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June 08, 2007

Comments

Tom the Bomb

I used to believe that the only reason I dropped comics in the late 80s and early 90s was that I was becoming more interested in girls, and being of interest to them.

But this post reminds me of another big reason: A quick glance at the covers of that time showed that these weren't characters I had any interest in reading about, not if I had to suffer through designs like that.

Mark Engblom

Yeah, it was a mess wasn't it? (the costumes...not your interest in girls)

It goes to show not everyone who puts pencil to paper is necessarily a good designer.

David Rathert

You know, I really like Aquaman's Olympic speed skating uniform design and accompanying cover logo. Very watery and sleek. I was never a big fan of the orange and green.

And am I the only person who prefers Wolverine's "classic" (although not original) brown costume to the blue/yellow variations?

Mark Engblom

"And am I the only person who prefers Wolverine's "classic" (although not original) brown costume to the blue/yellow variations?"

Nope, you're not alone on that one. I liked the brown look as well. It seemed more "foresty" than the eye-straining yellow and blue combo. Speaking of the original costume, wasn't that a hoot? I think he even had whiskers!

David Rathert

Yeah, and back in those days, he was "THE Wolverine" (and fond of referring to himself in the third person as such whilst clawing and slashing).

rob!

i'm with you on all of 'em except for Aquaman's 1986 costume...i thought it was cool looking and very untraditional. while i'm glad he eventually made it back into the classic suit, if they had stuck with the ocean-y one i woulda been happy.

i never made the connection between Nick Nolte and Pirate Aquaman, but now its all i think of!

James Meeley

Sorry, Mark, but I can't agree with you about Thor's armor. That was a totally awesome look (especially with the added beard). He's a warrior, you'd think that he'd wear some form of armor. Plus, unlike a lit of the other horrid costume chages, Thor also has a practical sense, since he was cursed with fragile bones by Hela at the time and need the protwection of the armor. The armor just didn't look cool, but actually has a function within the story being told. So, Thor's armor is a totally classic look that belongs more to the side of cool than "drool."

Now, if you want a costume that was horrible, what about that "black" outfit Wolverine had. I mean, the only "mask" he wore was a shadow over his eyes. How did that piece of crap not make the list of horrible designs, over Thor's armor?

Mark Engblom

James-

I Say Thee NAY!

I appreciate your spirited defense of the Thormeisters armor, but I can't go there.

"Guilding the Lily" is a phrase us art types use all the time, which describes when someone's over-decorated or added unnecessary details to an already solid design. Thor's armor, to me, is the classic example of "guilding the lily".

See, I'm all behind the reasoning of Thor needing a little added protection (I've got the issue, so I'm familiar with the story), but the execution of it left much to be desired.

Elements that look particular goofy to me are the eye mask (looking like an old pair of zany Elton John specs) and the chain mail drooping from his ears. I also think there's just too much yellow in the design. I'd have preferred darker or deeper tones, more metallic grays that would evoke an Old World feel. I realize Marvel's Thor has always been an amalgamation of Old World design and a Mardi Gras parade (see "Odin"), but the armor was a little too much Mardi Gras for me.

So, to review....the armor as an idea...not bad. The armor as designed by Simonson? Pretty bad. Hey, every artist (even Simonson) can have a bad day every now and then. This looks like one of Walt's bad days.

doug

I'm just saddened not to get to see a good shot of the one guy who to me, was everything that was wrong with the 90's: Cable.

He carried guns the size of volkswagons and his shoulder pads, upon adding solar panels, could have easily powered a small city.

Mark Engblom

True, Doug....but I thought Liefeld's Youngblood cover demonstrated alot of the same excess....and I don't want to expose the public to too much Liefeld. It's just not SAFE!

James Meeley

"I realize Marvel's Thor has always been an amalgamation of Old World design and a Mardi Gras parade (see "Odin"), but the armor was a little too much Mardi Gras for me."

Mark:

But you make my point for me. Remember, Thor's armor was made from some old one of Odin's.

As to the "guilding the lily" point you mention, again, it boils down to function. The eye mask makes sense, to protect your eyes from being easy targets for attack (lets face it, take away a person's sight, that pretty much ends the fight). And the chain mail covering in the back? Protection for his hair. I've often wondered why Thor has never gotten thrown around by his long hair in battles a lot. Also, considering how close he's been to some really powerful expolsions, it's also never caught fire, either, considering it's length, which just is way too much suspension of disbelief, IMO. The chain mail prevents those possibilities from becoming PROBABILITIES.

You have me with the yellow coloring, but again, remember that this was made from some of Odin's old stuff. And, as you noted yourself, Odin wasn't exactly big on "earth tones". So, you work with what you got.

