Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Costumes for Catwoman

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Consider this part one of my Holiday post, there's more to come later but its still not quite ready--with all the partying this time of year its hard to keep self imposed deadlines because who can find time to actually sit down and write? You might notice that this time instead of using pencil crayons, I did the colours (flats) in Photoshop. That way if I want to polish any of them digitally, step one is completed. At any rate, back to Catwoman and some of my ideas for her look. They range from the practical to the impractical--that's the beauty of comics, if it makes sense internally you can get away with almost anything. For my first look for Selina I opted for the practical. Her mask is actually a helmet, complete with night vision, heat vision, 360 degrees vision and a targeting option. The suit is reinforced black leather with gray piping, designed to resist blunt and piercing weapons attacks. She wears short clawed gray gloves and gray low heeled boots. I also took the liberty of adding a utility belt. It makes sense that in the course of an evening she'd need more than a few accessories so I thought she deserved her own utility belt to keep them in. She also carries a knife but I see this as less of a weapon and more as a utility tool. Knives can come in handy when committing thievery, and she is armed with her traditional weapons: claws and a cat o' nine tails. As I was thinking about design I was also thinking about story, and why she might adopt the various looks I had in mind. These next two looks would require some re-invention of the character where she actually possessed cat like powers. Taking inspiration from native legends of skin-walkers I developed the look of a Catwoman who drew her powers from the skins of the cats she wore as her costume. These skins were recovered from a poacher and when Selina comes across them she becomes Gotham's Guardian of Cats, as well as a cat burglar to fund her various charities. Dyed black as needed she wears the combined skins of lion, jaguar and cheetah--giving her great strength, speed and a natural affinity for climbing and heights. Armed not only with the claws of the cats she cherished, Catwoman still carries her traditional cat o' nine tails to subjugate the humans who dare to come between her and her goals. Instead of a mask she wears the head, skull and mane of the lion, adding to her feral visage. Make no mistake though, this Catwoman is a cunning and crafty creature and wild though she may look, she never loses control. For my next look I drew inspiration from the Egyptian Goddess Bast and gave Selina a more Egyptian look to match. This time she draws her powers from Bast and wears her mask in the Goddess' honour. Gifted by Bast with the gifts of the great cats, Selina, once more becomes a guardian and protector of felines, as well as a thief to defy human society and keep her pact with great Bast and protect the animals she cherishes above all others. She wears a black leather reinforced body suit, with an Egyptian styled kilt and belt. She wears bracelets of gold and her claws, like the Catwomen of T.V. are also gold. She wears her hair in a short bob, dyed blue black, and kept back by the mask she wears. I should confess that my "first" Catwoman was Julie Newmar so I've always sort of gravitated to that look. I indulged myself a little with the gold claws in this Egyptian look but in my next look I drew my inspiration from Julie Newmar as Catwoman and the colouring from my landpeople's cats, of which two are black and white. The look may be a little impractical but I think its fun. She wears a leather body suit, half black and half white, with contrasting opera length leather clawed gloves and contrasting thigh high, high-heeled boots. Her hair is allowed to fall free, though curled up at the ends. She wears a white and black cat styled domino mask and white and black ears are secured in her hair. I've also given her a huge fluffy, animatronic tail that she can brush with various pheromones to instill fear or desire, love or hate in those she encounters on her nightly prowls. This version of Selina Kyle is much more about having fun at the expense of "the man". Catwoman to a certain degree has always been about an independent woman who flaunts traditional values to take up a life of crime. Armed with razor sharp claws, a cat o' nine tails and a generally misandrist attitude Catwoman is more than sex symbol because she reminds us that sex comes with the risk of being played. Catwoman, like the creatures from whom she draws her name and look is an unattainable object of beauty and desire unless you're willing to play the game on her terms. I think that is why Selina is always comes back to Bruce, he can't help but be drawn into playing her games and she delights in her cat and mouse games with the Batman. But then again, what version of Catwoman doesn't?

Join me on Wednesday (Jan 6) to take a look at the various costumes worn by every one's favorite weather witch, the mutant X-man known as Storm. But first check back on New Year's Day for part two of my Holiday Post.

Catwoman, Selina Kyle, Batman, Bruce Wayne and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of DC Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of DC Comics

Ororo Munroe, Storm, the X-Men and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of Marvel Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of Marvel Comics

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Slight Delay....

I apologize but due to the wackiness of the Holidays I haven't quite finished my Catwoman post, so please check back with me on December 25, because I have a couple of surprises planned and they should all be ready by then. In the meantime I have received several complaints about the fact that I failed to address Halle Berry's "Catwoman". Now I could do the whole Patience Phillips thing and her not really being Catwoman, but I think it would be simpler if I just answered the complaint and addressed the costume design. It's simple really, it sucks. It makes no sense and is just, really, really terrible--I mean open-toed high heeled boots? C'mon people.

