Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Secret Society Of Snappy Separates

You'd think after "Twilight" that I wouldn't want to read another Howard Chaykin miniseries. And yet, "JLA: The Secret Society Of Super-Heroes" sucked me in on the strength of its artwork and some interesting takes on some very old costumes.


I presume these "Elseworlds" versions of the Justice Leaguers were all designed by the artist, Mike McKone. He's one of my favorites. But remember when he sucked? Way back in the late 1980's, when Giffin and DeMatteis were still on "Justice League"? McKone had just started out and had no business getting hired by one of the big publishers. His faces, always a bit on the horsey side, covered most of his characters' heads, which were about three-and-a-half times taller than they were wide. And he mainly drew people looking straight ahead or in profile. (Because three-quarter views are scary!) He sure as hell improved, though, huh? He's one of the best in the biz now!

Going left to right...
Metamorpho: is putty gray all over, which I much prefer to his "Ultra the Multi-Alien" crazy quilt look. His costume is mainly purple, which of course is the color of his chest in his standard design. And it's sleeveless, which works for his baldheaded, "tough guy" vibe.
Hawkgirl: a real mess. I'll get to her in detail in a minute.
Wonder Woman: Putting Wonder Woman in pants is always a dicey proposition. If you match the color of her classic "satin tights" they end up looking like jeans. If you put the stars on them, they end up looking like really tacky jeans. I think this costume avoids those pitfalls because not only are there no stars, but there are no boots. I'm not thrilled with the "Xena: Warrior Princess" bangs on her hairdo but other than that I think it's great.
Superman: excellent. This is one of my all-time favorite Superman costumes. The nice thing is, even though there's no cape and no yellow and nothing even approaching the well-known Superman logo, it's still obviously Superman to me. And the design of the huge "S" along with the muted color scheme, makes it look very Golden Age as well as modern.
Impulse: I'll show you his costume from the front in just a sec. Anyway, it's the same as the Flash's, only in gold.
Plastic Man: not bad, but boring. Which is why I'm not going to bother showing it to you.
Green Lantern: pretty good! Sleek and not too busy. And this was back during Kyle's "crabclaw mask" period, so I have to hand it to McKone for ditching it in favor of something attractive. My only beef is with the flared-out kneepads or whatever the heck those things are supposed to be. It looks like his knees are wearing bishops' miters. I wonder if they got to elect the Pope.
The Atom: nice. I'll show him close-up in a bit. One thing you can't see in this or the other panel: there's an antenna on his cowl. Which I think looks kinda cool.

I'm ready for my close-ups!


Geoff "I Need A Hug" Johns is probably kicking himself right now that he didn't think of this first. But he got to make up for it by having Deathstroke shatter Impulse's kneecaps. In a scene that was also drawn by Mike McKone. Weird.

The common denominator in these costumes is that they are all two-piece instead of onesies. It's more practical and flattering -- for an example, compare the two-piece uniforms on the later seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the uncomfortable-looking zip-up bodysuits in the first seasons. Sure, Captain Picard had to yank down his shirt every time he got up from a chair, but at least there weren't all those weird wrinkles and folds. (Not in his uniform, anyway.)

My problem with the Flash and Impulse costumes here is that they could really have used something to break up all the monotony. Red and yellow (or "gold") are such bright colors that in big quantities they become overwhelming. And with no boots or gloves or anything, Wally and Bart look like they're wearing footy pajamas.

Let's see what the Atom and Hawkgirl are up to!

Oh, did I come at a bad time?

The Atom's costume is nice. Generic, but nice. Just like his "classic" costume, which is one I've never been all that enthused about. But Hawkgirl--! There have been scads of awful Hawkgirl costumes but I think this is one of the worst. The dominant color scheme: white and brown. Thrilling. And if you take away the helmet and the wings, what have you got? A muscle shirt over a loincloth over chainmail bicycle shorts. With pirate boots. The Atom getting squashed? Meh. It's Hawkgirl's costume that makes me sick to my stomach.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Atom's outfit reminds me a lot of the look the new Atom is going to have, only without the silly gold backpack. Not bad.

Shame they couldn't do anything to fix Metamorpho. Lord knows, if anyone needs a decent redesign, it's him.

Anonymous said...

So, am I to assume that, according to Howard Chaykin, JLA is short for Justice League of A**holes? Cause that's the vibe I'm getting here.

Jeremy Rizza said...

Man, you'd think a panel showing the Atom getting smushed by Hawkgirl would garner more responses. *shrugs*

Spiritglyph: I kind of liked it when Metamorpho had those big rocky crystals on his shoulders (naturally-occuring shoulder pads! Sweet!) and the cloud of gas around his head. But of course they couldn't keep him that way because the fanboys don't like anything to change from when they read comics forty years ago.

Crowdedhouse: Heh. Believe it or not, "Secret Society" was refreshingly light on the assholery, at least for a Chaykin comic. There was a small contingent of heroes who had compromised their ethics -- mainly Green Lantern, Plastic Man, the Atom, and a regretful Flash -- but the others were more altruistic.

Anonymous said...

Poor Flash never gets a particularly good redesign--you can't really embellish his costume any more without making it look tacky (IE, lightning bolts going up the outside leg seam), but his look is really too iconic (or, fanboys love it thiiis much) to change. Looking at other Flashes, maybe using the Speed Force requires you first sacrifice your fashion sense...

Anonymous said...

Pointy shoulder pads? That might have actually been cool. Most anything would be better than the "look Ma, no symmetry" thing he's got going on.