A couple years ago, I did a series of costume redesigns for the cast of Mortal Kombat 1. I never finished, only getting the main 7 and Reptile done, and I wasn't really happy with my artistic abilities at the time or the way they were all face-forward like paper dolls, but they were quite popular nonetheless.
So I decided to take a second try, this time giving them poses that illustrate their personalities or powers more, and using inspiration from newer games and an artist named Vincent Proce's fan art, which you can find here: ([link]
) and I am much, much happier with the results.
- Obviously, I went in the same direction his MKDA alt and MKSM costume did when updating his MK1 look. People might ask "but why keep that costume? A white karate outfit doesn't even fit his character." Well, that's because most people think of Kano's character as a generic street thug. The truth is, Kano's origin is supposed to tie back to being a mercenary, a military-trained guerrilla fighter for hire. So going to a martial arts tournament in an outfit made for martial arts might not be entirely out of character for him, considering it's also covered with mercenary gear like weapons and utility belts.
Anyway, the few additions I made were a black dragon tattoo (which is much more elaborate than the simple black shapes he's gotten in the current gen games, 'cause that's what a real tattoo would look like, I would think. They tend to be very detailed and artistic, not just big filled in shapes.), a BD logo on his belt buckle, I grimed him up a bit with the bloodstained wraps around his hands, and I made his bandolier look like a cross between all the bandoliers he's worn before: the brown pockets one in MK1, the red box one in MK3, and the spiked shoulder armor from his vsDCU concept art.
And it was important to me to make sure facially he looked more like the MK1/DA Kano who's going bald, slicks his hair back, and only has stubble for a beard, because to me, it's that added aged look and sleaze factor that makes Kano look less like a generic thug and more like a crimeboss.
I also made sure to keep his knives as blue lightsabers like they were in the original MK1 and 3. I prefer sci-fi and fantasy elements over too much realism and Kano's one character that I think benefits from more tech in his arsenal.
The really big thing is I changed the big red box on his bandolier to a heart monitor. I noticed he had a tiny heart monitor on his hip in vsDCU, which probably has some connection to his cybernetics, and I've always been like "What the hell is that big red box even for?" So I decided to make the box into the monitor because it gives it a purpose.
- I decided to stick straight with his original MK1 costume, no frills, because to me, Liu Kang is a very humble character before he wins the tournament and besides, he's based on Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon, and that's all Lee wore in the movie. I also made sure that he has shorter hair in this game than he has in all the others, because that's how it was in the first game and storywise, I wanted something that would show Liu has only recently left the safety of the monastery to train with the White Lotus and become a man of the world. Shaolin monks shave their heads, but it's been a while since Liu was just a simple member of the temple, and he's letting his go.
You can see in the MK1 comic that this outfit came with a matching chinese-style jacket that Liu takes off when he fights. I considered using that for his alt, but that would've been too similar to his primary, so I'm saving it for a later game.
I wanted to jazz up the picture since otherwise, a shirtless guy in black pants is boring, so I drew one of his dragon-headed fireballs swirling around him. I like the dragon theme of his moves because I feel like it represents his faith in the gods and the idea that his strength comes from his spiritual connection, since the Elder Gods look like dragons/the MK logo.
- Scorpion is the only "ninja" in MK who's actually from a Japanese ninja clan. I wanted to make him look as traditional as possible while still retaining elements of his identity, so I went with a look very similar to his MKDA outfit, with the gigantic baggy pants and the loose fitting hood. He's of course got the cloth mask from the original MK1 costume as well.
To make him look different from the other ninjas and specifically "Scorpion"-y, I gave him skull kneepads because Scorpion always wears skulls somewhere on himself as his specific logo, and his is the only one of the ninja costumes that has that diamond quilting pattern. I consider that pattern a Scorpion trait only and not a Sub-Zero or Reptile one for some reason. Mainly I think what I like about it is that softer padding makes the Shirai Ryu look more poor and mundane than the Lin Kuei, who have more decorated clothes and fancier armor.
Also, when I draw Scorpion's eyes, I like to make sure they look like the very heavily shadowed ones with seemingly no eyebrows that he had in MK2, I think that captures his scary undead look the best. I also made sure to give him a wedding ring, 'cuz, y'know, important part of his backstory.
