The Robin Collection, by Jemma Salume

Recently, artist Jemma Salume has really caught our attention here at P:R. Her Bart Allen and Stephanie Brown redesigns knocked our socks off, and as any follower of her LJ sketchblog can tell you, she’s got a serious knack for Robin costumes. As such, we invited her to create an entire line of Robins, a sort of sidekick fashion collection for fall. We’re happy to present the full collection now, with Jemma’s thoughts and our critiques.

Jemma: As a relatively new comics nerd, I keep finding out new bits of information about Jason Todd, and each new revelation makes it seem more and more implausible that he would willingly don Dick Grayson‘s hand-me-downs. This is a rough little jerk off the streets! Tights? Underwear on the outside? Not going to cut it. So I designed him with some Robin-red pants, and green Bat-sneakers, of course. The jacket has a red and white pattern that calls to mind a real robin’s markings. Educated goody-goody Grayson may have preferred a classy Robin Hood motif with his costume, but Jason is more about the bird to set himself apart.

Joel: Great attitude. I’ve pretty much missed both halves of Jason Todd’s career, but this looks like a pretty great design for my outsider’s impression of him. I like the distinction you draw between the two charcaters associations with their name, and I think the torso design plays off that brilliantly. And then the gloves pick up that robin’s breast shape nicely. I’d like to see the Robin emblem played with a little more. I see what you’re going for, with making a robin’s profile into an R, and it’s a good idea, but the visual balance needs refinement. I’m not entirely sure about the fasteners on the jacket. Are they buttons or snaps? Are either secure enough for no-holds-barred Bat-action? And are the slacks too restrictive for someone who is going to rely so heavily on gymnastics to keep from getting Joker-Gassed?

Jemma: I love the early Tim Drake who may not have been the toughest kid in the world, but could fight evil just fine with sheer geeky determination. He was so gleeful about apprenticing with the greatest detective in the world! And his hair was ridiculous! In designing his outfit I wanted to modernize him but hold onto that overenthusiastic feel he had at the very start — Like some of the elements he bought or made himself because he just couldn’t wait to fight menaces! (Also, yes, I like green shoes.)

Dean: My favorite thing about Jemma’s work is that she designs actual three-dimensional clothing over the character, not painted-on magic spandex. That’s a big restriction on a lot of superhero costumers I see working today. This piece is very Early Tim Drake, as Jemma said, but brings in some initially strange but ultimately perfect elements. The jacket is my favorite. The giant “R” is very fun, and the rib-like compartments on the biceps and forearms echo Tim’s original sleeves and gloves. The goggles are also a great touch, giving the artist a lot of room for character expressions while protecting the Tim’s eyes AND identity.

Joel: The reinforced jacket looks both practical and jaunty. The highwaters convey youthful exuberance, but are they too frivolous for Gotham?

Rachel: He’s Indie Rock Robin! I’ll say it again later, Jemma, but I love the jackets you design. If you ever go into non-hero fashion, let me know! The fusion of classic Robin colors and elements with Tim’s own quirky sensibility works really well here, and I think the outfit really reflects his initial exuberance. And I love the short pants and high-top green sneakers! Apropos to nothing, this Robin also looks a kind of uncanny lot like my friend Ryan.

Jemma: Robin Number One! And he’ll never let anyone forget it. Dick gets for a slightly more classic, Robin Hood type suit, with some decent pants, taller boots, and longer sleeves, because like any kid, he’s going to want to refine his style as he gets older. It’s all about keeping it bright, simple and iconic for this one.

Joel: What a styley guy! Very sharp costume, like a cavalry officer from an opera. Maybe not right for every night’s patrol, but perfect for those extra-special crime-fighting occassions (i.e. Batgirl team-ups). The pointed tops of the boots are a smidge too much, however.

Rachel: He’s so elfish! I want him to bring me gifts! I think it’s the combination of the fitted, buttoned tunic and the red tights that does it–but it totally works. My one quibble with this one is the boots–any time he bent his knees, he’d get poked in the thigh. Not too practical.

Jemma: Dark Knight Returns is supposed to be set in the future, which makes Carrie the “Futuristic Robin,” so in designing her getup I set out to make her look like she’d be at home decades from now, while still nodding to the ones that came before. She’s got shoes built into her suit for the sleeker look of a sprinter, as well as gloves coming seamlessly off the sleeves and short hair and cape so neither can get in her way. I could see her sharpening her with on Terry McGinnis of Batman Beyond and punching alien robots in her lunch hour.

Dean: Haha, yeah, this does have a nice Batman Beyond sort of feel. The only thing that’d make it more so is a more simplified color scheme. I’m thinking amber where the green is and white where the yellow is. I love how you’ve incorporated early Nightwing-ish wing elements into the cape.

Rachel: This costume works nicely for Carrie, but the character I really want to see it on is Rogue. It’s what her mid-nineties costume dreamed of being.

