Another day, another comic book superhero who explodes into our consciousness (and Twitter feeds) to fight evil, save the world and introduce a brand new, discussion-starting and hopefully iconic costume. Case in point: "Marvel's Daredevil," which is instantly binge-able on Netflix starting Friday.
It'll be easy for even non-fan boys and girls to get sucked into the story of Matt Murdock, who was blinded as a child and now practices do-gooder law by day and fights crime with his super-heightened senses by night. (Of course, dishy Charlie Cox playing the titular hero doesn't hurt, either.) So, that means tailored suits for Murdock's nine-to-five, and what costume designer Stephanie Maslansky refers to as an "evolution" of crime-fighting looks for his extracurricular activities. In a costuming twist, Murdock begins the series kicking some villainous ass in a no-frills all-black outfit — what I like to think of as his gateway superhero look — while his signature red suit appears later on in the series.
Maslansky and Marvel producers wanted to pay homage to the the 1993 "Man Without Fear" five-issue comic miniseries, while keeping a grounded and realistic 21st century aesthetic — even when it came to the wardrobes. The designer, whose portfolio includes "White Collar" and ABC's "Black Box," also had the privilege of outfitting the entire cast of good and bad guys lurking about the show's gritty portrayal of Hell's Kitchen. These include Murdock's law partner, Foggy Nelson (Eldon Henson), who favors hipster-y ties, as well as the two contrasting femme fatales of the show — only one of which gets to wear Prada, Burberry and Alexander McQueen. Maslansky was more than happy to chat with me about it all, especially since I seem to be really interested in superhero costumes these days.
What was your inspiration in designing Matt Murdock's vigilante/starter Daredevil costume?
I collaborated with Joe [Quesada, executive producer] and Steven [DeKnight, showrunner] on the vigilante costume. and Joe, who’s an extraordinary artist, conceptualized the look. We wanted to make this costume look like something that Matt Murdock could put together himself, that he could either order off the Internet or shop around town. We always create backstories. We imagined that he’s flirtatious and he would go into shops and get people to help him — that way, he could put together what he felt was going to work in a practical way, in a protective way, for his vigilante activities. That costume, itself, evolves throughout the series. It has to, because he discovers early on that there wasn’t enough protection in that costume.
So what is he actually wearing for his initial outfit — are those cargo pants or was the outfit custom made?
I really wanted to put myself in his shoes and figure out where he would go. So I went to army/navy stores. I went online. I looked at athletic clothing, compression clothing, military stuff and construction stuff. I looked at everything, and we tried a lot of things. I even looked at fashion stuff: G-Star, Nike, Diesel, but we wound up with pretty practical choices for him. His shirts are compression shirts and his pants wound up being from an army/navy store. I think they might have been construction pants. If I were going to be in Matt’s head, I’d say to myself, "I need something that’s practical, that’s functional, that I can move in, that's utilitarian. I want to put stuff in my pockets." He ultimately had those sticks and he had to put those in his pockets and he had his mask — he had to have some place to put that.
How did you create his black mask?
We had to come up with ways to create this mask so that it wasn’t dangerous for him to wear it, but it looked like what we needed it to look like. That was really tricky. It’s made out of a cotton mesh. Layers and layers of it. It has to really conform to his head, but at the same time, he had to be able to see through it. It also had to, in Joe Quesada’s words, 'look really badass.'
What about the final red iconic costume that blew up the Internet, via Marvel's tweet?
I have to be honest about this: I did not create that costume. That costume was conceptualized by Marvel, and it was a huge deal. Fabrics were created, pieces were manufactured. The costume was created by utilizing a variety of craftsmen — let’s put it that way — and it really came together over time. What I've been led to understand is it’s typical of the superhero costumes in the Marvel cinematic universe that they are more or less created by comic illustrators themselves, because they're the ones that conceptualize these things. It’s kind of an odd way to work. I have the feeling that if it happens again, then I will get more involved. I told them that I want to. I think that it would be more efficient that way, but that said, I am really happy with the costumes that they came up with.
Did you ever see the Ben Affleck "Daredevil" suit from the much-maligned 2003 movie?
I saw pictures of it and I thought it was kind of hokey. It seems as though that particular movie didn't know if it wanted to be a cartoon or a real life story, a three-dimensional story. Our TV series does know what it wants to be, and we endeavored to make it so. That’s why I think that the stories and the lead up and the evolution of how the costume came about, they make sense.
