P:R Roundtable: DC’s New Redesigns (Part 3 of 3)

Note: Friday brings you classic Double-Sized Edition of our P:R Roundtable as we round out our look at the DC redesigns coming your way this fall.  – Chris A.

Vito: One of the things that makes or breaks these new designs is if we can look at them and say, “Oh, that’s Batman,” and on down the line. These characters, with the exception of Kid Flash (or Impulse, who knows?), are entirely unrecognizable. And further, they’re unrecognizable as Teen Titans. I have no idea why Superboy looks the way he looks. It’s forward thinking, sure, but it looks bizarre. The bar code tattoo? Is it me, or did the DCU hit Kat Von D’s place last weekend? This is a different gripe I have (heroes don’t drink, smoke, or have tattoos…they’re clean cut) and is totally a topic for another time. The thing that this image, and this comic, leaves me with is that the Teen Titans are a little too scary to be heroes.

Jess: I think that’s exactly what they’re going for with this image and the accompanying solicit. Whether that’s an appealing angle, or one that makes sense for a franchise that would probably make more money by targeting tweens, is also a discussion for another time, but the vibe that’s coming across, is, I think, what they want. The costumes themselves, though, are…well, we can’t really see most of them clearly, actually. I’m not sure how any of them work, or what’s going on on Superboy’s front.

I would like to know why Kid Flash is following the Booster Gold trend of exposing the middle of his forehead. Maybe it’s a time traveler thing?

Joel: Geezis, I feel exhausted just looking at this thing.

Jon: I’ll reserve my judgement until the chromium variant cover comes out. In 1994.

Vito: What is…and this is by no means meant to beat a dead horse…crazy, or even craziest, about this team, this cover, the whole thing, is that I didn’t even realize that the black shape in the right background was a person. I thought it was smoke.

Oh, I’m guessing that’s Cassie/Wonder Girl since she has a bit of Donna Troy star field in her costume.

Gawd, Joel is right. This one is exhausting…

Vito: J’onn has pants! Seriously, I have no problems with the redesigns here. As my “relationship” with Apollo and Midnighter hasn’t lasted the years as my “relationship” with MM, I’m ok with their new looks. Odd seeing them without capes or trenchcoats though.

Oh, and those two better still be in love!

Jon: There’s a whole discussion to be had about Apollo and Midnighter now inhabiting the same universe as Superman and Batman, but I suppose that doesn’t have a lot to do with their costumes. Still, it’s grimly amusing to me that they’ve made Superman’s new costume very formal and militaristic but loosened up Apollo’s costume – exposed the arms, opened the neckline. Usually, Superman’s latter-day knockoffs are wearing the jackboots and dragoon collars, now it’s a switcheroo …

Nice to see Midnighter ditching the black overcoat, but I think the pared down alternative is much too busy. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but … it could be made a little better by the addition of a jacket. J’onn’s outfit looks just as busy as his old one, but at least it appears to follow something more like an alien design. I tentatively like it, although the cape and collars bugs me a little (I see J’onn has a V-Collar too — is he the JLA’s rep on this team?)

Joel: It seems the mandate here was to move the iconography of Apollo and Midnighter further away from Supes and Bats. From what I can see, the results work out pretty well for Apollo. The simplicity of his costume is very powerful. It looks like the costume of someone who just doesn’t have to work that hard to impress you. I like how the gold piping lays on top of the skintight white material for some nice contrast of texture.

If Apollo is intimidating via understatement, Midnighter induces pity via overcompensation. Chin-spike, darling? Dear me, no.

Jess: What does he use the chin-spike for, do you think? Opening cans?

Joel: And does Apollo have a little Ceasar-style haircut? Hard to pull that look off if you’re not actually Ceasar. Or Spock.

Vito: Or George Clooney.

Joel: Okay, if we can readily list three counter-examples, then I guess we have to give Apollo a chance to prove his haircut can work.

