When Marvel Comics revealed the design of a new Captain America Thursday, Internet message boards lit up with discussion. Reaction to the redesigned costume - which takes elements from Cap's classic costume, his original 1940s era costume, and some completely new flair - ran the gamut of total support to complete outrage in CBR's own comment thread. Who's wearing the costume is still a mystery and is being left to fans to speculate on, but what we do know is that it's not Steve Rogers, who was shot and killed in "Captain America" #25, and the new Cap will be revealed in January's "Captain America" #34.
But what were the thoughts behind this redesign? To get the answer to that question and more, CBR News caught up with "Captain America" writer Ed Brubaker and the artist who designed this new costume, Alex Ross.
"I wanted something that had at least a touch of 'soldier' to it, personally," Ed Brubaker told CBR News. "But Alex had incredibly strong ideas and had done more research, and he really didn't want us to end up with something that looked like USAgent or the Ultimate Cap designs. We all knew it still had to be a superhero outfit and Alex's initial ideas had the exact flavor I was hoping to see, with the blend of the '40s movie serial look and his more classic superhero design sense. I felt like I was looking at costume designs from John Romita in the '70s or something."
Ross was approached to redesign Captain America's costume just a few short months ago. The first contact came from editor Tom Brevoort, who then scheduled a conference call with Ross, Brubaker and series artist Steve Epting. Ross had already done an early drawing of what he thought the costume should look like, which was very close to what the rest were hoping to see.
"I sort of instinctually knew what the character needed to have as part of his costume and what sort of design hybrid I needed to create," said Ross "If you tell me that say Iron Man is going to become the new Captain America, then I know what things to bring into it. You need a certain amount of instincts to design a new costume like this and you have to ask yourself questions like, 'OK, well, if you've never tried this before with the design, what would you try?' That's how I ended up bringing in the shield shape from the original 1941 shield and threw it on his chest and worked around that."
The redesigned costume is unmistakably Captain America, taking the red, white and blue American flag look of the classic design, but giving it an almost chromed-armor look, then adding some drama with a black body suit that goes down to Cap's feet. "I like the contrast very much. I think it's a good solution for today," said Ross. "In a way he's more armored than he was before, but there's also an appropriate stealth like quality with some restraint – it's not like we have red, white and blue all the way down to the ground."
As fans commented on the redesign Thursday, the most vocal reactions were to the addition of a utility belt and specifically the appearance of a gun and knife. While Brubaker couldn't comment at length about the choice of additions, as it's a key plot point to his story, he could put some speculation to rest. "I can say there was no symbolic intent or comment we were trying to make on America or anything by including the gun and knife," explained Brubaker. "It's just part of the costume and the look and the story. This new guy carries weapons, too. Who knows what else is in that utility belt? First Aid? Grenades? All is yet to be revealed."
Ross had a very clear idea of what had to be included and, especially, what needed to be avoided with the redesign. "The new costume is not as dark as USAgent, which was something I was walking a fine line with, reminding my collaborators all along that we don't want to do that," said Ross. "Nor did I want to do something that threw out some of the design elements like the Ultimate version did. I was absolutely adamant that he'd have those wings on his damn head! I'm not doing a design without the wings because I feel like now film makers and the like are out there imagining how to do this character in film and I feel if they saw in too many places Cap without the wings that they would feel they could film the character without the wings, but I don't want that. I want my cap with wings!
"I've done and I will continue to do through the 'Avengers/Invaders' project more illustrations of the character and I believe I have a way of illustrating classic Cap, much like Steve Epting, where it all works. You just have to get rid of the bright blue, that's the biggest sacrifice, but when you sit down and actually study a real flag, it never was bright blue. If you make him look more like the American flag, it works."
"I never imagined such a dark outfit until I saw Alex's initial sketches," said Brubaker. "I think the black will probably end up being a deep dark blue/black, probably, when the final pages are colored."
But why has all this darkness been added to this new costume? "Well, it corresponds to the character wearing the costume," teased Ross.
Before we closed the subject on the redesign, we lobbed possibly the two most important questions of the day at Brubaker. First, what does this new Captain American have in his canteen?
"A smoothie made of mom, apple pie and a baseball," responded Brubaker. "I don't think he'll actually carry a canteen in the book. I think that was just part of the sketch to show a utility belt. Not everything in a costume design sketch is literal."
Secondly, and most importantly, with this new Captain America on the scene this January, who'll be the new Bucky, Cap's long-time sidekick?
Brubaker responded, "Uncle Ben."