P:R on The New Wonder Woman Costume

Note: Thanks for all the emails and messages requesting a Project: Rooftop response to DC’s new Wonder Woman’s costume. I obviously had thoughts, but I wanted to check with the rest of the P:R crew. Everyone chimed in last night and this morning with thoughts and ratings, using our usual 1-10 scale. For more on the new Wonder Woman redesign, check out the awesome posts from our pals at Comics Alliance and Robot 6. Okay, here we go. – Dean Trippe

Dean: 7. I don’t really care for it, but remember, it’s a temporary situation. Like Batman or Superman, Wonder Woman’s costume’s never going to stray too far from her iconic look for too long. I liked the recent Terry Dodson redesign, and I think at least half the finalists from our Wonder Woman Wardrobe War contest are better, but while this new look’s here, let’s take a look.

First off, for an alternate reality(ish) take on Wonder Woman, it’s not awful, it just feels random and uninteresting. The inclusion of black seems like a bad call (I mean, visually). In the original design sketch, the pants appear to have similar detailing to the blue jacket, implying a similar material and form. Blue armor-y pants might work. Plain black tight pants feel incongruous with the rest of the look to me. Black jacket and pants or blue jacket and pants would solve this.

The new wristbands are needlessly complicated, and in red and gold in the ratios used here, recall McDonald’s or ketchup and mustard or Iron Spidey more than Wonder Woman, whose simple, iconic bracelets need little improvement. Obviously, these new gauntlets may function entirely differently storywise. In the above page, they seem to leave “W” marks. This extra “W” is a bit counter to my way of thinking, as Diana’s now decorated with two “W” logos, star emblems, an eagle design, and lots of bits of detailing. Wondy’s always had a lot of elements in her uniform, but the extra “W” bugs me. Why not use the same shape from her, um, bosom clasp?

Most problematically, while the announcement at DC’s The Source blog called this look “modern,” befitting a “street-fighter” and a “warrior,” I’m just not seeing any of that. The choker, shoulder pads, and rolled up jacket sleeves all seem very dated to me, and while pants will probably appeal to a lot of folks fighting for female heroes to dress more sensibly, I don’t see this strappy top as any more sensible than Diana’s usual look. This fashion backwards trend is incredibly common in superheroine redesign, as we saw in the last big Supergirl update, which included the already-ten-years-late belly shirt for no reason.

To my eyes, the detailed, jewelry-like appearance of her new tiara and belt look more fragile, less battle-ready than her traditional look. Again, I don’t hate it, I just think it could’ve been really slick with another pass. But who’s going to ask Jim Lee for one? I flipping love Jim Lee’s art. His work has gravitas and power, and makes the phrase “mainstream superhero comics” sound awesome for 22 pages at a time. But I tend to not care for his superhero redesigns. Remember his dog-collared Kyle Rayner Green Lantern? His belly-windowed Huntress? His short-sleeve, logo-gauntleted (hey, wait a minute) Superman for Wizard magazine? All weak designs that look passably cool when he draws them, and terrible when anyone else does.

Like a lot of things in superhero books these days, this new Wonder Woman smacks of attempting to make the character more film-ready, paradoxically, by making them less iconic, less recognizable to the public. Female costume redesigns are the area I’m the most nit-picky about, though, so let’s see how long this look lasts before worrying about it too much. (Stephanie Brown’s new Batgirl look on the other hand…sigh.) And, all of this said, I think the new series artist Don Kramer is drawing the hell out of the preview page, and while I’ll probably be skipping his new Superman run, I’m down for a timestream altering in-continuity Wonder Woman retcon by J. Michael Straczynski.

Chris: 8. Wow. Regardless of where people’s opinions come down on this design, I’ve got to give DC some respect for doing such a drastic redesign of one of their key characters. Just realize for a second—this isn’t an alternate, ultimate or Earth One version…this is THE character. I think the last time something this drastic has been done on a flagship character was probably the electric Superman of the late 90s. Anyway, getting into my personal feelings on this—I’m cautiously optimistic here. While I’m in lock-step with Dean on the pants issue (I’d rather see a dark blue with the piping like in the Jim Lee sketch than in the comic pages), the rest of it could be good. Notice how the costume is played out in the silhouette here, giving those gold elements play over a black silhouette. With the design Jim’s done here, he’s prioritized those gold elements (the tiara, the bracelets, the belts), giving some clue that these aren’t just nameless things but probably have some mythical powers of their own. The jacket to me reads like something out of Rogue’s 80s wardrobe, but I think WW might be able to pull it off. And with the retcon, it doesn’t erase the original costume—but puts it as the Golden Age costume—much like the Flash has his, and then the Silver age. With what JMS is laying out here, it’s beginning for a cross-time team-up with the original costumed-Wonder Woman, this new current WW, and Wonder Girl. As an aside, given DC Comics close nature with their animation side (recently shown with the new Aqualad debuting near simultaneously in print and in animation), I’m interested to see how soon this design bleeds over to other iterations of the character.