I'll see you in a couple of days.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Catwoman's Closet full of Clothes...

Selina Kyle is without a doubt one of the most important and well-known women in the DCU, though most know her as Catwoman. Over the years her costume has varied wildly and been adapted to better suit the evolution of her character. Catwoman was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and rumoured to be at least partially inspired by Kane's second cousin by marriage, Ruth Steel. Catwoman, first appears in Batman #1 (Spring 1940) in which she is known as "the Cat". A whip-wielding adversary of Batman, she was a cat burglar with a taste for high-stake thefts. Since that time most modern writers have interpreted her dual-identity as a response to a history of some sort of abuse. Her most popular golden age outfit is the purple dress and cape, one we've seen a few variations on. But I do want to take a moment to address her very first outfit, a little green number. She wears a necklace of gold circles and a matching gold belt. The dress has a low cut tear drop in the front but full voluminous sleeves. It falls into a skirt and she wore white heels to complete the ensemble. Admittedly that isn't as noteworthy as what Batman is saying in the first panel, an interesting statement about how times have changed and how men treat women (at least sometimes in fiction). She still has a ways to go before she becomes the femme fatale we've all come to know and love. From the beginning, Selina was intended to be an anti-hero and occasional ally and love interest of the Batman. Unlike his other foes, she did not kill and seemed to enjoy engaging the Dark Knight in a sort of game of chess. Many times throughout the character's history it has been intimated that Catwoman is Batman's true love. Though she wore this green outfit briefly it certainly made its mark and green remains a recurring colour for Catwoman, which to me seems extremely odd as the only green cat I know of is Battle Cat. Despite the dialogue I enjoy the contemptuous disdain in her posture and facial expressions. She's not wearing any feline accessories that proclaim her dual-identity, she's simply wearing "the cat", an ideal that for centuries men have associated as female. Due to her grace, beauty, grooming habits, aloofness and mysterious behaviour some men see many attributes in the cat that they also seem to see in women. At this point we shall move on to an actual cat costume. We see once more the green in the form of a long cape and now she's wearing a purple evening gown with two slits in the front for her legs. She wears black leather heeled boots, and leaves her long flowing raven hair free from underneath her cowl. She also chose not to wear gloves, disdaining such things as fingerprints or fearing to leave them. To the modern viewer there is a great deal about this costume that is difficult to comprehend. Why would a cat-burglar dress in green and purple? Why wouldn't she wear gloves? And why would she wear high heels if she was running along rooftops as portrayed in this drawing here? But it does look sort of cool, in a retro '50s way--and as for practicality and all those silly questions I asked earlier about this outfit--forget them. I will paraphrase what Lucy Lawless said while portraying herself on "the Simpsons", any time you see something that doesn't make sense, or seem practical in the DC Universe remember its because Superboy-Prime punched a wall. Don't feel bad if that last bit doesn't make sense to you. Its a good thing. While wearing this costume Catwoman reformed for the first of many times. However when she returned to crime she chose to breakaway from her traditional look. Seen here in a dual to the death with Diana Prince: Wonder Woman, Selina has shortened her hair to a bob and exchanged the cowl for a simple red mask with pointed cat ears. She wears a sleeveless black leotard, presumably made of leather with an animated tail, pale blue stockings and blue heeled boots with a red lining rolled over to show said lining. She wears long black opera length gloves, presumably made of leather. She doesn't normally wield a sword, the two are forced to fight one another and of course temporarily become allies. Even in this issue where Catwoman is deliberately looking to make trouble and return to her life of crime she ends up helping Wonder Woman, not that the truce would last. Over the next few years Catwoman had quite a few run-ins with other super-heroines and villains and eventually made it onto TV. In the late 1960's she was played by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Merriweather. All three wore a similar looking black bodysuit with gold claw tips on the gloves and short boots with short heels. A cat mask and cat ears completed the outfit and gave her a slick look. Both Julie Newmar and Lee Merriweather wore their hair down around the cat's ears, but Eartha Kitt had a thick braid wrapped around her ponytail to hold her ears in place. Taking inspiration from this DC introduced a new look for Catwoman, but managed to somehow get it all wrong. Once more they return to green, in an alarming but bold statement. She gets high green boots and green gloves and a necklace of green circles. A textured green body suit and matching mask and ears. Once more she wields her traditional cat o' nine tails, and as is typical of comics at the time she and Batgirl are fighting over Batman. If they'd kept the costume black it would have looked great and like the character in the popular T.V. show, but instead they went back to green and made her look more derivative of the Riddler. As an interesting aside the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl was also based on the T.V. show but instead of purple and yellow she wears black, blue and yellow--probably to keep in tone with Batman's colours. In 1986 Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli reinvented both Catwoman's origin and her look. Now she is a vengeful prostitute who discovers she can do much better for herself and her proteges' by donning a gray bodysuit, with clawed gloves and attached flat-heeled boots. Selina learns various forms of martial arts and ends up killing her former pimp to rescue her kidnapped sister. She and the Batman engage in a little of their typical cat and flying mouse play and thus the Catwoman is reinvented for the modern age. She wore this costume for some time, appearing in various Bat-related as well as other titles, like Birds of Prey. Eventually her popularity warranted her first eponymous monthly series and artist Jim Balent redefined Catwoman's look once again. Returning to her original Golden Age costume for inspiration he returns her to a purple cowl, with long free flowing hair and a matching purple bodysuit, with black leather gloves and thigh high black leather boots. Still wielding her cat o' nine tails Catwoman is portrayed as an anti-hero though she continues to help Batman and becomes somewhat of a Robin Hood at points. While wearing this costume she participates in events involving the Justice League, the Titans (Teen and Otherwise) and the Birds of Prey. While her series ran for over 7 years in this form she maintained this outfit with variations designed to suit climate and other needs. Sometimes it was done in camouflage, sometimes the suit had additional pieces of armour or toe claws but it always kept the same basic line and look. She wore a bodysuit, gloves, thigh high boots and free falling hair. I must confess that I've always liked the look of this costume best. As impractical as the long hair is, I like long wavy hair, especially when well drawn in fight scenes. The problem is, someone always has to come and make it more real. In "Selina's Big Score" she cuts her hair and makes some major life changes which lead to the cancellation of her first monthly title and the birth of her second eponymous monthly title. She trades in the purple for a leather bodysuit with a front zipper and attached cowl with cat ears. Instead of thigh highs or heels she wears tough looking army boots. She completes this look with goggles that also have a cat ear shape and can possess whatever night or heat vision suits the story best. Her whip doubles as her belt and tail, a cute choice if somewhat impractical and she returns to the streets of Gotham, somewhat reformed and more eager to help make the city safe. The second title lasted almost 6 years before it ended and she remains in this costume, with minor variations to this day. You can follow Catwoman's monthly adventures in "Gotham City Sirens" a great comic that follows the adventures of Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Its a lot of fun reading about the three girls as they take on Gotham City on their own terms. Its interesting to note how Batman's female enemies tend to keep their truces with the Dark Knight much more effectively than their male counterparts. But Arkham Asylum practically has a revolving door and its inmates, both former and current are apt to change their mood and motivations with little to no warning. I wanted to take a moment to mention the design for Catwoman in Tim Burton's "Batman Returns". Michelle Pfieffer played Catwoman/Selina Kyle and did a great job of capturing her "difficulty with duality". This struggle was mirrored in the Catwoman's costume, shiny black patent leather held together by hand stitched white threads that slowly tore apart and unraveled to mirror the fragile, if volatile psyche she had. Join me next week as we take a look at some designs I had in mind for every one's favorite feline femme fatale, but in the meantime her are some other looks (mostly T.V. & Film) worn by Catwoman:

