Artist Kris Anka & Writer Sam Humphries On ‘Uncanny X-Force’ Fashions [Interview + Exclusive Art]
Yesterday ComicsAlliance debuted Olivier Coipel’s variant cover to Uncanny X-Force #1, showing fans both the updated team lineup and each member’s new looks — including the long overdue return of Storm’s iconic 1980s mohawk hairdo. That image was but a tease for what we’re about to show you, the actual Marvel model sheets designed by artist Kris Anka. Cooler still, Anka and Uncanny X-Force writer Sam Humphries provide exclusive commentaryon each piece and offer as yet unrevealed details on the new Marvel NOW series, which is to be drawn regularly by Ron Garney.
ComicsAlliance: One of the first things you notice when looking at these costumes is the color palette. The tones are all muted, which isn’t what’s typically expected with a superhero team. Was this a decision that was made at the outset, or did you try a variety of color schemes before everyone decided this was the direction to go in?
Kris Anka: From the very beginning, when I was approached to design the New X-Force costumes, I saw them in black and white. It might just be conditioning from the last volume of X-Force to Uncanny X-Force where all their costumes were black and grey. It is just a gut reaction for me that all X-Force costumes must fit into that scheme. So no, there wasnt much variety exploration into their colors. However, when pitched that this is a new sexy, sleaker, “James Bond”-esque take on the X-Force idea — which I took to mean that this will somewhat be lighter-hearted or at the very least a bit more fun than the previous titles — I thought it’d be a nice throwback to try to implement a little bit of color into their overall black and grey suit designs; just to add a little bit of personality into all of them. So frankly, more exploration was done on Psylocke’s sash than anywhere else on her, trying to find a particular tone that worked well with the costume as a whole but also saying “Psylocke” in an instant. I tried all over from white, to red, to various purples.
Sam Humphries: I love these costumes, they do such a good job of embodying the feel and vibe of this book. Kris did an amazing job — it was a lot of fun to kick ideas around with him and see the looks develop over time. My only wish is that we could keep going until we redesigned the entire Marvel Universe! MARVEL NOW: FADE TO BLACK!
Uncanny X-Force are a gang of predators. Think of the way predatory animals “dress” — to hide, and to intimidate. Bright yellow might work for a lion in the jungle, or in the halls of the Jean Grey School, but in the shadowy corners of the Marvel Universe, it’s gonna get you laughed at and killed. These characters are going to confront the dark secrets of the mutant world — things the other X-Men fear and hate. And when you go digging into the darkness, you’d better dress for the occasion.
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CA: Let’s talk about what is easily the most important development in this series: the return of Mohawk Storm. During the Chris Claremont/Paul Smith run on X-Men in the 1980s, the mohawk look for Ororo was a reflection of her personality at the time. She had more of a punk vibe then, but her look here is far more regal. Is bringing the mohawk back now meant to be part of her reaction to recent events in her life (her divorce from Black Panther, the death of Professor X, etc.)?
KA: I’ll let Sam take this one, he was a far more forward advicate to get the mohawk back. I just drew it [laughs].
SH: Yes! THE MOHAWK IS BACK! Look, I love the mohawk and I lobbied hard for it, but I wouldn’t have done so if it didn’t reflect a change in Ororo’s inner life. As excited as I am for the mohawk, I’m more excited about what it means for her as a character. I mean, she has been through some rocky times lately, but this is a character, like Psylocke, who is a survivor. As for the how or why, all I can say is…stay tuned.
CA: The costumes have a very functional look. Puck could walk down the street and his outfit wouldn’t even stand out. Storm’s has a regal feel to it that I could almost see fitting in at a high-class societal gathering. Psylocke is wearing more clothing than we’re accustomed to seeing her in, and going with the muted look means ditching the purple. Can you talk about the decision to give this team a more toned down appearance?
KA: The idea came from wanting to keep this looking like a superhero team, but not one with such outlandish costume flares. There seemed to me an overall consideration in Marvel NOW to take costumes that felt out of date and bring them forward, so that was something I tried to keep in mind when approaching this team. What I strived to accomplish was to lose the corniness and, frankly, the huge leaps of faiths that a lot of the costumes required the reader to believe in, but still have the costumes have something unique to themselves and identifiable to the character.
SH: Our cast of characters aren’t quite certain how they “belong” in the world, post-AVX. I mean, mutants are kinda legit now, right? When you’ve got Wolverine running a proper school and New Mutants joining the Avengers, is there any room for the weird, the unbalanced, the truly uncanny? These are mutants who may or may not buy into the Uncanny Avengers scene. They are the outcasts of the outcasts. They’re not going to dress and act the same as the rest of the Marvel U.
SH: X-Force are hunters. They’re hunting down the loose ends that were allowed to fray when everyone else was paying attention to the Phoenix Five. Thus, they need to be able to move freely in places besides the Avengers Tower or the Baxter Building. And these characters are also all quite sophisticated with strong personalities — school uniforms wouldn’t cut it for them.
And goddamn it, these are sexy motherfu****s. Smokin’ hot outlaws. They are gonna melt the icecaps come January. Just wait until you see how they look under Ron Garney’s dynamite skills.
CA: While there’s definitely a theme to the costumes, each character has a look that’s unique to them. How do you feel each design echoes the wearer’s personality?
