P:R Redesign: Paul Bonzulac’s Fantastic Four!

Note: Whether they’re called Marvel’s First Family, The Future Foundation or just plain Fantastic Four, the boys and girls of the Baxter Building are a unique set of characters. One of the first super-hero teams to do matching uniforms, when it comes time to redesign them you have to allow for each character’s attributes to shine through. This design by Paul Bonzulac takes the recent FF redesigns by Marko Djurdjevic and proves a counter-point. – Chris A.

Here’s what Paul said about the design:

If you follow the Fantastic Four you may know that the Human Torch was killed off recently (spoiler!) and the Fantastic Four became the Future Foundation, replacing their lost member with Spider-Man and donning new and different costumes. And since you follow superhero comics you definitely know that the Human Torch won’t stay dead forever. He’ll come back, the new FF will become the old FF and they’ll probably return to some version of their original blue and black outfits.

I figured I’d take a stab at designing a sleek, modern version of that old costume and I started with a version for the soon-to-be undeceased. Rather than design a version for Reed as well I decided to adapt it for Spider-Man just because I found it a more interesting challenge. I don’t think these designs are as sharp as Marko Djurdjevic’s Future Foundation supersuits, which I love, but I do think it’s a nice shiny modern spin on the old (and inevitable) Kirby costumes.

31 comments to “P:R Redesign: Paul Bonzulac’s Fantastic Four!”
  1. Holy crap. Is this the kind of talent that I am competing with? These are uber good and there are too many positives to name. But – in keeping with traditional internet commenting I will point out the tiny, insignificant changes I would make if I could ever produce any art this mind blowing…

    The black stripes on Spiderman look great but on the other three I can’t quite figure them out. Are they supposed to suggest a 4? They just seem a bit random. And the neck line on Thing’s bodysuit accentuates his ongoing neck confusion, makes him look like a snowman whose head could roll off – maybe wider collar would help?

    But as I said, these are beyond great. I think they’re better than the white/black uniforms for sure. I can’t get over how well these are drawn, lighted and colored. Thanks a lot Paul … for making anything I draw look like pages from a dollar store coloring book.

    One last question- Could the gradient colors here be reproduced in a full length comic and look this good?

  2. Not loving it. I like some degree of symmetry and the random lines on Susan, Johnny, and Ben are simply distracting and don’t really serve any purpose, as far as I can tell (I do like the stylized ‘4’ on the chest and Spiderman’s minimalist lines, though). As for the colors…eh. It looks like someone spray painted the team with gray paint.

    And maybe it’s just me, but there’s something…off about Spiderman’s head. I feel like the artist just stopped designing from the neck up.

  3. I can’t say i really agree with these too much simply because those air-brush division between the darker and lighter sections of the suits would be a bit of a pain to work on as another artist trying to interpret those design as pure line-art.

    I like the innovation of the ‘4’ logo atleast.

  4. Now this looks futuristic, and thats exactly what the FF should look like. The circuit board like line patterns are innovative and their sheen is similiar to light traveling along fiber optic cable.

    With colorists taking on more responsibilities, it’s not out of the question to include a gradient to a comic design, especially when it looks this good.

  5. I don’t really ‘get’ these costumes. What are they made of? What’s with the fading effect of the black portions? What’s the point of the piping? As designs they’re very stylish and sleek (and I love the logo – I always thought the FF’s logo was really boring) but I can’t see them working as costumes. Still, I’d love to see what you could think up for the Justice League or the Avengers.

  6. Gotta love how the costume molds itself with perfect tightness to Sue Storm’s breasts, but the guys might as well be Ken dolls down below. (After all, detailing their sexual bits would be gay, and we can’t have that.)

    I apologize for the snark, but I do get tired of the double standard. At least she’s fully covered, though; no cleavage windows or midriff cut-outs or daisy dukes. That’s an improvement over a lot of the designs and redesigns I’ve seen.

  7. @ Daniel: the problem is more editorial in nature, not design. Super simple designs don’t translate well into movies or more complex styles of drawing either. You can never reach true homogeneity with someone else’s design, you can’t expect to beat someone else in their own style.

    I kike the 4’s but the random lines are.. too random. They sure represent something on spider-man but on the others…

  8. They look painted-on, and it doesn’t work with the shiny, bold lines and 4s (I love those 4s). Is it structured or not? I agree with Marie, to a certain extent– the juxtaposition of Sue, who look like a nude woman sans nipples, which is awkward in a serious superhero context. A thicker, more rubbery/gel-like fabric (like Thing has) might work better.

    Some more intent with those black lines would be great, too. It looks good in theory, but it doesn’t make sense. (Spidey’s look great, though.)

    While I’m kind of fond of the gradients, Spidey’s makes him look like a skunk or a cast member of Cats. Giving him blue hands and black shins might help.

  9. ” the problem is more editorial in nature, not design. Super simple designs don’t translate well into movies or more complex styles of drawing either. You can never reach true homogeneity with someone else’s design, you can’t expect to beat someone else in their own style.”

    I never implied I want to beat any artist at their own style. Let me elaborate. One of the criteria of good design (ESPECIALLY in comics) is that it should be able to work in as many rendering styles as possible. A good example of this is Coipel’s Thor, Granov’s Ironman, Quitely’s X-men.
    All of those are great designs that to me look most iconic when drawn by their respective artist, but they also worked in all of the different book that these designs have appeared in, regardless of if that book was drawn by Coipel, Granov or Quitely. Those designs work universally well where as I cannot see these drawn in any other way than how they’re represented here, and only in full color. (unless you go at it with ink-wash or whatever)
    My other issue being how easy it is to confuse that second air-brushed color with shading. I know I’ve ranted slightly more than needed but I didn’t want my previous comment to be misunderstood.

