P:R Approved: Jamie McKelvie Talks To Newsarama About His Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel Redesign!

Note: One of the shining moments in great costume redesigns recently has been Jamie McKelvie‘s rendition of Ms. Marvel in her new guise as Captain Marvel. Announced earlier this month at WonderCon, comics reporter Albert Ching at Newsarama caught up with the artist for an in-depth discussion of the character and the thinking behind the design. – Chris A.

Illustration by Ed McGuiness, based on McKelvie's design.

Nrama: Obviously, a huge component is that it’s a rare superhero costume — male or female — that actually appears fairly practical. Was that a major part of the goal from the start? In general, would you like to see the mainstream comic book industry move more towards that direction?

McKelvie: I wouldn’t say necessarily practical — but that’s a result of us trying to create something that came out of her character and background in the military. I think the best and strongest costumes arise from the character’s personality, backstory and so on.

It deserves a much longer answer, but I’d like to see more consideration for what message a female character’s design is putting across. I think we, as an industry, are getting better at it though, which is heartening.

You can read the entire interview at this link. And if you’re interested in more of McKelvie’s design work, visit our archives for redesigns he did of Emma Frost, Psylocke, and a stunning Wonder Woman.

30 comments on “P:R Approved: Jamie McKelvie Talks To Newsarama About His Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel Redesign!
  1. I think it’s an ok design. I have no issues with her being totally covered, and I like the detailing of the buttons. But I think accentuating the width of a woman’s shoulders like that makes her look more masculine.

  2. In that picture, it’s way too reminiscent of Marvelwoman. Maybe that’s what they’re going for, now that they own the rights and all?

  3. Miss Marvel,Emma Frost,Psylocke,Wonder Woman…….well I don’t say superheroines have to look like all like Power Girl or Firestar…..but DAMN!curves makes comics sell too!It sounds sexist but in comic books heroes have to be muscular and manly and heroines have to be sensual and femly,and so theyr costumes,they are sexy icons.

  4. I like it just fine. It’s not great, but it’s good and it works. I still love the hair, despite how others feel about it.

    @Itlas- I respect your opinion, but I completely disagree. Sometimes staying true to a character’s core or reinventing them for modern times to make a great story is more important than making a buck. It may not be the best move from a business standpoint, and it’s certainly somewhat of a gamble, but it’s also nice to see people changing things up and reversing the norm. I may be a little biased though, because curvy female characters haven’t influenced my decisions of which comics to buy since I was a kid. In the end, it’s all just ink on paper.

  5. There is little that isn’t feminine in this design. She is very much a woman, and a sexy one. This doesn’t mean she has to look like a porn star. Actually, this reminds me of her first outfit a bit, with the sash from the second and pants. As it is, she’s wearing skin tights. She ain’t hiding nuthin’.

  6. i don’t mind her being covered, but this is not an iconic design. she doesn’t stand out in a super-hero crowd, the only thing that has a bit of personality in this design is her haircut, i think that was a bold move, and could work…the rest of it…very forgettable…. put pants in her old uniform, and done.

  7. Ren Malone: I may be a little biased though, because curvy female characters haven’t influenced my decisions of which comics to buy since I was a kid. In the end, it’s all just ink on paper.

    So are japanese hentai manga and the works of occidental erotic authors like Milo Manara and Eric Von Gotha but if people appreciate and buy them it means that sensual females in comics are liked and sell

  8. Only in comicbooks is a painted on leotard considered “covered up”.

    @Andrew Killian: You may not like the design but you couldn’t say this “abrogates any established character tags” and be factually accurate.
    ✓Red Sash
    ✓8 Point Star
    ✓Red and Navy/Black
    ✓Shoulder Chevron
    … Domino Mask
    … Opera Gloves / Thigh Highs

    Thats 4 0ut of 6 non abrogated.

  9. Ren Malone: staying true to a character’s

    Just stop it at this, Dr Manhattan goes around naked but it’s cool because it’s true to the character and the context of the book. Aimed audience,fan base, number of sales, censor, all that is secondary and should be properly fit the character background within the comic universe. When i see this costume i just see old school feminism nostalgia with a good dose of military (male dominated since ever) puritanism. Red, blue, gold, stars and stripes… the return to war propaganda feel doesn’t feel cosmic nor Kree and especially not 2012.

  10. It’s not a haircut. She’s just pinning it back so it’s not all over the place. A move I’m surprised I haven’t seen before. I do think they should have stuck with the traditional colors. Those did stand out in a crowd

  11. Feminism isn’t about covering up or any of the weird stuff folks come up with. Feminists wear as much and as little as they want to. The spirit of it is that it’s their choice and their choice has nothing to do with their outfit being chosen to objectify them. It’s not about “oh, that’s sexist, cover it up!” It’s about “that doesn’t work for what they do, cover it up.” The problem with so many of the costumes is that they’re not what these women would put on themselves, but what men put them in regardless of who they are and where they came from. Her outfit pays heed to who she is.

