Everyone’s been talking about Wonder Woman’s new costume and I need to offer my two angry cents. (For my two cranky cents on Catwoman, click here.)
Wonder Woman’s costume has vexed a lot of talented artists. It’s iconic but it’s also completely absurd in any kind of modern context. This has proved especially problematic for live-action adaptations.
In the late 70s, it was okay for Diana Prince to run around fighting crime in a satin bathing suit since people were doing pretty much everything in totally inappropriate clothing.
But these days, we want superhero togs to be sexy, practical, and badass. Those aren’t unreasonable expectations. If Chris Nolan can make a frickin’ cape practical, then surely there’s hope for an Amazon warrior. And Wonder Woman is a warrior. That’s what makes her new costume so distressing. (She’s also one of the only female superheroes who’s stood the test of time and who didn’t get her start as a superhero spinoff– I’m looking at you Batgirl and Supergirl.)
I’m sure the costume’s designer, Jim Lee, did his best and I suspect he had to please a LOT of people. But the result is a mess and here’s why:
1. As many have observed, it looks cheap. Halloween Headquarters cheap. Wonder Woman’s costume should not look like it belongs hanging on the rack between “Sexy Cop” and “Sexy Firefighter.”
2. No straps. A live-action hero who plans to get her hands dirty does not belong in a strapless bustier. Cleavage is one thing. Flashing your jubblies at supervillains is quite another.
3. It is, in no conceivable way, armor. Armor doesn’t have to mean helms and chain mail, but a superhero ensemble should look like it’s doing a job.Leather, metal, even rubber protect the wearer.
Plus, Wonder Woman is an AMAZON a breastplate would be perfectly appropriate to her backstory. (But I would have settled for a matte leather corset with some sweet hardware.)
4. The boots. Wonder Woman’s boots are one of the most iconic elements of her costume. And if you don’t believe me, check out this cover–>
I could totally see bringing the boot up to date in an oxblood red leather and building the coloration of the rest of the costume from there. (This might have avoided the tragic use of Hyundai blue.)
5. No clear direction. The revamped costume doesn’t seem to represent any clear design or narrative choices. She isn’t modern. She isn’t camp. She isn’t going back to her Paradise Island roots. She isn’t doing much of anything. Even the pose in the photo is awkward.
Like many, I’ve had misgivings about David E. Kelley’s involvement in the project from moment one. The fantastic requires a bold and steady hand and I’m just not seeing that here.
And finally, on a mostly unrelated note, I want to share one of my favorite superhero redesigns ever. Below, the marvelous Annie Wu gives us the Justice League of America as a punk band (from left to right: Flash, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, drunk Aquaman). Diana Prince isn’t in armor, but that girl looks like she will MESS YOU UP.
(Many thanks to the people at Project: Rooftop for their Wonder Woman redesign competition and the many other cool things that they do. Also, to local genius Aman Chaudhary for the Wonder Woman Hiketeia cover.)