In an astute piece for the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Austin Grossman poses the question Wonder Woman’s New Costume: Superhero Fail? He’s all in favor of a makeover, and even cheers the ditching of the stars and stripes on Independence Day, but gets to the heart of the matter here:
More importantly it’s not even a costume, just kind of an outfit. There’s a reason why superhero costumes aren’t regular clothes - they’re trying to stand for some kind of symbol or invented identity. … It’s as if the people designing her new look didn’t want to make a decision about who she is as a hero.
Now, what DC should have done is called Alex Ross. Ross designed future versions of the Marvel characters in Universe X and the DC characters in Kingdom Come (highly influential); he redesigned the Better Publications characters for Dynamite’s smashing Project Superpowers; and to top it off, he was the go-to guy after The Death of Captain America when Bucky Barnes took up the mantle with a new uniform (which was beautifully retro AND modern). I just got my first look at Ross’ take on The Phantom (for Dynamite’s The Last Phantom) and I was blown away. How do you bring something new to the oldest costumed hero in comics, while making sense of a purple-tights-wearing hero in the jungle? SyFy couldn’t do it. Billy Zane didn’t even try. Check this out.
Where was Ross when Diana Prince needed him? He’s such a fan, I bet he didn’t want to change a thing.
And he would be right. As a cartoonist and comics reader, people ask me what I would have done. I would have kept everything from the old costume and just replaced the starred shorts with black tights. Maybe added shoulder straps to the bustier. If they forced me to do a complete overhaul, I would have played off the Amazon roots (duh) and given her more coverage with some ancient battle armor, which has been done very successfully in many different story arcs since the Eighties.
Meanwhile… Flavorwire has put together a quick rundown of 10 superhero makeovers. This is worth a read because the failure of Spider-Man’s black costume always springs to mind first, and we tend to forget that Iron Man and Daredevil’s current costumes are actually replacements.
Eeek! I hope this new contempo-casual Wonder Woman doesn’t catch on!
UPDATE: Sonia Harris piles on DC’s epic misfire with “Jim Lee’s lack of Wonder” at Comic Book Resources. Great, detailed critique from a female pro.
As an art director, the idea of simply throwing away 70 years of strong brand recognition of this first lady of super powers is an absolute horror story.