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Thinking About the DCnU: The Costumes

July 9, 2011

In addition to all these titles and continuity revamps, DC Comics has made a rather big deal about the fact that the vast majority of DC’s characters, excepting some more recent creations like Blue Beetle, Batwoman, and August-General-in-Iron, as well as most of the Green Lanterns, Hawk and Dove, and a few others, are having their costumes completely redone for the DCnU. Of course, many of the more iconic characters are keeping elements of their old costumes, so virtually none of them are completely unrecognizable. They’re just different enough to remind us that this is not our parents’ DCU.

I think that’s a very “make-or-break” kind of move. If the redesigns work, then it’ll be refreshing these characters, some of whom have had the same costumes for half a century of publication or more. On the other hand, if they look so drastically different and bad that the costumes are distracting and confusing, they could end up putting a lot of people off, reminding them that these aren’t the characters they’ve grown to love. So, how did DC do?

Well, here’s a case in point. The Teen Titans redesign by Brett Booth, which you can see below in the Continuity post , is pretty much a mess. Aside from the fact that it, as most people have commented, looks like an Image/Top Cow book, the designs are just… bizarre. Red Robin’s new costume doesn’t look too bad until you look at the fact that his cape has been replaced with some kind of feather… thing. Now, instead of looking like Dr. Mid-Nite, he looks like the Falcon. Don’t quite think that was the aspect of “Robin” that they were going for. Wonder Girl is Magdalena/Little Red Riding Hood with Donna Troy’s sparkly star thing and a red lasso, and that bug girl at the bottom is Witchblade. Terribly derivative. That purple/black girl in the back kind of brings Sunspot to mind too. Kid Flash has the most admirable attempt, but all the red and yellow switching around on his mask is just too busy. Plus, why does the mask cover only some of his hair? But Superboy is the absolute worst. Not only does this costume contradict what he’s wearing in his own title, it looks like he just grabbed some crap out of a trashbin and slapped it together. All the black doesn’t evoke Superman at all, and his “cape” is literally taped onto his back. It’s so small that you can barely even see it under normal circumstances. And that tattoo/barcode thing? What kind of needle could carve that into Kryptonian skin? It just makes no sense.

Then we have the Justice League, also below, in which collared costumes have suddenly become hip. Superman, Green Lantern, and Aquaman are all sporting them. Aquaman, the Flash, and Green Lantern have barely changed from their older costumes, so I can’t much complain there, especially since for Aquaman, the collar was a nice new touch. I do like the modified logo and the lightning belt, the latter of which comes from Wally West. Not sure about the small chin guard, but whatever. I also like that Superman and Batman have lost their outside underwear, and Batman looks a lot like Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated redesign. That’s a nice touch. Wonder Woman, unfortunately, looks a lot like her Odyssey version, though she does get rid of the crappy straps and the jacket, and she gets back her trademark bracelets. But the silver replacing the gold… not the best touch. It makes her shine less, and it just doesn’t fit as well with her overall color scheme. Cyborg looks more like a cyborg, which is fine. Unfortunately, his cyborg transformation also gave him cyborg underpants, which bring with them very awkward implications.

The single biggest problem here is a problem with all the new designs: too many lines. Suddenly, Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and the Flash have random lines all over their costumes, though apparently that’s supposed to be armor or something. Instead, it just looks like extra work that makes the costumes look less sleek and more messy. Honestly, they could just as easily say that the costumes are more heavily reinforced without the lines within the story, and it would be much better. How long do you think the artists will actually want to draw those lines until they finally just forget it to save time and wasting energy? Those lines are also unfortunately there in those random fishnet-like things on Wonder Woman’s knees and as Cyborg’s “under armor.” All these costumes, much like Kid Flash’s, look too busy, save for Aquaman’s, since his was the least changed, and Green Lantern’s, as he gets the least useless lines. And really, why does Superman of all people need body armor?


There are a couple of other odd ones too. Mr. Terrific lost his awesome jacket and instead gets clown makeup over his mouth and gloves with a tanktop. I can’t say that look really does it for me, much like with Superboy. It looks bare and a tad lazy. OMAC, right above, looks fine aside from his shiny, wavy mohawk. Honestly, that think is more distracting than any other redesign element, especially since it’s so thin that it looks like it should sway in every single breeze. The Birds of Prey are fairly boring. New character Starling comes off looking like Grace without the muscle, and Katana looses all of the elements that make her resemble a superhero samurai. Poison Ivy loses all the sex appeal and her plant alienness. Black Canary probably has the most admirable attempt here, as they really try to keep some elements of her old costume there. But all the random yellow elements are distracting, the fishnets really are terribly unpractical on her arms, and WHY THE SANDALS. Seriously, nothing says “super serious black ops team like sandals. Especially for a martial artist, who doesn’t need her footwear flying off when she does a kick.

But in my humble opinion, the award for the single worst redesign has to go to Harley Quinn, now of the Suicide Squad. Okay, King Shark looks weird as a hammerhead, and Deadshot’s new helmet is significantly bulkier. But DC has said that they were trying to make their female characters’ costumes more “practical.” What about this is practical?! The corset being shoved off by her breasts, or the shorts that are so small that they are virtually just a second belt? All of the whimsy of Harley’s previous jester outfit is gone in favor of wearing as little as absolutely possible while still being able to call it a costume. Instead of a harlequin, she looks like a psychopathic prostitute. That’s quite disappointing.

To be sure, not all of the redesigns are bad. Hawkman’s new outfit is appropriately savage, Green Arrow does look a tad younger, but more tech-savvy and less classically Robin Hood, Supergirl’s new cape is interestingly regal, even if her kneepads are… strange, and so on. But I can’t say that there were any outfits that really struck me as brilliant redesigns. Not like Thor’s new outfit from J. Michael Straczynski’s run. Then again, I hated Bucky Barnes’ new Captain America outfit when it was first introduced, and it did grow on me over time, though the lack of ear holes was rather baffling. So perhaps I’ll get to like some of these stranger costume elements. Still, I would have to say that they didn’t “make” it, so I suppose DC was much closer to “breaking” it. I would have preferred that they keep more of the costumes, but I can understand that they wanted these new visuals to reinforce the DCnU. It’s just a bit sad that iconic, perfectly good costumes have been lost in favor of some of these rather disappointing and uninspired replacements.

Next, I’ll discuss one of the most revolutionary aspects of the relaunch: the same-day digital release campaign.

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