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Thursday, March 11, 2010

How To Do Superhero Costumes Right: Hawkeye

With their costumes, superheroes create an easily digestible image of their character, what they're trying to say, and why we should care about them. In this way, the costume is a microcosm of the superhero genre in general, something that is inherently outlandish and will come across as either completely ridiculous or completely awesome to an audience. The clothes don't make the man, but for the spandex set they're a strong contributor-- Aquaman's long-tarnished name has not been helped by the fact that his iconic look is a scaldingly orange goldfish shirt. At the same time, Naruto ( a Japanese comic character who is very similar to a superhero ) is a ninja in a scaldingly orange jumpsuit, who has made it work in a capacity that not even Tim Gunn could have forseen.

With June's Hawkeye and Mockingbird series, artist David Lopez gives us a good example of how to do a superhero costume right. Clint Barton is a character who really relies on his clothes for his look-- he has no powers beyond his skills with archery and hand-to-hand combat, and most super-villains aren't going to be intimidated by him. At the same time, he needs a costume that's convincing as something he'd wear in a fight. Lopez gives us a design that shows a lot of thought, with the following traits--

* The classic Hawkeye color scheme and mask. The winged mask draws attention to his eyes ( and being " Hawkeye ", that's kind of important ), while the mix of blue and purple has become Clint's traditional colors. Clint is one of the most brash, ballsy-to-the-point-of-stupidity members of the team, and the fact that he's a manly man in purple cements this. It's a garish scheme, but he sells it. He even has a loincloth ( albeit one that is shortened so it doesn't look like he'd trip over it )

* The chainmail armguard. Since Clint relies on archery, it's important that the design call attention to it. So the arm he uses to grip to bow has extra protection, and gives a bit of interesting asymmetry.

* The quiver. The quiver is a flat shape that holds to his back in a nice diagonal fashion. The bow also folds conveniently inside the quiver, in a feat of design brilliance-- it all works. There are also some small wrist pouches for custom arrowheads, nothing

* The wrist cross-bow. I'm not sure this is entirely necessary, but it's a nice touch-- if Clint loses his bow, he can use the little wrist darts to maintain some semblance of effectiveness.

There's a lot of thought to function as well as form here, and it looks convincing while maintaining elements of the character's history. Easily the best Hawkeye costume he's had yet-- certainly better than his angst ninja look.

( EDIT: Somebody has reminded me that much of the design was taken from Olivier Coipel's Hawkeye design pre-Disassembled. Lopez stills deserves credit for the wrist-mounted dart-launcher and the foldable bow, but the armguard design is the invention of Coipel. My apologies ).


  1. Dunno why you're giving Lopez the credit. That's the Coipel-designed costume Hawkeye was wearing immediately before Disassembled, with only a couple of minor changes.

    (Can't find a great image of it online, but those covers should give you the idea).

  2. I LOVE it.

    Aside from his bow and arrow, the three most iconic things about Hawkeye's costume are the cowl iwththe winged face mask withthe "H", the purple and blue colors, and the loincloth.

    It seems to me that the costume is the best possible mixture of the classic elements listed above and the new, with the assymetrical sleeve-length chainmail armguard.

    Congratulations on developing a great updated style on what has always been one of my favorite characters