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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 2:32am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

At the time this costume change worked well.   It had an in-story expanation behind it and generated press and public interest outside the sometimes-insular world of comic books.   The reactions may have been mostly mixed-to-positive but what's important is people still remember it.

Then in the 90s someone tried to replicate that success and gave Peter four new costumes -- because four crappy costumes are better than one good one, right?

... and I bet you only remembered that storyline because I just brought it up (and probably wish I hadn't!).
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 3:14am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

So, does the Black Costume pass what I call The Ditko Test?

1) Could you recognize a character if you were shown only a small portion of their costume -- typically a boot or a glove?

2) Now show that same boot or glove to a non-comics fan.  Do they also recognize the character?   

I'd say the Black Costume kind of falls in the middle.   

Show a comics fan a black costume boot and they might figure it out -- Spider-man famously had a black costume once, right?   Show a fan a BC glove -- yes (and now I understand why the white patch on top of the glove is so important to the look, regardless of the logistics of how the webs work)

The non-comics fan... ehh probably not for both the boot and the glove.

The original Red and Blues (or Red and Blacks, if you swing that way) are the control.  It usually bats high, if not 1000 for the test on both comic and non-comic fans.

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 3:33am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Not just four new costumes, as I recall, Rob, but four entirely new identities. Protege', Dusk, Firefly (or somesuch), and another I can't recall at all. If Peter's problem with being Spider-Man is that Spider-Man is a curse, maybe he could just go out and fight crime as somebody else, the theory went. Then, once the identities were established and Spidey once again took up the onus of just being Spidey, four other heroes assumed the roles (one of them a woman) and struck out immediately, vanishing from the general consciousness faster than the memory of Trump's last lie to the American public.

It was an early experiment in spinning off from the Spider-Man success story without necessarily duplicating the character with near-exact copies. What Marvel found, of course, was that near-exact copies were really what the public wanted.

I also found the characters weirdly reminiscent of the Kirbyverse line for some reason, and they didn't establish a long-lasting foothold in the public imagination either, although I believe they were far more deserving of one.

As for the black costume itself, I remember thinking at the time what a great marketing gimmick it was and a wonderful means of changing everything while changing nothing. The alien elements that it brought to Peter's daily life were unfortunate, but all of Marvel blurred and blended it's individual colors into one, massive purple-gray bruise anyway. Spidey still knows Thor and hung out on more than one occasion with the Guardians of the Galaxy. An alien costume wasn't that far a bridge to cross. 

Also, it was the Marvel Era of Highly Publicized Change and New Visuals anyway. The FF got their nun costumes. Iron Man was in his Silver Centurion armor, completely removing any reason to call him the "Golden Avenger," and there were rumors in the air that Jim Shooter was going to kill Peter Parker and maybe replace him with Flash Thompson since "anybody could be Spider-Man." 

The overall effect left me a little non-plussed. I was excited one by one with the changes initially, but taken all together, it somehow made everything less believable rather than more. It seemed a little forced. Soon after, Captain America would be replaced (because anybody can be Captain America), Mr. Fixit would take over for the Hulk, Thor would grow a beard and wear a more ceremonial set of armor. After that, we'd begin losing the characters entirely with USAgents, Thunderstrikes, and War Machines. 

Something about the very idea of identity became dislodged in the Marvel creative formula and open season was the rule, all year 'round, every year. Is it exciting to have "everything up for grabs" and nothing you can rely upon?

I'm going to vote no. 

All of that being said, I find the black costume weirdly nostalgic now, in a way I don't associate with the other changes from that time. Something about my aesthetic sense has decided that I kind of like the visual, or maybe I enjoyed those comics from that time more than I realized. It may just be that they were among the last comics that I did enjoy in an non-cynical, unqualified way. That Byrne cover with the white soles. The building turning to gold. I liked all of that at the time in some sort of way I no longer seem to be able to anymore, even in back issues.


Edited by Brian Hague on 06 December 2018 at 3:34am
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 3:42am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I will agree that it is far less specific to the character, looked at inch-by-inch. Ditko's original and the Romita variation are far more distinctive to the character and idea of Spider-Man. The later McFarlane cartoon version lost the idea of a human figure inside the costume, but nevertheless retained those webs and blue-black and red color combo. 

The black costume was far more reliant on Spidey's distinctive body language and poses to convey the idea that Peter was still the guy inside that suit.

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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 4:51am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Not just four new costumes, as I recall, Rob, but four entirely new identities. Protege', Dusk, Firefly (or somesuch), and another I can't recall at all.

