Over the course of three seasons, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has brought in some notable comic characters with the additions of Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse (Adrianne Palicki), Deathlok (J. August Richards), and of course, series lead, Daisy “Quake” Johnson (Chloe Bennet). However, for the most part, the show hasn’t been particularly great at adapting the established comic book outfits on the series. The perfect example of this? Mockingbird’s white/black suit was traded in for a blue/gray/black tactical suit for the show. And Deathlok, who has been severely underused on the series, only came to somewhat resemble his comic counterpart during his brief re-introduction in season two. By the time Bennet’s Daisy Johnson grew into her comic counterpart in the show’s third season, the series seemed to realize their missteps with the other characters and actually ended up coming up with a look that nearly matched the one fans were familiar with from the comics.
Which is why, although the show nailed Quake’s look, fans were wary of the addition of Ghost Rider to the series. Robbie Reyes, although a relatively new character, has a rather established look. So when adapting the character for live action, it was important to take as many cues from his comic counterpart as possible. Thankfully, as we’ve seen in various promos thus far, the show ended up nailing the look of the character. Taking some time to speak with the folks over at Comicbook.com ahead of the show’s fourth season premiere, S.H.I.E.L.D. costume designer Ann Foley discussed what it was like to design the costume for Robbie Reyes and what the biggest challenges were in doing so.
Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes, is the biggest new addition to the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4. We’ve had our first look at Ghost Rider, and it’s fair to say he’s the most accurate page to screen adaptation, visually speaking, that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has managed so far. Can you talk about what your goals for Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were, what your biggest challenges were, and about the process of achieving those goals?
AF: I was super excited when I heard that he was going to be joining us this season. I’m so lucky that we have such amazing writers on the show and how they manage to bring these characters into our universe and fit them into the universe, it’s great for me and it’s such a great collaboration. Just like any time we introduce any character on the show, we always want it to fit into the universe of the show that we have established. With Robbie Reyes, it was no different.
We have a really great creative director over here at Marvel Television by the name of Joshua James Shaw. He did concept art for me of the jacket, which was based on the illustrations that Felipe Smith did in his comic books. I just wanted it to stay true to the comics, which is what I think that we achieved that. I also wanted it to fit into our world as well.
We kept him grounded in the reality of where he was brought up in Los Angeles and his clothes reflected that, with his jeans, where they’re Levis, and we put him in some really great Vans and just kept him really grounded, but also paying tribute to Felipe and Tradd [Moore].
Of course, as great of a job as Foley and her team did with adapting Ghost Rider’s look from the comics, there was also the whole “flaming skull head” to consider when factoring in his look. Thankfully, according to Foley, this didn’t cause any challenges for her or her team along the way. As she notes, her relationship with VFX artist Mark Kolpack has gotten to the point where they know what they need to do in order to get these kinds of things to work at this point.
Ghost Rider is a character with a flaming skull head, so clearly there’s some CGI involved in bringing him to life. Does that present unique challenges or affect your approach to design?
AF: Not really. I’ve worked so closely now with Mark Kolpack over the last three seasons, going into season four, four seasons now, that whenever anything comes up that involves visual effect, we just work it out together so that we don’t ever have any issues between what Mark needs to achieve and what the costume needs to do as well. It’s been a pretty fabulous collaboration with him over these past four seasons.
Along with the addition of Ghost Rider this season, the show is also adding the character of AIDA. Fans of the series will recall that AIDA actually debuted during the season three finale, albeit as an artificially intelligent user interface computer system. AIDA’s arrival coincides with the show’s addition of Life Model Decoys this season. And unlike Ghost Rider, the show doesn’t have to worry about recreating a look from the comics, so Foley and her team admittedly had a lot more creative freedom. For Foley, she’s eagerly awaiting the time when fans will get to see how they – her team and actress Mallory Jansen – managed to bring the mysterious new character to life.
Another new character coming to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 is AIDA. We haven’t seen her yet, so what can tell me about her look?
AF: We’re really excited by her costume. We built it here in-house so it’s completely custom made. It’s a very beautiful suit that has very interesting style lines along the lines of Alexander McQueen. I wanted to keep it very simple and to not take away from the character at all, but I didn’t want it to look like something that just came off the rack. I wanted it to have a sort of a “Where did this outfit come from?” kind of a feeling so that it’s specifically hers. It just adds to the mystery of who she is.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will return for its fourth season on September 20th on ABC in its new 10 PM time-slot. Be sure to tune in!