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R.D. Olivaw and Bobby Fernando Present:


JUSTICE
or, The Twilight of the Superheroes

It is the year 2025. In the two decades since the appearance of the first true superhero - since Superman made himself known to the world - everything about the way we live has changed. But people... People haven't changed at all.

The Justice League, Earth's premier alliance of heroes, fell apart in the wake of Batman's out-of-control paranoia. Afterwards, Batman hung up his cape and cowl and retired from crime-fighting.

But it wasn't enough.

Now, the cries of the anti-superhuman protestors grow ever louder... Now, the great heroic dynasties begin to fray...

 

Now, there are whispers of the end of days.

DESIGNING
FOR  GODS

Costumes and Concepts

Superman.jpg
Turnarounds by R.D. Olivaw of a near-final Superman costume design.

The story starts with Superman - in real-life, in the world of JUSTICE, Superman is the codifier for 'the superhero' - so I started with Superman. 

I knew there were things I wanted to achieve from the outset. I wanted to 'solve' the perennial modern problem of Superman costumes, which is how to balance the suit's design when you remove the iconic but extremely camp trunks from the equation. I knew I wanted it to feel more 'dynastic', embracing the much mooted notion that the Superman costume is some kind of Kryptonian heirloom. I wanted the cape to meet the pentagonal S-emblem, because I was thinking about heroic mantles, Disney's HERCULES, and things of that nature.

To address the balance problems, I chose to split the suit along loose anatomical lines between a lighter and darker blue (which also solved the matter of deciding if it was a lightly-coloured suit or a darkly-coloured suit). Bobby and I went back and forth a couple of times regarding the materials, largely over how much of the suit would be composed of post-Bryan Hitch 'realistic' textures. We knew we wanted to invoke mail shirts and the image of long-forgotten, long-dead 'Knights of Krypton', but we also wanted to avoid the suit disappearing into a mess of details. Bobby proposed a mock-leather texture on the darker portions which, combined with the two-tone split, helped create the illusion of a tabard - so that was that.

We carried over the modern conceit of red 'cuffs' on the suit, but expanded them out from my initial sketches into larger, more organic shapes, complemented by the addition of some 'shark gill' details where the suit transitions from light-blue Kryptonian mail through to dark-blue hide. The proposed belt, which I envisioned as a solid element, was reworked into a thicker, more complex and open design, while a small series of additional raised details were incorporated into the S-emblem to keep it consistent with the rest of the suit's embellishments.

Flashbacks during JUSTICE establish that in his earliest days, Clark Kent donned the ever-popular Grant Morrison/Rags Morales jeans-and-a-tee-shirt combo, working from hazy half-memories of the symbol to allow me to use the Fleischer Studios uellow-bordered, red-on-black design. 

The story of JUSTICE finds Superman at a turning point. He's about 42 - a portentous age for an all-American icon - and increasingly disturbed by the tone taken in discussions surrounding him, by the demands that he become some manner of world leader. He doesn't want to be a superman, just Superman - he doesn't want to be an ubermensch dispatching edicts from an ivory tower. He wants to settle down with Lois Lane and make the world a better place one step at a time. In this regard, we can view him as having 'sold out' and betrayed his proletarian landlord-hurling roots, but crucially, he's fully aware of this. There's a disturbing sensation at the pit of his stomach that he's made the world measurably worse off by putting on his costume and doing the right thing.


SUPERMAN
Final Design by Bobby Fernando, from Sketches by R.D. Olivaw

Batman, as Designed by R.D. Olivaw and Bobby Fernando

Bobby and I came to the Batsuit - and Bruce Wayne himself -  from a hybrid in-universe, out-of-universe viewpoint. We knew that JUSTICE took place at the 'terminus' of our DC Universe, which meant that Batman was going to be old as balls. He would have matured right through all the classic Batman 'phases', probably have experienced events similar to many major Batman storylines. He'd have started out as a grim avenger of the night, gone on up through being the globetrotting sex-god of Grant Morrison and Denny O'Neil, and would be approaching something new and vast and unfathomable... Ageing out.

With all this in mind, we focused on the Batsuit not as 'the' Batsuit but 'a' Batsuit, the 'current' Batsuit. We looked at designs by Michael Wilkinson for numerous Zack Snyder projects, but also to lesser-known Batman stories - even at designs that had never been approved, only mooted. In the end, we wanted a 'pop-icon' Batman, a Batman who was brand-conscious... A Batman who kicks ass and sells toys.

Which was entirely reasonable, because in-story, after Batman's forced retirement, he does exactly that.

Shock, horror! Seeking to fund a new generation of caped crusaders, Bruce Wayne does what billionaires do best and cashes in on the Batman 'brand'. He licenses his image to toymakers, writes self-help books, and even publishes a bestselling autobiography (hilariously titled Yes, Father).

This was of course intended to feel entirely perverse.


BATMAN
Final Design by Bobby Fernando, from Sketches by R.D. Olivaw

R.D. Olivaw's initial sketch for Batman in JUSTICE.

