As many who cosplay or attend conventions and events regularly will know, there certainly isn’t anything new about a reinterpreted version of a superhero or pop culture character in the style of another time period or alternate history. I myself am regularly seen sporting a Steampunk version of some character’s costume and indeed Steampunk is generally the direction a lot of reinterpretations take – and quite rightly so – as the style actively encourages creativity and offers the option to bring a unique version of the character to life that better suits the styles and tastes of the cosplayer.
However, the retro futuristic Victorian inspired style isn’t the only direction that can be taken and even Marvel themselves have taken a very successful stab at a different direction in the alternate universe of Marvel 1602. The Marvel 1602 run transplanted our favourite characters into an Elizabethan world and writer Neil Gaiman took us on a rather fantastical ride with a very different visual style courtesy of artist Andy Kubert.
Now you’ll have no doubt already seen the photos attached to this article so it’s absolutely no surprise that the reason I’m talking about this is the recent exhibition by photographer Sacha Goldberger. Whilst his work includes characters from much more than just Marvel, it certainly provides a real world vision of the world Marvel 1602 represented and I have to say as both a fan of the book and an avid alternative style cosplayer I got very excited by many of the photographs in the collection. The attention to detail in some of the characters and frankly how well many of them translate to an Elizabethan style makes my nerdy little heart skip a beat.
With an incredible team behind him, Goldberger has had actors cast to accurately portray the characters and then had costume designers, make up artists and stylists help him transform them into period versions of the characters before shooting them in the style of the traditional Flemish portraits.
Now whilst I absolutely love the creativity involved here and the extensive amount of work that clearly went into some of the portraits, I was left a little disappointed by some parts of the collection which felt like they didn’t quite fit with the rest.
Iron Man for example was simultaneously one of my favourites and also one of my biggest disappointments. The use of the modern Marvel Cinematic Universe helmet style seemed rather distracting and could perhaps have benefited from being slightly more in keeping with the style of armour from the time period rather than simply being decorated with a brocade like pattern on the metalwork. I did however, think that the use of pattern and texture was a nice touch as it was indeed common place in the time period for the armour of the wealthy to be elaborately decorated using etching methods similar to that seen on this helmet and was certainly a much better design choice than simply being a plain modern style helmet.
Darth Vader and the Stormtrooper suffered the similar helmet related distractions, with the Stormtrooper in particular appearing to have painfully long neck after trying squeeze in the neck ruff under the helmet which traditionally sits quite low in places and was designed to include the curve of the shoulders at the sides.
Most disappointingly however were the characters which were barely changed and seemed thrown in as filler pieces, such as C-3PO, Chewbacca and Yoda who only differed from normal through the addition of neck and wrist ruffs or a cape.
However, the majority of the photographs in the collection were absolutely wonderful with a remarkable attention to detail put into the creation of their alternative costumes, with some absolutely exquisite photographs being created in the process. The casting of some characters also deserves some additional praise, especially for Superman and Wonder Woman who look astonishingly like Christopher Reeves and Lynda Carter respectively, along with The Hulk who looks incredibly like Lou Ferrigno showing that the attention to detail given to the characters with exposed faces really paid off.
Despite my few complaints I have to say I am particularly glad to see this kind of collection on display, both as prints and the costume pieces that were on display along side them as they serve as an example of what can be done when you combine the unexpected. This is something which as I have already pointed out that many cosplayers are already doing with their own ideas but a large scale exhibition such as this also serves as an incredible inspiration for those yet to experiment with alternative version costumes and will no doubt lead to some fantastic photographs at a comic book convention or event near you.
To see more of Goldberger’s work and the full collection from this exhibition, check out his website and facebook page at the links below.