The expansion of the superhero universe on both the big and small screen continues with "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," premiering on Thursday, Jan. 21. The series is a spin off of the CW's successful "The Flash" and "Arrow," as well as the latest in super-producer Greg Berlanti's DC empire (also featuring "Supergirl" on CBS). The CW superhero shows also all share one supersuit designer, Maya Mani, who — fun fact — designed costumes for the pilot of "Pretty Little Liars." (Zoom, Damien Darhk, A... Villains are menacing no matter the universe, right?)
Mani didn't necessarily start out with the goal of creating all the superhero (and mega-villain) costumes for CW's DC portfolio; Oscar winner Colleen Atwood actually designed the original suits for the "Arrow" and "The Flash" characters. But by season four of "Arrow" and season two of "The Flash," Mani debuted a new short-sleeve version of Oliver Queen's (Stephen Amell's) Green Arrow suit and a tweaked scarlet speedster onesie for Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), respectively. So how does one score the superlative designation of supersuit designer? "I just started chipping away [at the original Arrow suit] and they kept throwing me more and more to do," she said. "It certainly didn't happen overnight."
Mani's super-work will next be seen in "Legends of Tomorrow," which follows a ragtag squad of maybe-heroes already introduced on "The Flash" and "Arrow:" the resurrected Sara Lance/White Canary; unemployed billionaire inventor Ray Palmer/A.T.O.M.; perpetually reincarnating couple, Hawkman/Carter Hall and Hawkgirl/Kendra Saunders; and mechanic turned transmuting metahuman Firestorm/Jefferson "Jax" Jackson. A nattily dressed Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) assembles the skeptical group to battle the immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), who's out to destroy the world. So that means a season of time travel, masterfully choreographed fight scenes, quippy one-liners and a profusion of superhero and super-villain suits. (Lovable baddies Captain Cold, played by Wentworth Miller, and Heatwave, played by Dominic Purcell, remain in their sporty outerwear developed by "The Flash" costume designer Kate Main.)
"While I can't tell you the names of the heroes and villains that will be showing up, I can tell you that this season, between the three shows, I have designed 15 characters so far [by December 2015]," Mani hinted. While you parse that sentence and do the math, the supersuit designer takes us through each of the characters' world saving, butt-kicking costumes.
WHITE CANARY/SARA LANCE (CAITY LOTZ)
After sister Laurel took over the patent leather-outfitted Black Canary persona (and that whole return to life via the Lazarus Pit thing), Sara Lance takes on the White Canary alter ego — and new look. As with all of the characters, Mani looked to the original comics for inspiration and "extrapolated" from there. The full outfit is a combination of leather-looking matte jersey and true leather, which can "take a beating." The final product was then airbrushed for a "dirty white" effect. "I still wanted her to have that worn-in, tough look even though she was in white," Mani said.
The designer did bring over some elements from Sara's original Black Canary jacket and quad-hugging pants. "Although, we wanted to not go with the bustier idea, partly because White Canary doesn't wear one, but also because it gets really chilly [in Vancouver]," Mani laughed. At first glance, Sara's high-halter neckline makes sense as compared to her previous cleavage-bearing ensemble — intensive fight scenes and all (and Lotz does a lot of her own stunts). But Mani had her (literally) covered. "Nothing ever fell out, I have to tell you," she said. "The corset kept her hammered down."
A.T.O.M./RAY PALMER (BRANDON ROUTH)
After his accidental shrinkage and miniaturized imprisonment by Damien Dahrk, the exo-suited Ray Palmer solves his career crisis in the new series. Mani says there aren't any major changes to his costume, save "alterations and enhancements" on the elbow and hip joints needed after those ravaging action sequences on the "Arrow" and "The Flash."
A.T.O.M.'s two-part ensemble — the exo-skeleton outer layer and a flexible undersuit — does indeed come with electronic components. "There are two buttons on the suit that you push and you see the lights on his back go up," Mani said. "It's kind of neat." Also functional: There's room in his gauntlet (or his gloves, in comic book speak) for his iPod Nano. For "when a superhero just needs to calm down," she said. While fitting actor Routh into the layered suit does require a dresser, the routine is now down to a streamlined "10-minute affair." And if nature calls during shooting? "Then they take him out of it. It's not a big deal," assured Mani, answering the question we all wanted to ask.
HAWKMAN/CARTER HALL (FALK HENTSCHAL) AND HAWKGIRL/KENDRA SAUNDERS (CIARA RENÉE)
During one of the always welcome "Arrow" and "The Flash" crossovers, Hawkman aka Carter Hall aka Egyptian Prince Khufu reunited with love interest Hawkgirl aka Kendra Saunders aka Princess Chay-Ara — it's hard to keep track of names when they keep reincarnating after being continuously offed by Vandal Savage. Mani again went off of the original comic book characters, saying, "I wanted them to look a little less street-y and a bit more warrior." (Their helmets were designed by special effects makeup artist Bill Terezakis, who did "The Flash" cowl.)
Hawkman and Hawkgirl are two of four flying characters on the show, so Mani thought strategically to make allowances for the stunt equipment. "The challenge was to figure out a harness suit where you can comfortably fit a harness and not make them look like the Michelin Man," she said. So the designer added subtle zippers in the back of the pants for the rings to connect to the wires. "They can open those up, pull those out and it's not a big deal."
Also, spoiler: The hawk wings are CGI, so Mani's costumes had to allow for special effects to be added during post-production. She made the back of Hawkgirl's top lower so the wings could seamlessly pop out. "Otherwise, she's bursting through her costume right?" Mani said. For Hawkman, she added overlapping leather on his jacket with a gap allowing for feathers. While Mani continued the Hawk costumes' color palette, which originated on "Arrow," she did have to be careful with the verdant tones. "You have to make sure the green doesn't interfere with the green screen," she said.
FIRESTORM/JEFFERSON JACKSON (FRANZ DRAMEH)
We first saw auto mechanic turned one-half of flying atomic particle rearranging Firestorm in a starter supersuit on "The Flash." But for his move over to "Legends," Mani upgraded his black bomber jacket and trousers look to a sleek red and orange ensemble closer to the comic book iteration. "I wanted him to be a bit more armored," she said. Mani also made a tweak with the "quantum splicer" — that four-pronged spotlight on the jacket — which was more of a detachable accessory on "The Flash."
"We sunk it into the chest so that it was a bit more flush and it wasn't this appendage sticking out," Mani explained. And yes, there is a real light in the splicer — and it's not CGI. "There's a little battery pack in the back — you can switch it on, and bing!"
RIP HUNTER (ARTHUR DARVILL)
In the comics, superhero wrangler and time traveling Rip Hunter wears an orange and green onesie, but British actor (and "Doctor Who" veteran) Arthur Darvill's version has more of a rakish, "Luther"-esque overcoat situation — popped collar, check. On "Legends," Hunter travels back to the present from 2116, but Mani wanted to forgo a dorky futuristic aesthetic. "I wanted him to be a bit more swashbuckle-y," she said. She reimagined the character with a custom-made camel overcoat that perfectly billows out in the back — and would probably fit right in at Pitti Uomo. "The coat has a great swish when he walks. It's not this big sack that hangs there," Mani added. The costume designer did, however, pay homage to the comics with a chicer, slim-fit update on "those weird cargo pants" that Hunter wears when he's not in his veggie colored suit. "I wanted to acknowledge that, but in a more modern way," Mani said.
"DC's Legends of Tomorrow" premieres at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21 on the CW.