- Johnny was the first character I ever redesigned, before I even had it in my head to do every single one. I always thought it was weird that he wore red in the first game and then suddenly switched to blue for every game after, so I wanted to draw him with a blue belt. Then I thought to add his name to his tights 'cause he's Johnny Cage, he'd personalize his stuff. Then I thought "well those slippers look silly, let's give him socks and tennis shoes like he wears in the other games".
Noting how similar his MK1 outfit is to his Deadly Alliance one, I tried a few variations of fancier armor on Johnny's arms. Eventually I decided it'd be cool looking if they were asymmetrical. One arm just has tape wrapped around it like a UFC fighter, the other has his spiked gauntlet from MK1. I also stuck a fingerless glove on his "Green Bolt throwing hand". It's not like he needs to worry about burning himself with his powers, but it seems stylish and Johnny's all about style.
- To me, the first Sub-Zero costume isn't the one from MK1, it's the one from Mythologies, because that's the prequel. So that's what I went with. One thing I wanted to do is make his clothes much "nicer" and more privileged looking than Scorp who's still dressing like a Feudal Japan ninja, so Sub's outfit is tight like spandex, his tabi boots are rubber soled instead of sandals, it looks like it's all been sewn specifically for him.
Another thing is I wanted his mantle to be very decorated with symbols because Sub's MK1 bio said that he could be identified as Lin Kuei by the markings on his uniform. So I did the stripes that Sub's tunic has in vsDCU, but I made them little Lin Kuei logos repeating over and over again instead of the sort of snowflake design he had there.
I also added some vsDCU elements to the armor just to make it look less plain and more interesting. But it was important to me that THIS Sub-Zero not wear any heavy metal or look too armored because it's Kuai Liang who wears armor in most of the games, not Bi-Han. So Bi-Han's armor is all blue plastic or some similar sort of lightweight material the modern, high-tech Lin Kuei would use. The end result looks somewhat plain compared to Kuai...which fits the idea of an MK1 costume, they're all more plain than the ones in the sequels...but it also has to make justified sense from a story point of view, and in this case I think it does fit Bi-Han's character as a very simple, unemotional, unattached man concerned only with loyalty, to have a very un-personalized, standard Lin Kuei uniform - albeit with the tunic markings because he's a high-ranked member, since Sub-Zero is said to be the single best warrior in the clan at the time of MKM/MK1.
The other thing I wanted to do with Bi-Han to separate him from his brother was put the ice on his arms. Kuai Liang gets the ice on his arms in Deadly Alliance because he's gotten more powerful from the Dragon Medallion...but I've always thought of him as less powerful than his brother before he got the medallion - not a lot less, only slightly, but enough that I'd want to show it visually, because Bi-Han was much later into his career and famous as the Lin Kuei's greatest warrior until he died. So I gave Bi-Han the iced-up arms to show how, even without the medallion, he's pretty powerful right now.
Also, I tried to draw his eyes thin and "Chinese looking". I think it comes across well enough.
And I put a spine in his hand 'cause I like every character to be posed using one of their special moves or showing some sort of personality, and Bi-Han was famous for the spine rip. I made the head belong to a Masked Guard 'cause I like them but didn't have any other place to draw 'em since they're not name-characters. Also, it's a very distinctive helmet design. You can tell right away when you look at it "that is definitely one of Shang's guards". I like that recognizability.
- My thought towards Raiden's personality and story in MK1 are largely based on Christopher Lambert in the movie. I always thought that for his entrance into the tournament and first meetings with the heroes, he'd want to sort of keep his godhood a secret, the way Yoda pretends to be a simple-minded native when Luke first meets him on Dagobah, to test how Luke treats him and see if he's a good person and how ready he is to learn. So I gave Raiden's costume sort of a "beggar's robes" look, with his long hair hanging out loose and everything...but the hint of his godhood is still there in the fact that his ropes are gold and under his robes is a decorative buttoned shirt.
