Xavier Coelho-Kostolny wants you to know that he sculpted the nipples on Spider-man.
“As the man who sculpted Spider-Man’s nipples, I have nothing to finish this sentence and just wanted to start a tweet with ‘As the man who sculpted Spider-Man’s nipples,'” he proclaimed on Twitter on Feb. 20, 2020. Because, yes, someone is responsible for sculpting nipples onto your favorite video game characters. Someone has to make everything you see in the games you play. This is the story of one such person.
More specifically, Coelho-Kostolny worked as a character artist on Marvel’s Spider-Man — the hit PlayStation title released by Insomniac Games in 2018. The designer explains that he wasn’t responsible for every part of Spidey; the main model work was actually done by fellow character artist Leroy Chen.
“I then used that as a base to sculpt the mostly nude suit so they’d be consistent,” he explained over email. “I was responsible for adding things like finer muscle detail, skin texture, and more well-defined anatomy.” So yes, not only did Coelho-Kostolny sculpt Spidey’s nips. He also did plenty of… well, body work. Whewph.
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I asked him how important he felt the nips were to this role — especially compared to the overall design of the iconic wall-crawler. He said it was a matter of perspective.
“It’s my job to make sure characters look as good as possible, but nipples are only a small part of the game,” he said. “In terms of things like art direction, though, it’s very important that things like nipples feel consistent with the rest of the game, and aren’t distracting.”
It’s a fair observation! Out-of-place nipples would likely go viral in a game as massive as Marvel’s Spider-man. Slightly adjusting some puddles famously caught The Gamers’ attention (and ire) before the game was even released. And from what he tells me, Coelho-Kostolny absolutely took care in making sure Peter Parker’s pink buds would be realistic and, well, nippy. He spent plenty of time looking at… references and inspiration. That included himself: a real-life man!
“I definitely looked at a lot of shirtless actors and models, that’s for sure!” Coelho-Kostolny confessed. “To make sure they were realistic and placed correctly, I actually referenced high-res imagery, 3D scans, and even looked in the mirror at certain points.”
As the man who sculpted Spider-Man’s nipples, I have nothing to finish this sentence and just wanted to start a tweet with “As the man who sculpted Spider-Man’s nipples.” https://t.co/4XVqauYeFn
— Xavier 🔜 ✨🎮 GDC 🎮✨ (@XCK3D) February 21, 2020
His detail-oriented design did pay off. Plenty of people really, really enjoyed the “Undies” outfit. It was a pretty popular choice of costume for “photo mode” users across the Internet. WhileCoelho-Kostolny played the game himself, he preferred to watch other people play with that specific outfit. It was especially entertaining to him given the game rendered the player’s current outfit into cutscenes. A mostly nude Spider-Man in very serious situations is a joy to see, if you haven’t already.
“Having seen some people play on new game plus, I really enjoyed a lot of the scenes where Spider-Man was wearing the Undies suit in otherwise silly circumstances,” he said. “I think my favorite the scene where Peter Parker and Mary Jane are having dinner together, and we see Undies Spidey jump out the window.” (Here’s the scene, for reference. Now imagine that with shirtless Spidey.)
Chances are, players got to witness plenty of his work while playing Spider-man. Beyond Spidey’s nips, Coelho-Kostolny worked on some of the protagonist’s other popular alternate costumes. He’s responsible for the Punk, Spirit-Spider, and the Vintage suits — the latter of which was a collaboration with J. Tuason, a fellow Insomniac artist. He also lent a hand with Martin Li (a.k.a. Mister Negative), Kingpin, Vulture, and various street NPCs.
His eye for detail paid off for these other characters, as the more dressed-up villains received plenty of closet care. It seems Coelho-Kostolny learned more than he bargained for, as he had to research suits and formal menswear to make sure the characters fit their backgrounds and intentions.
“I ended up becoming very well acquainted with all the different styles of suits for characters like Mr. Negative and Kingpin,” he shared. “I now have a pretty good handle on semi-formal menswear, even though I usually wear jeans and t-shirts to work!”
Before this, the artist got his start with weapon models for Team Fortress 2 and some characters for Heroes of Newerth, so he’s definitely got his work cut out for him. When I asked about quirks of general character design, Coelho-Kostolny told me that people definitely get hung up on the small details. Even basic minutiae will receive scrutiny if you aren’t terribly keen-eyed: “Things like eyes, teeth, ears, and fingers are areas where people will notice quickly if they look wrong, just like if nipples look off somehow.”
Thankfully, the nips didn’t feel off! Shirtless Spidey lives on in our souls thanks to Coelho-Kostolny. But I had one more pressing question for our sPECcialist: Who would win in a nip-off, his Spidey, or any iteration of Captain America?
“As much as I’m biased towards Peter Parker’s nips, Captain America would absolutely spank him in a nip-off. I mean, come on, have you seen Chris Evans shirtless? No contest.”
Extremely valid answer.
[EDIT: This article originally had a typo in Coelho-Kostolny’s name.]