Catwoman, Selina Kyle, Batman, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Diana Prince and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of DC Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of DC Comics.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Wardrobe for Wanda

Before I get into the meat of today's post I want apologize for the extremely long leave of absence I took, but as they say real life gets in the way. So to ensure that I update this Blog regularly I've decided to make Wednesday (which is when the new issues of comics for each week reach shelves) the day to make an update, so expect one. I work better when I give myself deadlines. So back to the point of all this, which is...what should Wanda wear?

Now, due to Wanda's extreme power levels she falls into the category of "wear pretty much whatever you like because you're to powerful for it to really matter". Like Jean Grey and unlike Tony Stark, in Wanda's case clothes don't make the man. She warps reality. If she wants to go into battle wearing a bunny costume, as long as her hearing or vision isn't impaired she can still warp you right out of the fight. However, I am by no means proposing she become the Scarlet Rabbit, but like Zatanna in that fabulous game Justice League Heroes she can transform all of her foes into rabbits. So with Wanda, practicality flies out the window and in most of my designs I didn't really concern myself with it.

With my first look I opted for a more classical sorceress look. She wears a red hooded cloak with a dark red lining and side slits for ease of casting and a jeweled fastener. Maybe the jewel is magical, maybe its not the point is you're a rabbit. She wears no gloves (as though finger prints would ever be an issue) but I've given her black ruffled crepe sleeves, and a black leather corset with red trim because the choice of black as her accent colour still leaves her scarlet. She wears comfortably snug suede red leather pants and thigh high matte leather boots with a 3" heel. I gave her the hood so she could have a shadowed face in case she ever wanted to have a private life, and the hood offers some protection for her hair which is something we all know she's concerned with. This look allows her to become more of a frightening figure on the battle field, adding fear to her already awesome array of abilities and acknowledging the darkness in her past. Whether that is being Magneto's daughter, House of M, her children, the Avengers or her own mental instability the legacy of the Scarlet Witch is one shrouded in darkness. But for now, on Earth 616 she lives a peaceful life remembering nothing, with no powers in a small cottage in the shadow of Wundagore mountain. No doubt waiting for the right Marvel Crossover event to align so she can awaken from this altered state and reclaim her rightful place in the Marvel universe.

