The head costumer on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ann Foley, has been styling agents and other characters since the show premiered in 2013. This season, Foley took up the task of turning actor Gabriel Luna into Ghost Rider, the supernatural driver from Felipe Smith’s All-New Ghost Rider comic.
An LA mechanic possessed by a serial killer, Robbie Reyes wears some superhero duds that include a simple black leather jacket and plain jeans. Sounds doable for Halloween, but not to Foley. Besides Luna, she also had to dress Luna’s stunt and car doubles, making sure they’re able to move on foot and behind the wheel.
“Any character introduced to this show from the comics, we want it to make sense within our universe,” Foley tells Inverse, adding that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is based on a different understanding of reality. “We wanted to make him feel like you know he’s a kid from Los Angeles. And I wanted to pay tribute to that aspect of the character that the writers wrote in.”
What’s the most important thing a costume designer has to do when styling comic book characters?
My main job is to help tell a story […] through clothes. For our show, we are part of a larger universe. So its really important to pay tribute to the characters from the comics, but also have it make sense in the world that we’ve established as S.H.I.E.L.D.
Is there something to Ghost Rider’s costume — jacket and jeans — that the audience doesn’t or can’t easily see on screen?
You’re seeing exactly what [we] want you to see. Also James Shaw helped; he’s the creative director at Marvel Television. He did a concept illustration of the jacket based on Philipe Smith’s work. We really wanted this to pay tribute to Philipe’s work, and I think we achieved that.
Was there anything different about costuming Ghost Rider in comparison to the other characters on S.H.I.E.L.D.?
For Robbie, the challenge was really making sure that the costume works for the stunts and driving we were doing on the show. Making sure that everybody could do what they needed to do in the costume.
Ghost Rider looks like he leapt out of Felipe Smith’s comic, but with other characters you deviate. For example, Bobbi, aka Mockingbird from last season, didn’t have a costume identical to the one in the comics. When do you decide a character should look like the comics and when they shouldn’t?
You have to take each character as they are and decide what elements are important to hang on to. Then, you ask, how do you make it fit within our universe?
That’s certainly the case with Mockingbird. I wanted her to have a tactical feel. I wanted to hold on to her color palette — and to the buttons that go down the side of her jacket in the comics — but I switched it up and turned those into grommets in the straps on her suit. They actually served a purpose. I changed the panel down the front from white to gray because I didn’t want her to be a target.
What went into Daisy’s outfit, which she’s wearing as Quake? It looks from the comics too, but is there an in-universe reason why it bears semblance to Black Widow?
At a glance it could be similar, and when you work in that sort of a silhouette you tend to get those comparisons. Black Widow’s is a one-piece catsuit, Daisy’s is a two. That aspect of it is different and makes her unique, but her color is different as well. She’s got gray and gold running through. There are worse things to say about the costume, and I love Black Widow, she’s one of my favorite characters within the MCU.
Theres never been an official S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform, like there are Starfleet uniforms in Star Trek. What was the creative decision behind that, to let the S.H.I.E.L.D. characters wear whatever they want?
At the beginning we were trying to separate ourselves from the “superhero” aspect. Originally, the show was about the people behind the superheroes. These are the regular people. I think that’s what makes our show great: we have these different civilian looks for each character, you can identify them immediately.
We’ve tried to show their emotional journey through clothes. You can’t do that if you have them all wearing tactical suits. So that’s been a challenge, and that’s what makes these characters interesting. You get to see Fitz and his journey from Season 1 to Season 4. You’ve watched him grow up, and clothes played a big part.
Who’s been your personal favorite character to costume?
That’s like asking me who my favorite child is! I’m proud of the arc we’ve done with Fitz and Simmons. You still recognize them from Season 1, but the change has been incredible. The same with Daisy, you’ve seen her shift throughout the seasons and I think that’s fun. I do love the superhero costumes too. Im not gonna lie, those are a blast to make. I’m proud of Quake and Mockingbird. We’ve got some fun stuff coming up this season too. I’m really excited for everybody to see AIDA and what we’ve designed for her.
Any hints about what were in store for with AIDA?
It’s in no comics specifically. It’s more a feeling. It’s designed specifically for her that I really wanted. And we’re not quite sure where she got it from, but I also didn’t want it to distract from who she was.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesday nights on ABC.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.