Anyway, I digress.
In what I'm hoping will be a CMMH regular column, I'm going to examine (i.e. tear apart) the character designs of various superheroes and villains, both recent and past. Today we're going to look at Adam Strange and the changes he's undergone within the past decade.
I believe that costumes should be as iconic as their characters: they should transmit instantly to the reader what the character's all about. Without knowing a thing about a character, his costume should give you an idea of who he is.
Let's look at Silver Age Adam Strange. He'd gone through one revision at this point since his debut in Showcase, but this is the design that stuck with him for decades:
Now, what have we got? The lines are pretty clean and awfully sharp, overall a very elegant. The white stripe down the leg cuts a really sharp figure and adds a military flair to Adam's uniform and contrasts nicely with the white cross straps. There's also a hidden dynamic quality to this design: look at how the top of his boots and gloves terminate in a triangle shape. It adds an edginess that's complimented by the strong contrasting colors of yellow and red. With the epaulets and the stars on his collar, it seems Adam Strange is wearing a military uniform of sorts. What's he a soldier of? What's he fighting? At first glance, we don't know. Adam also wears a helmet (with an insignia), so he's obviously engaged in some sort of dangerous activity. The fin on the helmet is futuristic, so we know there's a sci-fi element to what Adam does. He's wearing a black belt with white rolled trim, and if you've seen any sci-fi space exploration movies from the late 50's or early 60's you'll recognize that design element. What you can't see in this photo is Adam's gun holster hanging from his belt, and that he occasionally wears a space helmet over his regular helmet when he needs to venture into space. Physically speaking, Adam is rather lithe: this doesn't look like a guy who could take you down with his fists, and yet he's still a superhero, so he must be pretty resourceful.
When we boil it down, what we've really got is a guy in a rocket pack with some sort of ray gun.
Okay, now the current design for Adam Strange:
Wow. Who's this guy?
This look debuted in Planet Heist, which was actually a really fun, quintessential Adam Strange story. His uniform, however, couldn't be further from what Adam Strange should be. You'll see why in the end.
Let's look at this new uniform. First off, there's all sorts of extraneous pieces here and there which add bulk and heaviness to Adam's look: the pure yellow of the boots is broken up with white soles and white cuffs. The angled boot tops are gone. He's sporting some sort of lumpy red wrist bands. Further breaking up his figure are T-shaped yellow patches on his shoulders, and his gloves, like the boots, are broken into two colors: white and yellow. The simple, dynamic white cross straps are replaced with a bulky chest piece, which holds his rocket pack to his body. The belt with the rolled trim is gone and his holster is placed--awkwardly--up by his shoulder. The stripes down his leg are sort of there, but in later appearances they've been eliminated completely and replaced by some boxy rectangle outline. His helmet is considerably heftier, and it's his only helmet now, and functions as his oxygen source in space. (Previously, a space helmet was optional for Adam.) The overall design is boxy, disjointed, and bulky. He's also gained a lot of muscle.
What does this new design say about the new Adam Strange?
If you saw him for the first time, what would you think this guy does? Is he an astronaut? A super space soldier? Some kind of intergalactic spy? A robot? His costume is high tech. It's got all sorts of gizmos that help him navigate through space. His helmet is high tech now, and gives him HUD targeting displays and helps him out of tight situations. Wow, that make him cool, right?
This takes all the adventure out of Adam Strange. What made Adam Strange cool was that, with no more than a rocket pack, a gun, and his wits, he got through all sorts of scrapes and became the champion of an entire planet. Adding technology to his arsenal weakens the very premise of the character. Adam is the Indiana Jones of the DCU (he's even an archaeologist): an adventurer as well as a hero, who used his wits when he had nothing else to fall back on. When his luck ran out, he made his own, and danger meant nothing to him. There was no fancy technology to get him out of a scrape--only his own skill and intelligence, which is why he came to be known as the "thinking man's hero."
Now, Adam wears his space helmet when he's not even in space! What a wimp! Back in the Silver Age, half the time he was out in space without his space helmet. I mean, this guy is so resourceful he doesn't even need oxygen half the time.
Now he's just a guy in a space suit. How exciting.
Let's go back to the original, shall we?