Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm redesigning Cass... again!

Back when Cass first found herself undergoing a heel-turn (as they say in professional wrestling and podiatry, I believe), I took it upon myself to invent my own version of Cass who was quiet and deadly and all those things we liked about her in the first place.  Only I put her in a retro-style outfit with a very short cape which would be more visually symbolic, I suppose.  Both the graphic novel Watchmen and the Pixar film The Incredibles show the drawbacks of having a cape, and with Batgirl's hyper-active fighting style, I just figured a cape would be more of a hindrance to her than its supposed intimidation/distraction/confusing factor (or whatever reason the Bat-family relies on capes) could offset.

I also gave her a mouth-less mask with no stitching because 1) it offers more anonymity, 2) she doesn't particularly feel the need to blab about with either friends or foes and 3) even if she should decide to make a speech, a mouth-less mask never stopped Spider-Man so why should it stop her?  And then I promptly discarded the mask in almost every drawing because I like drawing her facial expressions and Cass wasn't concerned with protecting her civilian identity anyway.

Her Batgirl uniform is pretty dramatic, in all black with those big stitches around the mouth (you'd think Batman would have bought her a new mask at some point with a detachable mouth-covering using Velcro or something less obvious, though) and a simple contour line bat-symbol.  Whether it's some kind of stretchable "ballistics cloth," leather or PVC is up to artistic interpretation, but however we have it, it looks might cool.  The cape, though, I felt was a bit much.  Looks cool, but-- once again-- impractical.

Working out the curve and perspective on those comically exaggerated belt pouches drives me up the wall, though!  And other than a batarang or that grappling gun, has Cass ever really pulled a lot of equipment from out of them for use?  I mean, maybe she has fingerprint or DNA swabbing kits in one of them, but I can't think of any stories where Cass scoured a location for those kinds of clues.  She usually just goes for the obvious stuff like a note for Spoiler to read to her, then grabs a punk and beats the necessary info out of him.  But I digress.  It's still a great costume.

But I also like Cass' Black Bat outfit.  Mostly, I like the pointy domino mask which reveals most of her face.  It helps reader identification and even though artists like Damion Scott would give the faceless mask some wild expressions that more or less accomplished the same thing, I like seeing an actual see a face there, or most of one, so we can see how artists draw Cass' "acting."  That's an important part of storytelling.  The elements I'm not so keen on are the long, loose hair, the scarf-like wrap-around cape (ask Isadora Duncan why that's a worse choice than even a traditional superhero cape) and the occasional addition of pointy claws.  I've never really understood the white, bandage-looking arm wraps, either, but that's just me.  Pull back her hair so it's out of her face and eyes, ditch the scarf and the arm wraps and you'd have something super-slick.

And it was with that thought-- and the impending return of Stephanie Brown to the New 52 DC universe, which means a costume change for her-- I set to work coming up with a plausible Batgirl costume for a New 52 Cass.  Minus the cowl stitching, the cape and the big pouches, the original Cass Batgirl costume would look an awful lot like a female version of the Batman Beyond suit.  That's fine but too easy.  Doesn't require much thought or creativity.  Annie Wu's recent futuristic Batgirl design is perfect for that character, and I love the bat-symbol shoulder pad effect, but I don't want to copy her.

My idea is Cass as a razor-sharp fighter who is willing to trade a certain level of protection for mobility.  After all, she "reads" her opponents' moves and goes into pre-emptive defensive postures and moves before they can even attack.  So I thought she's going to need a sleek yet amply-protected look that ditches the cape but replaces the cowl with a stylized but very light helmet that covers her entire head.  Yeah, kind of a fanciful notion, but no more so than the idea Superman needs a high collar and gladiator boots.  The ears are larger and more accurate to a real bat, there are menacing lensed eyes and there's a small mouth opening so she can breath.  Plus, she can take it off and kick it to the side when she's in the mood not to hide her face.  I really don't think she cares about that kind of thing.

I've modified the fins on the gloves for use as offensive weapons and defensively as shown in the recent Christian Bale Batman flicks.  The suit will have visible seams so you can see it's made of some kind of imaginary flexible protective material-- not PVC, not leather, not movie-style armor.  Her boots are martial arts inspired-- I think heavy treads look cool but take away her climbing ability and some of her "feel" for whatever terrain she's fighting on, but old school superhero type thin boots are kind of silly for this "realistic" style Cass.

This consists so far of exactly two sketches, both executed on the fly at work.  The rest has been largely a thought exercise.  And I haven't figured out the damned belt yet!  When I do, I'll start drawing some colored sketches and put a few of them here even if they look like crap.  That's what I do!

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