 

With all of this in mind, with Wilkinson's work as a key touchstone, we dug into the visual language of Batman. Trunks were a no-go, but we wanted to invoke them, hence  the nifty segmented plates over a sci-fi undersuit. Rather than trunks going over the costume, the space was created by a gap in the costume. The circle was squared.

Cape had to be big, dramatic, and cheekily bright. Again - this is a pop-art Batman at the height of his powers. He doesn't want to scare children, only supervillains.

The back-brace is of course a suggestive nod to the seminal 1990s story Knightfall, implying that Batman has had his spine cracked by the infamous Bane at least once... The purple gloves make a direct callback to the earliest Batman comics.

We thought a great deal about materials. I liked the idea of the cowl being more 'mask-like', with the rear section some kind of suede. Bobby ran with it, creating the striking two-tone silhouette.

Bobby's Notes

The influence of the 1966 television series was very strongly felt - frankly, it was the direct inspiration for the pseudo-suede cowl when I started drawing it. Not only as a style reference, but as something to incentivise more dynamic lighting. Suddenly, there's this material that shines when lit in a certain way, pulling Batman 'out of the shadows', out of the hard, rim-lit setups he's so commonly seen in. Which really makes a lot of sense when we consider Bruce's 'going public' and franchising the Bat.

The armour plates were very strategically placed. I was thinking a lot about Bruce as a man in middle-age, needing to protect his most vulnerable spots, less focused on mobility because he doesn't have that kind of mobility any more. But it was important to keep away from a bulky silhouette... I didn't want him ending up in the realm of the anti-Superman mech suit from The Dark Knight Returns - especially when that's been referenced back to so, so many times.

Aquaman's Atlantean History Tattoo, Designed by Bobby Fernando


AQUAMAN 
Final Design by Bobby Fernando, from Outlines by R.D. Olivaw    

Aquaman presented a unique challenge for us. Despite a long history, he's really only had two major costumes, with everything else either a variation on a theme or remarkably short-lived.

We focused in on the story, and using the design to tell the story. If this was the 'end' of the Aquaman saga what would that mean for Orin Arthur Curry, King of the Seven Seas? Where does his narrative wind up? We thought about Atlantis and tried to find a new wrinkle, settling on it as a kind of post-neopagan foment, not quite Viking, not quite Celtic, not quite Norman.

From there, we explored the motifs of various Arthur stories. That's Arthur Pendragon, to be clear. We looked at one of the emergent narratives orbiting Arthuriana, the idea that it represents the demise of the occult and the rise of the Christian Briton, and applied a similar lens to Orin's tale. This would be an Aquaman who was about to get his fondest wish - an end to his duties as King and a return to a freewheeling life - but would get it through the abolition of Atlantean monarchy altogether, and the emergence of a deep-sea republic. This would of course be informed by the Senate's resentment of his 'half-breed' status, making it a bittersweet thing.

 

Since Jason Momoa's debut as Aquaman, tattoos have been a 'thing' for the character. We played around with the idea of tattoos as a cultural history and how to integrate them with our layered armour (itself a double-homage, referencing not only the standard Aquaman costume but also the rippling wave-pattern wetsuit), resulting in a 'Bayeux Tapestry' tattoo. The octopus-like ink commemorates all of Atlantean history - Arthur carries his heritage on his shoulders, literally.

As a nod to the classical Arthur cycles, Orin's mighty trident carries the legend 'TAKE ME UP / CAST ME AWAY' along the shaft. Bobby also innovated in a delightful manner by making his trousers too long, both suggesting the classic fin-legged arrangement and reminding us that gravity does not apply in Atlantis.

Aquaman presented a unique challenge for us. Despite a long history, he's really only had two major costumes, with everything else either a variation on a theme or remarkably short-lived.

We focused in on the story, and using the design to tell the story. If this was the 'end' of the Aquaman saga what would that mean for Orin Arthur Curry, King of the Seven Seas? Where does his narrative wind up? We thought about Atlantis and tried to find a new wrinkle, settling on it as a kind of post-neopagan foment, not quite Viking, not quite Celtic, not quite Norman.

From there, we explored the motifs of various Arthur stories. That's Arthur Pendragon, to be clear. We looked at one of the emergent narratives orbiting Arthuriana, the idea that it represents the demise of the occult and the rise of the Christian Briton, and applied a similar lens to Orin's tale. This would be an Aquaman who was about to get his fondest wish - an end to his duties as King and a return to a freewheeling life - but would get it through the abolition of Atlantean monarchy altogether, and the emergence of a deep-sea republic. This would of course be informed by the Senate's resentment of his 'half-breed' status, making it a bittersweet thing.

 

Since Jason Momoa's debut as Aquaman, tattoos have been a 'thing' for the character. We played around with the idea of tattoos as a cultural history and how to integrate them with our layered armour (itself a double-homage, referencing not only the standard Aquaman costume but also the rippling wave-pattern wetsuit), resulting in a 'Bayeux Tapestry' tattoo. The octopus-like ink commemorates all of Atlantean history - Arthur carries his heritage on his shoulders, literally.

As a nod to the classical Arthur cycles, Orin's mighty trident carries the legend 'TAKE ME UP / CAST ME AWAY' along the shaft. Bobby also innovated in a delightful manner by making his trousers too long, both suggesting the classic fin-legged arrangement and reminding us that gravity does not apply in Atlantis.


