Costume Critique: The Preliminary Spider-Man!

Monday, I posted a review of Superman’s new suit. Since several people seem to have enjoyed that, here’s where I TOTALLY nerd out over the MCU Spider-Man costume based on literally 5 seconds of footage. It’s... tights. Primary colored tights. And that’s great.
Go to the bathroom now: I’m about to get exhaustive.

The level of detail is fantastic if you click...

I LOVE the colors, and I LOVE that there’s not a whiff of armor or tactical gear about it. About damn time someone had the courage to fully embrace and adapt the native aesthetic of superheroes only... what... a dozen or so blockbuster successes in?


Tactical gear and armor work well for some characters- I’ve always thought that each movie superhero needs to embrace the differences in their origins in order to distinguish themselves from one another. Cap should look like he’s in cutting edge military gear, and we want to see how the hard, interlocking pieces of Tony’s most recent armor puzzle together. A rubber bodysuit gives Vision a degree of smooth inhumanity that works well. But Spidey belongs in tights.

In this rendition, the sleek, nimble shape of his body comes through nicely, and it doesn’t pull in unfortunate ways when he does an iconic Spidey pose. I know this is probably largely CGI, so I’ll also note that at least in the little we’ve seen, they don’t have to break believable modeling to avoid such pulling or bunching, either. The overall color-blocking is close enough to classic while still modernizing the look a little. There’s something about all this that also looks younger, somehow.

They also finally got the right level of texture and detail. It doesn’t look boring or chunky up close in High Res, and it doesn’t look busy or dirty from farther away.
One thing the designers didn’t do was darken it with a color-wash that seeps into the crevices to make the costume look dirty. This is endemic in genre costumes, seemingly because of a common belief that “dirty = realistic.” It’s not. The material is pretty flat, and the overall texture doesn’t look molded or painted on, but like the weave of the material itself. In a similar vein, there seems to be no “muscle shading,” either. Hooray! May this costume be the silver bullet for that dumb idea: if your hero’s physique can’t telegraph through the suit, design around that fact. Highlights and shading for muscles is about as believable and compelling as spray-on “hair thickener” for bald men.

The color-blocking of the comic-book suit isn’t broken, and they didn’t try to fix it. Rather than the simplistic move of bulking up the web pattern and/or making it silver to add interest, they give the pattern both lightness and presence by doubling comparatively fine lines and just slightly incising them so that up close each segment of web reads like it’s own little panel.
It’s a very fine detail and it works great.


I could do without so much black athletic banding, but I think it works to keep the whole thing from reading too simple in longer shots, and it does what I recommended above: provides definition of muscle groups without drawing muscles onto the fabric. It also provides some unity for the web-shooter and cartridges.


Those mechanical web-shooters and apparent cartridges at the belt are good, too. The web-shooters have a slight bulk that perfectly balances realism with the profile they want. In the comics it’s easy enough to hand-wave that all this is hidden away, but when you see it rendered photo-real, you’re forced to wonder how that would work. Also smart to do it in black. An unspecific “metal” finish is the common signifier of “tech” in these movies, but good technology comes in a million forms and uses the best materials available for the task.

It hasn’t been nearly as much a problem in the previous movies, but this webbing looks good too: super-fine, silky, and slightly springy.


The eyes are just as great. These too are fairly flat, and since they’re not mirrored or textured, they give us the classic face that was so iconic as to serve as Marvel’s logo for decades. When they narrow, there’s a slight silver wear pattern of the overlapping iris panels that gives the otherwise flat mechanism some believable detail, and indicates how deeply the designers have thought this through. The accompanying noise is great, too.
Marvel will probably give a practical explanation for the movement, but these eyes will be used expressively, which is great. That’s Marvel’s pattern for these things and it’s rarely failed.


And right in the middle of the composition... Yeah, I see your Ditko shoutout, designers. While the sentiment is appreciated, the spider emblem is my least favorite element of the new look. The almost graphical diagram of a spider has too often been pushed into garishness, but this comes off as under-thought. It’s no deal breaker for me, and a lot of uber-fans are already thrilled to see it. But I think it’s going to come off a bit hammy when we can see it more clearly, and will be the first revision they make.

My other quibble is with realism, because there’s no point in doing these in live action if they’re not going to be believable.
Um... how does Peter get in and out of this thing? When the suit was a little more substantial, I could just imagine a zipper or two along one of those puff-paint webbing-lines. Maybe those thicker black style lines hold the clue. Some of those could conceal or even be attachment points.


All in all, I am THRILLED to finally see a live action Spider-Man that looks and feels perfectly like Spider-Man to me. The other movies had gotten pretty close, but this design just sings.


The most recent is the most successful in my eyes. After the dirty basketball of Webb’s first version, I was happy to see it. But it still felt a bit clunky with too much texture, and the shimmer of the spandex was cutting way too close to the cosplay joke that made professional costume designers fear putting superheroes in their traditional comics outfits. It still felt a bit forced.

The designers of Spider-Man’s new threads have delivered something that feels effortless, light, and fun; even though every move is carefully considered.
That’s a perfect fit for Peter Parker.

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