"In everyone's mind's eye, you think 'Oh, Spider-Man. He's red and blue.' "
Deborah Lynn Scott, the costume designer on "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," like the hundreds of artists who have drawn the character for Marvel Comics, knows very well that Peter Parker's superhero outfit isn't simply, "red and blue." Spider-Man's costume is deceptively intricate and has caused headaches for pencillers, inkers and costume designers since 1962.
In fact, the webbed pattern on the red portions became such a nuisance to artists in the early '80s that Marvel introduced an entirely new, black costume as a way to avoid the design detail; a decision the company reversed four years later after outcries from the fans.
For "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," however, Scott would not only have to work within the parameters of the red and blue look, but she also needed to differentiate it from the previous drastic redesign in the first "Amazing Spider-Man" — a costume which was intended to look like something Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) could make himself. For the sequel, director Marc Webb handed Scott a different task.
"We wanted the most Spider-Man-y Spider-Man," Scott said. And that's what they did.
Sony, to avoid being scooped by the paparazzi during location shooting in New York, released an early first look at the costume before filming began, and reaction from hardcore fans was ecstatic. Essentially everything about Peter's revamped costume had comic books readers drooling.
The costume's success was the result of painstaking efforts by Scott and her team to zero in on what made Spider-Man, Spider-Man; and she walked me through how they assembled the character's best on-screen look to date.
Ask any true fan why the costume in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" is better than any other, and he or she will probably give you the same answer: it's the eyes. While they're a feature that might be negligible on any other hero, they're essential to Spider-Man, and Scott understood that.
"The eyes are the major difference in the costume," Scott said.
After "The Amazing Spider-Man" shrunk the wall-crawler's lenses to the smallest size they've ever been in a movie, Webb wanted to take the iconic peepers in the opposite direction.
"The brief from Marc was to make them as large as possible," Scott said. "Having said that, you have to work within the framework of Andrew Garfield's head."
Finding the perfect shape and size came down to a lot of trial and error. The design team wanted to make Spider-Man look as strong as possible without appearing evil. Cook found that even the slightest change in an angle or a curvature could have big repercussions on how the eyes read emotionally.
"We found that some of our eye designs would make him look concerned or angry, just in the slightest bit," Scott said.
The spindly design on Spider-Man's chest wasn't any less of a problem for the costume designers than it was for the comic book artists. In fact, creating webs that were wearable and looked good on camera added another layer of complexity for the production team.
Over the years, costume designers have tried different approaches to adding the webbing to Spidey's suit. The team on Sam Raimi's movies hand-cut the black, textured lines on Tobey Maguire's outfits; which resulted in a bigger, clunkier pattern than what Cook achieved.
For "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," Cook used screen printing to create precision webbing, which could be smaller and more detailed than any version that existed before. The added control allowed Cook and her team to use the webs to highlight muscle curvature and make Garfield look even more like a comic book hero.
Though it undersells the complexity of the costume, saying Spider-Man is red and blue isn't technically wrong. The color scheme is monumentally significant to the idea of the character; and as such, Cook had to find the perfect shade of each hue for Garfield and his new suit.
"The red and blue really just gets down to dealing with what is the most flattering for Andrew," Cook said. "How do you make him look the most powerful, the leanest, longest... all of these things that complement an actor?"
Once the production settled on a design for the costume, each suit would take Jose Fernandez — who led the team fabricating the costume — at the famed Ironhead Studio two weeks to complete. Cook estimates that Ironhead made 25 to 30 suits for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."
In all, Cook had only nine weeks to complete her design work on the costume, and despite the tight schedule, she's pleased with the final result. It's unclear whether the latest version of the costume will stick around for the next two Spider-Man movies, which Sony Pictures already has release dates for; but Cook hopes it will.
Unless she's the one who gets to make the changes.
"It would be incredibly complimentary to me if [the costume] lasted," Cook said. "Having said that, I do think that there's a possibility that I might do the next movie. I start thinking that the temptation to redesign constantly is very appetizing."
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" opens in theaters on May 2.