Radical Redesigns1 of 12
Superheroes change outfits and costumes all the time – many of them even have multiple looks they turn to on a regular basis. But this wasn’t always the case.
Once upon a time, a makeover for a superhero was often a big deal, especially when it comes to characters like Superman and Spider-Man, whose costumes are downright iconic. Many of those characters are going back to their classic looks (or versions of them) with Superman recently putting his red trunks back on the outside, and even Shatterstar returning to a more classic costume for his new series.
But when it comes to new costumes, sometimes this shift in look is subtle – and sometimes it’s much more obvious.
Here are ten extreme superhero makeovers – the good, the bad, and everything else.
Green Arrow2 of 12
Created in 1941, Green Arrow was a fairly insignificant character for much of his run, despite the work of creators like Mort Weisinger and Jack Kirby. In his earliest days, he was little more than a Batman pastiche, with a quiver of trick arrows rather than Batman's utility belt. He even had an Arrow-Car, an Arrow-Cave, and Speedy, a young sidekick.
Despite becoming the first new recruit to the fledgling Justice League, he remained a somewhat boring character, and his unremarkable costume went right along with that status.
Then, in the late '60s, Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams took over the character. Sensing the need for a change in direction, the pair settled on adding Green Arrow to the mix, recasting him as a more liberal "hero of the people," and making him the counterpoint to Green Lantern's "establishment" mentality. To go along with his new attitude, Neal Adams redesigned Green Arrow's look, outfitting him with a more conventional arsenal of arrows, altering his costume to be a more superheroic version of the Errol Flynn-style Robin Hood look that inspired his original get-up, and, most importantly, adding Green Arrow's signature Van Dyke-style goatee. In those days, that was the ultimate symbol of Green Arrow's new, liberated, free-wheeling attitude, and solidified his role as the swashbuckling, gruff counterpoint to Green Lantern's almost procedural role as a member of what was, essentially, an intergalactic police department.
Daredevil3 of 12
Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in the second wave of Marvel superhero titles, Daredevil began life as something of a Spider-Man analogue. Acrobatic and carefree, Daredevil swung from the rooftops of New York City, smiting villainy with an enigmatic "radar sense" and a keen sense of humor.
His costume, reportedly designed by Jack Kirby and then altered by Bill Everett, was meant to evoke the look of colorful circus tights, and reflected Daredevil's high-flying sensibility.
When Wally Wood took over the art chores on Daredevil very early in the title's run, he also took it upon himself to redesign the hero's costume, replacing the yellow portions with a solid red jumpsuit, evoking the image of a demon or devil. This look was made even more eerie by its eyeless mask, and Wood's tendency to render it all in shadow, making the main portions of the outfit almost black at times. While it still took some time to move Daredevil's adventures in a different direction from those of the more popular Spider-Man, it was Wood's design that set the character's darker, often more morose tone that developed in later years. Without the moody, shadowy countenance of Wood's devilish costume, artists like Gene Colan, Frank Miller, and Alex Maleev wouldn't have had the dark man of mystery their stories necessitated.
Captain America4 of 12
Captain America had a few minor costume tweaks in the first 40 years of his existence, starting with his now famous round shield, which replaced a triangular version which he used in his first appearance. But these were mostly inconsequential, like the slightly altered headpiece, the streamlining of his torso stripes, or slight changes to the way his scale mail tunic was portrayed. He even had a brief sojourn as Nomad, an alternate identity with an entirely different look. Still, as Captain America, his iconic costume remained relatively unchanged, a perfect expression of patriotism and heroism.
Then, in the late '80s, long time Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald and artist Paul Neary took Steve Rogers in a very different direction when he became disillusioned by strange orders given to him by a secret military panel. When his Captain America costume and shield were appropriated by the same panel and given to John Walker, the Super-Patriot, Captain America decided not to give up his identity or career, but briefly shortened his name to the Captain, and donning an altered, darker version of his classic costume which replaced the blue of America's national colors with black, and his traditionally vertical torso stripes with horizontal panels. This darker look was in direct contrast to Walker's, which was essentially the classic Captain America costume, but whose behavior was much more violent, more unstable, and yes, darker that Steve Rogers'. Eventually, Walker was stripped of his uniform, which was returned to Captain America. Under the name U.S. Agent, Walker took up the black uniform that Rogers had worn for nearly two years.