    Itlas: So are japanese hentai manga and the works of occidental erotic authors like Milo Manara and Eric Von Gotha but if people appreciate and buy them it means that sensual females in comics are liked and sell

    Curves sell in porn comics? What are the odds?! This isn’t porn. This isn’t erotic art. This is good old superhero comics. Curves should not be the draw. If they are, you’re ignoring the superheroing

  12. Edwin: This isn’t porn. This isn’t erotic art. This is good old superhero comics.

    Erotica has always been part of comics pin ups and all… but so true, good Old comics, good Old design. I don’t expect Disney’s Marvel to go porn but it should. Diversify the audience, propose different genres under different titles.

  13. Edwin:
    Curves sell in porn comics?What are the odds?!This isn’t porn.This isn’t erotic art.This is good old superhero comics.Curves should not be the draw.If they are, you’re ignoring the superheroing

    Well tell me why in old good superhero comics there are heroines like Power Girl,Firestar,Miss Marvel,Psylocke,Wonder Woman,She Hulk,Emma Frost who ends always half naked?
    Erotism has always been part of comic industry,since from golden age, let me say that Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston was a polyamorous BDSM lifestyler and he putted this passions in his comics as many golden age Wonder Woman’s sketchs about rope bondage and spanking can demostrate.
    http://www.geekqueer.com/content/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/wwbind.jpg
    http://nova100.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c684553ef0147e106f98a970b-500wi
    (Please Note WW happy face)

    not to mention Phantom Lady http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_hBDiC_aWJc4/Ssi4batFixI/AAAAAAAACWo/GTP9vDWd9_M/s1600/PhantomLadyNice.jpg

  14. “It sells” is always a really weak defense of something. If a depiction of a character was racist or homophobic, would you say “Hey, it sells”? I’d hope not. If mainstream comics are sexist and alienating their female readership they shouldn’t just keep doing it because “it sells”. It’s not wrong for people to expect more from the media they consume. You can make female characters sexy without making them completely impractical and pandering to horny fanboys.

    Anyway, I think this costume is pretty cool. Someone said it didn’t stand out in a sea of superhero costumes or something like that, and I couldn’t disagree more, this looks really unique to me. I like that it has sort of a military vibe to it.

  15. @thestray

    Would you be happy with Blaxploitation & Cage aux folles visions instead? Because this is war time feminism… it just shows how far behind comics really are… there’s an austerity and conservative movement pushing since the economic crisis, the last place i want to see this movement is in comics, but here we have it, the will to go back to better times: the great nostalgia.

    In this times of public revolt, the picture we have here of a strong woman is one that is in the military, when her previous incarnation was so close to Zorro the guy that fought political corruption and military oppression, Captain marvel is a freaking dissident of an invading army, and she goes back to uniform… the new place of women is to follow orders!?… argh!

  16. thestray: “It sells” is always a really weak defense of something. If a depiction of a character was racist or homophobic, would you say “Hey, it sells”? I’d hope not. If mainstream comics are sexist and alienating their female readership they shouldn’t just keep doing it because “it sells”. It’s not wrong for people to expect more from the media they consume. You can make female characters sexy without making them completely impractical and pandering to horny fanboys.
    Anyway, I think this costume is pretty cool. Someone said it didn’t stand out in a sea of superhero costumes or something like that, and I couldn’t disagree more, this looks really unique to me. I like that it has sort of a military vibe to it.

    I know a lot of comic readers girls who likes the female characters the way they are,as we guys dream to be powerful and muscular like our favorite superheroes,girls dream to be erotic and sensual like superheroines,the increasing amount of superheroines cosplayer girls demostrate it.
    Talking about what is practical or not to fight crime and jump from rooftops can be dangerous,yes one can say high heels are not practical but for the same reason isn’t pracrical wearing an useless cape and hanging around with a colorful costume being a living target and this way one kills superhero comics atmosphere

  17. You do have a point there… and I don’t mind some sensuality. A fully clothed Starfire is never going to happen… and never should. That’s not who Koriand’r is. However, she doesn’t have to fight naked. A lot of the designs here prove a very nice middle ground. Maya Nord’s Starfire is one of my favorite designs for her… period.

    That said, the complaints a lot of people have is eroticism in the design for eroticism’s sake, ignoring the personality and history of the character, especially when it’s done only to women because it panders to fanboys. That’s the important word here. Pandering. It’s aiming for the lowest common appeal because that’s what they think draws you. It’s insulting to not just women, but the MALE fans they think they’re drawing in.

