Thursday, March 13, 2014

Scarlet for yeh: Early thoughts on the new 'The Flash' costume

I spoke recently about ‘Arrow’ and its early efforts to impress its viewers with weekly adventures in the colourful world of comic book vigilantery. Enjoying a swell of success, the eager producers saw fit to expand their own little pocket DC Universe and they introduced Barry Allen, played by the aptly named Grant Gustin.

 Over the course of a handful of Season 2 episodes, the sub-plot of a ‘STAR Labs Particle Accelerator’ plot device was (often forcibly) inserted into the background of Arrow’s plots. We’d see a RoboCop-esque news report where the newsreader would begin by talking about the accelerator before seguing into something pertaining to that particular episode’s actual plot. It wasn’t as smooth or as subtle as it was trying to be, but it was cute nonetheless.

Well, the end result of this was an explosion of Unknown Science - a way of explaining away the less credible tradition of Barry Allen getting struck by lightning and this somehow leading to his speediness (thankfully though they did keep the lightning strike in there, for fun).

A few months later and we’ve received our first tantalising look at the Scarlet Speedster himself through the usual avenues: Two official photos released by the CW network which while impressively shot, deceptively conceal a lot of questions fans have about certain aspects of the suit.

Then there’s the usual smattering of more revealing set photos taken by paparazzi. As usual, these are less graceful, but they give us a better idea of how the suit is going to look in a typical episode (they’re currently filming the pilot).

First and foremost, it’s good to see that the producers of the programme are embracing a fully-fledged superhero costume, instead of messing around with Smallville-esque half measures (leather jackets, hooded tops and eye-makeup - much like the Arrow costume). The helmet/mask is unquestionably belonging to The Flash of the comics. Much of the body of the costume is equally impressive, although as many have pointed out, the pleather pants are a bit of an eyesore and make less sense for a character known for speed than normal athletic wear (such as the kind featured on the upper torso of the costume) would.

Some have pointed out that the darker hue of red is too bleak and reminiscent of the Ben Affleck Daredevil costume. I’ve never had much of a problem with muted colours in costume designs - like it or not, loud garish comic book palettes don’t mesh well with contemporary cinematic colour schemes. Even the Marvel Studios movies (which fanboys love to trolley out and use as an example of everything that’s right with the world - even when the films aren’t deserving of the association) recognise this. Also, it’s important to remember that depending on lighting and colour correction in post-production, the suit could potentially appear a lot more vibrant in certain scenes - this was certainly the case in the 1990s ‘The Flash’ series, where the suit’s vibrancy varied. On that subject the 1990s Flash TV series severely under-rated; go and watch it.  

(The original costume, with some PhotoShoppery by Eoin O'Sullivan)

My biggest problem is the logo. It’s odd that the makers decided to move away from the instantly recognisable Flash emblem - a lightning bolt over a white circle. Simple, clean, iconic. The lightning bolt is still there, but the circle is a vibrant red that doesn’t compliment the darker burgundy of the rest of the suit. Irrespective of any desire to see things the way they are in the source material, from a purely aesthetic point of view, the white logo always served the colour palette of the costume well, as it really set off the rest of the costume. This red alternative is off-putting and uncomfortable to look at. As someone pointed out, the root of this change may have something to do with making it easier to change the colours - using a flat white would be more difficult in this sense. I still don’t see why they couldn’t just make it a more metallic silver though, like Captain America’s movie costume.

On the subject of Captain America, some have complained of aesthetic similarities between the two.

Again, this isn’t really fair - the Flash has always had a similar mask to Captain America, even the lightning bolts on the mask have occasionally been drawn as wings in the past. And if you really want to get pedantic about it, the Flash has actually had those wings on the side of his mask longer than Captain America, as he’s a year older (or the Jay Garrick version is, at least). It’s also worth remembering that on a television budget, the design wasn’t going to be as revolutionary and groundbreaking as the kind of thing you’d see in a film. As ‘Arrow’ has repeatedly exhibited, the producers of these programmes like to play it safe and do things the same way as in the films. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that as long as they keep it fresh and enjoyable.

Ultimately, I think I like this Flash costume. It will be interesting to see it in motion from week to week and see what kind of computer wizardry is applied to it (particularly the super speed effects). Mainly I’m just grateful that the producers really decided to embrace the superhero genre with a costume that has all the great elements of the classics: a mask, a logo and a motif, as opposed to the ‘Arrow’ costume which, while effective and interesting to look at, is less immediately striking as being something a superhero would wear. 

It even makes sense that Barry Allen would adopt such a striking costume, as he has already been established in ‘Arrow’ as someone excited by the idea of theatricality and symbolism in heroism. Hopefully ‘The Flash’ will build on the consistently growing quality of ‘Arrow’ and prove itself worthy to its source.


  1. Somewhat off (yet on) topic, but I quite like The Arrow's costume. I've always thought of him as more of a vigilante crime fighter rather than super hero, he, after all, doesn't have any unusual powers given to him by a lab experiment gone wrong, etc. etc. so I think his simple hooded outfit actually suits him just fine.

    But, yes, The Flash certainly is a superhero, so very happy to see him in a full superhero outfit! I should think, and hope, that the final grade will bring out the colours nicely so that he is a vibrant red, much like that photoshopped image. If the colour treatment of The Arrow is anything to go by, they're not scared of bright and saturated, so there's hope that they'll do the same to The Flash.

    CAN'T WAIT FOR IT!!! *swoon*

  2. Don't get me wrong, the Arrow costume is great and perfectly suited to the character. I even got used to the silly eye-makeup after a while (although I'm glad they got rid of it). Thanks for reading!

  3. Even with his new eye mask he's so completely recognisable it's really a bit silly, but definitely a step up from the emo smudged eyeliner look! :)