One of the biggest aspects of Marvel’s new NOW! initiative is new looks and costumes for characters. Some are radically different, some less so – but one of the more striking changes was for good ol’ Captain America himself. The First Avenger has an updated look, with design work done by artists Jerome Opena and John Cassaday that adds some more texture, a a whole lot of buckles. To find out more, we chatted with editor Tom Brevoort, as well as snagging an exclusive look at Opena and Cassaday’s designs:
MTV Geek: When you sat down to discuss redesigning Captain America, what was the initial idea? And what iterations did it go through?
Tom Brevoort: The approach and the thought was very simple: we wanted to modernize Cap’s outfit so as to reflect the gear worn by actual soldiers, to convey that sense of the character visually.
Geek: Cap’s original design has, of course, been so iconic; were there any concerns about change for changes sake? Or that you might busy up what is otherwise a pretty clean design?
TB: Well, every costume design change is really change for change’s sake, and certainly Cap’s costume is a classic. But that said, it’s been updated before, and so long as what we ended up with still looked like and gave you the silhouette of Captain America, that was what was important to me. We just did years of stories in which Bucky wore a variant of Cap’s costume, and people were able to accept it just fine, and still recognize and react to him as Captain America. Same thing here.
Geek: Talk about the back and forth a bit… We’re showing off some sketches from both John Cassaday and Jerome Opena with this interview, so I’m curious what the give and take was like with them, and what each brought to the design?
TB: There wasn’t a whole lot of back-and-forth, to be honest. We started with Jerome, who’s got a strong relationship and partnership with the writer, Rick Remender, and whom we thought could deliver the kind of thing we were looking for. Jerome went away and did, I think, three rounds of design before we landed where we wanted to be. Then, when John signed on to do UNCANNY AVENGERS, especially having such a strong connection to Captain America, he asked if he could tweak the outfit a bit—primarily restoring the chain mail feel to the torso, which was fine with us. I’m sure that when other artists draw the suit, there’ll be some individual modifications as well-Joe Q mentioned that it was a bitch to draw when he was doing the MARVEL NOW! promo image, so we figured that different guys would find ways to streamline it in different ways.
Geek: Clearly this is inspired at least in part by the movie design. Marvel has picked and chosen which bits of movie lore they want to take, like Bullseye’s head… Carving? Tattoo? And now this. What makes one movie design more translatable to the comics, than another?
TB: We weren’t really thinking about the movie incarnation per se, though it’s difficult to avoid it I suppose. But even there, Cap’s already had two completely different suits in the movies, in CAP: FIRST AVENGER and then in MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS. What we were really going for, more than anything, was the feeling of Cap being an actual soldier. At the outset, I did some research and collected a bunch of different photographs of modern military gear, helmets and what-have-you, and they all informed the design we eventually settled on.
Geek: I was also interested to see that the new Cap costume, in the designs at least, seems to be a little less form fitting, and more like he’s actually wearing some body armor, pants that that were a little looser, etc… Of course comics are fantasy – and scifi – but why was it necessary to give Cap a more realistic costume, and overall, why do you think that approach will work for Cap?
TB: I don’t know about necessary, it was simply the desire to more directly reflect the real world military gear of a soldier, and emphasize those aspects of the character. In a way, it’s really no different than what Bryan Hitch did with the WWII Cap in ULTIMATES, merely updated to 21st Century military equipment.
Geek: Once you set up a new design like this, are there style-guides for the artists? Clearly if the designer – say Opena or Cassaday – are tackling him now, they have experience. But I’m sure he’ll show up other places, so what do you guys do to make sure design stays consistent? Or is that not as important as one might imagine?
TB: I think that, especially these days, relative consistency is what’s important, rather than absolute consistency. Which is to say, I don’t need every last costume line and rivet to be in exactly the same place from artist to artist, so long as the overall silhouette is proper and the flavor of the character is maintained. I don’t mind, for example, if Cassaday does the chest area more like the chain mail, and Jerome does it more like ceramic body armor—that’s individual stylistic interpretation to my mind.
Geek: Any Easter Eggs, or cool new things we should be looking for in this new costume, that we might not immediately notice? He’s got an extra pouch just for chewing gum, or something like that?
TB: Cap’s going to have some additional gear that’s not really shown in these design sheets—again, all stuff modeled on or extrapolated from real-world stuff, and then just pushed to a Marvel level.
Geek: Overall, what do you hope fans will take away from the new design?
TB: That it’s still the Captain America that they know and love.