I also downplayed the blue in his color scheme since he didn't wear any in MK1. I used that little "swirly clouds" texture in a very faint blue on his shawl, which is shaped like the one from Mythologies (two parts hang down from the belt instead of one loincloth like in the other games), because he had a similar texture on his clothes in Vincent Proce's fan art and I liked how it looked.
Also note, a very subtle touch: I actually keep very close track of the heights of the characters I draw, compared to one another. Raiden is the tallest non-monster, which matches his MK1 bio saying he's 7 feet tall.
- Y'know, it's really just her MK1 outfit with camo pants and combat boots instead of silly spandex and hi-tops. But the devil's in the details, so here's the important ones:
I kept her hair shorter than the long ponytail she usually has in most games, because it was shorter in MK1 and in the concept art for Special Forces. The ponytail will grow out in MK3. I like to show aging or progression like that sometimes when it fits.
Obviously she has some decorative elements now like the dogtags and gun belt. The old west-y pistol belt was an idea I got from, again, Proce's concept art from a year or two back. I think it fits her character because canonically, Sonya is from Texas. 'Course, Proce's had a sheriff badge for the belt buckle, but I thought a Special Forces logo would fit there better.
Note that there's no gun in the belt, because her gun has been confiscated by Tsung's island guards.
In most of the modern games, there's a few costume details that they keep repeating on Sonya. I don't know if people always notice it...but for one, she always has two belts on her left thigh. I kept those and attached a big pocket for a gun or knife to them to give them a reason to be there. I also kept the hiked up thong from Deadly Alliance/Shaolin Monks. People complained about whether or not it fit her character, but y'know what? When you repeat something two games in a row (three if you count the tan line in vsDCU), I consider it a signature trait, and I like to keep the signature traits for continuity, not ignore them or throw them away. Plus I think of the thong as a callback to the black underwear-on-the-outside look her spandex had in the original MK1.
One major thing I added to Sonya is the little wired device on her wristband with the pink sparks. My idea is that Sonya doesn't have any training for chi powers yet in her backstory, so she uses a high-tech Special Forces sonic weapon to shoot her Pink Rings. This is the crude, prototype version, which is why it's bulky and has exposed wires.
One thing I didn't get to do with Sonya is, she also wears a little black choker with a gold ring in the center in some of the games, and I wanted to include it like I did the thong, but obviously I couldn't because it wouldn't go well with the dogtags and her alt is a turtleneck. It'll show up for sure when I do her MK3 outfit, though.
- I added him to the roster because of his real world origins: the rumor had it that he was a glitch or hidden character in the original MK1, which it turns out was never true, but the rumor was so popular they made him a real character in UMK3.
Storywise, I wanted Ermac to look like he's trying to blend in, to be confused for all the other ninjas at the tournament, because he's a hidden character. He's not actually a competitor in the bracket, the only reason he's on the island is as a spy for Shao Kahn, just to observe and report, or perhaps to try to assassinate humans who win too much.
I kept several of his now-trademark design traits like the facewraps, the gem in the center of his forehead which serves as his psychic "third eye", a shirt that buttons down the middle, more wraps on his hands, and the fact that he's one of the only ninjas who ever wears sleeves. I also went with a shade of tan for his skintone because I liked his slightly dark skin in UMK3.
I thought putting a loose hood like Scorpion's over top of his facewraps would give him a more "MK1" look. I also made him the only ninja to wear the shinguards from the original MK2 ninjas, because I think those guards, in red, have a look similar to Shao Kahn's armor, and Ermac is the character here who is very much "I'm a soldier in Kahn's army and nothing more".
For his mantle, originally I had drawn him with a very generic and boring one with a sort of movie-style smooth leather texture, which I wasn't satisfied with, but then ~ScorpionBlaze
did an Ermac design that I thought was genius. He gave him clothes sewn together out of patchwork and that's such a great metaphor for Ermac's own origin as a man sewn together out of a patchwork of many souls, I had to use it myself (with his permission, of course.) It really makes Ermac stand apart from Scorp and Sub without looking so different from them that he can't be hiding his identity.
Also, since MK9 added the cool looking special effect of soul-faces swirling around whenever he uses his telekinesis, I put the same effect around him as he levitates himself.
