Jun 27, 2023

‘Blue Beetle’ Costume Designer Hid Strategic Zippers to Allow for Quick Bathroom Breaks

Oscar-winning costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo is no stranger to designing superhero costumes. Her credits include “WandaVision,” “Thor: Love and Thunder” and “Werewolves by Night.” But when it came to working on “Blue Beetle,” Rubeo says, “It took a long time to develop. I did 1,500 sketches.”

“Blue Beetle” introduces Jaime Reyes, played by Xolo Maridueña, a recent graduate of Gotham Law who gains superpowers when he’s trusted to guard an ancient alien scarab that latches onto him. Ángel Manuel Soto (“Charm City Kings”) directs from a screenplay by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer.

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Unlike her previous experiences, DC Films didn’t have an in-house visual development department to liaise with over character designs, suit concepts, or even weapon designs. Instead, Jamie/Blue Beetle was brought to life with Soto, and everything was created from scratch.

“I designed that costume entirely with the help of my illustrator. Ángel was so involved,” she says. Jose Fernandez, CEO and founder of L.A. based Ironhead Studios and his team, stepped in to build the costume.

After taking a 3D body scan of Maridueña, Fernandez could start modeling the bits needed to assemble Blue Beetle’s outfit. “My job is to figure out how to make sure it was durable,” says Fernandez, who used urethane casting to get that rigid yet flexible aspect to the costume.

The DNA of any superhero costume is spandex. Rubeo says, “We used Eurojersey, a high-quality warp-knit fabric that stretched over his body. It grabbed every inch of his body and showed everything, so we put an undersuit to cover things up.”

The shoulder bit was one piece of urethane casting with the forearms being made up of two to three different pieces. The beetle’s helmet consisted of eight different pieces, but the biggest challenge was the scarab on the back.

For Fernandez, it was one of the most complex small pieces to solve. He says, “How do we keep those arms secured that easily pop off? Each digit was made up of six pieces.” Those pieces ranged from small parts to large parts to 3D printed pieces to metal parts. “We had molded cast and magnets. It’s a lot of pieces that went into just being able to help him get it on and off.”

In an interview conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike began, Maridueña told Variety that the process took between 40 and 50 minutes each day and he found the practical nature of the costume to be beneficial to his performance. Overall the suit was “pretty comfortable,” but he’s betting on upgrades for future installments.

“They said if we do a second movie, I get to keep the suit,” he said. “I hear that they only get better as the years go on — more easily accessible to go to the bathroom.”

Just how did Maridueña get it off when nature called? Says Rubeo, “We had to consider rapid bathroom break solutions. So there were hidden zippers that went in strategic places for a quick release.”

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