Joel: I’m intrigued by the novel form of the cape, but I’m not entriely sure what’s going on with it. Perhaps it needs to be a little bigger? Great footgear.

Rachel: Is the cape one or two wings? Right now, it looks like one, which is a little bizarre. I second Joel’s footwear props, too–love those green toes and soles.

Jemma: Young Dick Grayson doesn’t have anyone before him to pull design cues from, so his looks more like the circus clothes he’d be used to, with a chest insignia and tights like Superman or Batman. He’s got short sleeves on top, but his legs get tights because he’s running around at night, outside! Even if he’s moving a lot, the poor kid would freeze with that much skin exposed, and hypothermia is so last season.

Vito: Teen Titans, here he comes! This is definitely in tune with the Nick Cardy-era Titans. The colors are perfect for that period, and it has enough youthful inspiration in it, that it wouldn’t be a stretch to superimpose this costume on that era. It’d be funny if he was wearing this with the Titans and the original costume around Batman.

Joel: This is great! More Peter Pan than Robin Hood, Young Grayson looks thrilled to face the collected Gotham underworld with nothing but a utility belt and some egregious puns. The big central R is appropriately bold, but I wonder if the R needs to be repeated on the belt. Or, if it does, should it be green? Perhaps a yellow-on-yellow design? The combination of the high-cut shorts and the tails of the tunic create a green target for the eyes that would have given Wertham fits. But then, what didn’t?

Rachel: First the elf-wear, now Peter Pan–is this some kind of subtle commentary on Dick?

Jemma: I designed this Stephanie Brown Robin after looking at the entries to Dean’s Draw Steph Meme, and so in drawing her I found myself incorporating tiny bits and pieces of other concepts I liked such as the awesome green running shoes of Dean’s Girl Wonder, and a cowl/headband like the one from Ming’s (inspiring, gorgeous) design. I decidede to add a small hood built into her cape to keep rain off or help hide her hair and disguise her if she’s worrying about her secret identity getting out. (You’d think the boys would have thought of that, huh? Haha.) Her shirt and pants call to mind Tim’s uniform while still being very “Steph,” and she wears them over a form-fitting full body suit that would keep her warm and undoubtedly serve as some sort of armor.

Joel: It’s good to know that Steph was listening when her mother told her to dress in layers. I like the effect of the black body stocking (which I’m assuming is some kind of Bat-Kevlar, or something), and the high cut of the clothes worn over it seems to preserve a full range of motion. Nice visual rhyme between her hair and cape.

Rachel: This one is a little too street-clothes for me. The tailored shirt, in particular, seems like something ill suited to superheroing, since it would restrict Steph’s arm movement. My favorite parts of this design are the accessories: the jaunty asymmetrical belt, the neat-o futuristic sneakers, and the red goggles (although I have to wonder about their practicality at night).

Jemma: Nightwing takes the impeccable style sense he cultivated in his teenage years and applies it to his adult persona! I actually really love the current Nightwing costume, so I wanted to keep as much of it as possible in this design. He’s got a shirt now (to house whatever he uses in the way of armor), and slightly altered gloves, so that if he spread out his arms it would look something like wings. The cut of the shirt and the inclusion of the tights make me think of a ballet dancer, in that the clothes are made for the wearer to move. That fits for acrobatic Nightwing. And finally, there are the big boots — all the better to kick the collective butt of crime with.

Joel: What a great costume. Nightwing clearly saved Georgio Armani from the clutches of some fashion-crazed malfeasant. The only part that stops my eye is the blue on the back of the boots. Where the color terminates at the heels–is that intended to look like a bird’s talons when viewed from the rear? If so, i’m not sure the effect is coming through, and I’m not entirely sold that it’s a good idea in the first place.

Rachel: Didn’t you read the storyline where Dick was modeling a street fashion line based on his Nightwing uniform? It was pure Project Rooftop eye-candy! Actually, part of what I love about this outfit is how simultaneously superheroic and everyday-stylin’ it is: Nightwing could change his shoes, unzip his jacket, and wander around downtown Bludhaven, and the only second glances he got would be from people admiring the cut of his jacket. Have I mentioned that I love Jemma’s jackets? ‘Cause I do.

Jemma: The first order of business with the Red Hood was to give him an actual hood – faceless helmets don’t count! I like the fact that he still would wear the mask/goggles/whatever under it, and this way it’s more plausible. He’s got a threatening new trenchcoat that’s a size or two too big, which makes you wonder where he got it — or who he took it from. I gave him two keris daggers, because those wavy stabby knives seem to be his signature weapons in this persona. He’s got a standard Batfamily utility belt, too, with a very un-standard gun holster. I designed him to be kind of a reversed version of Nightwing — note the similarity of the shirts and placement of the red and white vs the Black and blue. his colors say “Robin” more than ever, now that his actions say the opposite. Finishing it all off are the sleek running shoes, because he’s got to be fast to stay one step ahead of Batman.

