There’s a science to designing a proper superhero costume. Granted you’re about to read the words of someone who was never published but honestly I’ve been creating superheroes since I was in sixth grade and I’d like to think I picked up a few tricks, which has been useful on Captain Yuletide to give each elf a unique look. I’ve read and watched superheroes for even longer and have seen many different costumes through an artistic eye as well as a fan’s. I do have some level of knowing what I’m talking about.

Sometimes this includes changing an outfit to match the times. Batman and Iron Man are good examples of this. While there’s a certain core aesthetic to the iconography, like the Iron Man armor’s red and gold color scheme (which is why the Silver Centurion armor doesn’t work for some fans though I happen to like it), there have been numerous changes and adaptations with each new design. Some work and some don’t. However, as the great Shaggy Rogers once said, why mess with a classic look? Outside of the S shield Superman has had basically the same look since his introduction in 1938 and any attempt to change that, even the often-lampooned trunks, meets with disapproval from long time fans. Meanwhile Batman is somewhere in the middle. Like Iron Man our good Mr. Wayne has altered the Bat-suit a few times but there’s still a core concept that each design has to properly follow.

Spider-Man is one of those characters who creators has tried to change the look of. The webbing does take longer to draw and even Steve Ditko once said he was sorry he went with it. However, his costume is iconic. When you see that red and blue with the spider motif you know who it is. That hasn’t stopped attempts at minor tweaks and major replacements, which they’re going to try again in March of 2021. I honestly like the costume, but as a Spidey suit it has some major flaws.

click for larger view

Before going over the design we should learn the reason behind it. While we don’t know in-universe why Peter altered his look coming off the events of the recent “Sin’s Rising” story line (and will tie into a fight with the Kingpin) we do know why the creators changed it.

“This design was really a collaborative effort between Nick Spencer, Editor Nick Lowe, and I. They reined in the weirder and more tech-y features I was bringing and helped create something that I think is simple and both futuristic and classical,” (artist Dustin) Weaver says. “I can’t wait to see Patrick Gleason really bring it to life!”

By looking at my site’s banner and background you know I don’t have an issue with the colors. Blue and white is a great combination, very hopeful. I find the glowing eyes a bit creepy and robotic the glowing yellow spider looks better than the attempt to make a tech-looking glow near his usual spider symbol on a variant of the blue and red togs he usually wears. (I gave up trying to find a picture of it. I need to sleep sometime.) As a general superhero costume it works very well and I kind of dig it.

However…

As I said in the beginning there’s a science to designing a proper superhero costume. Looks are certainly important as it has to look cool to the audience, which this costume–depending on tastes of course–should likely do. That’s not all there is, though. The costume should also reflect…

  1. The hero’s powers or abilities
  2. their personality
  3. their motif, possibly based on their origin or the aforementioned abilities and powers.

This costume doesn’t really make me think of Spider-Man. Peter is supposed to be more into chemistry than technology but ever since Otto Octavius took his body for a joyride the comics have tried to amp up their belief that all science is the same and even the MCU has tried turning Peter into a replacement Tony Stark. It doesn’t work, hasn’t worked, and will never work because that’s not Peter’s favored science. He can have general science knowledge but he has to be set apart from Marvel’s other hero scientists like Tony, Reed Richards, or Bruce Banner. I’m not even sure Peter needs a high-tech costume but the one he had in Homecoming is already overdoing it because it’s Tony bribing gifting a high-tech suit to his young protege, not that far off from the Iron Spider costume. Speaking of which…

I still hate those back things.

Probably the biggest failing of the white suit isn’t that it replaces the iconic red. It’s not the best idea but we did see that with the Iron Spider. No, the biggest failing is it doesn’t really say “man with powers and fighting style of a human spider”. I may not like the back things but it does invoke the spider as does (you can’t see it on this cover) the logo. Otherwise it looks like Spider-Man’s classic look in Iron Man colors as it was designed by Tony Stark. (It’s not really armor so much as a mesh webbing of very strong material.) The white suit (we don’t have an official or fan name for it that I’m aware of as of this writing) has the spider and not much else. Even trying to imitate the eyes is ruined by the glowing not-pupils.

It’s actually not a bad look for Wolverine.

In a sense it reminds me of the What If Fantastic Four Spidey suit, but like the Iron Spider it’s supposed to be a fusion of different costume styles, Spidey’s and either the FF or Iron Man. The white suit looks more like a robot than Spider-Man. It might fit his fighting style but it doesn’t match his motif. Again, I don’t look at it as see “man with spider powers”.

You’d think this would be an easy cosplayers but cosplayers love a challenge. Maybe that’s why we didn’t see more Batgirl cosplayers based on the Burnside costume, though they were out there.

If they want to play with Spidey’s look and still have him look like Spider-Man, there are better examples to base it on. Ben Reilly’s Scarlet Spider costume may just be a red jumpsuit with a torn blue hoodie but the spider is a bit more prominent and it looks enough like a distaff Spidey to work, something we see with other spider-heroes like Silk, Ghost Spider, the various Spider-Women, or Miles’ Spider-suit. Obviously this doesn’t match the high-tech feel Spencer, Lowe, and Weaver were going for. So may I point out three other better influences.

“Hey, social distance, guys! I’m already wearing my mask.”

This isn’t the best look at it but the costume used in the Spider-Man Unlimited cartoon that was “discretely borrowed” from Reed is made of nanobots, tiny robots that also allow him a cloaking field and anti-symbiote sonic blast. That’s really darn high-tech in my book. However, this alone isn’t a good enough influence.

“One of these days I’ll actually have exact change and then I’ll show that bus driver!”

The black costume is my favorite of the alternate costumes. It screams “man who is also a spider”! However again all of these costumes have missed one important detail.

“Doc, I have watermark on the knee.”

That webbing pattern is what makes a Spider-Man costume. Even the black suit is lacking it. It may be a pain to draw but while the other costumes build off of the mask and maybe the red and blue it’s that webbing that makes fits the motif perfectly. Given how successful the PlayStation game is outside of comic fans it should be looked at as an influence and might even grab a reader on the off-chance Marvel actually puts the comic where a usual non-comic reader might see it. Sure the lore is as off there as in all the other recent adaptations but it’s a costume that people would recognize.

I didn’t get the chance to do a mock-up but I would have gone with a black costume with white webbing and a slight glow to the chest and to the eyes that don’t look like pupil lights. You can still pad it up and make it work. However that’s me and in reality the game costume should have been the center point of a new design. I’m not sure why Weaver really wants Peter’s suit to be future tech looking outside of a preference for drawing in that style, and the end result really does look good but it doesn’t really say “spider man”. It says robot with a big spider symbol on it. After that it’s very plain looking and doesn’t really have that spider feel to it. The costume at least looks like Spider-Man can fight in his signature style but the rest of it needs something to really stand out.

Of course we all know this will last a year at best before returning to the classic looking costume. Like Superman’s trunks it’s a look that is too tied to the character to allow itself to die.

Not that it’ll stop the Kingpin from trying.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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