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The Captain Marvel costume that Brie Larson wears in countless posters, trailers, and, of course, the new film may never have seen the light of day. At least, according to Jamie McKelvie, the celebrated comic book illustrator who came up with it.
McKelvie's work has earned an increasing fanbase over the years. The British artist has collaborated with Kieron Gillen on Phonogram, Suburban Glamour, and the visual delight that is The Wicked + The Divine, as well as being tapped by Marvel and DC for interior work on a few of their key titles, so it's no wonder that he caught the attention of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.
DeConnick had been given the reins to the 2012 relaunch of Captain Marvel as Carol Danvers, and she wanted a revamp that would establish this hero as an empowering feminist icon for the 21st century. The problem was that none of the in-house designers had managed to quite capture the look she was going for.
"There were some designs being done for her relaunch of the character as Captain Marvel, and they weren't working out," McKelvie tells Fangrrls. "There wasn't a budget for someone outside of the project to design a costume, but she asked her editor Steve Wacker if I could do it anyway.
"He said, officially, no, but if she and I were talking and I happened to show her a design she liked and he happened to see it, then ... it was sort of an absurd way for it to happen."
Luckily this off-the-books design job worked out, as not only did DeConnick love it, but so did Wacker, which meant that she didn't need to get her personal checkbook out. "Kelly Sue was prepared to pay me for my design if Marvel didn't use it," McKelvie recalls. "But they did."
However, just because the people in charge loved his design, it didn't mean it was full steam ahead, as there was a particular aspect of Captain Marvel's look that they already had an idea for. "There was some back and forth over the helmet and hair," McKelvie explains. "The concept of the hair mohawk was Joe Quesada's, and then I worked it into my design, but I didn't have to make any changes other than that."
Each artist has their own way in approaching a character redesign, but for McKelvie it's about discovering who the character is and what makes them who they are. "I believe the strongest costumes come from the background and personality of the character wearing them," he says. "If I have that, I usually get a good grasp on a costume idea very quickly.
"With Carol, she has two sides to her background — her military past, and the Kree stuff — so I took the first Captain Marvel's '70s costume as a base point, flipped the color scheme, then worked in some military touches."
Those touches included the button-up gloves and boots, the yellow stripes with thick black lines, and the collar, but he also wanted to ensure there was a nod to Danvers' previous costume as Ms. Marvel, so he added the sash around her waist for good measure.
Seven years later, the superhero is finally getting her big-screen outing, and it's McKelvie and Quesada's design that has inspired her live-action look. It isn't an exact replica—the sash is the most obvious omission—but it is a tribute to the brilliant costume these guys created.
"Movies and comics require two entirely different approaches to costume design," McKelvie explains. "In comics, you have to consider that the costume is going to be drawn over and over again in countless panels, so the important thing to do is create something simple enough to not be a hassle, but striking enough to be (hopefully) iconic.
"I like how much it takes from my version and Kris Anka's tweaks from his time on the book, and I sometimes wish the costumes in the movies were a little brighter."
"In movies, you have to consider how it looks when moving, in different light, how it fits to the actor," he continues. "Andy Park and his team did a wonderful job translating it into the MCU aesthetic. I love it."
Captain Marvel is in cinemas from March 8.