  10. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I can see Sue’s labia. Not enjoying that. Its like a Marilyn Manson video. Also, her right knee is driving me a bit crazy.
    But costume wise that Four logo is pretty damn wonderful. But perhaps a darker blue? I’m reminded too much of (original) Tron with the powder blue and line work. I do like how the lines have a different texture to them.

  11. Yeah! Cause only guys like comics! Amiright? No.

    But seriously. If you’re going to draw attention (pun) to genitals, draw attention to all genitals. Or avoid it all together.
    In a perfect world…

  12. Daniel:
    One of the criteria of good design (ESPECIALLY in comics) is that it should be able to work in as many rendering styles as possible.

    I understand and agree with you ENTIRELY (shading, iconography, coloring as well). But i can’t stop feeling that, by obeying this criteria (and any other criteria no matter how pertinent) one can miss out on something new, a different possibility, a new genre altogether?
    When i say editorial, it’s because this criteria is not really as pertinent for author owned work, and most Manga or European BD (not comics but certainly the same medium) keep their artists throughout the series.

  13. Also, if I might add, to my shame, I’ve been guilty of said double-standard in some of my designs. Apologies, as I happen to agree with Marie. In future I hope not to make the same mistakes again.

  14. Mr. Bonzulac’s truly amazing art aside, I’m just not crazy about these costumes. That’s really all I can say.

  15. I could see these translated into real life using a fabric that has a cell pattern with an iridescent finish to it that would show highlights and dark areas as the person moved.

  16. The stylized “4” is a “1”. There’s no point arguing about that, folks. It’s a vertical line with a diagonal line attached to its upper right. Called 1.
    Is this a team saying “We’re One”, “We are No. 1” or “I AM NUMERO UNO!” like Spidey did in his first appearance?
    These outfits are a perfect example for what one might call over-designing. Everything has a meaning. Unfortunately, altogether, it doesn’t add up.

  17. Thanks for all the feedback, folks! To clear up the issue, the piping was not intended to represent anything symbolically, and is meant to be purely decorative, as opposed to structural. I intended the garments to seem futuristic by having no apparent structure at all, thus the random piping and gradients.

    I am rather surprised to see the designs described as sexist; you can’t discern Sue’s nipples or other naughty bits any more than you can the males’ religion. It’s an interesting point, though, and it makes me glad I didn’t follow my first instinct of giving Sue two 2s instead of a 4. (I kid!)

  18. Freelancer:
    The stylized “4″ is a “1″. There’s no point arguing about that, folks. It’s a vertical line with a diagonal line attached to its upper left. Called 1.

    There’ a point of arguing, because everyone here saw a 4 except you, and because by your own definition the line has to be attached witch is not. It may be a crooked II? Over-design maybe, i 4 1 (pun intended) cannot piece together any F from those straight lines, if that was really the intention of the artist.

  19. I am sorry … but this look almost exactly like my kid’s pajamas. How am I suppose to take super heroes seriously if they can’t get past the footies and onesies.

  20. I love the design in terms of feeling very futuristic, but like any other, I have my critiques hehe

    – The FF logo doesn’t work for me. Doesn’t remotely look like a 4 or an F, nor any other symbol. Unless it’s a 1 like Freelancer said.
    – I love the gradient colours, but I have a feeling it would only work in that painterly style, so I have my reservations about using it on a monthly book.
    – I really like the piping on the suits. If anything, I’d have the piping align with the other suits, so when they stand beside each other, the piping connect with each other, to give a feeling of unity.

  21. Mario Silva:
    There’ a point of arguing, because everyone here saw a 4 except you

    Sorry, I don’t see that as a POINT, since people here only took for granted it HAD to be a 4, so they decided to see it as a bold, new design of a 4. Show this to anybody who doesn’t know the FF, and they’ll say it’s a 1. Biased perception does not constitute a point, in my opinion.
    I also see a difference between “attachement” and “connection”. Something can be attached with non-visible bridges. Clearly, those two lines belong together to form ONE symbol – which is what I call “attached”.

  22. Freelancer:
    Sorry, I don’t see that as a POINT… Biased perception does not constitute a point… in my opinion. Something can be attached with non-visible bridges.”

    Of course you don’t… and your opinion is not biased? why? It can be attached upwards for a 1 or sideways for a four… hardly a non-discuss-able graphic. In this kinda typo a one would be a simple vertical line (IMO duh) but you read a one… good for you!
    I showed it to my girl (unbiased and unknowingly and she couldn’t read it at all, not a 1 nor a 4 so there you go.

  23. If you want to break it down, the brain finds the gestalt information and automatically adds lines or angles to complete an image and make sense of it. And in doing so it finds the easiest route: It’s more natural to lengthen the vertical line and and see a stylized number one, than it is to add an entirely new line to form a four.
    However, in this context, it’s impossible to mistake it for a one unless you’re unfamiliar with the FF. So I thought it was a really neat aesthetic choice, and probably my favorite part of the design. But if you were to break it down into a logo and put the classic circle around it, you’d run into some problems. I showed it to 2 other people and covered the rest of the image and they both saw number ones. :\

  24. @ Virgil:
    There’s nothing I could add to that. All previous points conceded.

    @Mario Silva: That extends to you, as well. I’ll give you your point that ALL perception is biased – thus including mine. Otherwise, we could not read ANY symbols of any kind.

  25. Okay, this is a wicked design. I would’ve liked to have seen Mr. Fantastic stretching in it.

    That said, I don’t think The Thing is ever improved by a shirt. There’s never been a better costume for him than his briefs. Now, briefs with a color gradient…that would be something.

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