Creating live-action versions of superhero costumes in the DC Universe can be tricky. If not approached with the right level of craft, they could look ridiculous. Now that Nightwing is finally appearing in live-action for the first time on Titans, the team behind his costume went into detail on the looks of the series.
In a Q&A with the press during the unveiling of the Nightwing costume, members of the show's development team discussed the origins of the suit designs and how they reflect the changes in the characters across two seasons.
Visual Administrator Jenny Davis-Chen expanded on how the team used the history of DC Comics as their initial guide when designing their take on Nightwing. "For Nightwing in particular, as well as all our other characters, our jumping-off point is to look at every previous iteration of the character, because they have such a rich visual history. The priority for us is to really honor the source material and just looking at what these previous writers and artists had to offer with this character.
"So, in particular, we were looking specifically at the Dennis O'Neil run from the late 1990s in terms of the overall color story for him, and for the actual crest on his chest we were actually referencing a lot of post-Flashpoint stuff, the red and black suit, in terms of the symbol looking up at the guy instead of being in profile, like a lot of the more recent Nightwing suits. We also looked at a lot of softer armor... because he's a character who's grown from Robin to Nightwing. He's much more confident in his fighting ability, so the priority for this suit was increased mobility so that he could have that range of motion in terms of comparison to his Robin suit, which was more armored up. So we were looking at a lot of those low-profile armors."
Supersuits Designer Laura Jean Shannon elaborated on Davis-Chen's points about the history of the character and how that informed their decisions with the depiction of Nightwing. "We combined the research on generations of the character," Shannon explained, "and take the DNA of that character and infuse it into our interpretation that works for our storyline, works for our show, works in the overall aesthetic of what we do in Titans specifically, and ground it for the audience for our show. That goes into the concept art area of things with [Concept Artist] Gina De Demonico... then we move into Creative Character Engineering [to mold and build the suit]... and then it goes to paint."
Andrew Clement, who owns the model and molding company Creative Character Engineering said that, for him and his company, "we really wanted to make sure that however we generated the pieces, whether they were 3D printed or sculpted, there was a contour that really lent itself to that character.
"When we were choosing what avenue to go with Nightwing," Lesley Bercerra, head of operations at Creative Character Engineering explained, "it was really interesting because we'd largely moved a lot of our processes into 3D modeling and printing. You can do a bunch of beautiful things. But when we sat down to talk about how to create this character, we decided to take it back and do it a little old school... traditional hand-sculpting, like the original Batman suit. We had a lot of really talented sculptors on hand, and we took some of the 3D modelings and incorporated it into the sculpture. So you have this really old-school feeling."
For Shannon, it's the thrill of getting to bringing superheroes to the real world that appeals to her so much about the costume design in the series. "I really feel like that energy we infuse the suit with... as a sculptor myself and a costume designer, there's something about that tactile aspect of it. You can touch it and feel it and see it and not just have it as a digital thing. There's a soul to that, that you can't really get in a completely mechanical aspect."
The writing staff of the show have to figure out the plans for the suits in time for Shannon's team to construct them, which can come down to the last minute. Series Executive Producer and Showrunner Greg Wiseman brought up how "we're constantly managing the flow of when these will be ready for the episodes. There's a massive amount of work that goes with this. You'd be shocked how many hours this team has to put in. But when you see these suits, that not only work athletically -- they have to, and there's one for the stunt, there are many cases where there are two of the same suit, working at the same time, in different weather conditions... it has to work in the weather, it has to be photographed, it has to be athletic, it has to go into the stunts. But the proof is in the pudding..., for me, as a writer and producer, the most exciting things is that [the characters] come alive in those suits."
Reflecting on the Nightwing suit, Shannon pointed out just how long the suit was in development. "We started this [Nightwing] suit, its evolution is probably a year and a half.... When we're working on the conceptual work, I'll get with Greg and Sarah, my assistant costume designer, and we'll have a pow-wow... Geoff Johns [and others] will be in the room to see the suits as well. We'll start with all the reference material... I wouldn't say we got past just showing referential material in terms of going into the conceptual stuff. It was more of... the direction we took from the books."
For Wiseman, one of the most impressive aspects is how the costumes all work in tandem with one another. "We also want to make sure it's an ensemble so that no one suit is jumping out in front of the others. For all the psychological grounding we have in this show, it's also a show where we have people wearing super suits. There has to be a balance of that. You can only go so far in that relationship before you break with the audience... This is art. People being creative and doing their work. In the writer's room, we just touch computers. But we're surrounded by the best artists and get to work with so many talented people."
Streaming now on DC Universe, Titans Season 2 stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson, Anna Diop as Kory Anders, Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth, Ryan Potter as Garfield Logan, Curran Walters as Jason Todd and Conor Leslie as Donna Troy, with Minka Kelly as Dawn Granger, Alan Ritchson as Hank Hall, Joshua Orpin as Superboy, Chelsea Zhang as Rose Wilson, Chella Man as Jericho, Drew Van Acker as Aqualad, Esai Morales as Deathstroke and Iain Glen as Bruce Wayne.
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