Vito: I think it’s just a visual cue to tie him to the Greek god. An extremely heavy like Mjolnir visual cue.

Jon: Keenly answers the question “What if Deathstroke’s costume had a lot more pointless-ass knives and shit on it.” Not really sure why Deathstroke traded in his admittedly off-beat but very striking and fairly streamlined costume for something where even his boxer briefs have spikes on them, but if you’re gonna have someone draw it, you’re damn well right make it Simon Bisley.

I keep trying to picture this costume as drawn by Dan Jurgens, or someone else equally prosaic. Deathstroke is going to end up looking like a series of traffic signs.

Vito: I couldn’t have said it better, Jon. I like Deathstroke’s classic look, but if I were asked to redesign (funny enough, I wasn’t), I would have gone for more military and less…whatever the hell this is. I can see what they might have been trying for here; “His body is a weapon.” But there has to be a more effective way to show that without putting it all on his body…it’s like Cyborg above. We get it, he’s a robotic human. With Deathstroke, make him less crazy knives and more Snake-Eyes from GI Joe, and we’ll get it.

Jess: I’m just really impressed with how high he’s lifting that enormous sword in the back there.

Vito: Well, he does use at least 90% of his brain.

Joel: I wonder what’s on the dogtags. Seems like they’d defeat the purpose of a full-face mask.

All points about busyness and knifeyness taken, the super-seamed spandex works better here than on, say, Supes. It gives the impression of ballistic armor, which Deathstroke would actually have use for. And I’m glad that they muted the orange elements to more a tawny leather color.

Vito: She’s…kind of…wearing pants?

Jess: Oh, hell no.

Jon: Just once in my P:R career, I want to get in here first before anyone else and say “THAT’S NOT HOW BOOBS WORK!”

Goddamnit, she’s got a little cape on. I almost missed it because I was distracted by the robot turtle Deadshot appears to be savagely fellating in the background.

Vito: Oh my God, that IS Deadshot!

Jon: So, the Suicide that this Squad is engaged in … is it their own, owing to mortal embarrassment?

“I’m wearing what? A capelet with an Elizabethan collar? Booty shorts and knee-highs? The hell I’m going outside in that..” ::swallows whole bottle of sleeping pills::

Joel: I had to read the solicitations to figure out this was Harley Quinn, as opposed to any of a thousand generic bustier-clad bad girls. Considering how iconic Harley has been, that’s a problem. I have literally no idea what’s going on with Deadshot, but what I can see of King Shark looks cool. I like the way he has all these different shark attributes squished up into his head.

Vito: You just touched on something I hadn’t even thought of, Joel; the fact that, while a relatively modern creation, Harley has only appeared in two different iterations: the comics/animated look, and the video game look from Arkham Asylum. I can only guess that the popularity of the video game, in light of the fact that there is no current animated version of her, led to this decision. Which goes back to the idea that you always need to have uniformity, or at least, continuity, when doing reboots and redesigns. I get the idea of making sure that you go with the design that is most in the public eye, the public consciousness. While I can’t understand the thinking that went into the Teen Titans, I can see why this Harley exists, even if I don’t agree with it.

Jon: Okay, I showed this cover to my wife and she said “Wait, is the book called Suicide Squad or Suicide Girls?”

Jess: Zing!

Vito: I can probably elaborate on my disdain for the change here, but it comes across as “old guy who wants things to stay the same.” It’s not that. It’s just…the change is unnecessary. Superman and Spider-Man are two of the most recognizable characters in the world. You don’t have to mess with that recognizability. I realize that he still looks like Superman and the only thing I’m really complaining about (after you get right down to it) is the red trunks, but that costume set a standard that wasn’t messed with for over 70 years. Why? Why change it now?

Jess: Well, there’s also all the seaming, which gives the costume a sturdier look. Except, much like Green Lantern’s, it has no need to be sturdy.

