A few months ago, I released a short, autobiographical comic called Something Terrible, about my life growing up with fictional heroes, and how imaginary heroes had somehow managed to rescue me here in the real world. In the story, there’s a page I call “You’ll Be Safe Here,” an image that has bounced around a good bit on the internet on its own. This one page took me thirteen days to draw, working eight to fourteen hours per day.
Because of my association with the idea of superhero redesigns, I didn’t want these to just be the current or most popular versions of the major characters shown here, but rather to look like I’d been in charge of their stories for a little while, so I came up with little ideas for each redesign. There are well over a hundred characters in this image (you can check the guide here), but with the already-funded Kickstarter for the print edition of Something Terrible only a few days from ending, I thought I’d finally do a little spotlight on my own redesigns. So here we go!
Catwoman: One of my main themes with these redesigns was the familiar Waid/Morrison mantra of “include and transcend,” so you can see here I tried to find a winding middle-path here, combining my favorite elements of Bruce Timm’s Animated Series Catwoman with Darwyn Cooke’s 2001 redesign, and Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle from The Dark Knight Rises. With all of these redesigns, I wanted them to have a distinctive look, but be very clearly recognizable.
Nightwing: There’s not a lot you can do to improve upon Brian Stellfreeze’s Nightwing redesign from the late 90s, so I didn’t fool with it too much. I added a ring of pouches like the ones on his gloves to his biceps and created a slight indication that the v-points coming off his shoulders are overlaid pieces, maybe snapping into place. A lot of folks try to give him a belt or incorporate the Animated Series bird emblem, but I just don’t see that as an improvement. His black and blue costume was perfection.
Oracle: This whole scene takes place in the TARDIS, so I was able to pluck characters from my favorite eras, and while Batgirl getting paralyzed was maybe not the best choice at the time, I grew up with Oracle, one of the few women powerful and vital enough in the fight against supercrime to be a member of the JLA. A simple black and gray outfit with a gold bat pendant to remind folks where she’s from. I always liked Dick and Barbara together, so here they are.
Batwoman: I couldn’t fit everyone in this piece, and I already was getting pretty heavy on Bat-Family characters, so I decided to nab the next Batwoman out of the timestream, Stephanie Brown. At some point, Kate took her under her wing-shaped cape and now Steph’s got the mantle, honoring Kate’s uniform and bringing her own trademark colors into it.
Robin: OH DID YOU REALLY THINK DAMIAN WAS GONE FOREVER? Nope. He’s totally fine and back in uniform, this time going a bit more superhero-y, with a look combining the best elements of Dick’s, Tim’s, and Damian’s own original uniform.
Captain America: For Cap, I tried to find a simple middle ground between the Avengers movie costume and his classic uniform. I slanted the stripes and changed the font of his “A” just to be different.
Wonder Woman: I basically combined the promo version of the New 52 Wonder Woman with the Terry Dodson hybridized emblems version I liked a lot from the last version of the DCU, and I made her tiara star metal rather than jeweled just to be different.
Doctor Strange: The cape and Eye of Agamotto are too distinctive to fool with, so I just gave him a classy suit to wear when he’s not battling myriad magical monstrosities.
Impulse: Bart was always my favorite Flash sidekick. I remember picking up his first issue. I redesigned him years ago in our tribute to Mike Wieringo, so in this update, I just modified that slightly, with a new white jacket.
The Flash: Too much detail distracts from how good the Flash costume is, so I kept it simple. I added a lightning bolt shape to the form of the cowl and gave it the shiny look he often had in the 90s.
Aquaman: For Arthur, I really just wanted to incorporate Daniel Govar’s symbol move from his winning Aquaman: Sea Change redesign with the classic look.
The Fantastic Four: Here, I just wanted to imply the white costumes of the Future Foundation with the very classic look Mike Wieringo drew them wearing. I gave the Thing an emblem of his own, finally. Do you really think Reed can’t make a removable quantum magnet version for Ben?
Dream: I just wanted to include the Sandman here, so I gave him planets, stars, and moons! Dream is now part of a complete breakfast.
