Every superhero suit is an iconic part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whether it is in the movies or on television. From Doctor Strange's magical cape to Iron Man's armor, each one is easily recognized by even the most casual of Marvel fans. But what happens when you combine a superhero suit with the ceremonial armor of an ancient Egyptian god?
Meghan Kasperlik is the costume designer for Marvel's Moon Knight, which stars Oscar Isaac. Moon Knights costumes are heavily inspired by Egyptian gods and pharaohs from a period long past, making for some of the most fascinating costumes the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever seen.
Kasperlik's work has been nominated for Outstanding Fantasy/Science Fiction Costumes for the season finale of Gods and Monsters at San Diego Comic-Con, which she presented to fans. Her intricate, beautiful costumes are now on display for casual admirers as well as those who want to know every last detail.
Kasperlik discussed her conception process and how she crafted fully functional costumes for every character, including CGI ones, as well as what she learned from Watchmen to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and how it's like seeing her original designs transformed by fans as cosplays.
COLLIDER: First off, congratulations on your Emmy nomination. I can't imagine how that would be sounded.
MEGHAN KASPERLIK: Thank you. It's amazing. I'm really grateful for everyone on my team who worked so hard. It's fantastic. I'm excited.
Because this isn't your first comic book project you've worked on, you worked on Watchmen. Was it any surprise that everything you learned from that show would translate into working on Moon Knight at all?
KASPERLIK: Yes, when it comes to different techniques and the 3D printing, and the vacuform and whatnot for the suits, it always plays into it. When I did Watchmen, I took over. I didn't do the pilot, I did the series, so there were [there] issues that needed to be addressed when it came to the Sister Night costume. We needed to correct the hood.
Because, obviously, this program draws on not only a lot of comic book history, but also a lot of actual life history. I know you influenced things like the Boston Museum's beaded dress, but percentage wise, how much Egyptian material did you study, and what percentage were the comics?
KASPERLIK: The majority of the film, I would say, was real-life Egyptian. When you have the comic, you always have to adapt to now, because those... 90% of them are not written now. I went to the MET. I looked at different museums my assistant was from London, so he went to the British Museum and [I just used] online research.
Our director was Egyptian for the Egyptian costumes of the time. May [Calamawy], who plays Layla, is part Egyptian, and I was constantly talking with them to make sure I wasn't just looking at what Egyptians are wearing today, but also looking at different Instagrams. It's also great to see what real people are wearing, so it's helpful.
I did a little research on your Instagram to see what you were doing with the cast and crew. I noticed all of the hand painting and hand beading and everything that went into the costumes. How many people did you have on your team doing little details like that?
KASPERLIK: I had one person who was just hand painting. I had one person who was a leather worker. I would say there are probably fifteen people in there, mostly on jobs. We still had people on set and people doing background fittings, but most of the time, everything was pretty much made in-house, except for the actual Moon Knight costume that FBFX created.
I was going to say, about that specific Moon Knight costume. It looks so much like mummy wrappings in terms of your hand in it. But how do you go about designing something that looks like that, but also has structural stability so that it won't fall apart when Oscar Isaac wears it?
KASPERLIK: That's the essence of making it strong. Because I've done other superhero projects, I know the structural elements it requires, and the infrastructure it requires to have it built. Because we went through lockdown in London, and we were in Budapest, FDFX was mailing me samples, and I would lay everything out on my table. For the stunt people, I did the fittings over Zoom. It's just knowing that we'll need a structural component.
Also, the actors and the stunt crew must be able to put their hair on without having to wrap, wrap, wrap, and wrap for continuity. I like to do things in pieces, not all the time. If you blow out a boot or blow out an arm structural piece, you're not replacing the whole costume, because that's quite costly. That's why it's done in pieces.
You said that you could make fittings using Zoom. How does that work?
KASPERLIK: You get really close to the screen. Because of COVID, so many designers have had to do this. It's so strange at first, but after doing so many fittings, I'm like, "Okay, I can tell the pants are not fitting." Because we sent the stunt people to London, I was like, "How do the pants feel?" I made them demonstrate all of the moves, and it worked out in a way that so many people are watching things on their phones now, so
Clearly Oscar Isaac is playing many roles, so was there anything on a costume level, when Marc Spector and Steven Grant are wearing the same outfit, to differentiate the two of them, or was it all up to Oscar?
KASPERLIK: No, certainly Oscar and I talked extensively about it. Steven's outfits were...they had to be comfortable for living in Brixton, this area of London. He had to be dressed kind of cool for living there, but not cool enough that people noticed him. I gave him a lot of vintage pants and made them longer.
