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With the series winding down to its final hours, Smallville takes one last dip into the greater DC Comics universe with the appearances of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle (both Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes) in tonight’s Geoff Johns-penned and Tom Welling-directed episode “Booster.” And as you can see by the image to the left, Booster Gold is decked out in full superhero regalia.

Though the show initially started out with a “no tights, no flights” rule, that edict was pretty much abandoned in Season Six with the debut of Justin Hartley as Green Arrow. Though other DC characters had appeared in the five previous seasons, Green Arrow was the first time one of those characters actually looked like a DC character, opening up a whole new box of toys for subsequent seasons to play with. And we can all thank designer Andy Poon for initiating the silver age of costumed heroism on Smallville.

Recently, I had a chance to talk with the Vancouver-based artist about developing some of the superhero looks on the show, including the creation of the iconic Green Arrow costume and his work on the Booster Gold costume seen in tonight’s episode.

So how did you get involved with Smallville?
I believe the costume designer, Caroline Cranstoun, got my name from another costumer in the department. They were probably aware of the work I had done on the Will Smith movie I, Robot several years earlier.

Were you a fan of the show before you started working on it?
Yup. Pretty hard to pass on a show about a young Superman.

What was your first reaction when you learned you were the guy who was going to adapt Green Arrow for live action? That must have been pretty cool.
Oh it was! I had a funny phone conversation with Caroline. She called and asked if I was available and if I had heard of Smallville. And I instantly said “yes” without even knowing what I’d be doing on the show. As soon as she mentioned Green Arrow, and me being a comic book fan, I said instantly that I’d have sketches ready by the next morning!

How close were your initial designs to what we ultimately saw on Justin Hartley?
It was actually pretty close. I initially did four rough sketches of the suit, knowing that they wanted something practical and more modern—like the way they portrayed hero suits in X-Men. We eventually landed on more of a motorcycle suit look. I think both the producer and I mentioned about the hood and thought it would be something that was not too cheesy a disguise. And of course the shades to act as the old school mask!

Also, GA’s been known to wear a hood in the comics, so it was still pretty comic accurate at the same time.
Which is also appropriate because in the comics he was essentially based on Robin Hood. So the hood just came naturally.

Speaking of comics, did you ever see the cover of Green Arrow #31?
No! They actually used the suit?!

Mauro Cascioli’s original art for the cover was your design. I don’t think Ollie actually wears it in continuity though.
That is awesome! And they have the goatee!

Heh. I do kind of wish Justin would have grown some facial hair during his time on the show!
Yeah, I believe they want to keep him clean cut and handsome for the ladies!

So how did your work on “Arrow” lead to what you did with the JLA in the episode “Justice?”
After “Arrow,” I was pretty much the “super suit guy” for the show.

Were you happy with how the “Justice” suits turned out?
Yes, it works for the show. “Arrow” had the highest budget because he was a long term character. Impulse, Cyborg and Aquaman were kind of one-offs, and they were all designed and built for that one episode so the budget had to be split into three different costumes. So part of it was to design the best I could within the budget limitation. But I think it all worked out well. I do wish they chose fabric that wasn’t as bright though.

What’s one example of a costume that changed from design to production?
On Aquaman’s suit, I originally had a mesh overlay on top of his side panelings to create the illusion of his costume’s signature scale pattern.

Wow! That would’ve looked amazing! By the way, how cool was it when DC Direct released action figures based on your designs?
Oh yeah, I was shocked because I remembered the first wave wasn’t very good at all. But the JLA figures were pretty cool!

Were you involved with the designs of other DC heroes — like Black Canary, the Legion or the JSA?
No, unfortunately. There was a bit of a transition period when I didn’t work on the suits for various reasons. There was also a budget cut because the show was heading toward the end of the whole series. However, I did work on Warrior Angel, and I did a concept for when Lex was possessed by Zod. I wish I got to be involved with Dr. Fate and Hawkman, though! I thought they were a little too literal and old school for my own taste, especially Stargirl.

Interesting. What would you have done differently?
I think I’d just stay away from the spandex look a little more. I actually really liked Dr. Fate! And for Hawkman, I would have probably done most of the body plating with leather instead of one molded piece. The wings are supposed to be always attached too, but I understand why they had to make them detachable wings, so that’s just me talking as a nerd!

How did you approach Booster Gold when you got the call?
The writers had the idea of Booster as a celebrity superhero so I thought I could definitely play up his cheese factor! They really liked Green Arrow, so they said to do something similar, but I wanted his suit to look more obviously like human muscles, but still look like a racing suit.

What did you think of the way the actual suit turned out?
Pretty good. I was hoping it would be a bit more different on the textures of the different materials instead of an overall shiny material. And the way I drew the gold shoulder pads turned out closer to a racing suit than a hero suit. But I understand their limitations on time and budget so it works well for the show. I was really hoping I could do something that retained his popped up collar.

So since season six you’ve designed the costumes for Green Arrow, Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg, Lex-Zod and Booster Gold. Did I leave anyone out?
I also did an illustration for Supergirl when she first landed in Smallville. And Warrior Angel, though he’s not really a superhero.

A lot has changed since season six. When you worked on “Justice,” having DC heroes on the show was a rare occurrence, and even when they showed up, they had a very Smallville look to them. Now, the DC characters that show up look more comic accurate. Do you wish you were able to make the JLAers look closer to their comic counterparts?
I think, if it was up to me, I would have gone the other way and updated the rest of the characters’ looks to suit more in the Smallville universe. In other words, I would make the DC characters look more modern and grounded rather than so accurate to the comics.

Did you have any hand in designing Clark’s “Blur” outfits?
No. I think I just missed it. I remembered getting a call about it while I was away.

From the promos (and even earlier this season) it looks like the show is going with the Brandon Routh costume from Superman Returns rather than designing a new one for Welling. If you were given the job, how would you have redesigned the Supersuit for Smallville? Would you go with a more comic accurate costume for Superman himself? Or reimagine it like you did with the League?
I had a concept for the Supersuit that I did on my own that fits with the Green Arrow style. I mean, it is the Superman suit after all. You can’t change it too much! I would have probably gone with more of the Alex Ross “Kingdom Come” symbol too. The suit wouldn’t be so bright except for the cape and all the red parts. My other idea was to have Superman always have the red heats vision eyes to kind of hide his identity.

Since you live in Vancouver, were you ever able to visit any of the sets or meet any of the cast and crew?
I have been on set a few times, but usually they are in tight schedules so it’s pretty hard to sneak in. Oh, I actually went to school with Kristin Kruek. She was a year older than me. We had mutual friends.

As a fan of the show, and as a DC fanboy in general, how would you describe your experience working on Smallville?
It’s a childhood dream come true to be a part of the comic book world, and be able to project my own creativity into it. And the crew is very creative! It was great!

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Keith is the Editor-at-Large of the groundbreaking graphic novel anthology SECRET IDENTITIES and Outreach Director for SIUniverse Media. Visit the official Secret Identities blog to keep up with Keith and the rest of the SI team
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1 Response to "Waiting For Superman: Good as Gold, Talking Superhero Costumes with Designer Andy Poon"

1 | Jesse

April 22nd, 2011 at 1:36 pm

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Great interview!

Waiting For Superman: Good as Gold, Talking Superhero Costumes with Designer Andy Poon