Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Captain America Redesign

Project Rooftop called for submissions to their latest redesign contest. For reasons unknown, I decided I'd try my hand. The subject of the competition: Captain America.

I wasn't the only interested party. My friends Cody Barnhill and Shane McDermott, both of whom are actual illustrators, each submitted entries. Check them out when you have a minute, until then, here's my stuff.

If I had my way, Steve Rogers would get to retire and enjoy a simpler life of painting and baseball games; but if he's staying in the game, he is going to remain Captain America. Steve operates at the physical peak of the human body, yet that still leaves him on a different level than his armored, mutant, robotic, and divine teammates. Captain America's true power lies in him being a symbol.

Symbols can change over time, but they have to remain recognizable; thus I kept the same colors a few of the design elements. Captain America has to feature red, white, and blue, so let's move on. The star dead center in the chest is absolutely necessary, but I'll get back to that a bit later. The gloves preserve his symbolic status in two ways: they are familiar, and they are red. The embodiment of everything good about America doesn't need to be seen with blood on his hands, therefore, red gloves are good. Steve has more of a claim on that shield than anyone, and I don't believe Barnes would let himself wield it if his mentor was still Captain America. Some things need to stay the same.

This is a redesign competition after all, so there are changes. Steve no longer has a secret identity, everyone the world over knows that he is the man carrying the shield. This is the reason for abandoning the mask. The zipper marks the top as a bit of attire more suited to quick changes than the spandex/plate-mail costume that he's been using. Captain America is one of the many comic book characters that is both superhero and soldier; opting for fatigues as the lower half of his outfit establishes his dual role.

The current Captain America, James "Bucky" Barnes, shouldn't have to give up the name. In fact, I think there needs to be more than one person bearing the title. Marvel doesn't have as many legacy heroes as their competitor, and they rarely have more than one person using a codename at a time. DC has 5 Green Lanterns, 3 Flashes, 2 Wildcats, and so on; Marvel could handle 2 Captain Americas (Captains America?). Furthermore, there needs to be more than one person in that role. From the Whigs and Tories of the 18th century to the Republicans and Democrats of today, America has always been a collection of viewpoints and opinions. To try and hold to all of these ideas, some of which are in direct opposition to one another, is too much for an individual. The United States is at its best when differing groups work together for a common goal. There needs to be more than one Captain America.

Bucky's costume, like Steve's, features red, white, and blue colors and the addition of some standard armed forces apparel. I opted to keep the mask in order to give James a chance to forge a life outside of the costume, but it's an easily-donned bandanna type instead of the balaclava-esque model currently in use. As I already mentioned, Steve's gloves are red in order to hide blood; still coming to terms with his violent past, Bucky wears white as a reminder to avoid bloodshed when possible. The cavalry style shirt is an obvious throwback to his days as Cap's sidekick, but, as those were the best days of his life, I don't think he'd object. This redesign features the return of the photonic shield utilized by Captain America in the late 90s. Barnes sees some of its practicality over the original shield, and it complements his bionic arm. Since he is still Captain America, and since I already established the superhero/soldier dichotomy being expressed through the addition of fatigues, I chose the urban camouflage.

His emblem is a stylized eagle consisting of red and white stripes and thirteen stars representing the original states. Captain America should always have a prominent insignia on his (or her) chest, or, to clarify, superheroes like Captain America should always have a prominent insignia on their chest. To walk about with a big target right over the heart is a mark of panache; it is both standard and challenge. That's the kind of guy Captain America has to be.