Welcome, X-Fans, to another uncanny edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT!
This week, I’m so eXcited to welcome back one of the modern masters of comics, artist Russell Dauterman! Back in X-Men Monday #91, Gerry Duggan and Russell teased the Hellfire Gala designs to come, and when they finally dropped, they didn’t disappoint. As we’re just days away from the start of Emma Frost’s highly anticipated Hellfire Gala, there’s no better time to check in with the designer behind Krakoa’s hottest mutant styles! (Sorry, Jumbo!)
AIPT: Welcome back to X-Men Monday, Russell! Let’s go back to the beginning of this Hellfire adventure — you studied costume design in school and you love the X-Men. What was your reaction when you learned that not only would the X-Men have their own Met Gala, but you were also being asked to design costumes for it?
Russell: I mean, it’s perfect, right?? I was beyond thrilled, but also very nervous. This is a total dream job — I’ve wanted to design X-Men costumes for most of my life — I really didn’t want to $*#& it up.
I love the concept of the Gala. The X-Team is continually making the Krakoa era feel fresh — I’m excited as a fan and thrilled to be part of it. Very thankful to Gerry Duggan, Jordan D. White, Annalise Bissa, Jonathan Hickman, and the whole X-Team for the opportunity and support.
And, seeing fanart and cosplay of the designs has been incredible! I never know what the reaction is going to be for anything I do — but seeing all that has made me very happy.
AIPT: That’s great to hear. I know Jean Grey and Storm are among your favorite X-Characters. Did you get to pick all of the X-Men you designed costumes for or were some of them assigned to you?
Russell: They were all assigned! I had my fingers crossed for Jean and Storm, since, like you said, those are my all-time favorites. I was hoping for Emma too — I thought she’d be fun to design for, and I already had that diamond strand dress in mind.
I was very excited when I saw the email with the character list! Really a dream list, and the characters I would’ve picked — maybe add Mystique and Iceman if I could’ve done more.
AIPT: Let’s get into some X-Fan questions. Joe Parsons wanted to know which character was the hardest to pin down a clear style for.
Russell: Cyclops was tricky. Scott isn’t a character who lends himself toward over-the-top fashion. He’s generally stiff and practical. So I tried to figure out a way to stay true to that character, to give him a look he’d actually wear — but also make it heightened enough for the Gala.
So I stuck with the superhero/soldier aesthetic but tried to push it in a futuristic direction. I tried to make the simple silhouette pop with hits of bold color and a more decorative visor.
AIPT: It’s fun to see Scott mix it up in the visor department. Next up, X-Fan Justin Poteat asked, when creating the Hellfire Gala designs, were you thinking about the X-Men’s powers?
Russell: Definitely! I was trying to think about how mutant fashion would be different from human fashion. One way was making the aesthetic high-fashion X-Men costumes (mutant clothes), not high-fashion human clothes. I also thought it’d be cool if the mutants were doing things with clothes that humans couldn’t. So Emma’s diamond form is jewelry, Jean is holding up her headpiece telekinetically, Storm made her cape out of clouds, Betsy accessorizes with psychic X-butterflies.
And in the costumes themselves, I tried to echo the characters’ powers — Kate’s asymmetrical design with different fabrics is meant to evoke phasing, M’s fascinator looks like her Penance hair.
AIPT: And similarly, X-Fan Ryan Yael Clement Mauricio Tomás St. Croix wanted to know if you think some of these looks could translate into battlewear.
Russell: Yes! That was the idea — that the looks could be tweaked and used beyond the Gala, if the editors/writers/artists want that.
Jean and Storm, in particular, could absolutely be translated into regular costumes. I would dial back the drama a bit, and make them more practical (different shoes, etc.). The decision isn’t up to me, but I’d love to see the looks again, and would love to tweak the designs!
(Excellent name, Ryan!)
AIPT: I think a lot of X-Fans would love to see some of these costumes used long after the Gala comes to a close. X-Fan Bobby VV was wondering if there were any outfits worn by celebrities that influenced any of your Hellfire Gala designs.
Russell: Angel’s outfit took inspiration from Chadwick Boseman’s 2018 Met Gala look. Tini Howard suggested that early on, and his look inspired Angel’s jacket/cape.