In general, the redesign smacks of someone trying to make Superman more believable. But Superman is what a superhero looks like. His costume doesn’t need explaining. It just is.

Jon: I’ve got, like, seven pages of semiotic analysis handy that says otherwise, but I take your point. :)

Joel: Those boots don’t relate to the rest of the design, at all. It’s like the action figure factory stuck the wrong legs on. And it’s really problematic that they’ve removed all the yellow except for the background of the S-shield. There needs to be a secondary use of the color to hold the elements together. It doesn’t have to be large: an element on the belt, edging on the cape, hell, give him some yellow crepe soles on his robo-boots.

Vito: If I were to guess based on this and Supergirl’s designs, I would have to say that they are leaning closer to changing the origins (with the lawsuit and all) and making them a little closer to their Kryptonian origins, maybe…and this is total supposition on my part…not making them the last Kryptonians. This would eliminate the Clark from Superman, which, in context with the costume change, absolutely makes sense. I don’t like it, but it makes some kind of sense.

Jon: DiDio evidently mandated the abolition of Supes’ red shorts because modern-day kids consider them “silly” … but then he lets Superman wear that belt. Why in the world is he even wearing a belt now? At least, when he had the red pants, the belt was holding them up.

Joel speaks truer than he may have intended when he refers to “action figures” – that’s what this whole costume looks like – an action figure, and not an expensive one. The seams are all visible and the boots and belt look like cheap, stuck-on plastic accessories.

Nothing follows the shape of the body, nothing complements the lines of the costume, and why does Superman have metal kneepads? Will there be a lot of kneeing and gardening and Patrick Swayze-style slides across the dance floor in the new book? There better be, to justify how dumb those look. It better be All-Knee Action from here on out.

Jess: Okay, no, I’m sorry. If you can find me ONE PERSON who said “I would totally buy Superman comics if he wasn’t wearing those silly shorts,” I will give you five dollars.

Joel: Well, I can get wanting to get rid of the shorts. I thought they looked silly when I was a kid. And that was in the Seventies when everyone wore stupid clothes, so they must look especially ridiculous to the kids today. But when you remove such a major visual element, you have to carefully consider the effect that has on every other design element in the costume. You can see this in our own Man of Style redesigns. Nearly all of the participants ditched the shorts, and its clear that a lot of thinking went into the visual repercussions of that decision.

Jess: Wonder Woman gets pants. Black Canary gets pants. Zatanna gets pants. But 16-year-old Supergirl gets booty shorts? I get that they’re going for a more alien look, and on its own terms I don’t actually hate the costume. If the whole leotard was blue, instead of slapping a gold-framed red target on her crotch, I’d actually think it was rather elegant. But putting all the adult heroines in pants when their classic costumes are 70 years old and then sticking your most prominent teen girl in panties strikes me as skeevy.

Vito: Similar to my feelings on Superman’s trunks, I always dug Kara’s skirt. It set her apart from the heroines of the day. She was cute, she was a teenager, and she dressed like it. The hooker boots (and I apologize if that offends anyone) are an attempt to give her covered legs, but not pants. Since there’s no Power Girl, I’m guessing that Kara will fill that void of “unhealthy sex object” in the DCU, and look! Instead of a booby window, she has kneecap windows! Seriously though, we’ve run a million Supergirl redesigns on this site, and Cory Walker does one a week…couldn’t they have just called us?

Joel: From the waist up, however, there are some nice things happening here, however. The cape spreading across her shoulders and rising high up on her neck gives her a little dignity, which is nice to see in a Supergirl design. I’m intrigued by the way the cape clasps over her throat, but am afraid the lines and angles of that clasp are going to fight with the also-angular S-shield.

Jon: I don’t hate the red shape in her bathing suit area if just because it mimics the shape of the S-Shield, and it’s nice to see that level of thought and inclusion in the design. The rest of the costume is much more interesting, though, and I really like the collar and cape. If I did have to pick a part of the costume that seemed weirdly eroticized for a teenager, it would be that the legwear recall the shape and line of stockings-under-boots. Might have been nicer to have those go all the way up to join the rest of the costume, knee-windows or no.