Aquaman5 of 12
Aquaman is a character that has rarely lived up to his potential. As the child of an underwater princess and a human, he's always been caught between two worlds. Though his origins are similar to Marvel's Prince Namor, he's rarely had that character's edge; instead taking part in the kind of colorful, offbeat adventures typical of many of DC's superhero pantheon.
His original costume, a strange combination of green, orange, and occasionally yellow, reflects the kind of off-kilter, yet still safe world in which most of Aquaman's early adventures took place.
When Peter David took over Aquaman in the 1990s, he began by giving him a much more serious look, compounded by the character finally falling under the weight of all the tragedies he'd suffered over the years — from the death of his son, to the revelation that his arch-nemesis was truly his half-brother, to the loss of his kingdom.
Losing, for the first time, his clean-cut look, his hair grew long, and he grew a beard. He began wearing a much more gladiatorial looking armor, and, to top it all off, he replaced the hand he had lost in battle with a fierce-looking harpoon. This new look, combined with a new, darker attitude and membership among Grant Morrison's acclaimed JLA meant that Aquaman was, for a while anyway, no longer the butt of the joke.
Storm6 of 12
Introduced in the seminal Giant-Size X-Men #1, which revamped Marvel's flailing mutant team with mostly new members, Storm was one of the book's break-out characters. With her history as a goddess in Africa and her mighty weather-manipulation powers, she was a force to be reckoned with - and a compelling, multidimensional addition to the team.
Storm has remained with the X-Men almost non-stop since that time, and has even led several incarnations of the team. Her costume, while revealing, was always one of Dave Cockrum's most popular designs.
Then, in the 1980s, Chris Claremont, who had written the X-Men for years and helped develop Storm's personality, took a strange left-turn in her journey - Storm went through something of a crisis. It didn't help that she had also recently had a brush with suicide after being infected with the larva of an nightmarish alien, and had to nearly kill the leader of the Morlocks to save her teammate Angel.
All of this culminated in the usually strong and caring Storm falling in with the still-burgeoning punk scene, resulting in a new look consisting of a mohawk, safety pinned leather vest, and a dog collar. Equally loved and reviled, the look didn't last long, and was eventually replaced with a version of her classic look. But for a brief moment, Storm had one of the sharpest 180 degree turns in X-Men history.
Wonder Woman7 of 12
Wonder Woman has always been one of DC's most popular characters, even surviving through the dark period of the 1950s, when many superhero comic books were cancelled and forgotten. Her earliest adventures, while fun, had some strange connotations, and as the title evolved, it quickly turned into a lighthearted, almost absurdist sci-fi comic, much like Batman and Superman had become.
When Denny O'Neil took over writing Wonder Woman's adventures in the late 1960s, he sought to make her more relevant. In doing so, he stripped her of her powers, and had her return her costume to the Amazons. She began training under a blind martial artist known as I Ching, continuing to fight crime as Diana Prince in a series of mod-inspired spy stories.
Amid outcry over the title's change in direction, Wonder Woman eventually went back to wearing her usual costume, but that wasn't the last time she'd make a change. In later years, she's had several new looks, usually involving some kind of leather jacket and, most notably, long pants. These changes have almost always been short-lived, however, as fans seem simply too fond of her classic look to let it be abandoned.
Iron Man8 of 12
When Tony Stark cobbled together his first suit of Iron Man armor, it was in a cave, under duress, and with limited resources. The suit was almost monstrous, bulky, heavy, and somewhat grotesque. When members of the public failed to recognize him as a hero, he reasoned that it was due to the appearance of his armor, so he painted it gold, hoping that a brighter color than its original, dull grey would be more inspiring to those he was trying to help.
