The Wicked + The Divine: Dress To Impress
September 14, 2015
Image Comics: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1, pg 7: This is our first look at a Pantheon from the past, with two men in suits, one woman in flapper-style fashion, and a younger-seeming woman in a different style of clothing. The first two are pretty familiar signifiers of the time, but what kind of fashion is the blonde woman representing? She reminds me of Shirley Temple in greasepaint.
Jamie McKelvie: This was Kieron's idea, I think, so I'll let him take this one.
Kieron Gillen: You've got it. I was aware with the other three characters being a little more restrained, I wanted something a little wilder. This is what I suggested in the script: "I see her as a sort of French Revolution Shirley Temple, baby-doll dress and face caked in decadent white face-paint, perhaps with a highwayman mask in eyeshadow." I tend to throw ideas at Jamie and let him edit them. The script is the start of a conversation rather than the end of it.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1, pg 10: This is our first look at Laura, shortly before she attends a show. Her hair's pulled back, she's wearing a loose jacket, the kind that's easy to hide in. What does this tell us about Laura?
JM: Practically, it's winter, and it's a big warm coat. Her hair is tied back in preparation for the wig she's about to put on at the Amaterasu gig. But Laura also has a very definite style that is her own within the book—I tried to make her a Londoner, specifically, in her style, but she's also something of a chameleon. She dresses for the situation—when she visits Luci in jail she tries to dress smarter to look like someone who would visit Luci in a professional capacity. It's not entirely successful. When she goes to see the Morrigan for the first time she dresses goth. For me it's reflecting both her age and her fandom of the various Pantheon members.
KG: After doing WicDiv, I can't go a week without a moment of "Wait—is that Laura?" when going about London. That's pretty much what I was hoping for. It's a very contemporary, very natural sort of look.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1, page 16: We all love Luci, and this is the first time we see her. I believe this is the first and only outfit she's appeared in to date, which feels significant, since a few of the other gods have outfits that are, if not different, at least variations on a theme. Two things pop out at me here: Luci's a little bit Bowie, a deity traditionally depicted as male, and dressed in a unisex manner. There's an interesting friction and frisson here—can you break Luci down for us?
JM: She actually wears three different suits across the first 5 issues—but you're not the first person to think they're all the same one. But she's very much got her look—which is a female 1970s Thin White Duke-era Bowie. I think we actually both came up with the idea of a gender-flipped Bowie for Lucifer at the same time. Once we'd started talking about including a Lucifer—initially Kieron had considered a Loki—it seemed the obvious choice.
KG: A gender-flipped Lucifer is actually a character I've had around since I was 21, so it was good to finally get her on the page. When writing the description of Lucifer, I was particularly careful to not say certain things (Tilda Swinton)...but Jamie got that anyway. It was one of the moments when that whole creative synergy thing seemed very real. We are often on the same wavelength.
In terms of the gods, we've always tried to do an aesthetic for them. Luci very much had one of the most narrow—it really doesn't surprise me people didn't see the multiple suits. In terms of aesthetics, there's a bunch of this on the styleblog. You can sort of follow back us reblogging stuff and see our thought process.
And, yeah, I did consider Loki originally, but I basically thought it'd be taking the piss a little.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1, pg 19: This is Sakhmet, and she looks like she's prone to looking through people, as opposed to at them. She comes off regal in this panel, with her blonde hair and rings working in concert to push that feeling on me. What were you going for with this outfit?
JM: We just got the layouts back for Brandon Graham's issue (#17), which is the Sakhmet one—and that really delves into what's going on with Sahkmet and her detachment. This was the first "dress down" outfit you see—Ammy is wearing her stage clothes, and Luci tends to play her role the whole time—but the Gods' standards of "dress down" are very different to your average person. I guess what I was going for was "not on stage but hanging out at a place they knew they'd be photographed".
KG: They're very much the sort of pop stars who are visibly pop stars even when not on stage. They'd walk into the bar, and even if you didn't know they were gods, you'd know they were something.