Other than that, I appreciate that the seams actually appear to follow the line of the body, and I like that this recalls some of the costumes from my favorite era for the character, the Adventure Comics years where the readers designed new looks for her every couple of issues.

Joel: Jon, you’re right that the “bathing suit area” works on a formal level. The shapes are nice, it has good proportions with the rest of the suit, etc. But, contextually, it’s another matter. People wear red lipstick and blush to simulate the flush of blood to sensitive areas during arousal. Chimpanzees display red, swollen genitals to signal the peak of estrus. We have hard-wired lizard brain responses to the color when associated with certain parts of the anatomy. So, putting a red crotch-swatch on an underage girl may not have been the best choice.

Jon: I … have no idea how to reply to that.

Joel: Sorry, I think I was channeling my old Anthropology professor, there.

Jess: “Crotch-swatch” is a pretty rockin’ phrase, though.

70 comments to “P:R Roundtable: DC’s New Redesigns (Part 3 of 3)”
  1. Just looking at this uninspired rubbish makes me depressed, I’m off to go re-read some old issues from the first few years of the Ultimate universe and Age of Apocalypse to remind myself that talented comic book professionals can pool their abilities to rejuvenate and modernize decade old characters and concepts and reintroduce them as something fresh and interesting, without it ending in a stinking pile of face tattoos and thigh pouches.

  2. I’m ok with the Teen Titans’ new look. They needed major updating.

    But I’m just laughing my rear-end off at the notion that Warren Ellis’s homosexual parodies of Superman and Batman, that is Apollo and the Midnighter, are now entrenched in DC continuity. Also. . .CHIN SPIKE!!

  3. Bob Dobolina, in answer to your query of ‘why do you keep using these characters when you could use different ones’ you might as well ask why Disney doesn’t drop Mickey Mouse. People like these characters, feel attatched to them, and artist and writers like to work on them, that’s why they’ve gone on so long.

  4. Oookay…somebody better run a check in DC water supply, i’ve seen better
    costume designs by far on this page, than those just shown above, hell, i’ve
    even made better ones than that crap.

    Or maybe i’m mistaking DC cries for help in redesigning their costumed heroes
    in a clever way…because i can’t really believe THOSE are the final ones.

  5. I can’t stand all of the new DC re-designs. I’m pretty open minded to seeing what new things an artist or creator can bring to the table to shake things up, but, these designs? UGH! They’re all pretty much really bad. I’ve just stopped reading their books all together out of sheer exhaustion. This whole new #1 thing is a clear ploy to MARVEL-IZE themselves and just reeks of desperation.

    I much prefer the simpler times at DC comics. Marvel is angsty and complicated, DC is iconic and more light-hearted. It’s quite telling that the company with the simplest characters is also the company with the most confusing continuity. Those simple, iconic costumes are part of their company trade-mark, and now they’ve kind’a tossed all that history out the window. Lame-O!

  6. I just read this CBR interview with Scott Lobdell http://t.co/oD4XfSN and at one point there is this exchange:

    What can you tell us about the other characters on the cover?
    I can tell you I’m in love with all three of the characters who aren’t the Core Four on the cover.
    (The core four being Red Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl)

    Immediately I thought, “Wait, there’s only six people on that cover— the ‘core four,’ plus that smoke lady and that spidery-witchbladey lady, right?” But then I looked closer and there is in fact a 7th person(s) on the cover.

    Between Kid Flash and that smoke lady there are little purple and yellow people jumping around! So there are 3 new characters on that team, and I don’t think I have heard anyone say anything about those little purple and yellow dudes.

  7. Ooh, or those multiple little dudes are all ghost images of Kid Flash. If that’s the case, then there are still only six characters on that particular cover.