Dean: Wow, if Jason was wearing this costume, I don’t think anyone would even mind Superboy Prime punching…you know whatever it was he punched to bring him back to life. Anyway, Jemma’s nailed the character down perfectly even including a pair of his now trademark daggers. The anger, the darkness, the former-Robin vibe, it’s all jumping out of this design. I adore the long coat-to-feather-jags bit, and the inclusion of a holster on a Batmanish utility belt is INSPIRED. Also, I love the shoes.

Vito: The thing I like most about this is that it has an Oliver Twist sensibility to it. That jacket, with the Batman-inspired fringe/tails makes me think of someone who literally clawed their way back from the streets, which is totally what Jason did.

Joel: Again, I don’t know Jason Todd from a hole in the ground, but this looks great. I love the attention to history and influence you’ve put into all of these character designs, Jemma, and it all comes to a head with our Prodigal Robin, here.

Rachel: Hell, yes. I love the little splashes of red among the tatters, as if he can’t quite shake the last bits of his Robin sensibility. And, of course, the coat.

Jemma: My main goal with Spoiler was to make it look like she’d pulled her costume out of her closet (or at least moreso than everybody else, haha) — She might be out fighting crime and meet someone with the same shirt! This his her first hero identity, after all, and without somebody like Batman sponsoring her, things are going to be low-tech.

Joel: Mission accomplished. This looks like a completely plausible costume for a teenager to compile on her own, and yet still has both panache and a certain athletic elegance. The round forms of the belt buckle emblem play off the striped shirt nicely. Great color scheme. What are the designs on her jacket sleeves?

Rachel: Once again, this just doesn’t strike me as superhero gear. The pants and jacket (another awesome jacket!), maybe, because they’re so sleek, but combined with the striped t-shirt and canvas sneakers, I’m seeing streetwear. I think if the shirt and shoes were solid colors or more streamlined, I’d be fine with them, but there’s something about the way they look now. And no one’s mentioned this, but I like the shape of her mask. It reminds me of a toned down commedia mask, and it makes her look like a bit of a trickster, which is cool.

Joel: I don’t have a problem with streetwear. Especially for a character like Stephanie who can’t just divert some Waynetech R&D when she wants a crime-fighting outfit.

Jemma: Tim Drake may have started as a happy geek, but after tragedy after tragedy, the poor kid was bound to go the way of the Emo. His current costume in canon eliminates the classic Robin green, and as heretical as that feels to me, I wanted to at least try a design that incorporated that. While the happier, lighter Tim may be getting more style cues from Dick Grayson, in taking a turn towards the dark, Tim starts looking more like Jason. His shirt has become a more modern version of Jason’s Robin shirt, and the fringe of the cape calls to mind Batman’s cape or the Red Hood’s coat. The “R” symbol has even been bleached white. He’s clearly still Tim, but now he’s much darker and more understated than his previous incarnation.

Dean: This is my favorite of the collection. I like everything about it. I wouldn’t mind seeing it with pants, but the zip-up body-armour top, feather-jagged cape, simple “R” icons, and red goggles all work perfectly. I love how Jemma’s created her own recurring Robin elements for this collection!

Rachel: Did anyone else catch that this looks like a pretty perfect hybrid of the first Tim and Red Hood? That’s some intensely cool and creepy symbolism going on.

Vito: The Cure said it best…Hot Hot Hot. It’s the red and yellow usage breaking up the blacks that really make this a great piece.

Joel: I’m still having trouble with the highwaters, but from the knees up, you’ve got me.

Rachel: Aw, don’t knock the short-pants! They’re Emo Robin’s only remaining connection to his indie rock roots!

11 comments to “The Robin Collection, by Jemma Salume”
  1. Jemma is big time talented and I am in deep like with all her redesigns. My favorite’s gotta be that Nightwing, though. The balletic touches are absolutely ace and so in keeping with Dick’s character… and I don’t know, if that blue on the backs of his heels is supposed to mimic a bird’s talons, then I am kind of for it. I’d at least like to see those shoes from multiple angles, though that’s true of each component of all these awesome outfits.

  2. I haven’t commented in a while, but I had to crawl out of the woodwork to say that the bird head “R” logo is pure genius! Please send that to DC! It’s GENIUS! I can’t believe Robin has been around since 1940 and that symbol hasn’t been thought of until now!

  3. I think Spoiler is my favorite, because I can absolutely see myself as her. One of the things that has always bothered me about superheroes is their complicated uniforms- when you do what a vigilante, especially a Bat does, your stuff had better be able to quick-shift to streetwear, just in case, if you’re not a Wayne with a batmobile waiting around the corner. Not everyone can just melt into the night- sometime they have to melt into a crowd, or a shopping mall, and not have it look like they’re dressed for cosplay.

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