FLASH 
Final Design by Bobby Fernando, from Sketches by R.D. Olivaw    

Flash was designed with speed in mind -which seems obvious, but then the question became 'what does speed look like'? How could we reinvent the one superhero costume that has, straightforwardly, changed in only the most minor ways since the fifties?

We dug into a few different places. We looked at sports, giving us the idea for a short-sleeved, long gloved look - which had been done in some stories before, like The Dark Knight Strikes Again - and we looked at aeronautics. We looked back at the original Flash (Jay Garrick) and how his costume had been interpreted since 1940. That gave us the idea to introduce an additional colour (blue) into the mix, and to refine the small and fiddly lightning-in-a-sphere logo into a big, bold emblem. 

Chelsea style boots (horrendously impractical for running, but we're allowed some dramatic license) allowed us to create continuity with the flowing sprinter-suit style pattern over the whole body, and the addition of some slender piping afforded us the opportunity to have the costume glow during motion, creating a streak of light.

 

Bobby added some touches I hadn't considered at all - blue fringes at the shoulder, red extensions to the gloves, and an added non-illuminating pipe array - that really tied the whole thing together. This costume says momentum, baby.

Which was ironic, because our take on Barry Allen himself is the quintessential 'guy standing still' approach. But much more depressing.

The Flash, as Designed by Bobby Fernando and R.D. Olivaw
R.D. Olivaw's initial sketch for the Flash.
Exploratory 3D render by R.D. Olivaw of Bobby Fernando's Flash design

Bobby's Notes

The big challenge with Flash is to keep him from looking like a bobblehead. The form-fitting bodysuit - so essential when you're working with a guy who goes fast - and the need for a hard, solid, protective helmet (which was here directly inspired by cycling helmets, the swept-back high-tier athletic kind), they can create an unbalanced look. So I thought about how to connect them, with the solid red shell over the blue fabric, creating a downward flow.

Actually, "downward flow" is the keyword here. Because the suit has to have a proportional balance, maintaining the 'superhero figure' without sacrificing function and the influence of athletic gear... The 'wings' on the shoulders bulk up the shapes (which would otherwise be very rounded), and the "flow" determined the direction of the 'power lines' that terminate at the boots. The rear side uses the trapezius muscles to create natural flow leading to this particular superhero's essential tools: his legs.

The colours were given a relatively even spread, the red/blue/gold given clear and balanced boundaries. There's gold elements at the five 'focal points' - the little hood ornament ears, the gloves and boots, the chest insignia. Normally, Flash costumes are almost entirely red, with accent yellow/gold sections, so once we opened the suit up with some blue portions, it felt like a bold and distinct direction to make the insignia big - and this ties the spread of colour together much more effectively than the smaller logo in the traditional white disc would have done.

Initial sketches for Liss Nil by R.D. Olivaw
Green Lantern Liss Nil, an Original Character Concept by R.D. Olivaw and Bobby Fernando


GREEN LANTERN (Liss Nil)
 Final Design by Bobby Fernando, from Sketches by R.D. Olivaw 

You're all asking me, right now, "who the hell is Liss Nil"?

Liss is the fulcrum on which JUSTICE turns. She is - and I fully admit to this - an original character in a derivative work. But she's also the most interesting thing I could possibly think to do with the Green Lantern mythos, a mythos I have obsessed over longer than any other comic-book stuff.  We threw out pretty much everything and started from as close to scratch as you can get. I won't get into the nitty-gritty here but the Green Lantern stuff, as interpreted by me and Bobby? It's nuts. It's revelatory. It's gonna blow your goddamn minds.

I envisioned Liss as totally out of place on planet Earth, doing her level best to be a 'normal person' while entirely removed from any cultural or social touchstones. She'd be self-consciously and effortlessly cool in a drop-out punk-rock way.

Liss needed to be strong of body but also slight and, when compared to everyone else, alarmingly young. She's probably 28 when the story starts, and has been stranded on Earth (which is her ancestral home, but she herself was raised lightyears away on Korugar) for the best part of a decade. Here, she's a well-liked superhero, but in deep space, she's a much-missed poster-girl for the revolution against the sinister Dominators, who control the majority of the inhabited galaxy. She'd do anything to get back out there.

Liss wears a simple pressure suit under refurbished gear she used as a member of the wrecker crews on Korugar, stripping down huge vessels for scrap. The only major embellishments are a light overspray - including the emblem of the long-dead Green Lanterns - and an engraving in some alien script that reads 'N*zi Punks F#@k Off'.

Tried to marry two far-flung schools of influence together here, in the vein of the modern subgenre of 'space western'. There's a lot of straps, belts, leatherette... Stuff to make you think of cowboys and outlaws, high-noon shootouts. The boots are deliberately invoking the sheriff's spurs, and the asymmetrical approach emphasises that while she's from the deep reaches of outer space, she's a scrappy 'last bastion' type. She's got a torn cape, a lot of makeshift wraps and broken straps - all elements afforded to her by the initial space cowboy design.


Bobby's Notes

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