Tim: 6.5. I like the pants. But she’s wearing what looks like Animal Man’s Member’s Only jacket from 1989 (and it apparently shrunk in the dryer in the past two decades) and spurs and wrist guards for bowling. Watch out, Friday night bowling leaguers! It’s a pretty hideous mess of an ensemble, overall, even if I like some of the parts—like the belt and the size of the WW insignia. And the Jim Lee top looks different—in terms of amount of skin showing—than the one Don Kramer’s drawing on the page. I have a feeling that this will be looked back on the way we look back at the Mike Sekowky run now. “Wonder Woman went through a phase where she dressed like THAT?” Actually, it won’t even have the charm of the Sekowsky period. It will just seem bland and weirdly dated, even though this looks nothing like the fashion of today.

Still. I don’t really like anything about Wonder Woman’s more traditional costume, as seen in Gail Simone’s recently-concluded run. It’s iconic, sure. But it is a ridiculous costume for anyone to wear, outside of some oddball Toddlers In Tiaras reunion show.

(Though I will add that I showed the picture to my six-year-old daughter, who is a gigantic Wonder Woman fan and a girl who draws fashion portraits on every scrap of paper around the house, and she saw it and said: Ten! Ten, ten, ten. Ten, ten, tennnn! So there’s that.)

Jessi: 4.5. One would assume that Lee was going for more of a modern, street warrior look with the redesign, but it’s incredibly outdated. In this get up, Diana would fit in more with one of the gangs from ‘The Warriors’ than she would in the JLA.  Perhaps this Wonder Woman design took a page out of Cassie Sandsmark’s book with the bustier type top and jeans. Tight Boots? What are those shoes she’s wearing, exactly? I have to agree with Dean that her tiara and metallic accessories look a tad too fragile and not tough enough. This is Diana, Princess of the Amazons for christ’s sake! She’s stronger than Hercules. She kicks ass and needs a super outfit to express that you shouldn’t mess with her. She doesn’t need a ‘W’ brander on her gauntlets for baddies to know who just whooped their butts. Instead of “baddass,” though, this new look is more appropriate for a background dancer in Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” video. I also have to point out that any of the artists’ redesigns featured in the Wonder Woman Wardrobe War contest would have been so much better.

Khouri: 1. My Zatanna-cosplaying girlfriend just walked in, saw this Wonder Woman design, asked what it was and remarked, “Kind of looks like a tranny mess if you ask me.” I don’t think I have anything more to add.

Jon: 0. My immediate reactions:

  • Ah, it’s Jim Lee, is it? In case it’s been unnoticed up until now, here’s how Jim Lee designs superhero costumes: he designs a perfectly passable if unremarkable superhero costume. Then he puts a jacket on it. I kid, or course, sometimes he puts an overcoat on it.
  • I cannot believe it’s got a leather jacket with the sleeves rolled up AND fingerless gloves. Where’s her Lennon glasses and single earring? How will readers know how extremely Nineties she is without Lennon glasses and a single earring??
  • It doesn’t help that the illustration up top is posed so that it looks like they’ve Photoshopped out her cigarette. “Light me up, Ares?” She looks like an Aerosmith groupie. She looks like an Aerosmith groupie’s mom … who is also an Aerosmith groupie
  • Additionally—I just noticed that her enormous carpal tunnel-support wrist braces leave “W” shaped scars on her opponents’ heads. Oh good. So, after Blackest Night – after Diana was given a Star Sapphire power ring and tuned into the unfiltered overwhelming cosmic font of pure unadulterated love and the readers were promised (once again) that the dark times were over and we’re due for a return to good ol’-fashioned heroism -Wonder Woman has decided that what she really heroically loves is smashing her John Hancock onto anonymous thugs’ faces. Perhaps they can arrange it that her lasso leaves rope burns and her tiara can have a spring-loaded boxing glove in it that smashes villains’ noses in and also maybe she can spend a lot of time parking the invisible plane’s back wheels on her enemies, then locking the front wheels and spinning out.

