A Comic Book Entry – More Thoughts on Super-Costumes

or, “Something positive to say about some costumes I like.”

I thought after the recent negativity I’d try to post something a little more positive.  No promises though on how long this will last.

So I think a lot about superhero comics and the writing and artistry that goes into them (or lack thereof).  I have some pretty strong opinions and most of what I’ve posted so far have been negative, including a long screed on X-Factor’s which included criticism on the latest costumes.  One of my favorite things about the lamented City of Heroes/Villains game was the costume creator (in retrospect, I really should have gotten screenshots of all of my characters in all of their costumes).  So I thought for a change of pace I’d go over costumes I like and why (comic books only; the movies are again a different matter).  Again, to increase loading speed, I’m going to provide links instead of actual pictures and I hope that’s alright with everyone.

What do I look for in a good costume?  It must be striking and it really ought to have some relevance to the hero/villain’s stated theme.  I also prefer costumes that do not look like ordinary clothing.  Many costumes, quite frankly, are lazy.  This is a shame since many artists really want to put their personal stamp on a costume so the look will always be associated with them.  I’m really not a fan of so-called “realistic” superhero costumes (for example, Hawkeye’s costume in the Avengers movie).  When I open a superhero comic, I want to know who’s a hero/villain.  Edna Mode was exactly right – the look matters.  This the first impression the hero/villain makes in their world and to the reader.  At the most basic level, the choice of wardrobe should convey to the uninitiated, “I am a hero/villain!”  Bonus points if the costume also identifies the hero/villain’s theme (if there is one).

Today’s entry (and there may be more) are on the Marvel Spider-family of costumes (I’m sure I missed a few incarnations and related characters).  Honestly, I like almost every single spider costume I’ve seen in any universe on any clone or distaff counterpart.  But let’s start with the original.

Spider-man (616-Peter Parker):
Red and BlueStan Lee and particularly Steve Ditko really got this one right from the start.  Red and blue are nice, bold colors that catch the eye of the bystander.  Granted, this particular color combination isn’t very stealthy, but Spider-man isn’t stealthy, he’s friendly.  Unless you’re a criminal, but really, that’s all on you.  The front and back are not symmetical, which gives it some extra interest.  He’s got a small black spider icon in the front that stands out from the blue and red and a large red spider on the back (which does kind of look like a tick, but that is an arachnid) which stands out nicely against the blue.  The mid-calf boots and elbow-length gloves help break up the blue, and the long front piece shows off the chest and makes an illusion of a belt, which again helps break up the wide expanse of blue.  The grid/web pattern on the red is a nice touch as the black wouldn’t show up against the blue, and the big, white eyes look quite otherworldly.  Sometimes I think some costumes make the eyes too big, and I didn’t care for the webbed underarm wings he had for awhile, but otherwise I think this is a great costume.  Kudos to the talented Marvel Bullpen.

Black and white (Venom) – This isn’t my favorite of Spidey’s costumes simply because I think it’s a little Spartan.  It’s completely black except for the white eyes and large white spider icon on the front.  But there is no mistaking the hero behind the white eyes has a spider-theme going, and unfortunately that’s sometimes pretty hard to get in a superhero costume.

Spider-man (1610-Miles Morales):
Miles actually had two costumes; one was basically 1610-Peter Parker’s costume (which was obviously quite similar to 616-Peter Parker’s) and the second is the one I’m going to talk about.  His costume is black and red.  I don’t think it’s balanced quite as well as the 616-Spider-man blue and red, but I think it works for Miles’ frame.  He’s younger and slimmer than Peter Parker and the black really emphasizes that.  He doesn’t have boots or gloves, just red fingertips.  The shape of the red is similar to the 616-Spider-man.  The grid pattern isn’t as tight, but the red spider icon in the front is much larger, and the one in the back looks more like a spider and less like a tick.  Given that Miles has powers that do allow him to be stealthy, I understand the color change from red to black as a subtle reminder of that trait.

Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly [616-Peter Parker clone {don’t ask}]):
As the name suggests, Ben’s costume was mostly red.  He had the webshooters on the outside of the costume, an actual belt, and some kind of anklet (I don’t really know the purpose) which helped to balance out the vast field of red.  This red, I might add, was generally a bit brighter than the red in 616-Peter Parker’s outfit (hence calling the color “scarlet” I supposed).  But this is where the costume sort of loses me, although I still like it.  To give it visual interest and the spider icon, Ben basically wears a blue hoodie with the arms ripped off over the red body stocking.  The blue hoodie has a very large, angled black spider icon on it, so there’s no way to miss that this is a spider-themed hero.  However, without the hoodie there’s no spider and that’s just way too much red.  Frankly the torn hoodie just makes him look like a stereotypical punk kid pretending to be Spider-man.  Still, it’s not that bad all things considered.