As the costume designer on "White Collar," you know your way around a good men’s tailored suit. [Ah, Matt Bomer.] The majority of the "Daredevil" cast, both the heroes and villains, wear a lot of suits. So how do you use tailoring and menswear detailing to differentiate the characters and their stories?
I actually love doing men’s tailoring and since "White Collar," I’ve developed a real eye for it. It’s really hard to be around me if you’re a guy wearing a suit that doesn’t fit very well, because I’m going to notice everything. Men’s tailoring seems like it would be boring, but it’s not. The details are what create a particular costume and what can differentiate one man’s look from the next. Whether it’s the colors that we use, the combinations of shirts and ties or the textures are very important. Also, accessories like tie bars, belts, cuff links, ties, shoes, boots, socks... they all tell such a story.
What about Matt Murdock's suits in particular — tell me about his daytime, lawyer looks.
I really wanted to illustrate the complexity of his character by creating a look was consistent and uncomplicated, but full of depth. As an attorney, he wears a uniform everyday. His palette is limited though to black, white, tones of grey and tones of blue. And every piece in his closet coordinates with one another, but I achieved the depth in these especially textural fabrics.
If you notice, his suits are very textural as well. I felt as though, for a man whose sense of touch is so greatly enhanced because of his blindness, it was the right choice to make — ensuring that all of his clothes are very textural and the palette is very limited. Because, obviously, he can’t see his colors, but he has to know anything he chooses is going to coordinate with one another.
Who made his suits?
Mostly he wore Paul Smith suits, we found that they fit him best. Charlie was working out and getting stronger and more toned, and his size changed from the beginning of the show to the end. We had to keep up with that.
What about his distinct circular sunglasses?
His sunglasses are a prop. I worked very closely with our amazing prop master Michael Jortner. The glasses were Matt Murdock’s most important accessory and it had to be correct for this current, modern date and it also had to pay homage to what was familiar to fans throughout. I think that Matt tried on... I want to say close to 100 pairs of glasses to figure out which one should work. People had a lot to say about them, including Charlie.
Matt Murdock's law firm partner and daytime sidekick Foggy Nelson (Eldon Hensen) wears vintage-y ties, printed shirts, less structured suits and carries that beat up bag around the whole time — it's all so perfect for his character.
I didn’t want to buy him high-end clothes, so we looked around and found that Ted Baker, who’s actually another British clothier, did really fantastic suiting that worked really well for him. I always wanted his shirts to be patterned and his ties, if you look closely at them, you’ll see there’s always something distinct on them. He had a crawfish on one, grasshoppers on another. Every time we were shopping and found a tie that had some distinct little thing on it — a dog, a bull, a fork and spoon — we’d say, "Oh, there’s another Foggy tie."
We need to talk about the women on the show. What's the inspiration behind office assistant (and potential love interest) Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll)'s look?
I definitely wanted Karen to have a retro feeling to her, but I couldn’t put her in clothes that were too similar to what she wore in the illustrations of the ‘60s because those would be very dated. We wanted to give her a sexuality and a sensuality. When discussing her character, we felt she was a young woman who arrived in New York, maybe somewhere from the Midwest. She has all these dreams and fantasies, and all she knows about New York is what she’s seen in glamorous fashion magazines. She has images in her mind of Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. She comes to New York and has to work her ass off like the rest of us did. But she still has a dream that that could be her life, so she dresses in accordance to those thoughts: retro, slim skirts, tighter fitting tops and slim dresses.
Then, there's Vanessa Marianna (Ayelet Zurer) and she's the femme fatale, the glamour lady of the show. Where do you find her costumes?
In terms of comparing the two, I think their looks are slightly similar. There’s glamour and "femme fatale," although Vanessa, she really did live that life. She’s this mysterious woman who comes into Wilson Fisk’s [the kingpin villain played by Vincent D'Onofrio] life; she’s a glamorous art gallery owner and she has an interesting, but mysterious accent. She's lived a life that Karen could only wish for. But Vanessa’s clothes were definitely much more high-end, couture. I dressed her sometimes in Prada, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Victoria Beckham — we went all out. We had a lot of fun dressing her. She had beautiful shoes, she wore gorgeous coats, she had lovely jewelry. She also had this particular role to play, so that she needed to appeal to the kingpin. He wouldn’t go for just any chick in a pair of old jeans and a t-shirt.
This interview has been edited and condensed.