    I make the example of Superman in a thong. It maximizes his absorbtion of solar energy and it’s not like he needs to wear clothes anyway, yet no one is going to okay that because so very few people want to see what is essentially a naked man walking around their comic. Yet, women in comics have been allowed to wear outfits that are just as bad. All I think most of us ask for is a sense of equality in the level of modesty allowed. We ask that women not be exploited for the sake of giving fanboys something to fap to.

    Have designs been kind of reactionary in the past few years? Undoubtedly! However, your behavior is extremely reactionary too. You’re essentially riding this design because it doesn’t show skin and everyone who says it’s impractical are ruining the superhero comic atmosphere. That’s kind of messed up. Comic fans have been questioning some of the sillier aspects since comics came out in the first place. Writer’s attempts at justifying it have made some of the better parts of the mythos or some of the funniest scenes in comics. I point to Spiderman, just before Peter got his new costume. He and Tony were talking about MJ’s broken arm which mysteriously vanished an issue later. Tony came up with an amazingly plausible (in the context of the universe) explanation, then he and Peter turn to the camera and state that this should address any complaints. They were clearly talking to the readers… and it was hilarious. What you are doing is “don’t question anything because I like it and you’re wrong!”. It kills any chance of deep reflection or improvement of the material.

    As I said before, I don’t mind eroticism so much, but a lot of this is less eroticism and more exploitation. The movement of Superhero designs to become less exploitative is a good thing. It means we can move towards more genuine storytelling… and yes, that means more genuine displays of sexuality. Whether that’s good or bad is up to the test of time

  18. Itlas — ah yes, the ubiquitious hordes of “comic reader girls” who dream of being pin-up dolls.

    Nevermind the other hordes who grit their teeth and accept that look because it’s usually the only one they’re offered, but would prefer the characters to look strong rather than like Escher Girls . . . or the hordes who don’t even pick up the comic books in the first place, because the look drives them away from stories they might otherwise enjoy.

    The demographics of comic book readership ought to make the point all on their own. Battle thongs and high heels aren’t doing the industry any favors when it comes to female readership.

    As for this design, I still feel the way I did when it was posted before: the front zipper goes too low, and I’m lukewarm on the sash, but I like the general design. And in contrast to Tim, I love the accent on the shoulders; “strong” and “masculine” don’t have to be the same thing.

  19. I will offer one complaint about the outfit. The sash doesn’t do enough to break up the negative space between the chest emblem and her boots. Even a side piping would help, but it’s all negative space

  20. Edwin I’m not saying:“don’t question anything because I like it and you’re wrong!” I’m just saying my opinion about women costumes in comic books showing some proofs.
    And about” You’re essentially riding this design because it doesn’t show skin and everyone who says it’s impractical are ruining the superhero comic atmosphere.” probably I explained bad myself because english is not my primary language.
    What I want to say is that this costume is very practical,wearing high heels and lingerie isn’t practical to fight crime,but practical stuff has nothing to share with comic books.
    You don’t need half naked girls to write a good story by their presence doesn’t mean it’s a bad story,Watchmen has a great story and some strong sex scenes(for a comic book) and has also Dr Manhattan walking naked all the time and Silk Specter I and II wearing sexy costumes.
    Superman doesn’t need a costume even with his normal powers,he has invulnerable skin,but I don’t think he would hanging naked around simply because….he was rised among humans and he has the sense of embarassment like us,we don’t need clothes during summer but none of us have a walk naked(I think…)
    About fapping for superheroines every teenager with an internet connection can surely find something better to fap to.
    Now,talking about this new costume,it has nothing to do with Captain or Miss Marvel,it’s totally anonymous,in a group pin up she would pass unobserved
    The designer has pointed the accent on Carol’s military past,but she was a militar in THE SIXTIES!!
    Then she becomed a kree powered superheroine,then again a normal human,then a living star and then a superheroine again,to me it looks like just an attempt to create a sort of female version of Captain America or a Marvel version of Wonder Woman

  21. It does have something to do with her history. Her first outfit was this outfit with reversed colors and a face mask, minus leggings. Her second outfit was the lightning bolt costume with the sash. This ACTIVELY calls both of her previous outfits to mind. Is it perfect or iconic? By all means no, but it is a natural progression of her past outfits, like Pepper Pots getting her own Armor.

    Also, just because her being in the Air Force was from the 60′s, doesn’t mean that it can’t be called back. People call back ancient continuity often in comics. The fact that they’re paying homage to that history is a good thing. It means they’re slowly developing the character based on what has come before.

