb that can create an entirely different reaction than it was originally intended to. Hercules and Thor come to mind for this one.
There are plenty of easy targets for costume no-no's, so I think I'll tackle a less used one: Material. Always make sure that your outfit can survive your power, and that it doesn't hinder it. The Fantastic Four, The Incredibles, The Hulk, there are plenty of examples of costumes needing to be customized to the super. But what about every-day life? A speedster can't go all out in a normal outfit, it would just burst into flames from friction. For similar reasons, lightning users should steer clear of wool in all forms due to it conducting very well if they have to use their powers. Shield was the victim of not thinking ahead with costume material, as his outfit couldn't survive his rocket-launcher powered growth spurt. And let's be honest, do you honestly think that every fire-thrower out there knows the melting point of their day-clothes? Better hope that the fabric isn't petroleum based, because melting plastic burns to skin. So, in closing, the no-no I've tackled is having a wardrobe that your powers can destroy.
Grade: A+ cuz I imagined Morgan Freeman reading the beginning.
A costume is what makes the first impression, and as any businessman can tell you, you only get one shot at them. The costume says 5 things: 1) A costume says that you are a player (ie, you are in the great game of heroes/villains) and that you are immediately subject to Deadly Force, Master Plans, and everything else under the trope of a battle of good versus evil. Even the police and military recognize the necessity of clear identification on the field of battle, and those in uniform have very different rules than those out of costume. A military attache getting caught spying gets a ticket out of the country. A Spy gets jail or disappeared. Different costume, different rules. 2) A costume gives you the ability to divide your public persona from your private one. Some heroes choose to discard this important division, others embrace it as the very useful tool it is. 3) A costume is a defense to your identity, your body, and a defense to those outside the field of the Game. precisely how this applies depends on the individual. Wildfire and Captain Atom are deadly hazards to those around them, so their costume is essentially armor for EVERYONE ELSE. In a similar way, all costumes defend those we care for outside the field of battle. But this point does not always apply. Although his uniform has remarkable properties, Superman could be a nudist superhero like Dr Manhattan if he felt like it. Iron man is a squishy genius normal in a flying tank yet has a public identity. 4) A costume is a Brand. It defines you as a marketable property. For many heroes their costume is a pre-announcement of their powers which can be a negative in first engagements, although I would say that this comes more under bragging, promotion or showmanship rather than utility. The main difference between Iron Man and War Machine is flash and showmanship. One makes a very nice picture on a lunchbox, one is optimized for actual field utility. If you asked the average hero/villain which costume is better, the majority would choose IM hands down. But unless you are planning on a marketing deal, utility tends to actually work better in the field. 5)A costume (for good or ill) helps define a hero or villain over their career; a well though-out costume gives a theme, and builds onto a persona. A bad costume belittles and can even limit the exposure and respect of the persona in the press.
The primary costume no-no is to avoid any costume feature that directs an attack to a weak point, OR generates an attack that would not otherwise exist. Batman's insignia is armor-backed for a reason: it's the brightest feature, on the center of his chest and the most likely target of any gunfire. Cutouts and exposed skin are only acceptable if the individual has invulnerability or supernatural defenses. As a marketing technique they have tremendous appeal. As costume features they are a major point of failure. Likewise, capes provide a handle where one would otherwise not exist. Effective costumes tend to fall into two categories: indestructible, and fragile. Indestructible, well... the appeal is obvious, but fragile has some advantages of its' own. A cape that immediately tears away is not going to get you sucked into a jet engine or get you tossed into space. However your uniform bill is going to be horrific and the tabloids are going to have a field day with the results of your more serious battles. This may be a positive if you look like Giant Girl or Superbitch.
Grade: 592 Points. Interesting thought on the insignia-target.
There are basic components to the stereotypical costume: an iconic mask, patterned spandex/other material and a cape. The cape is a bad idea for any flier, as identified by Miss Mode. Furthermore, only a certain body type can pull off wearing cape. However, the cape is still iconic, regardless of practicality, and thus is still a staple. A solution to the impracticality is a shortened cape (so you can't trip over it) that is easily detachable (to not get sucked into airplane turbines). This is the same principle as with police officer uniforms, as they never wear real ties that can be used to choke the wearer, but rather clip-on ties that are easily removable.