- It's what he's always worn, really. I did make his wrist-cuffs a bit fancier and add a stripe to his belt for a little color and help him fit in with all the other updated characters, but I didn't feel the need to radically deviate from his classic look. I know there's an argument to be made that it's too simple and that they really detailed him up in the latest game, but I'm just not feeling that one with all the belts and spikes, to be honest. Especially since the spiked shoulder pad feels like he's starting to rip off Kintaro.
A couple character details I want to specifically point out though are that, for one, I always make sure to draw Goro with little spikes on his forehead, because that's how John Tobias used to draw him, and because in the games, Sheeva has spikes on her forehead and Goro and Sheeva should match since they're the same breed. For another thing, I changed the yin yang on his belt. I replaced the dots with that red slashes shape. Basically, his yin yang looked like that in the movie, and I decided to use it because the Yin Yang is an Earth design, and I wanted him to have a version that looks like the Shokan invented it instead, since it's also seen on the flags in Kuatan Palace and everything.
- I just stuck to his MK1/Shaolin Monks costume exactly. I don't believe Old Shang needs any updating, he looks great already. I especially love the skirt hiding his feet, it makes him look cooler when he floats, like the Shadow Priests do, which fits because Shang IS a Shadow Priest. Very disappointed he wears pants and walks in MK9, but I digress.
Interesting piece of trivia, though: that katana at his hip? In the game, he was originally going to have a Fatality where he decapitates the opponent with it. It's a shame the bosses didn't get finishers, but at the same time, it would've been a shame for Shang's only finisher to not be stealing your soul. Still, I like the sword, it's decorative, it fits his "retired as an honored competitor from the tournament" theme.
- Much like Ermac, Reptile's MK1 story has him NOT participating in the tournament. He's there to remain hidden and protect Shang Tsung as his bodyguard, and the fact that he's there should be kept secret from the fighters so if anyone does make a move against Shang, they'll never see Reptile coming to stop them. As such, Reptile is dressed for stealth and deception, he's trying to dress similar to Scorpion and Sub-Zero to blend in with the crowd, and he's disguising the color of his scales with his chameleon-powers, to look more like a human. (the moment they look at his feet, cover's blown, but you can't get shoes in three-toed Saurian size, lol)
I deliberately designed Reptile's clothing to look both the most generic and devoid of logos or identifying marks of all the ninjas, and the most underprivileged and ragged, very much like Scorpion but even moreso. The first helps with his stealth and the second demonstrates the poor treatment and disregard his masters show him. Reptile is the whipped dog of MK, after all.
Since each ninja has their own thing going on with the mantle: Scorp's is quilted, Sub's is embroidered with logos, and Ermac's is stitched patchwork, I did give Reptile one small element of uniqueness, the texture of his is tiny scales.
The stitching on the black parts of his outfit, inspired by his MK9 alt, do run the risk of being too much like Ermac, but in this case I felt it worked because Ermac's stitches are on the decorative part of his costume and just show off what he's about, whereas Reptile's are on the main section and give off the sense that he literally has to scrounge together his clothing from scraps because he's a poorly treated slave.
- Nimbus is the kickboxer on the bottom right. Like with Ermac, I added him to the roster because he was a rumor from the days of the original game. He was created as part of an April Fools joke in a video game magazine. MK has a history of bringing urban legends about the game to life and I wanted to honor that.
Nimbus' appearance is drawn directly from the EGM hoax pictures he comes from. The pictures showed a black guy with a flattop and what I think looks like a "Lemmy beard", wearing a black gi with no shoes and boxing gloves. One picture showed him in Test Your Might and the other showed him doing a Fatality where he kicks the opponent's head off with a backflip.
For my version, all I did was give his gi yellow stripes and patches to look like Kobra's and suggest that maybe they come from the same dojo. Storywise, I added Nimbus to have a little more diversity, and moreso to have a character who would represent all the nameless, faceless guys who were invited to the MK tournament but have no superpowers and died during the bracket, because after all, MK1 is a deathmatch tourney and there were like 50 people invited, not just the seven you get to play as. Storywise, the seven main characters were playable because they're "the only survivors".
(Click Here to see the Alternate Costumes