    Itlas: What I want to say is that this costume is very practical,wearing high heels and lingerie isn’t practical to fight crime,but practical stuff has nothing to share with comic books.You don’t need half naked girls to write a good story by their presence doesn’t mean it’s a bad story,Watchmen has a great story and some strong sex scenes(for a comic book) and has also Dr Manhattan walking naked all the time and Silk Specter I and II wearing sexy costumes.Superman doesn’t need a costume even with his normal powers,he has invulnerable skin,but I don’t think he would hanging naked around simply because….he was rised among humans and he has the sense of embarassment like us,we don’t need clothes during summer but none of us have a walk naked(I think…)

    Practicality isn’t a four letter word in comics. Anything that enforces the reader’s suspension of disbelief is good. The devil is in the details. Plus, you didn’t address Marie’s complaint. She blatantly-as a woman- said that female comic readers aren’t big fans of tiny outfits

    I didn’t say tiny outfits instantly make a story bad. I flat out said that the problem is eroticism for eroticism’s sake and exploitation of women to draw readers. Starfire has always been a sexually free character. Nobody really derides her for it. Starfire in her new incarnation, however, is emotionally cold, underdressed for STARFIRE and generally has none of the heart normally associated with her sexuality. At this point, she’s nothing but a thing for Arsenal and Jason Todd to conquer sexually and high five afterward. She’s not empowered, she’s exploited

    For as much as I dislike Watchmen, the displays of human sexuality are very good. However, you have to remember that, at its heart, Watchmen was a DECONSTRUCTION of Superhero comics. Silk Specter HATED her outfit. She felt like it exploited her and hated how her mother exploited herself, granted without realizing her mother’s own strength of character. My god, they point out that she was wearing that outfit when she was still a young teenager! There’s something horrible there that we’re not touching on.

    Dr. Manhatten walked around naked BECAUSE HE WAS COMPLETELY DETATCHED FROM HUMAN THINKING AND MORALITY. The man made love, with duplicate bodies while another duplicate body continued to work. This wasn’t to show how cool he was, it was to show how messed up he had become.

    On top of that, you just proved my point with Superman-in-a-thong (I never said he was naked). He was raised among humans, so he has a sense of embarassment. So many of these female heroes ARE HUMAN. They’re from Earth and have that same sense of not wanting to be naked. However, artists are perfectly comfortable putting them in outfits they wouldn’t dare put male heroes in. For the love of Tony Stark’s mustache, they put Namor in clothes. The Superhero it made the most sense to have in a speedo is now wearing clothes. WHAT?!

    I’m going to say it again. It’s not eroticism that bothers most of the folks on my side of the fence; it’s the exploitation of female heroes. Starting with “girlfriend in the fridge”, through “Why isn’t Stephanie’s outfit on display in the Batcave” to “Battle thongs” female characters in comics aren’t treated with respect often enough. They’re treated as things to ogle or victimize and that’s messed up. I like erotic art, but I don’t feel like it needs to be thrown down my throat every time I pick up a comic.

    BTW, if you really like erotic art in the comic style, try Alan Moore’s Lost Girls. I personally despise the man but I can appreciate what he was doing there

  22. I don’t love this design all that much, because it is so different from the previous uniforms, without being iconic enough. Nothing blew my mind away.
    But I will say this: Mullet.

  23. There’s something missing, right? I just can’t put my finger on it. It’s got good ideas and they paid attention, but there’s one little thing that they could have done to make it timeless… and I have no clue what that is

  24. “But I will say this: Mullet.”

    To which I will add: *awesome* mullet.

    Since my prior comment was rejected (in all probability for over-harshness), let me moderate it a bit: if a form-fitting PVC onesie isn’t “sensual” enough for some readers, perhaps they should be asking themselves how widely applicable their notion of “sensuality” really is. It’s revealing of how utterly retrograde the debate over superheroines still is when the basic requirement of a large chunk of fandom is that they should be showing the maximum possible amount of skin at all times. And they should probably not be telling themselves that this requirement couldn’t possibly be sexist when they would plainly not tolerate such treatment of male heroes.

  25. Not wanting to get too much into the “sex-sells” part of this discussion, I agree with what BobDobolina said. Ok, I’m not a fan of the mullet, so I agree with almost everything he said.

    And this brings me to the point that doesn’t thrill me very much about this redesign.
    I look at the redesign and my immediate reaction is to think this would be a logical choice in 1991, for instance.
    Putting buttons on a tight one-piece version of the Mar-vell uniform doesn’t seem military or practical to me, I call it styling. The same goes for the classic sash, which is completely out of context in this design, and looks like a last minute attempt to “feminise” a masculine costume.
    The streamlined hairdo is a nice idea, but guys, it’s 2012. Mullets? Really? Why not one of those horrific Liefeld psycho 80′s haircuts with the shreds of hair hanging at the forehead…

    I think this design doesn’t show the exploration and progression which the other McKelvie’s takes you linked in this post show. Then again, the final decision may have been a bit out of his hand, I don’t know.

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