The paint job worked, but the armor itself was still somewhat bulky and unwieldy. Very early in his career, Iron Man made his second costume change. This time, he eschewed the bulky, robotic look for a more streamlined, high-tech look designed by Steve Ditko. The armor was sleek, keeping the gold of the previous look, but adding red. It was like a hot rod, outfitted with the most bleeding edge gadgets that Tony could devise, and constantly updated with new weapons and gizmos.
Though it went through a few tweaks here and there, it remained largely unchanged until the 1980s, when circumstances forced Tony to begin designing new armors, a practice that continues to this day. Nearly all of them are based in some way on Ditko's design, however, which forever defined Iron Man's constantly evolving look.
Beast9 of 12
Though, like all of the original X-Men, the bounding Beast got a makeover when Neal Adams took over art chores in the late '60s, those costumes were generally similar to their original uniforms. It wasn't until that team disbanded, and Beast's solo adventures began that the big changes really started taking place, changing his appearance, and forever defining his most recognizable look.
Using a special serum he developed to disguise his appearance, Beast set out on a series of adventures based around his new civilian job as a scientist. When he failed to reverse the serum's effects, he was trapped in the furry, animalistic form it bestowed. Later events explained that the look was actually the result of a latent mutation that caused Beast to devolve physically into increasingly more feral forms, resulting first in his Frank Quitely-designed lion-ish form, and more recently in Stuart Immonen's more ape-like redesign from a few years ago.
Spider-Man10 of 12
Designed by artist Steve Ditko, Spider-Man's costume is widely recognized as being one of the most innovative and popular of its day. The fact that it has remained largely unchanged for over 50 years, aside from brief periods where he's worn other uniforms, is a mark of the strength and recognition of the design, which was meant to have been created by Peter Parker, the teenage hero himself.
Over the years, slight tweaks have taken place, with certain artists rendering the webbing under his arms and others leaving it off; or the blue of his costume alternating from almost black in its depth to a lighter, friendlier shade. But his biggest change did not come until the 1980s, when, after his regular costume was destroyed on an alien world, Spider-Man donned an all-black suit created by a strange machine.
This change in look was accompanied by a change in powers and demeanor, as well. No longer did Spider-Man rely on his mechanical web-shooters to sling around the city. Instead, his strange, organic costume produced its own webbing. Further, as time went on, Spider-Man became somewhat moodier and more violent, culminating in his realization that, while he was asleep, the costume had become sentient, piloting his unconscious body and brutally fighting crime.
Realizing the costume was an alien lifeform and was trying to bond with him permanently, he abandoned it, where it was eventually found by Peter's rival — disgraced reporter Eddie Brock — resulting in the creation of Venom, one of Spider-Man's greatest foes. Though he did return to his original costume, he has donned a version of the black suit several times since, usually in dark times reflective of the costume's color palette.
Superman11 of 12
Unlike many of the changes on this list, Superman's biggest change was also accompanied by a fundamental alteration of his powers and character. After decades of having the most recognizable appearance in comics, albeit not a completely static one, Superman was given a strange new makeover that included not only the loss of his iconic powers, but the advent of new abilities, and the construction of a special suit designed to help control them.
The new look, while radically different and not unappealing in its own right, was not well received by Superman fans, as it was a vast departure from the Superman they all knew.
Losing his powers after a period of extended darkness that sapped his solar-powered strength, Superman developed electricity-based powers, resulting in the need for a special containment suit that prevented his energy from dispersing. This change also brought about other alterations, including a lack of powers when he transformed into Clark Kent. Superman no longer flew, he teleported. And rather than bouncing off his chest, bullets passed through his intangible form.
Eventually, this concept was taken even further when he was separated into two separate beings; the more famous electric blue version, and a red version of the same concept. Of course, these changes could never last. Fans had been in an uproar almost from the word go, and there was little chance that DC would not return their most iconic character to his definitive look, which had inspired countless fans for over 60 years.
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