Elektra: Character, Costume History, and Cosplay
Elektra Natchios was created by Frank Miller in 1981 and made her first appearance in Daredevil #168. Elektra has a variety of different backstories, and many of them contradict each other. Oftentimes, her backstory is used more for moving a book's storyline rather than developing her character. For this reason, I will stick with the consistent section of her origins.
She is the daughter of a wealthy Greek family. She was raised by her father after her mother died when she was in infant. She began dating Matt Murdock in college, and they became each other’s first loves. Later, Elektra and her father were held hostage by a group of terrorists, and—although Matt Murdock attempted to save them (this was before he became Daredevil)—Elektra’s father was killed. Grieving over her father’s death, she disappears and seeks a way to avenge her father’s murder.
Chaste and the Hand
She ends up in China, where she studies martial arts and joins a group known as Chaste. This group is dedicated to fighting for good and preserving order. Unfortunately, with anger and hatred in her heart, Elektra is eventually turned away and joins their enemy, the Hand. They are a group of assassins that use black magic and violence to fulfill their desires.
A Lethal Assassin
Elektra, at her core, is good and never intended to stay and be a servant of the Hand. She would leave the Hand and work independently as the world’s most lethal female assassin. Although she has fought side by side with the heroes of the Marvel Universe, she has also been known to work for villains like the Kingpin. When your job is to assassinate people, you will never be completely good.
Avoiding the "Lois Lane Mistake"
Elektra is one of Frank Miller’s most popular characters. She was created during a time when Daredevil was beginning to have life brought back into his series, thanks to Miller’s darker stories. Elektra was brought in as a serious romantic interest for Matt Murdock. Miller wanted to avoid what he dubbed the “Lois Lane Mistake,” where the superheros who are gods end up in romantic relationships with normal people. He wanted Elektra to be somebody who could hold her own in a fight against Daredevil or other equally powered individuals. Elektra’s extraordinary fighting skills, cold efficiency and use of weapons made her such a character.
Success and Controversy
Fans loved her, and she became an instant success. Her fame comes with a lot of controversy over her use in the Marvel Universe. Marvel promised to have her character remain dead, unless Miller gave them permission to resurrect her. However, Elektra is extremely popular, and, as any comic reader knows, nobody remains dead if there is money to be made.
Elektra has been killed or thought to have been killed many times. Bullseye and Wolverine have both eliminated our female assassin, but she has been resurrected, faked her death, and even been held prisoner off planet while being impersonated by a Skrull.
Elektra’s sais are as important to her ensemble as Spider-Man’s web-shooters, Batman’s Utility Belt, or Daredevil’s billy club. Miller chose this weapon to help make her just as powerful as the superheroes she is fighting with or against. According to Miller, they not only extended her reach but also “makes every karate blow more powerful."
The sai is a traditional weapon found in martial arts that is often used in pairs. Elektra wields a basic design, but the sai has a variety of different shapes. Although the weapon is primarily used for short jabs, its unique design allows for a wide range of offensive and defensive moves. The ability to quickly change your grip on these weapons gives the wielder multiple options for blocks, parries, strikes, and captures. These moves can be quickly adjusted based on the direction of the attack and size of the attacker. The sai’s ability to be used for lethal and nonlethal purposes made them ideal for a hero who walks the line of good and evil.
Elektra’s appearance was originally inspired by the bodybuilder Lisa Lyon. When you look at Elektra’s first costume, you can see a desire to show off her powerful but womanly frame.
This all-red, satin costume is a cross between a one piece bathing suit, flowing dress, and tattered fabric. The body fits snugly around her torso and then flows down at the waist as it splits into two long strips. This allowed the freedom to easily use her legs as a deadly weapon; I am sure exposing her derrière was just an accident.
Although the flowing strips of fabric used in the costume appear to be a design flaw, giving enemies something to grab onto, they actually served two purposes:
- Elektra could use these strands like Jackie Chan and turn them into another weapon in her arsenal.
- From an artistic point of view, flowing fabric allows for movement on a static drawing (this is why many superheroes are given capes).
Footwear and Accessories
You can tell Elektra was trained as a silent assassin, because—unlike most heroines—she does not wear stiletto heels on a regular basis. She often wears large hooped earrings, which might not be the most practical thing to wear in combat, but it is important to have some fashion.
Speaking of fashion, her use of a do-rag was ahead of its time. The do-rag was used heavily in the 1930s, but it was for practical purposes of protecting chemically treated hair styles while people slept. It would later be used to help protect against Helmet Hair, when people had to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle. It would not be a fashion statement until the 1990s. Of course, Elektra had been wearing one since 1981.
Classic Costume Update
Elektra may be confused about her loyalties and path in life, but she knows what she likes to wear. Wardrobe wise, she usually sticks with very similar designs. The only major difference in this costume from her original is that it’s now a two piece. This design change may have occurred because a full piece suit was restricting her movements or she just wanted to show off her killer abs.
Red vs. White
Elektra prefers the solid color of red, but both her signature costume and the updated wrap around bikini version come in white. Although white gives a nice contrast from the background, red is much easier to clean the blood out of.
The most dramatic change in costumes was when Elekra wore pants. This costume was closer in design to the Jennifer Garner film version of Elektra, than the clothing seen in past comics. You think wearing pants would draw less attention to our female assassin, but comics find a way to draw the eye. These tight black pants are just as revealing as the dangling fabric she more commonly wears. One might even ponder how she is able to be so flexible in such tight clothing.
The opposite problem is found for the upper half of her body. Since gravity is not an issue, rather than wearing a supportive top, she simply wears a matching black bra. This does not offer much in the form of protection, but does allow greater freedom of movement.
In 2003 Jennifer Garner would be cast as Elektra in the Daredevil movie, starring her future husband Ben Affleck. Despite Elektra being well known for wearing an all red satin costume, the movie decided to use black leather. Garner showed an awareness of this clothing choice and told interviews, "the red would never have worked for hiding a harness, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but you have to protect your skin a little bit. They throw me around so much on the rooftop I got cut through the leather."
Two years later, she starred in the critically panned, self titled, Elektra movie. Even Garner admits that the film was awful and claims the only reason she did it was because her contract from Daredevil required it. At least this movie put her in a red outfit and attempted to give her hooped earrings. However Jennifer’s ears were not pierced at the time, so they were left out.
Elektra Halloween costumes are easy to find, but simple in their design.
Models and Cosplayers
Fans of the character are always creating more elaborate Elektra costumes.
Google Images (Images appeared on several sites and was unsure of original)