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Quintessa Swindell’s Black Adam look is a little bit Oz, a little bit Hunger Games

But the high-flying Cyclone is all superhero

Quintessa Swindell as Cyclone in Black Adam, their hair unbound and flowing along with their brilliantly colored flowy costume and flowy “air” effects. Image: Warner Bros.

Among the most striking things about Black Adam are the costumes. They’re accurate without being goofy, but colorful without sacrificing seriousness. Against the movie’s palette of browns, elements like Doctor Fate’s blue-and-gold cloak and Black Adam’s yellow-and-black chest emblem pop off the screen. But nobody looks as fabulous, or as unique, as Quintessa Swindell’s Cyclone.

“Even for me,” the Euphoria actor told Polygon over Zoom, “[someone who’s] really into comics, superhero films, and seeing what people do to switch up the genre — everyone on this team, literally just everyone, just made it something so special.”

The wind-summoning Cyclone — aka Maxine Hunkel — is far from the most famous DC Comics character in Black Adam, but she bicycles onto the screen as the best dressed of them, from her striped stockings to her monkey backpack. Then her superhero costume takes it up a notch further: iridescent green on purple, unbound hair, puffed shoulders, gauzy skirts, and, again, those very witchy striped leggings.

The JSA, Cyclone among them, face off against a tentacle monster in JSA All-Stars #6 (2010). She’s wearing an off the shoulder dress with a tank top beneath it, striped leggings, and sneakers, with her hair blowing in the wind. Image: Matthew Sturges, Freddie Williams II/DC Comics

The whole ensemble is based on Cyclone’s comics appearance — a loose green tunic dress and Wizard of Oz-recalling red-and-white-striped stockings, not to mention an occasional pointed witch hat and a pet monkey in a vest. (After all, she does have the power to summon twisters.)

As Swindell tells it, the comics canon was filtered through costume design team Kurt and Bart — whose pedigree in fantastical cinematic costumes includes the final two Hunger Games movies, Deadpool 2, and the lavish first episode of Apple TV’s Foundation series. Swindell got plenty of input into the process as well.

“What makes this movie so special is that everyone was so collaborative and down for my ideas,” Swindell said. “I was looking at a lot of the comics and trying to gather what I could, so when I went to go see Kurt and Bart, our costume designers, I was just like, What if we do this, what if we do this, how can we make this work? The hair and the powers and the costume, it all flows together. It really had to be a symbiotic team effort. We just got so lucky that everyone was so down to play and make something special and unique. [...] [Director Jaume Collet-Serra] was also just so excited to have Cyclone dance.”

And boy, does Cyclone dance. Black Adam’s take on the visual effect of her wind powers, a mixture of CGI effects and wire work, has Swindell swimming through the air like an otter, spinning and twisting like a Cirque du Soleil performance as their skirt and hair orbit gorgeously around them. Between that and Swindell’s charisma, the little-known superhero is a genuine highlight of an otherwise less-than-exemplary flick.

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