Really, you complaints on it sounds more like you are looking for reasons not to like it (when you secretly do) to convice yourself it's bad, over actually showing that it's truly bad. I think that alone speaks to the power of Thor's armor as a kick ass design (colors not withstanding). You want to talk bad costume designs, look no further than the John Fox Flash's outfit (circa The Flash vol. 2 #112). Talk about a train wreck. You'd think the future would have better fashion sense than THAT! It's the future for goodness sake! Ugh! ;)

Mark Engblom

"But you make my point for me. Remember, Thor's armor was made from some old one of Odin's."

Whatever the origin of the armor, or the logic of its components, I still have to call foul on the whole thing. With Marvel's Asgardian design, some artists have been able to hit that "sweet spot" between logical and ludicrous, with Odin himself getting pretty much a pass on anything he wears (hey, he's omnipotent...what do I know?), but when it comes to Thor, I think the simpler the better. It's understood that this particular armor was temporary in nature, but it seemed to be echoed a few years later with that replacement Thor that was running around (over-armored, beard, mask, etc).

I was on board with 90% of what Simonson brought to the Thor book, but a few things hit a sour note with me...like this suit of armor...and Beta Ray Bill (don't get me started).

As for John Fox's Flash costume, there's definitely room for a sequel or two to this column, so you never know!

Bobb Waller

You missed the one costume that makes me ill when I think of what they did to it. And that is the old Red Tornado (The android) with no face and an almost "Red Hood" homage. That was changed to the old follow the arrows on acid monstrosaty he wears today!
I mean ol' Ma Hunkle's soup pot helmet looks better.

Also remembering what the Earth-Two Robin costume looked like I wonder if his fashion sense was what the older Superman was referring to when he told Batman that the other Dick Grayson was not a better man in Infinite Crisis?

Siskoid

The simpler the better makes good design sense for ALL iconic characters. You want them immediately recognizable and easily drawn by kids during boring classes. The same design principle was brought to the creation of the USS Enterprise, for example.

The Thor armor is less than satisfactory in large part because it isn't symmetrical. Totally different sleeves and a bone bracer? That's just too busy for its own good. But the Onslaught thing is much worse.

Mark Engblom

"Also remembering what the Earth-Two Robin costume looked like I wonder if his fashion sense was what the older Superman was referring to when he told Batman that the other Dick Grayson was not a better man in Infinite Crisis?"

Hah! That would have been a great ghosted-back image for that particular panel. "Dick Grayson...God love 'im....in that ridiculous amalgamated costume..."

"The Thor armor is less than satisfactory in large part because it isn't symmetrical. Totally different sleeves and a bone bracer? That's just too busy for its own good. But the Onslaught thing is much worse."

The "new" Thor costume doesn't look much better, I'm afraid. The "long underwear" sleeves are just laughable, as is the helmet creeping down over his eyes.

buttler

yeah, the long johns under the tunic in thor's latest outfit will eventually be remembered as his "seattle" look.

Guido Rosas

How come no one has mentioned Daredevil's horrible 90's "armored costume"? Did you give it a free pass because the guy is blind?

James Meeley

Or what about Quasar's second costume (circa Quasar #18-25)?

Looks like you just might have to do a follow-up on this piece after all, Mark. See what you've created? ;)

Wumpus

Everyone always assumes that Simon and Kirby were the ones behind the Sandman's witch to superhero costumed and kid sidekick. But in fact that's not the case: the switch happened in '41, before Simon and Kirby started on the feature.

http://www.lib.msu.edu/comics/rri/srri/sandmst.htm

(It was all part of a bigger trend away from Shadow-style cloaks and trenchcoats and towards colored underwear: the same thing happened to the Crimson Avenger.)

Mark Engblom

"How come no one has mentioned Daredevil's horrible 90's "armored costume"? Did you give it a free pass because the guy is blind?"

Believe me, I did want to use the 90's Daredevil costume, but I couldn't find very good cover imagery, so I passed on it. If I come across a decent image, I'll include it in the sequel.

"Or what about Quasar's second costume (circa Quasar #18-25)?

Looks like you just might have to do a follow-up on this piece after all, Mark. See what you've created?"

Hey, I'm loving all of these suggestions for more Makeover candidates. I'll definitely consider Quasar in the follow-up.

"Everyone always assumes that Simon and Kirby were the ones behind the Sandman's witch to superhero costumed and kid sidekick. But in fact that's not the case: the switch happened in '41, before Simon and Kirby started on the feature."

Wow! Thanks for the info! I'll probably revise my text to reflect the new information. Good to have readers who can help me keep this stuff straight!

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