Jack Kirby is well known to comic book fans as the co-creator of Thor and X-men as well as the man who wrote and drew the Fourth World series for DC Comics. What you may not know is that he also designed costumes for a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar put on by University of California at Santa Cruz in 1960s.
This awesome team up came about when the play’s director Sheldon Feldner wrote to Marvel Comics and asked if one of their artists would want to design costumes for their college’s play. He was answered by Stan Lee himself, who pointed Feldner in the direction of Kirby, and thus the great project began.
I’m not sure why, but Flavius makes me think of Captain America. Maybe it’s because the colors are similar and he has the eagle on his chest.
I love Portia’s costume. It reminds me of Aubrey Beardsley‘s work.
This is another one of my favorites. Calpurnia looks a lot like another one of Kirby’s creations – Big Barda.
I really love this one. Artemidorus the Sophist of Cnidos looks like he could be a C-grade superhero from some obscure 70s team up. The Green Question or Sir McMystery.
If you think that these costumes look familiar, you are not wrong. Kirby used a very similar aethetic and style when he designed his New Gods for DC Comics in 1971.
As these color photographs can testify, the costumes turned out amazing. Made out of military surplus, plastic and vinyl, they give a hint of roman regalia, but also create a sense of a half-mythical, half-alien world. It’s an interesting choice for Julius Caesar, since the play has a very definite historical setting. The costumes do distance the play from its historical origins and give it a contemporary pop and comic book twist, which was probably more appealing to both the young actors and their young audience.
For more great art, check out Jack Kirby Museum.