For my second look I threw practicality out the window and went a little crazy. Instead of a cape I've given her strips of cloth, there could be more and they could be thicker or thinner to suggest a more ragged or shredded cape. I didn't want to simply shred the cape but I wanted that look to acknowledge her less than coherent psyche. I also thought that she'd look very impressive floating above the battlefield, her hair whipping one way in the wind and the pieces of her cape seeming to move with a mind of their own. Again sticking with black rather than pink, I gave her black suede opera gloves, and a red corset with black piping. She wears matte black leather pants with thigh high red leather boots. The boots have no heel for comfort mostly, but heels could literally be added if she wanted. Heels are tricky when thinking of a super-heroine. When you think of someone like Spider-Woman its obvious she'd never wear heels because she climbs up walls, ceilings, buildings, etc. But fliers, like Storm could arguably wear heels since most of the time she's up in the air. It's a moot point, because even if the character normally doesn't wear heels if an artist wants to give her a pair, she gets them. I love heels but have found myself increasingly reticent to give them out to all the heroines and villainesses because so many of them run or fight on their feet. I often ask myself, even if I can lift a car over my head will my heels support the extra weight? And don't even start with adamantium heels.

For my third look I opted for something a little more practical. I know I spent all that time talking about how irrelevant it was but for this look I wanted to be a little bit practical. So first I returned the headpiece. Its classic and fans seem to respond to it well, also it would keep her hair out of her face during battle so she could focus on the delicate intricacies of turning her enemy into jell-o. I gave her a red choker and red leather gloves with a leather bolero jacket. She wears an armoured corset with red piping and red suede riding pants tucked into simple red riding boots. I chose to keep her completely in scarlet for this look because she is the Scarlet Witch after all. I also wanted something that could, if need be blend in a little with normals. Sure she'd be a pretty monochromatic woman but she wouldn't stand out as dramatically as she would in some of the other outfits she's worn in the past. On the other hand, she could just warp her outfit into jeans, a hoodie and a baseball cap so I suppose its irrelevant. Still I thought it looked cool and respectable. In some of her other outfits she's left a lot of skin bare and reality warping or no, who wants to get spanked by some super villain. Sure, she'd turn Electro inside out but why give him the opportunity in the first place? Wear pants into battle, a common theme on this blog. Showing a little cleavage in battle so that the overly testosterone driven supervillain is distracted during the fight is one thing, but wearing a thong is inexcusable.

My last look for Wanda was a little fantasy driven, I'll admit. I think I've stated this more than once, I'm a lover of period or romantic clothing. Wanda is so powerful (until the next time someone rewrites her powers) that she could float into battle with a tea party, and whilst calmly having tea with her guests route the Avengers' foes. I also thought the headpiece she wears does kind of resemble a tiara so I went with a more mystic princess look. Her signature headpiece has been transformed into a tiara and earring set, and her hair curled back to support the diadem and allowed to fall free at the back. She is dressed in a red empire-waist dress with puffed sleeves. Secured to the puffed sleeves by black ties are red gathered sleeves which end in a black ribbon and an over-sized draped and falling cufflet. Under this is a deep red sleevelet that ends in a red ruffled lace trim. Under the gown she wears a black unitard made of unstable molecules for ease of movement. She completes the outfit with a pair of black trimmed red Doc Martens. Not exactly what you'd expect, but I imagine every now and then she'd want to literally kick butt and what says I hate you better than a steel toed kick? I also envision her tea party being disturbed and Wanda leaping from her floating chair to land with an electromantic charge and turn whoever disturbed her into a fine red mist. Of course, it would be a sentient fine red mist as Wanda doesn't so much as kill you, she remakes you into whoever she sees fit. And maybe ultimately that's why they've put her aside for now, because she's just to epic a character to have in your run of the mill fight with Ultron. It's to bad, because I for one believe Wanda Maximoff's story is far from over.

So, be back in a week's time and we'll take a look at one of the original femme fatales, Catwoman...
Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, the Avengers, the X-Men and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of Marvel Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of Marvel Comics

Catwoman, Selina Kyle and all related symbols, insignia, costumes etc, are all © Trademarks of DC Comics and the images reproduced here are used only as illustrations for the purpose of costume critique and the promotion of DC Comics