Of course, in this sequence, the regality of Sakhmet is immediately undercut with the physical comedy. You have to go full regal to make that work.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #2, pg 11: Luci's haircut stands out to me, in part because it's so different from how we first meet her. What does it signify? Ananke's mask feels very notable, too, and helps build her funereal look.
JM: We really wanted to drive home the transformational aspect of becoming a god, while at the same time providing a through-line. With that in mind I went with a look not a million miles away from a friend of mine, kind of tomboy-ish.
This was Ananke's first appearance, and at this point she's a big mystery. Given her story and history I wanted to make her feel a little alien, a little outside of the rest of the world. I wanted the reader to not immediately get her deal—is she good or bad? So the design played into that. I think it was Kieron's idea for her always to be wearing a mask of some kind.
KG: We were trying to build a mythology with WicDiv, in terms of having all these signifiers that are us. The whole "you are living your entirely normal life and then a strange old lady turns up and now you have two years to live" is the core one. The ritualism of it—in other words here, we have Eleanor (Luci pre-transformation) in the kitchen-sink autobio style, and then we have Ananke who is clearly fantastical.
There's a lot of McQueen in Ananke too, fashion wise. Masks are useful, in an obvious metaphor-y kinda way.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #2, pg 26: Baphomet sweats sex and death. Was his look pretty well defined very early? Did you ever go too far with him in the planning stages?
JM: If you check out the ad for the series we ran in previews, Baphomet actually looked pretty different to start with. I was pushing him into the skinny pale goth category, but Kieron wanted him to include aspects of that kind of Eldritch, Danzig kind of performatively masculine kind of goth, so we ended up with this look.
KG: As Jamie says, this is the one which we weren't initially in line. The death-obsession of Baphomet was what probably came across most in the initial description, which leads to the look you see in the advert. That's Baphomet's driving force, sure, but he's very much trying to hide it with this performative masculinity.
It's also probably tradition to have in our books a character who you have to do a lot of crunches to successfully cosplay.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #3, pg 26: Baal is more sex than death, I'd wager. It's notable to me that he's wearing something very simple, but colored and accessorized in such a way that he looks filthy rich. Tell me about the gold chain and Baal's sense of style. Is "lowkey flashy" a good descriptor for him?
JM: I'd say so. Baal's another one, like Luci, who I'd say doesn't vary TOO much from his stage outfits to his day to day ones. I think he lives that role 24/7. We establish that he was the first of the new Panthen to appear, and didn't waste time making a very decent living from it. He's supremely confident in who he is and what he can do, so he's not going to go overboard with the indicators of his wealth, but it's subtly there.
KG: As Jamie says. If there's a god whose wardrobe I'd like, it's Baal's. Though clearly it wouldn't fit me.
IC: THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #4, pg 8: The first three panels are a highlight of the series, in my mind. Laura took her trusty jacket off earlier, and is now sporting a plain (presumably) tee under overalls. Later, on page 25, she wears a black shirt over black pants under a brown button-up, with a silver belt buckle for effect. With Laura playing the POV character so much in this series, what were your priorities in dressing her? What did her clothes have to say to the reader, more than anything else?
JM: Like you say, she's the POV character, so I wanted her to feel real and a contrast to the gods. I think Kieron said something along the lines of he wanted her to look like any of the teenage girls you might see on a London bus. We set the book in London for numerous reasons, but one of them is that it's our world. This is where we live and so we're familiar with it. It gives the book an edge of authenticity and reality that grounds it so that you can play off that with the supernatural stuff. If the real doesn't feel real, you don't have that.
KG: It still makes me smile Laura met the gods en masse while dressed in Dungarees. Clearly, they're in fashion now, so it's appropriate, but there's something in the semotics of dungarees which makes the God/Human visitation even odder.
Really, it's like Jamie says. I've just been googling around North London schools to try and work out where Sakhmet would have been to for a flashback, and so what uniform she'd be wearing. Our fantasies—and this is true for Phonogram as well—tend to inhabit and overwrite spaces. Intellectually, I like fantasy that transforms the environment you find yourself. Grounding it that much is part of that.