“And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”
If you wanted to describe the plot of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, you could do worse than this quote from Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s a quote that’s going to be front and centre for most of the film, and yet hardly anyone in the audience will notice. It was all Zack Snyder’s idea.
Costume designer Michael Wilkinson explains, “He had this great idea to incorporate some Kryptonian script into the suit this time, so through the bicep, the S glyph on his chest, and the belting on his wrists, there’s some very delicate text woven into the chainmail pattern. Of course, to decipher it on the suit, you have to be able to read Kryptonian!”
There is a reason that Snyder chose this Joseph Campbell quote. But this is just one way that even the smallest details on the superhero suits of Batman vs Superman tell you about the people inside them.
Superman: The Perfect Alien
Even if you can’t read Kryptonian, Superman’s costume still tells you a lot about the Man of Steel underneath it. Just as the Superman in Dawn of Justice will be more experienced and more in control of his powers, Wilkinson says the new Superman costume will be “even more streamlined”. Everything about Superman’s new costume reaches for what Wilkinson calls “the sense of impossible perfection”. The new cape has an “unearthly metal sheen” that wasn’t sewn, but cut with a hot knife and welded together to avoid seams and stitching lines.
The end result is that Superman’s costume is smooth, alien and flawless. Which sounds like a shopping list of every reason some people fear him.
Batman’s DIY Suit
While Superman’s costume leapt fully formed from an alien crystal found deep in the Arctic, Batman’s costume took a little more work. Wilkinson describes it as “something that Bruce Wayne has prototyped and put together in his workroom. It looks unfinished and raw and brutish.”
While Superman’s costume is resistant to everything from bullets to explosions to (we’re going to assume) red wine spills, Batman’s costume wears its scars proudly. Each scratch and bullet hole tells a story of one of the Dark Knight’s previous battles.
But it wouldn’t be Batman unless there was also some serious technology going on under the hood. To design the costume they started off by performing a 3D scan of Ben Affleck, who’ll be donning the cowl. “Then we sculpted a layer of anatomy and skinned it with a layer of digitally printed fabric,” Wilkinson says.
In some ways Batman’s costume is even more important than Superman’s. While Superman is essentially Clark Kent, for Bruce Wayne the reverse is true. As Affleck says, “You don’t really play Batman, you play Bruce Wayne.”
Wonder Woman forever
If Superman is a perfect alien and Batman is built for back alley brawls, Wonder Woman descends from myth and legend. Snyder and Wilkinson worked hard to get across that epic sense of history in her costume. “We wanted it to appear like she’s been wearing this costume for her entire history,” says Wilkinson.
With a gladiator-style breastplate, a split skirt and leg armour, this is a suit that has seen centuries of wear from battle. “The leather is crackled and antique-looking,” Wilkinson says. “All her weapons are distressed and they have a fantastic sense of age.”
Which superhero costume is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.