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Comic Book Legends Revealed #519

COMIC LEGEND: When designing Wonder Man's costumes, George Perez never knew what color they would be.

STATUS: True

One of the interesting aspects of early comic book coloring was that the pencilers on the titles almost never knew what color their character's costumes would be colored until the book was released. This was the status quo well into the 1980s. This led to an amusing result for George Perez when he designed a new costume for Wonder Man.

Here is Wonder Man's costume from his first appearance in Avengers #9...

He then "died" for many years. After he returned to life in Avengers #151, George Perez designed him a new costume in Avengers #161. It was...not well received.

While it is really not a good design period, the biggest problem is likely how the colors turned out, and Perez had no say in that. He later recalled to Erin Nolen-Weathington in Modern Masters: George Perez:

So when I saw the red and green I said, "Oh my God. I never counted on that." [laughter] In those days colors were rather limited and so many of the colorists were fine comic book colorists, but it wasn't like they had painting backgrounds. "We want these characters to stand out. Whar are the primary colors we can use that nobody else in the panel is using?" So poor Wonder Man ended up looking like a Christmas ornament, making an arguably hokey looking costume look a hell of a lot worse. [laughter]

The color scheme thing was an issue, although a lesser one, for his next costume, the more iconic safari jacket look.

Perez explained:

The idea I was going for - and I don't know if it was my idea or the writer's suggestion - was a Doc Savage type of approach to the character, where he wouldn't look quite as super-heroic with the spandex and everything. I consciously avoided giving him jodhpurs - I couldn't go that far into Doc Savage territory. [laughter] Just trying to make him the reluctant super hero.

Here's a Jim Steranko drawing of Doc Savage, just for a general idea of what a Doc Savage safari shirt looks like (so often they're torn to shreds)...

That look debuted in Avengers #167...

And once again, a primary color, red, is used for a safari jacket that was likely intended to be khaki. But at least it stood out in a good way this time!

Thanks to my pal Alan S. for suggesting this topic to me a while back.

On the next page, what was the reason behind the Ghost Rider/Hulk comic that didn't have the Hulk in it?

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