Fanart is a Giant Group Hug: An Interview with Fanartist Vylla

Kate Bishop as Hawkeye

Here at WWAC, we love fanart. So when news reached us that some fanart of Kate Bishop had been mistaken by an actual Marvel artist as official Kate Bishop Hawkeye uniform, we had to know more. I reached out to the fanartist in question, the incredible Vylla, (Find her on social media here and her gorgeous art here!) to get the story behind this amazingly gorgeous Kate Bishop redesign.

How did you get into drawing fanart and particularly Marvel fanart?

Fanart, to me, is kind of like a giant group hug, especially on social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter. You draw a thing you absolutely love, post it, and then it’s just a conga line of “Oh I like that too!” “Oh we understand each other!” and “Oh let me add a thought to this!” Everyone gets something out of it, not only back towards the original artist, but to every person in the chain. It brings groups of people together to just experience happiness over a mutual love, and can cause so, so much positivity.

For Marvel, in particular, I read Spider-Man when I was younger, but fell off the wagon. I fell back into love after Captain America: The First Avenger, which got me to read Brubaker’s arc of Cap. After that, I just drew every Cap adjacent character I could get my paws on. I don’t think I’ve really stopped since?

You’re now famous for your Kate Bishop uniform redesign. I’ve been a fan of Kate since the first Young Avengers run, and Kate’s had a lot of costumes over the years, good and bad. What are your favorite Kate Bishop uniforms and you least favorite? How did that piece come about?

Kate is just… great. I really do like her quite a lot, but I don’t know if she’s ever really got the uniform she deserves? I have parts I love and hate about everyone, particularly cutouts on various body parts, bare midriffs, etc. Which, leads me to having to explain myself about my now semi-infamous design.

This (now three year old) design was meant for a series of the Young Avengers as if they were in the MCU. So I was trying to accomplish a sense of amateur heroes putting a uniform together with things they can find lying around.

Another from Vylla's Young Avengers MCU series. Billy Kaplan aka Wiccan.
Another from Vylla’s Young Avengers MCU series. Billy Kaplan aka Wiccan.

Kate was the exception seeing as she has money to spend and a flair for design. I wanted her to have a flashy, perhaps a little over-designed, and less functional outfit to depict the fact that this is a brand new hero who has not got her lumps yet. She’s just starting out, kind of starry eyed about the superhero thing, not necessarily thinking about self preservation or getting road rash on her stomach.

The idea would then be, kind of like how you see in the comics, her uniform changes as she grows up and becomes a more seasoned hero (If you pretend the hip cutouts don’t exist, which I think we should). Less frills more function. It’s just a way of showing character progression, via dumb fashion choices. Honestly, I think I would like to go back and do a veteran Kate. It’d be a whole different kind of beast.

You’ve actually designed several uniforms for different characters, including this incredible MCU-inspired Sharon Carter as Captain America. What inspires you to redesign someone’s uniform? Do you have an affinity for the character or are you righting some of the fashion wrongs?

My general philosophy for fanart, and particularly redesigns, is draw the characters the way you’d like them to be. I love these characters, and if what I love about them isn’t communicated in how they’re drawn, change it. That’s the freedom of being a fanartist and not doing a job.

Sharon, for instance, is criminally underappreciated. In the comics, she’s a veteran of the save-the-day committee. Even in the MCU, with the short amount of time she’s allowed on screen, she’s doing nothing but living up to the ideal of Captain America stands for. She’s a little guy steadfastly doing what she believes to be right. She deserves that shield. The trick was drawing her without making her look like Evel Knievel.

On WWAC we’ve covered a number of really bad uniform redesigns, like this boob holster for Misty Knight and the mysterious V-For-Vag-opening on Wonder Woman’s pre-Rebirth design, but also the good, as represented by Starfire’s recent redesign and Batgirl’s cosplayable design. What are some of the things that you consider crucial in a good uniform redesign? Are there principles you follow?

The most important thing to me for costume design is there must be a strong understanding of the character’s personality and history. When a design gets this wrong, it causes a huge disconnect and essentially dehumanizes her. If you can’t picture this character picking up this outfit, getting a big smile on their face, and going, “Yes, this is me,” you’re doing it wrong.

That Misty is particularly egregious because the only thing that design accomplishes is exploitation. It doesn’t fit her character (i.e., a human being who prefers to not pop out of her top), communicate her abilities (actually takes the attention away from the wicked metal arm and weaponry), or speak to her history (why is this street level hero decked out like a dominatrix space pilot?).

Only after that is accomplished, comes the basic design principles that are especially important for comic book characters.
1. It must be able to be simplified easily.
2. It must be identifiable from close up and far away.
3. It must be interesting from several angles.
4. It must have some sense of drama.

Do you have any favorite uniform designs out there? Anything goes—existing designs or AUs or one-shot artbooks, or fanart designs by other fanartists. What makes them successful in your eyes?

I could roll around in Kris Anka designs all day, every day. They’re sleek, in character, and have an effortless kind of drama to them. Wada’s Scarlet Witch is also a favorite, of late.

Who’s next on your list? Is there anyone that you’re dying to redesign, but haven’t had the time to try your hand at yet?

I’m actually currently doing a Sailor Moon redesign as if the Sailor Scouts were fantasy characters each having their own class. A punk-y version of the Spider Women is also on the docket. And I think I am gonna try that older Kate, now that I think about it!

Thank you so much for joining us! I can’t wait to see her take on the Spider Women, and I look forward to that Kate Bishop 2.0!

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Kate Tanski

Kate Tanski

Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.

4 thoughts on “Fanart is a Giant Group Hug: An Interview with Fanartist Vylla

  1. Great article, but small point of contention: the X-Men cover you feature is by Olivier Coipel, not Kris Anka. Coipel is great, but Anka’s “for funsies” X-Men redesigns are mind blowing and feature more “realistic” female body types.

  2. Great interview! I’ve commissioned several pieces of fanart from Vylla and I cannot begin to tell you what a pleasure she is to work with. Not only that, but everything she’s created for me has been incredible – I wish she’d charge MORE, as a matter of fact, because her work is such high quality.

    1. I believe it! She was an absolute pleasure to interview 🙂 Hopefully this whole situation will lead to nothing but good things!

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