Oh Thank God: Spider-Woman Rocks A Great New Look, Courtesy Of Kris Anka
As everyone knows, Spider-Man's costume is the best; a true masterpiece of design. The webbing, the colors, the chevron belt, the split arms, the wide-eyed mask; it's all perfect. Steve Ditko smashed it out of the park. It's also inspired some amazing costumes, like the black Spider-Man costume designed by Mike Zeck in 1984 (reportedly based on a suggestion by fan Randy Schueller), and this year's Spider-Gwen costume by Robbi Rodriguez.
And then there's Spider-Woman. Her costume was designed in 1972 by Marie Severin, and it hasn't really changed since -- and I hate it almost as much as I love Spider-Man's costume. It's ugly, tacky, and it doesn't match the personality of Jessica Drew, the woman behind the mask. So I'm delighted that artist Kris Anka has given Jess a new set of togs that look chic, modern, and appropriate to her character.
Speaking to Marvel's good chums at USA Today, Spider-Woman editor Nick Lowe said the new look is designed to serve Drew's role as a private detective hero. "To operate on the level she wants to, she needs something that can pass for semi-normal and she can turn it on to crazy if she needs to."Unzipped, the costume looks like a jacket, leather pants and sunglasses. Zipped up, it becomes a chic leather suit with a stylish bodice.
Kris Anka's design sheet shows how the glasses transform into something closer to a mask, and purists will be pleased to see that Jessica's pleated wings are still there, tucked into seams in the back of the jacket.
Unusually, the costume debuted this week in a video game, Spider-Man Unlimited, published by Gameloft. It will make its first comics appearance in Spider-Woman #5 in March, by writer Dennis Hopeless and new series artist Javier Rodriguez. After the Spider-Verse event, Drew will take on a more grounded role, investigating street-level crime in Marvel's New York City. Though Marvel doesn't say it, it's perhaps safe to see issue #5 as a re-pilot for the series, or as functionally the real first issue after the distractions of a massive crossover.
Spider-Woman debuted in 1977, and Anka's new design actually has a stronger '70s vibe than her original costume, blending biker leather with a fencer's silhouette for a sharp, tailored aesthetic with a touch of vintage espionage style. The color scheme still pays tribute to her old look, as do the chest motif and the mask.
So let's bury that old look, which clung to the character like body paint. Tightness alone doesn't make it objectionable -- as portrayed by an artist like Severin, it was merely one of the gaudier onesies in the genre. The reason I hated that costume is that the lines led to particularly exploitative portrayals; the yellow abdomen and chest triangle became a cupping frame for the character's breasts. The contrasting colors created the impression that Drew was wearing an especially scanty bikini that left her partly exposed.
That design, combined with so many artists' propensity for bent backs and spread legs, meant she was often portrayed more like a lingerie model than a superhero. (Sidenote: Lingerie models are great if you want to see some lingerie being modeled.) Even compared to other women, Jessica Drew tended to look naked. It's not hard to find portrayals of the costume where even her navel is visible.
The new look Spider-Woman doesn't look as superheroic, but that is clearly a choice. This costume gives Drew a new identity that's much more defined than her generic "sexy superlady" look.