The latest MCU smash-hit, Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), features one of the strangest villains in the wallcrawler’s rogues’ gallery. When it comes to movies based on comic books, the outfit a character like Mysterio wears is not supposed to work on-screen. On the printed pages of comics, the outfits can be impractical and outlandish, and nothing is more of those things than the villain’s fishbowl helmet, lavender cape fastened with giant eyes, and green, scaly tights. Still, costume designer for the film, Anna B. Sheppard, met the challenge of making a fantastic look for Jake Gyllenhaal’s villain. Instead of running away from the crazy roots of the character, she leaned into it, and embraced its otherworldly oddities.
Comic book movie costumes are not supposed to be this fun:
At the dawn of the modern era of comic book films, storytellers, including the costume designer, tried to back away from the outlandish looks of the comics. Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) ditched the character’s traditional blue and grey look, for a sleek, all black style that defined the character on-screen ever since. The early X-Men wore only black leather suits, with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine even joking about wearing “yellow spandex.” Yet, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe redefines what it means to bring a comic book story to life, they’ve embraced the outlandish looks first designed by the likes of Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and other giants of the industry. The concept art for Mysterio’s look, recently released, showed that the costume we ended up with is, actually, somewhat understated.
A New Look That Honours the Comics
All of the costumes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are both somewhat faithful to their comic book origins, but also practical enough that fans can suspend disbelief that people would actually wear them. Mysterio’s look in the new Spider-Man film continues that tradition. Anna B. Sheppard used the scaly green Spandex as a basis for the outfit, but added a high-tech golden metal chest plate, complete with light-up portions, that give the character’s powerset a science-boosted feel. Yet, for Sheppard, the cape was the most important part. Impressed by the (mostly computer-generated) cape in Doctor Strange (2016), she set out to make Mysterio’s cape even more fabulous. Not only that, the cape is fastened to his chest plate, with little fixtures that have eyes on them, just like the comics! Lifelong fans of Mysterio (all 27 of us) couldn’t be happier with his big-screen look.
The Golden Age of Geek Culture
Long-time fans of comic books are probably very happy with all of the blockbuster content they are getting. Yet, just ten years ago, ask any fan if Mysterio would ever pop up in a film and they’d probably say, “No way, the character is too weird.” So, imagine the delight they felt when not only did the character pop up in the film, but he looked very close to what fans remembered. Before, the powers-that-be in Hollywood felt like comic books had to be more grounded in order for mass audiences to support them. Marvel Studios, however, realized the opposite was true. Fans would embrace these films if the characters looked like they did in the books. The real trick, however, was making sure those comics-accurate outfits looked good in live-action.
Even actor, Jake Gyllenhaal, loved the outfit. He admits it’s heavy, with the metal chest plate, battery packs for lights, and woollen cape. Yet, the look was very important to him, and the film’s director, John Watts, said that Gyllenhaal would offer to wear the suit in scenes, even when he didn’t have to. “I didn’t know how much I was gonna love it,” Gyllenhaal told Yahoo! Entertainment during the press tour for the film. “I fell deeply in love with that suit,” he said, then joking, “We put it back on for some press stuff we were doing and, oh, the sweet feeling of tight spandex”. The outfit had some definite CGI enhancements. In action scenes the cape, (and sometimes the entire actor), is totally computer-generated. Also, the retractable smoky fishbowl that acts as Mysterio’s “mask” was completely artificial. Yet, the genius of Sheppard and Marvel Studios is knowing just how to balance those CGI effects, with practical beauty.
Independent writer | Comics, Movie & Gaming Enthusiast.
© 2019, Lord Christopher Laverty.