KA: The costume themes were something from the very beginning that I wanted to strive for. I felt that every costume should not only highlight the personality of the character it is wrapped around, but also of the function that the costumes will serve towards. At the end of the day, these costumes have to look like they can get into a tussle, and actually be able to handle it. One of the first notes I got from Sam from even before I started drawing was to have Psylocke have less skin showing. We wanted her to be wearing something that looks like it can actually be used and beneficial in her sneaking around an enemy base where she doesn’t risk the chance of falling out of it at any given moment, let alone a fight.
Another aspect I tried to keep in mind was the wearability of the costumes. While all the straps on Psylocke’s original costumes served very well to help give her a graphic look, and really hint at the ninja-ness of her, I could never help but stare at them and just get frustrated figuring out how the hell youd get them on, or how they’d even stay up on her. I tried to give each character a reason for the various alterations of clothing I gave them. Psylocke is a ninja, she can’t be wearing anything with heels. She needs the maximum traction and mobility that can be allowed to her.
SH: Psylocke isn’t wearing a bathing suit anymore. That reflects her maturity as a character and as a leader in the mutant world — her willingness to make her own path. WATCH THE THRONE.
KA: With Storm, I’ve always felt that she must be treated like she is a woman. She has to stand like she is proud and confident, she has to act like she is proud and confident, she has to seem like she thinks she is proud and confident, and she must dress like she is proud and confident. Yes, she is going through some turmoil in her personal life that she is trying to work through, but it’s hard to imagine Storm being the type of woman to let that completely dominate her life. I felt that she needed a costume that both highlighted the change in temperament, but also her regality, and her womanhood. I’m not one that agrees with the notion that every female character has to be “sexy.” It needs to serve a purpose. With characters like Emma frost, or Mystique, or in this case Storm, these are women who are completely sure of their sexuality and their status, so they should be the ones that will flaunt it proudly and not give much mind about it.
SH: Storm has had her future ripped away from her, and her old home doesn’t feel like home anymore. She might have been a goddess, a queen, blah blah blah. But this is the same Storm who grew up as a thief on the streets and wore leather in the Morlock tunnels. When the going gets tough…
KA: With Spiral, I got the pitch that she is sort of became an LA clubber drug dealer-type. Like Storm, she is one completely confident in her sexuality, and probably enjoys flaunting it. She likes the attention. So with Spiral, I tried to look at her as an almost borderline dominatrix; more in personality than style. I felt that she’d be one who is always can manipulate herself onto the top of any situation, just by either her cunning, her attitude, or her personality. When she walks into a club, everyone knows she’s there, and they all know this is her turf. It was Nick’s call however to make the grey aspects of her costume opaque, which i love after the fact. It allows her costume to have an element of risque, without allowing her flesh to be falling out all over the place.
SH: Spiral is the woman who DGAF. Google it.
KA: Puck was an incredibly hard one to nail down because we were looking for both equal elements of superhero and a rugid, tough outdoorsman. He had to look like if he took off his jacket, he could fit in both the wilderness and at a bar, but if once composed, he lined right up with the rest of the team visually. Because his last costume was designed such a long time ago, a lot of care had to be taken in trying to update him into the modern age, while also retaining the “puck”-ness of him. I also tried to give him a Walter White goatee, but Nick was having none of that haha.
SH: Puck is a bad ass. Dude was a bouncer in the middle of nowhere, Canada. He might be short but he’s rarely in a situation where he can’t kick some ass. Puck is not a clown. No more skull caps, furry thighs, no more giant letter “P” on his chest!
KA: Bishops’ dreads are a specific choice that go beyond the “cool” factor. They’re a symbol of a personal transformation he has gone through.
And our mysterious female…well, the costume should look familiar. That’s a hint.
CA: Bishop is a character who hasn’t featured prominently in the X-Books in a little while, and his look stands out from the rest of the team. The use of earth tones in his design, along with the full beard and long dreads, visually separate him a bit from the others. What was the motivation behind making his look stand out?
KA: The color scheme was something that Nick called out to help immediately stand him out against the group, but also highlight the change in his personality and state of mind. Here is a character that will be coming back after being stranded in a far distant future. So I wanted to play with that. I really tried to play with the balance of having him still be identifiable as Bishop, but not so much that his costume seems almost too coincidently similar to his old suits. That sort of leap of logic was something I always considered when I saw it it other cases to just be lazy and point of lack of care on the crafters part. I also just think long dreads and a pointed beard is just badass.
SH: This is a dude who hasn’t been seen in two years. Last glimpse we caught of him, he was stranded in 6700AD — but now he’s back. Can you imagine what it would take to go through that? How it might change you as a person? Whatever he’s been through, it’s literally thousands of years removed from anything our team has gone through in the past two years. What he’s seen might even make AVX look like a Nicki Minaj concert. And he’s our bad guy! So, hell yeah he needed to stand out.
CA: And lastly, how much time did you spend agonizing over whether or not to let Spiral keep her furry boots?
KA: Haha, absolutely no time at all. In the prompt I got for the character, the fur boots were right there. Those things were definitely not going anywhere, and Nick was going to see to that.
SH: I agonized over it for NONE SECONDS. The furry boots were a must or I was off the book. I mean, after a couple decades, IRL fashion has finally caught up to Spiral, and we’re not going to take this moment of glory away from her.