-----

Prodigy, Dusk, Hornet, and Ricochet. Prodigy emphasized Peter's superhuman strength, Ricochet played on his agility, Hornet was his science/tech side, and I never understood what Dusk's deal was.
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Trevor Thompson
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 6:59am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I once asked Shooter how those back-of-the-hand webshooters were supposed to work. In Ditko’s original design, the weblines shot straight out across Peter’s palm, making it the easiest thing in the world for him to grab them. Shooter informed me that “all he had to do” was flip his hand over to grab the line. Couldn’t make that any way practical in my mind.

_________________________________

This is why you're great at what you do. I'd have never have thought of that.

It really doesn't make sense. All that twisting his wrist makes web-swinging difficult.
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Mike Norris
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 11:55am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

The original Red and Blues (or Red and Blacks, if you swing that way) are the control.  It usually bats high, if not 1000 for the test on both comic and non-comic fans.
************************************************************ ***************
Excluding my mother ( and a few others) who have called Spider-Man "Superman" on a few occasions. ;) 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 2:02pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Ah, civilians! Roger Stern tells of attending a Halloween parade, decades ago. When a float full of superheroes rolled by, a young mother pointed at Captain America and said to her kid “Look! Spider-Man!”
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Stephen Churay
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 3:32pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I liked it. I think after they started
adding blue highlights to it, the costume
lost its effect.
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 4:15pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

It sure did. 
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Vinny Valenti
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 5:15pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

It was always a treat to see JB draw the black costume since it did not happen very often. I'm sure that at this point he's drawn it more often in commissions than in actual comics!

For a while I used this as my desktop background (after quick use of the fill tool):
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 6:43pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

The original Red and Blues (or Red and Blacks, if you swing that way) 

-----

In the upcoming sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man has a red and black costume. In some of the set photos I've seen, the reflections off the shiny black actually have a bluish cast, so now I have a real-world example of what the blue highlights were meant to portray.
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 06 December 2018 at 6:56pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

I still have the black costume Spider-Man figure from the original Secret Wars toyline around here somewhere, but sadly not the shield that came with it.

Would love to see a properly done live action version of it on film someday. The previously mentioned palette changed Spider-Man 3 costume didn't cut it.


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Stéphane Garrelie
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Posted: 07 December 2018 at 5:15am | IP Logged | 14 post reply

The only time i liked it was in Kraven's Last Hunt. There i even loved it.
The rest of the time?
I don't like it when a character loses his classic costume.
No, i wasn't happy either (at the time) to see Wolverine lose his yellow costume, and i liked the new costume, what i didn't like was that we wouldn't see the yellow one anymore. Oddly enough it took the return of the yellow costume and lot of bad comics with Logan wearing it to make me nostalgic of the... "furry"? "brown"? "Byrnesque" (but for me, the yellow one too, was associated to JB) one. Today i love as much the yellow one (that was in most of the stories of my favorite X-men era -Claremont/Byrne/Austin-) than of the brown/orange, now classic, one (that not only is a cool concept, but is associated only with good stories in my mind.

But we're talking of Spider-man's black costume. The classic red and blue (or black but for me blue) one is beautiful (even more beautiful with blue in it).
The black one is....black.. with a white spider... a b.. a huge white spider on it...not ugly.. or anything else either... but only Mike Zeck made me find it beautiful. I am aware of JB's cover were it is, and that's a nice cover, but that's only one drawing, maybe, even probably, JB's style is one of the things that could have MAYBE made me like it, like Zeck did. Ron Frenz wasn't abble to do that, and Ron Frenz is a very talented artist too.

There's one exception where i loved a new costume more than the original: that's JB's new uniform for the Fantastic Four. That's the exception that confirms the rule. (notice that i also love the Kirby classic blue. I wonder how much my love for the Miracle Man early story, and the fact that later i liked, as a temporary thing, Johnny's red costume, played a part? Was it only aestetic considerations, my taste for the new design? I don't know. Suddenly even the already great art seemed more beautiful because of this new costume. All those blacks & dark blue (and white)  were like a new light.

Obviously Daredevil' red costume is the classic one, the yellow and red one is only a prologue. The... what? Grey...mmm... not really armor..grey and red renforced costume of the 90s always seemed to me to be there only temporarily, and i took it as something that wasn't there to stay. I liked it, as something linked to a storyline.

But Spider-man's black costume and Wolverine furry (i like this maybe more than brown to describe it) seemed there both to stay. (maybe risky that furry thing..mm "brown and fury"? "Brown fur"? mmm "Brown fur and orange tissues"? or maybe velor)

I probaly would have less minded the black costume had i known i would have the red and blue one back.


Edited by Stéphane Garrelie on 07 December 2018 at 6:29am
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