  8. “you might as well ask why Disney doesn’t drop Mickey Mouse. ”

    I don’t think the comparison holds. Mickey Mouse has always sold and Disney has never needed to redesign him, he’s an example of a genuinely iconic figure with enduring appeal for a specific demographic. The same can’t be said even of DC’s Big Three.

  9. Assuming reboot Superboy is still a piecemeal Superman clone, I can actually more or less get along with Superboy’s tattoo, even though barcode tats are so late-90s that they actually emit Korn singles. But that shirt, man! WHAT IS GOING ON. Why’s he got a ripped bit of another t-shirt on the back of his muscle tank? This meant to be a uniform!

    It’d be almost understandable if his outfit changed with the frequency that normal folks change their clothes – I’d actually quite dig the idea of Connor shunning the uniformed look and having a wardrobe full of regular clothes that he just pins a badge on or something. But that’s not going to happen, is it? He’s going to look like he’s got a rack of artfully distressed pseudogrunge tank tops at home.

    Apollo’s new looks is GREAT, but, in keeping with everything else in this reboot line, is totally unnecessary and doesn’t really improve on the classic look in any significant way. Midnighter, as everyone else has pointed out, is just embarrassing. I’d like to get a better look at J’onn – it seems promising, but I’ve got a feeling that the belt is going to be a bit of a mess.

    I’m digging certain elements of the more armoured Deathstroke costume, although those silly-ass fins mostly need to go. I could deal with maybe gauntlet blades – even just ONE gauntlet with them – because, well, Batman uses them, and Batman is exactly the kind of combatant that Wilson would probably go out of his way to emulate in some way. But those leg fins are horrendous.

    I started typing something out about the Harley Quinn, Superman and Supergirl designs, but then I just started barfing over and over again and had to stop before dehydration took me.

  10. “I don’t think the comparison holds. Mickey Mouse has always sold and Disney has never needed to redesign him”

    Actually, Mickey Mouse has been redesigned several times since Ub Iwerks first drew him in 1928, the most prominent being Fred Moore’s redesign in 1938 for the “sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment in Fantasia, and there was even an unused UPA style reboot in the 1950s.

  11. William J. Griffin: Yeah, I realized after posting that that it wasn’t strictly true. But most of Mickey’s redesigns came early in the game (similar deal with a character like Bugs Bunny). The basic point is that Disney hasn’t since had to fight to keep Mickey relevant and salable. The comics publishers, periodically (no pun intended), have done with their core characters. And it seems fairly clear at this point that as properties are aging, the battle is getting more and more uphill.

  12. I feel really sorry for the artist that will be drawing this new costumes due to the amount of lines and small details, don’t take me wrong I am up for hero uniform redesign that is how and why i have kept PR as one of my fav. sites that I visit daily. I have already order all of the #1 that DC will launch and I think some of the uniforms look good but you just do not mess with what is perfection that have prove to be decade after decade generation after generation this is not the first time this has been attempted and the so called approach to younger fans via this is just not needed again it has been use as an excuse to justify all of it as in past times you can ask a 6 year old who Superman is and he will tell you who right out of the bag is not at all the uniform that has kept this icon of an eternal character alive for so long but the character himself the uniform that we all have grown old to love and look up to is as the flag from a country I see Superman’s shield and a smile,pride,hope and strength fills me but to be honest of all of them the classic ones I do not see Superman nor Wonder Woman I see two complete strangers I will follow my heroes till the end of my time this said with all respect and admiration will take this so called change as bringing another earth into play after all the work they have done to narrow it down so that the universe made sense.

  13. I have never seen a redesigned Superman costume that didn’t look like an alternate-universe version. You can’t change his costume without making him look like “not-Superman.”

  14. All I have to say is “Jim Lee, publisher” hopefully this kind of thing will only last for a couple years, and like Wildstorm, competent creators will take over and start bulking up the shallow stuff with creativity.

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