Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fruit of the Earth: The Costume That Never Was

In the late Summer of 1999 the "No Man's Land" saga was coming to an end. While looking after the orphans of Robinson Park a distracted Poison Ivy was captured by Clayface. For six months she was held prisoner in an underground cave; deprived of sunlight and water. Clayface forced her to grow crops for a devastated Gotham City and the children were also forced into this slave labor scheme.

Eventually Batman and Robin arrive on the scene to save Ivy and her brood. They tear the place apart and as it floods Poison Ivy swims into the sunlight. Now revived she regains her powers and commands the plants below to wrap themselves around her body; forming the costume in question.

I'm about to speculate so don't quote me. The penciling artist for the "Fruit of the Earth" three part story was Dan Jurgens. With Bill Sienkiewicz on ink duty. I suppose you could say that it was Jurgens who decided to change Poison Ivy's costume for this arc. Whether or not he intended for this design to become a lasting part of continuity is up for debate.

The costume is comprised of dark thorny vines that are wrapped like bandages over her entire body (as if wearing a catsuit). Spiked leaves are found at mid-elbow and mid-calf suggesting trim on gloves and boots. This same detail can be found around the neck. A rather large pink hued flower blooms on the upper chest like a broach. It's a rather charming way to add femininity to an otherwise forbidding outfit.

In some ways this costume could be seen as a metaphor; wanting to feel covered and safe after being tormented by the (wrong) elements. The entire scene involving the creation of this garb, just before Poison Ivy lays the smack down on Clayface, is just awesome to behold.

If you're wondering why I used the expression, "The Costume That Never Was", it's because after Detective Comics #735 the Jurgens creation practically ceased to exist. The same year this story played out, DC Comics released Batman: No Man's Land Secret Files #1. On page 49 you will find Poison Ivy's profile page and she is wearing this costume. Beautifully illustrated by the team of Guichet and Sowd (of course). This same drawing appears in a 2001 Batman Stickerbook.

The only other official appearance I can recall is in JLA: Justice League of Arkham (March 2001). It was a rather goofy one-shot; at least the cover was good. Poison Ivy is lovingly referred to as the Chlorophyl Queen during roll call.

And finally, the September 2000 issue of "Adventures of Superman, #582" features a costume that is quite similar to the Fruit of the Earth catsuit. Poison Ivy is second in command of an alternate reality JLA comprised of villains. Bizarro is the leader of this gathering.

I hope that other artists are willing to take such bold risks. Beyond Jurgen's effort, Poison Ivy's costume has rarely changed. The last time there was any new precedent was during Jim Lee's "Hush"; that design has now become the standard.

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Anonymous said...

I actually really liked this costume. I wasn't a fan od the artists in the comic itself (Ivy was too lanky and her boobs looked bolted on. I understand if they wanted it to be like she was emaciated from starvation, but why the fake looking boobs??) but I like her picture for the No Man's Land Files.

Jim Lee's version is up there as a favorite, as well as Gullium March (he made her the goddess she is!) and of course, Bruce Timm (the second version!).

I'd love to see a remake of the newest outfit. It seems...lackluster, you know? I was even fiddling around in my sketchbook working on how to make it better.

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