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Saturday, April 26, 2014 

Cully Hamner thinks his costume redesigns are a success

But are they? He gave an interview to CBR where this comes up:
One of your biggest projects outside Red is also something people haven’t ever really seen in full, directly – your redesigns for the New 52. Some of those have been released to the public, but I don’t think DC’s ever released the full extent of what you and Jim Lee did together. Can you describe that process, and give us a measure of just how much work that was?

Oh, it was a lot of work — a lot of work in a short few months. Mark Chiarello and Jim Lee brought me on for a couple of reasons. The first was because, they said, that Blue Beetle was probably the most successful character redesign at DC in quite a while. The second reason was because Jim and I have designing styles that would push and pull each other. He tends toward more complex designs, and I tend toward simplicity, so the idea was that we would check each other.
Oh really, was it? Judging from the sales returns, I'm not sure many people agree with them. And Lee may be a talented artist, ditto Hamner, but the former is certainly not suited to drawing most of the DC cast, and what was so special about the latter's designs for the new Blue Beetle? Not much.
We’ve talked briefly about redesign in some conversations before, but how do you feel about that process of designing (and redesigning) superhero costumes? It seems like a very specialized kind of thing, with some big risks but also big rewards.

You mean the implications of redesign? That’s an interesting question. I’m often asked about the process itself, but reasoning and risks of even doing it in the first place are just as important. I think the most successful, long-running characters are the ones that resist radical redesign the most. They’re so iconic already — Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man are ingrained in the public consciousness, so red trunks notwithstanding, those characters have to stay identifiable as those characters. You can play around with some specific elements, but in a general sense, those characters look the way they have for decades. And all of the Justice League characters, the bread-and-butter characters, are still in the neighborhood of their traditional looks.

The rules become a little grayer with lower-tier characters. Blue Beetle is a great example: That was a top-to-bottom reimagining, and it took hold in a way that earlier versions of the character just hadn’t. There are always going to be the diehards, but people have accepted not only a new look for Blue beetle, but a new concept.
Oh, have they? Both recent series featuring Jaime Reyes were cancelled after little more than a year, and it should be pretty obvious their attempt at diversity pandering didn't work out, yet they refuse to admit this and continue to push the new take on everybody no matter how much they disapprove of the abuse Ted Kord (and also Maxwell Lord) went through in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. I don't understand why CBR themselves insist on calling Reyes a "fan-favorite" when, despite their choosing him for a role in a video game, has clearly not won the interest of the masses, because the writing wasn't interesting enough, and besides, there's that little matter involving Ted Kord.

I'm not impressed with his argument that grayer rules apply to lower-tier heroes. There are minor heroes with costume designs that are pretty impressive (the Silver Age Atom's outfit is good, and so is Dr. Strange's costume), and even higher-tiers can get redesigns, for all the good it does, recalling that abortive electro-Superman design from 1997. The black Spider-Man costume lasted a little longer, but couldn't match up to the much better red outfit.
You can skip this question if you want, but ever since I saw the designs for Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I think of your design for Black Lightning a few years back. I’m not trying to call anyone out or anything, but have you been made aware of it and do you have any thoughts on the similarities?

Well … you know, I don’t know. First, coincidences happen all the time. That said, yeah, it’s been repeatedly pointed out to me that it’s an uncannily similar look — a lightning-powered African-American male in a hoodie, with blue light emanating from inside the hood, and both of them seem to be kind of pre-looks to the costumed versions of the characters. Now, I’m not saying the production did anything wrong. I know how these things work, and sure, it’s possible some of what I did on that series ended up in some stylistic reference clip book in the art department somewhere. Or … not, you know? My main reaction is basically a shrug.
Looking at Hamner's redesign of Black Lightning's outfit with a hood, I'd say it looks awful in sharp contrast to the much better, flashier original design by Trevor von Eeden. Hamner may be good artist on character designs, but on costume designs, I don't think he's got much to be impressed by. Besides, whatever praise he's getting must come mainly from his editors.

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Success my ass!

Don't nobody want to be reminded of Chris O'Donnell's B&R suit every month when reading Nightwing.

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