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Most of the looks were inspired by runway fashion, and not necessarily outfits worn by celebrities (or, rather — celebrities may have worn those looks, but my reference point was the runway stuff).
AIPT: X-Fan Vitor dos Santos asked if Cyclops is wearing a onesie with a jacket or three separate pieces (jacket, shirt and pants).
Russell: Onesie with a jacket! The jacket sleeves turn into gloves, so that’s one piece. The onesie underneath is a sleeveless bodysuit, although it’s not meant to be worn without the jacket, so I haven’t fully designed that bit.
AIPT: They’re all eXceptional, but which of your Hellfire Gala designs is your absolute favorite?
Russell: Favorite is tough, but I think Storm is the best of mine. That was the first one I did and is largely a concept I roughed out years ago in case I ever got to design a Storm costume. When we had our Zoom call, the X-Writers/editors mentioned that maybe Storm would be wearing weather. So I thought of the cloud cape idea, using lightning as the traditional gold trim — and replaced a fabric cape I had in my sketch from years back.
AIPT: And X-Fan mukund asked which Hellfire Gala designs by other artists were you most in awe of?
Russell: My favorite is Lucas Werneck’s Synch design — just incredible. And of course, his Colossus. Stephen Segovia’s Psylocke look is beautiful, Josh Cassara’s Professor X, Marcus To’s Rictor, Matteo Lolli’s Pyro, Alex Lins’ Karma. Those are my top picks right now, but I keep finding new things I love in different designs.
AIPT: X-Fan Patrick wanted to know if you were attending the Hellfire Gala, who would design your ideal look, and would it be reserved or absolutely outrageous?
Russell: I’d love to say it’d be absolutely outrageous, but I’m a fairly reserved person! So in actuality, it’d probably be something simple.
If Pyro’s outfit came with the abs (and without the face tattoo!), I’d wear that.
In actuality, I’d love a couture Balmain look if I could ever pull that off.
AIPT: And while on the topic of attending the Hellfire Gala, which X-Men character (or characters) would you most want to party the night away with?
Russell: I love a pop diva, so I’d want to hang out with Dazzler and see her perform! Of course, I’d love to hang out with Storm and Jean. And also Emma — she’d be fun and would know how to throw a lavish party, although she’ll probably be busy as the host, making the rounds to talk to all the important people.
AIPT: You designed her looks — you’re pretty important, Russell! So, it looks like the Hellfire Gala’s going to be a yearly event. Are you ready to top these designs at next year’s Gala?
Russell: Ha, well — I don’t know if they’ll ask me again! I’m thrilled to have even been able to do this once. These designs have been one of my favorite things I’ve ever done, and I’m really happy with how they turned out.
But the good thing about that is now that I’ve done my ideal version of the designs, that frees me up to do different things with the looks and those characters if I were to do future Gala designs.
AIPT: Well, hopefully, we get to see that. Finally, X-Fan Endless-summers asked if there are going to be more costume variant covers like the ones you’ve done for Jean, Rogue and Betsy. Endless-summers added, “Please say yes and let it be Cyclops.”
Russell: Yes, there are! I think by the time this is up, my next one will be out! [It’s out, it’s Storm, it’s below – CH] And there’s another that’s greenlit — not Cyclops (sorry, Endless-summers!), but I do have an idea for his.
Not sure if we’ll do more — but if they’re popular enough, hopefully, that’ll happen. I’d absolutely love to keep doing them!
AIPT: Surely, no X-Fans would object! But on that note — Russell, thanks so much for taking the time to talk! Readers, remember to pick up X-Men #21, on June 9, to see more of Russell’s eXtraordinary artwork. And, of course, Russell’s Gala designs will appear throughout the X-Line in those Gala-related issue.
Speaking of those designs, here’s a sneak peek of them in action, courtesy of X-Men Senior Editor Jordan D. White!
In the neXt edition of X-Men Monday at AIPT, we’re shining the spotlight on next month’s Marvel’s Voices: Pride, which features multiple fan-favorite X-Characters! You still have until 5 p.m. today (Monday, May 24) to submit questions to writers Terry Blas, Tini Howard, Anthony Oliveira and Steve Orlando, so click here to do just that.
Until then, X-Fans, stay eXceptional!
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