The four street-level heroes who make up this super team appeared first in their own solo pieces before meeting up to kick ass in The Defenders, coming to Netflix Aug. 18. An essential part of merging the worlds of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist is making seamless aesthetic choices. In phone interviews with Bustle, makeup artist Sarit Klein and costume designer Stephanie Maslansky (who both have worked on all the Marvel Netflix series) say that designing the look of Marvel's The Defenders hinged on bringing those seemingly disparate characters together. When you're watching The Defenders, see if you can spot the visual Easter Egg they've left for you.
"If Misty Knight came into Jessica Jones' world," Maslanky says of the costumes, "you might see her wearing a pop of blue. If Foggy crossed over into Luke Cage's world then you might see him go to something in the orange or gold world. We made those subtle choices which hopefully will be picked up, either consciously or unconsciously by the fans. We look forward to seeing who notices what."
"Their clothes, their costumes, their uniforms that they wear everyday become sort of a psychological armor."
The color palettes for each solo series are pretty easy to pick up on, especially when looking at the promotional images for The Defenders. Daredevil favors red, Luke Cage has yellow, Iron Fist is green and Jessica Jones leans blue. Look closer, and you'll notice that Jessica and Matt share a penchant for neutral blacks and greys while Luke and Danny are into neutral browns and beiges.
"S.J. Clarkson directed the first episode [of The Defenders]," Klein says, "so she set the visual tone ... In every episode, I can say that you can see the different colors or the different palettes of each character, sometimes even in each scene." Klein held onto all of her notes and pictures of various characters' signature scars and bruises from each show in order to maintain continuity as well — not an easy task, across five shows.
Of course, the common setting affects both the costumes and makeup of these shows, as well. "What Marvel and everyone else has made here is a New York old school, seedy, nitty-gritty vibe," says Klein. The city is known for bold and confident choices, but "there's a lot of black and a lot of edginess," says Maslanky. "People have to be tough to live in New York and I think the clothing reflects that."
It's an interesting balance to strike, because these characters are coming from the world of comics, which has a strong and heightened aesthetic built in. "It's important that [fans] feel an interesting seamlessness," says Maslanky, "an interesting carry-through from the comic books themselves into the live action."
Take Jessica Jones, for example. "She doesn’t really care what she looks like," Klein says. "She’s not going to start putting on mascara and lashes and lipstick, you know." Klein calls her technique for these shows "invisible makeup," which enhances character and keeps a look from standing out.
For Jessica, Klein says, "she has pretty much a smudge liner and something light on her lips." The same goes for her clothes. She'll just grab whatever is closest, Maslanky imagines, or buys multiple pairs of the same outfit so as to eliminate decision-making.
Matt Murdock may be the only Defender who has a super suit, but all of these characters have a distinctive look, even if Jessica's look is to be indistinctive. Even if what they wear isn't physically protecting them "their clothes," says Maslanky, "their costumes, their uniforms that they wear everyday become sort of a psychological armor."
That fits the theme of these Netflix shows, too. The term "street level hero" applies to how grounded in reality each one is, at least compared to the Marvel universe you'll see at the movies. Each of these shows is about identity in one way or another.
"They all struggle with their abilities," Maslanky says. "They all struggle with the tragedies that define their early lives and endowed them with her abilities."
One blessing and curse for the team is that the success of this franchise means that there was only a few weeks break in between shows. Maslanky is already working on Luke Cage Season 2. Meanwhile, "I’ve been working about three years straight," says Klein — "thank god for meditation!"
The work has definitely paid off. The Defenders effectively looks like the natural continuation — and combination — of the four preceding shows. The consistency Klein and Maslanky work so hard to achieve rewards fans and makes this corner of the Marvel universe special.
Additional reporting by Sage Young