Green Lantern: As you’ve likely been beat over the head with by now, I’m a 90s fan. Kyle’s my GL. I’m an artist, he’s an artist. I’m an interplanetary crime-fighter, he’s an interplanetary crime-fighter. Wait. Forget that. Secret identity, Trippe! Get it together. Anyway, I’m not sure this look is the best Lantern redesign ever or anything, but I wanted to imply some elements from Kyle’s original uniform and make him look a bit more like THE Green Lantern, by centering his emblem and using the Timm Animated symbol.
Spider-Man: Peter Parker’s another guy whose costume is a bit too perfect to mess with, but I took a shot at tilting his symbol and having the legs stretch out into the blue areas. I don’t know if this is entirely successful, but it’s different. At least you can tell it’s him.
Hulk: I gave Bruce a dogtag that lets him calm down and remain Hulk’d out so he doesn’t have to stay angry all the time. Haha. I don’t know. I got a lot of comments calling this “Emo Hulk,” and dudes, like, it’s okay for Hulk to smile. IT HAPPENS.
Iron Man: My favorite comic book look until Adi Granov’s mid-2000s redesign, which went on to be the main influence in his movie looks, was the Silver Centurion. So this is like that, with some glowy red lines and a big repulsor array on the chest.
Martian Manhunter: I gave J’onn a blue uniform with a red X, similar to his last look before the New 52, I guess, but gave him a white cape like Miss Martian, and toned down the collar a bit. I think this looks pretty slick and is clearly the Martian Manhunter. I think I’d go with sleeveless or shortsleeves just to show off his big, beefy, green, shape-changing arm muscles. The X on the cape mirrors around on the back, btw, stretching down to the points.
The X-Men: I had an idea for the X-Books back at SCAD I always wanted to do, with major characters leading their own teams, so I swiped that for this, in the hope that the current mutant schism (which I am LOVING) is eventually resolved. The underlying theme elements are from the Morrison/Quitely run, but with more interchangeable pieces and team theme colors. Red Team leader, handling worldwide mutant threats is Cyclops, zipped all the way up. Gold Team leader at the school is Wolverine, and Storm leads the Blue Team which works more closely with the Avengers and other superhuman groups. Black Team not pictured, not acknowledged, and where are you even hearing these rumors? There is no Black Team.
Captain Picard and Ensign Crusher: These are little edits, but I wanted to put my own spin on these uniforms. Again, just a combination of various eras for Picard, and for Wesley’s, I just made it complement the official uniforms a little more.
Batman Beyond: Probably the most frequent mildly negative comment besides “Emo Hulk!” and “Where’s Deadpool!?” I got on this piece was “Batman Beyond didn’t have a cape!” Yeah. I know. This is Terry after Bruce has died. (GASP! BRUCE CAN NEVER DIE!) So here, his uniform is showing a lot of wear and tear, as Mister McGinnis continues the fight without Wayne to help him repair the suit. He’s becoming more of a force in the shadows. Wayne Manor is gone. The Batcave is still accessible, but he’s operating mostly out of makeshift outposts around New Gotham.
Superman: I don’t like too much fooling around with Superman’s uniform, so I tend to draw a fairly classic version with a bit of obvious influence with the Superman Returns costume’s belt, minus the belt-loops.
Supergirl: I’ve had this in mind for a really long time, but I honestly think this is Supergirl costume perfection. Shoulder sleeves, red skirt, blue tights. It’s youthful, feminine, tough, and fun to draw. This is the only costume I’ve drawn on Supergirl for years. Don’t stop redesigning her, Cory, but I already figured this one out.
Superboy: Okay, so this one’s more of a story, but this is Chris Kent, back from the Phantom Zone, having been stripped of his powers in the escape, now wearing a silver Superman ring that replicates Conner Kent’s powers, which he picked up in the future in the Fortress of Solitude, now holographically maintained by Kal-El, whose real self is presently in the sun. This is the Superboy I’d write.
Well, as you can see from scanning around this page, I did a lot of redesigns for this piece, and while not all of them are that noticeable or revolutionary, the slight updates to the uniforms that are, are pretty cool, I think. I hope you enjoyed this look around You’ll Be Safe Here, and if you haven’t read Something Terrible yet, you can check it out here. -Dean