Spider-man 2099 (928-Miguel O’Hara):
As the 2099 series was produced in the ’90s, one may rightfully worry if the Spider-man of the time would be saddled with ridiculous pouches, spikes, eye spots, bendy swords, or bendy guns.  But I actually quite like the costume.  It keeps the blue and red base of 616-Peter Parker, although the blue is quite a bit darker.  Instead of big white eyes, this costume has a kind of stylized red spider on the face.  Miguel doesn’t wear boots or gloves, nor does he have the grid pattern or as much of the red top as the original.  However, the red spider icon on the front is seen in a kind of front-view (as opposed to the top down view of the other costumes) and is much larger and kind of flares down the arm.  The only downside is that the spider looks not unlike a skull.  Miguel also as a webbing cape, which I think makes up for the lack of grid pattern/webbing look of the original.

Spider-Woman (616-Jessica Drew):
Except for the webbed cape and big white eyes, I do have to admit there’s not a lot about this costume that says, “spider.”  It’s red and yellow, two colors not exactly associated with spiders.  There’s not even a red hourglass or a brown violin shape to invoke the idea of spiders.  Despite the only spider-themed item being the cape, I like this costume.  I like the bright, bold colors.  The yellow boots and gloves balance the bright red.  The yellow pattern-thing on the front is also a nice contrast, and I like the thick black stripes that give the whole look definition, although there’s nothing on the back which seems like a bit of a waste.  I also like the mostly full face mask that allows the hair to flow (not realistic, I know, but good for the look) although I don’t know why there’s a yellow triangle on her forehead.  Good, but not spidery enough, and more could be done with the back.

Spider-Woman/Arachne (616-Julia Carpenter):
This costume appears to be a variation of the Venom costume.  This black and white variation, however, has thigh-high boots and over-the-elbow gloves, which is one of my favorite combinations.  The boots and gloves are also angled slightly in some versions of the costume.  I like the partial mask and flowing hair as well.  Sometimes though the white eyes are drawn just way too big.  There’s another look in which the spider icon is even longer and she’s got almost shoulder pads and spider legs down her legs instead of the boots and gloves look.  I appreciate the effort to update it, and I like both versions.

Spider-Woman (1610-Jessica Drew [gender-swapped clone of 1610-Peter Parker {don’t ask}]):
This costume also appears to be a variation of the Venom costume, only in dark red and white.  There are a couple of versions of her costume.  One has the Venom-style spider icon only with the legs all stuck together and sort of curving to her hips and one has a bulkier spider icon.  In both versions she has big white eyes and white fingertips (no proper gloves or boots).  Also, there’s nothing on her back either, which is a bit of a waste of space.  Still, I like it.

Spider-Woman (616-Martha Franklin):
Her costume looked like a version of Miguel O’Hara’s costume.  The spider icon was angled from the top (like most spider costumes) and the cape was more defined and darker.  She also had little gloves and instead of boots just red-tipped feet.  She also had a red v-stripe that looked like a belt, which helped balance out all the dark blue.  It was a nice costume.

Spider-Girl (616-Anya Corazon):
Her first costume, which was basically a t-shirt with a spider and some jeans, wasn’t very good, but then again, it wasn’t really supposed to be.  Her current costume is better, but it looks almost identical to the last one Arachne wore (although I think it’s supposed to).  Can’t go wrong with a variation on a successful costume.

Spider-Girl (982-May Parker [alternate universe Peter Parker and MJ Watson’s daughter {don’t ask}]):
I really like this costume; it’s very similar to the original 616-Peter Parker costume.  However, the red of the front also goes down to the back which provides area for a large black spider icon that crucially does not look like a tick.  She’s also wearing her webshooters on the outside, so that helps break up the dark blue instead of gloves.  Instead of boots, she’s got knee-high red gridded stripes on the outside of her legs.  Overall, this is one of my favorites if not my favorite of all the spider costumes.

It should be pointed out that most of these are variations on a theme.  Some are almost carbon copies (like Julia Carpenter and the second Anya Corazon costumes).  However, all the costumes are distinctive and bold.  Overall, I think the spider-family of costumes do clearly state, “I am a hero!” and most even get the bonus for being obviously spider-themed.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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