ANYWAY, with that out of my system, here’s what’s wrong with this costume: There is nothing strong about it. It has no interesting shape, silhouette, color or branding. No lines draw the eye anywhere interesting or define anything significant. Every element is given as much strength and focus as the others. It is thoroughly uniconic. Wonder Woman is an icon. She needs an iconic look. This ain’t it, a thousand times no.

Vito: 7.5. I don’t hate it. It has actually grown on me in the 12 hours or so since I’ve seen it. But, since I didn’t give it a 10, I have to have some problems with it, right? First fix, ace that jacket. When Artemis was Wonder Woman for a year or so, Diana had a similar jacket and spandex spanks on…and it was awful. This jacket, while designed better, just brings to mind that outfit. I think the shirt under is plenty and it could be the costume staple. I’d agree to navy blue pants with maybe fifty small stars going down the sides, but the black doesn’t necessarily disagree with me. There was no need to change the bracelets or the tiara, but to me, those are minor infractions. Bottom line is this; when we do these roundtables on redesigns, the one question I always ask myself (above function and artist ability) is whether or not I recognize the character in the piece. Robin has to have an “R.” Superman has to have an “S.” Captain America needs to look like the flag. Wonder Woman…while she doesn’t need to wear a bustier or a one-piece bathing suit, does need to embody femininity (not necessarily feminism, per se). When P:RT did the Wonder Woman Wardrobe War contest, I opted out of judging because I had some strong feelings about what a Wonder Woman costume redesign should entail, but I wanted to throw two up here as examples of what should and could have been used by DC to get all that I want out of a new look.  First, Joe Quinones (who was the winner of our contest) should have been called purely for his imagination. But, if you were dead set on using pants, then Yasmin Liang has what I think is the perfect look. Bottom line, whether or not this is permanent or temporary, we have to assume that Jim Lee’s design serves a purpose, and that it serves the story Straczynski is writing. I don’t know how readily fans are willing to embrace the new look (as I mention in this interview that literally happened as I was writing this) but I think we’re all guilty, myself included, of holding on too tightly.

Rachel: 6. It’s not bad, and there are elements I really like, but it’s not iconic or visually consistent. The elements seem to come from about three different costumes, and the choppy lines affect the flow. Also, it screams 90s Rogue.

As for the leggings, I like the idea more than the execution. A field of black that large—and, like most superheroines, WW has Barbie proportions, so her legs are disproportionately long—throws off the balance of the outfit.

In summary: I’m not floored, but there’s potential, and I’ll be watching to see how it evolves across artists and stories.

Dean: Good thoughts, everyone! I think Rachel’s “It’s not bad…but it’s not iconic or visually consistent,” sums it up pretty well. Looking around the nerdosphere, it looks like DC’s already in defense-mode on the change. While I don’t think all the criticism is going to change anything about this look, I do hope DC and other comics companies do take notice, and maybe they’ll start to realize that major character costume redesign is important and requires more for public appreciation than a superstar artist’s signature. That’s part of our mission here at Project: Rooftop.

Now, let us know what you think about Wonder Woman’s new look in the comments!

59 comments to “P:R on The New Wonder Woman Costume”
  1. Honestly, if they’d left off the jacket and the choker they probably could’ve gotten away with it – thanks to Ultimate Thor, I think the simple tank-top costumes are popular with street-fighting bruiser superheroes.

    But as it stands, the costume is, I agree, hopelessly dated.

    Could somebody explain one thing to me: why does WW dress in the American flag? I mean, I know that Athena gifted her with the wisdom of knowing every language, so she doesn’t obviously come off as woman from a mythical Greek island… but still, she ain’t local.

  2. It reminds me of Donna Troy crossed with YoungJustice!Cassie. Which is full of fail. That’s not Wonder Woman. It’s Donna. And that’s not what you want people saying.

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  4. Would it have been so bad to simply give Diana dark blue pants with some stars on it? I’d even accept changes in the belt (the new belt actually looks really good) and perhaps changes in her red boots.

    But they really should have left everything from the waist up ALONE.

    And I’m a serious UNFAN of the jacket.

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  6. I actually really like this costume. I would like some stars on the pants as well, and there actually being boots that you can see in there somewhere, but the rest of it is good.

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  8. You guys are a little out of date with fashion. Pretty much everything anyone wears these days is blander versions of previous decades. The idea seems to be to get all the good of previous decades while avoiding the main features of everything the baby boomers wore: they looked really stupid.

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