The way a costume is put together can say a lot about a hero. Be it how practical it is, what colour it is, even how easy it would have been to make it themselves, these all display facts about their wearer. If it fits their frame, they either are good with materials, or know someone who is. If the armour is suited to another body type, it is possible to have been made off of unrealistic expectations, comics and/or stolen. If the costume is practical, the person is also rather practical. Choice of weaponry demonstrates how willing they are to hurt or protect someone (if shield). If it contains large amounts of protection, the hero's power is either not suited to self-protection or the hero is (understandably) cautious. This also affects how the hero is perceived. Darker colours are more villain-like, while brighter, softer colours are more heroic. This, of course, is easy to subvert. It can also mean the difference between "girl next door" and "femme fatale". Obviously, costumes are used for reasons besides protecting identities and their wearers. It establishes their brand, giving them something iconic that is easily recognisable. However, there are limits, as anything that can get the moral guardians to be outraged, and for once justifiably so, needs to be addressed. Some costumes are just inappropriate, like some names. For example, wearing bondage gear is as good a public image as calling oneself "Genoscythe the Eye-raper".
Costuming is all about image. Even if a hero has truly amazing powers, what he or she wears will affect the public's reaction. Take the Will Smith movie Hancock for example. Nobody respects him when he dresses like a homeless guy. Kids mouth off to him, the police want nothing to do with him (Hancock also has an attitude problem), and even the people he saves wish he'd leave the city. Enter the friendly P.R. manager with an image redo. A new outfit is a must. Looking like a 'professional' hero is a must.
The details of a costume - shapes, colors, accessories, skin exposed - all affect the message a hero sends. These are the basic qualities a hero's clothes communicate: how approachable he/she is; level of force he/she will use; important affiliations. For an example, this paper will analyze the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman. This heroine's affiliations are quiet clear. The colors scream USA! The tiara and gold element mark her as royalty. She has no edged weapons, just a lasso. No lethal force on this show, thank-you-very-much. Hair is worn down. In old European and American cultures is a sign of an unmarried woman. While her skin exposure is quite tame by today's standard, she's showing wild spirit and a surprising toughness. Independence, Toughness, the United States and her family are all captured in this costume.
While costuming is very flexible, there are some things that shouldn't be done. First, all materials should be research and tested before entering the field. Nylon fabrics, power-restricting/non-adaptive material, pointless skin exposure can get the hero/heroine hurt. Another thing that is often forgotten is to dress for the outdoor climate. Leather in the desert is a bad idea, as is skin-tight spandex is in cold weather. However, the most infamous areas are pattern and construction. Image must play second to function. One You-Tube clip of a 'wardrobe malfunction' undoes all the careful building that went into the costume.
"..The clothes make the man.." as the old saying goes. The "Do and Don't" lists for costumes can be very standardized just for an appearance value. Do not have a costume of eye-bleeding neon bright colors if you want people to take you seriously. Do not use dark tones if your fighting style is flashy. If you are a speedster, avoid loose clothing, and if you are a brawler, don't wear an armored suit that leaves your head/face exposed.
The real "DO" of costume design is planning. As other have referenced, the Dark Knight uses a theme in his costume and accessories, but many people overlook the importance of his cape. His fighting style uses misdirection. Depending on how he is standing, his hands are hidden from view, making it hard to anticipate what he will do next. Let us not forget Batman's famous belt. He keeps his tools and gadgets on his belt. This can be a weak point. On the other hand, his spandex and/or armored costume is light on pockets, but that does not mean he cannot have hiding places a villain wouldn't suspect. If he loses his belt, it can be another trick of misdirection, letting villains feel confident enough let their guard down.
The real "DON'T" of costume design is lack of forethought. Do not wear a suit that makes you look like a muscle bound brawler unless you are ready to take a hit. DO NOT use a flashy color scheme just because you think it will "Look Cool" for merchandising. If you can't hit the broad side of a barn, do not use any marksmanship emblems. Do not armor yourself up to be a tank if you are going to simply weigh yourself down to the point of immobility. On the other hand, don't shun armor just because you think it will make you appear less masculine, less commanding, less brave, or less powerful.
We have mentioned Batman, so it is only right that we bring up the Joker. Here is a man with a good costume. A purple and green suit that goes well with his hair and twisted face. He presents an image of someone that is insane. While his moral compass has clearly been smashed to bits and tossed out the window, the Joker is a very intelligent psychopath. He is not an athletic brawler, so he has no reason to dress in spandex. What he does do is wear something that on its own would be non-threatening. This could, and often does make people forget to wonder what he has under the suit, or in its pockets.
In closing, if it is a part of your costume, it needs a reason to be there.
Grade: Two water squirt flowers and a smoke grenade