Mark needed to become more a Special Ops person in order to stand out from the crowd. I talked to a Special Ops person, but I'm more interested in wearing navys, and browns, charcoal grays, and stuff. It's more subtle than a sharp black.
When we got to Jake, I added a little detail [for] when Oscar flipped up Jake's collar. I used Khonshu's symbol, the Egyptian symbol of Khonshu, [and] other Egyptian symbols. Oscar is Guatemalan, so I did his birth symbol, his sign in the Mayan symbol, and [something for] his brother, because his brother was in the program, and I just incorporated them.
I'm in love with these outfits, and I like the difference between Mark's Moon Knight costume and the Mr. Knight suit, because that's such a fan favorite thing in the comics. But it's all white. How do you ensure that it doesn't look like a big white blob when your actor wears it?
KASPERLIK: Yeah, that was the one that I was probably the most apprehensive about because of the blob, but a white suit can also be a Wedding Singer, just like an old wedding singer. I like texture and details, and I always want a lot of texture in my dresses, so when the light hits it, it bounces off. The other part of the costume was the shirt, which was 3D printed on it.
I wanted to know more about the mask that he wears. Obviously, I've seen behind-the-scenes videos where the eyes sparkle in the show, but they're never cut out. Was that a 3D printed item, or was it a cotton sheet that you used?
KASPERLIK: The fabric is a white Euro-Jersey stretch. There's a very thin layer of 3D printing on that. Then underneath, it's a sort of vacuform shell. The shell will always be the same, whether it's Oscar or his stuntperson, [and] have that shape.
Everyone I spoke to wanted me to know about Layla's Scarlet Scarab outfit because everyone's in love with it. I wanted to know if there were general inspirations for it, but also, where you got the idea for those huge, beautiful metal wings because everyone's in love with them.
KASPERLIK: The goal was obviously to have Egyptian compliments on the costume, while also making her appear like a warrior and someone who is also feminine. It's amazing that we've all made changes to it when we started working on it.
The colors that were used on the leggings are all Egyptian symbols that have been found in ancient tombs or books or whatever. Mohammed, the director, was really interested in and wanted to include the wings. What happened was I needed to give them five inches of the script off the arm, and then CG. It was very amazing when the wings came out.
Layla's costume, as well as Taweret's costume, and Amit's costume, strikes me as lovely, yet they're also practical. Was that something that you've considered very important to Layla in the design process, especially for Layla?
KASPERLIK: Yes. Everything on the show is practical from the costume standpoint. Taweret, Scarlet Scarab, and then CG for the crocodile head or the tail and everything else. I wanted to make sure that all of the actors could move in them because they wore their costumes while they were performing. For some people, she wore her entire costume while she was performing her fight sequence.
I was going to ask, in terms of Amit and Taweret, whether there were any limitations on design? Did they say, "You can design up to the collarbones and the rest, we have to do digitally," or did you have whatever freedom and then they were able to work with you?
KASPERLIK: No, all of the costumes were perfectly practical. The only things that are improved is the head and the arms and the skin and everything else. It was more about...there was a line in the costume. Because [the characters are] so big and tall, we had to ensure that we could accommodate the eyeline pole underneath the costume. Sean Faden and the VFX team, they were fantastic.
We would wear the costume practically, and what would happen is they would scan everything, and we would send them the pattern pieces. They were so wonderful at making sure that every single piece was absolutely seen. If there was any CG enhancement, for example, like Taweret with the head, that it was...they showed everything, and they wanted to preserve the integrity of the costume.
I wanted to ask you about another specific costume because Arthur Harrow is so different from the more strictly Egyptian-inspired clothing. How did you go about designing for him? Was it just what you think would fit that particular character?
KASPERLIK: When I started talking to Ethan [Hawke] about the character, I was bringing up cult leaders and David Koresh, and he was bringing up people like monks and being part of the people. The thing about cult leaders in history is that they are all very normal people, and they drive a Camaro or something like that. It was very strange. I chose to do the linen and keep it simple, but then grounding the character with
I borrowed inspiration from a lot of monks who wore the same bright orange and yellow. We muted it with more of a brick tone, perhaps adding an additional item when he entered the Chamber of the Gods. I think the costume is so powerful because of its simplicity. That's kind of where the power comes in.
This show has been a smash hit, and with huge success with Marvel comes cosplay. How does it feel to see your designs on people who are making them at home?
KASPERLIk: It's very flattering, and it's really cool. I applaud all of the cosplayers because I know how much effort and effort goes into designing the costumes. Most of the cosplayers are doing it on their own. What I've seen has just blown me away. I keep posting about all of the cosplayers because I'm amazed by how amazing it all is and how amazing everyone is doing.
Moon Knight, which also stars May Calamawy, Ethan Hawke, and F. Murray Abraham, is now available on Disney+.