To Wear Is Human: Kevin Wada Talks Design, High Fashion, And Dressing The Gods of ‘WicDiv’
The Image Comics series The Wicked And The Divine, from creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, is no stranger to high fashion; the supernatural pop star drama features a pantheon of celebrity gods living the lush life, destined to burn brightly and briefly.
The series' stylish cast have created a cult following among cosplayers and comic fans, so when it was announced that issue #23 would take the form of a fashion magazine from within the WicDiv world, it was no surprise that the impossibly fashion conscious artist Kevin Wada was tapped to provide interiors. ComicsAlliance spoke to Wada about his work on the book and his approach to fashion.
ComicsAlliance: How did this issue come about? You and the WicDiv team of Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie are fans of each others work, so I suppose this was only a matter of time?
Kevin Wada: The boys approached me at my first [Emerald City Comic Con], which had to have been two years ago or so, and gauged my interest in possibly collaborating with them on an issue. From very early on it was established to do some sort of in-world magazine, and I thought it was such a fantastic idea!
CA: The Wicked & The Divine already brings a sense of high fashion to the world of comics; was this easy for you to jump right into?
KW: It was the easiest jump possible, honestly. WicDiv is one of the few comics I follow religiously, so I was already so familiar with the characters. It's a very visually stimulating and appealing series --- it was a lot like getting to play make believe dress up with some of my favorite dolls.
CA: There are a ton of jaw-dropping looks, but perhaps the most lavish is your take on The Morrigan --- the gold embroidered gown is a show stopper! Can you tell us more about her look? Were there any direct designer influences?
KW: There were so many designers that I pulled from for inspiration in these looks, but I didn't follow any one garment to a T. I sort of leaped off of certain runways or certain pieces I liked and married them with others.
The gold gown I put on The Morrigan was a McQueen gown that I saw on Cate Blanchett, if memory serves me correctly. She was also inspired by this old Catholic tradition of adorning skeletons with ornate gowns and jewels. It was less about the ritual of that burial process and more the connection of opulent, decorative death that I thought was perfect for her.
CA: This is your first time doing interiors --- congratulations! Can you tell us about your process for issue #23?
KW: Well, Kieron really worked hard to develop a structure for this issue that allowed me to stay in my comfort zone. So while I'm so proud to finally have my own comic issue on the stands, it's definitely not a traditional comic. We really tried to believe this was a fashion magazine. I was their photographer and stylist. I sent them layouts for each article, so they had an idea of the size and feel of each image, and they gave me the green light. It was very much like doing editorial illustration.
CA: Considering these characters are both comprised of divinity and rock/pop star elements, did you look to mythology or the music scene for reference?
KW: Absolutely! I had so much fun pulling from the modern pop culture landscape to really give vibe and mood to each character. For Amaterasu, I really wanted something bright and sunny and lively, her being the sun goddess and all. There are star motifs all over her, and I thought it would be fun to see her played up as youthful and exuberant. Baal has so many shades of Kanye and Drake, it might make you sick, but he was so much fun to play around with.
CA: When it comes to incorporating fashion into your looks, do you approach men differently than women?
KW: I definitely get to have more fun with female characters, but that's only because women's fashion is so much more interesting. Above all I think it's important to think about the character. Dressing Luci was very different than dressing Amaterasu. It's about using fashion to help describe someone's personality, because the way we style ourselves definitely says a lot about us, whether we intend it to or not.
CA: Costumes are so important to the mythos of superheroes, and yet you've managed to make heroes distinguishable in everyday garb. How do you go about merging recognizable details from their costumes and everyday/high fashion looks?
KW: I try to not do anything too cheesy. Cheeky, maybe. One of my favorite con sketches is of Kate Bishop in an evening dress. And she has the same side cutouts from her uniform, but they've been centered by color blocking on her dress of a bullseye. It's subtle but it really helps tell you who the character is (other than her bow, of course!). Other than that it's trying to capture some semblance of their personality and character.
CA: We're seeing more stylized looks from artist such as yourself, Kris Anka, Babs Tarr, and Jamie McKelvie. How do you feel about being part of this evolution? It's certainly a treat to fans who enjoy both worlds!
KA: I'm so happy to be among them! There are so many others doing great work in this regard --- too many to name off the top of my head. I think it's a major step forward, particularly in the depiction of women.
Portraying a character's sense of style that is appropriate for them helps flesh the character out, give them individuality, personality, and above all, humanity. Readers really appreciate that because it helps the characters feel more real and relatable.
CA: Do you see yourself easing into more interior work?
KW: Haha, if I do it will probably be something creator owned. I work too slow to stick to these wild comic timelines.
CA: I'm still obsessed with your Scarlet Witch redesign. Would you take a stab a redesigning more heroes? If so, who'd be your first choice?
KW: Thank you! Off the top of my head, Storm would probably be my dream, but it would be such an intimidating task. She's an icon, and I would hate to be that one horrible costume that's a blip on her otherwise stellar history.
CA: Any upcoming projects we should be on the look out for?
KW: Just more covers! More covers till I die!
The Wicked & The Divine #23 is available online and in stores today, November 2 2016.