Greetings from the Odinson,
One of the hardest things for a creator to do is designing a really cool costume for his hero or villain to wear. Back in the Golden Age it was relatively easy. Just wrap a cape around his neck and slap a mask on his face and you're off and running. Then came the Marvel Age and most of their heroes’ costumes went against the norm. Very few of them, unless, like Thor, it was part of the character’s culture, wore the super hero’s signature item of clothing, the cape. As the years have gone on, and costumes are seemingly becoming more and more “practical” (more than likely so it can be translated to the Big Screen) and less” fantastical.” I commend the modern artist that can actually come up with fresh and exciting ideas for new super hero costumes. I really enjoy the modern take on costumes that are still infused with a sense of tradition that can be found in the pages of Invincible.
So this week the Odinson presents the Best and the Worst costumes comic books have to offer.
Top 5 Worst Costumes in Comics
05 – Original Nightwing – It is no secret that the Odinson is a huge Dick Grayson fan. I feel like the character and I grew up together. I love that he is now a hero in his own right and no longer in the shadow of his mentor. But in The Judas Contract, when he reveals his new identity and his new Nightwing costume, I had to laugh. What was George Perez thinking? I can forgive the yellow bead things. I can even get past the steel wristbands over gloves. But I cannot take the disco oversized collar that juts down into a low-cut v-neck exposing Grayson’s hairless chest. On second thought, I change my mind. This shameless ensemble belongs on the other list. lol
04 – Mr. Terrific – There’s really not much to say. I mean the guy walks around with a “T” on his face. Chemo is attacking Keystone city? JSA, assemble! Oh, wait a minute guys, Mr. Terrific has to paint a “T” on his face. What? The “T” is a mask? Well, that explains why his mouth moves when he talks. Wait a minute…
03 – Yellow/Blue Wolverine – I have always absolutely hated this costume. Only the baddest man on the planet could talk as tough as Logan does while wearing a baby blue and bright yellow costume. I rejoiced the day I thought we were rid of this abomination of a super hero costume when Uncanny X-Men #139-140 came out. That’s when Modern Master John Byrne redesigned the feral mutant’s duds and gave him, to this day, his best costume. The brown earthy tones say “wolverine” way more than a flashy yellow ensemble with tiger stripes on it ever did. And what’s with those armored shoulder pads?
For a decade the baddest guy walking the earth finally looked the part. Then it all came crashing down when artists Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee resurrected the original (in the Perceptions and Mutant Genesis storylines respectively). It’s been here ever since. I will admit that John Cassaday’s update of the costume in the pages of Astonishing X-Men made it a bit more tolerable. But for me, Logan’s brown threads will always be my favorite.
02 – Gambit – From day one (Uncanny X-Men #266) I just didn’t get it. From his armored boots (you’d think armor would slow down an guy who relies on agility) to the funky New Age pattern on his (I don’t know what to call it) neck piece to his mask that’s not a mask because though it covers his head, his face is exposed and there’s a hole in the top for his spiky hair to pop out. This costume just seems like an example of overload, too many ideas in one place. The only thing that holds this ensemble together is his super cool trench coat that thankfully covers up this quasi mess most of the time.
01 – The New 52 Superman – Where to begin… First off, Superman is the Man of Steel. He’s bulletproof. The guy can walk on the surface of the sun. Why in the Nine Worlds does he need a suit of armor? Why does the Man of Tomorrow need knee pads?! Oh, it’s ceremonial Kryptonian armor? Well, that just explains everything. Really take the time to look this costume over. Look at the seams around his shoulders and hip joints. He looks like an action figure. The World’s Greatest Super Hero has been turned into a toy. Maybe that will be the big reveal of the New 52, this new Superman is actually a construct by the nefarious Toyman.
One of the biggest affronts about Superman’s new outfit is that it is now apparently a flash-suit. Now when there’s trouble the Man of “Armor” simply wishes it and his suit appears. Wha?! Yes that kind of tech is cool when your name is G-Force, but now comic fans are being robbed of that time honored tradition of Clark Kent ripping open his shirt to reveal the “S” and saying, “This is a job for Superman!”
This is just a case of trying to fix something that isn’t broke. The new outfit is just too busy, too many bells and whistles. There’s something to be said for simple. Superman is the character that started it all. And his original costume, red shorts and all, inspired everything that came after. Just look at Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? with Curt Swan; The Man of Steel with John Byrne; Superman: The Movie with Christopher Reeve – that’s Superman.
Honorable Mentions for Worst Costume: Chronos, Armored Lex Luthor, Spider-Man 2099, Bronze Age Wonder Man, Halo, and the New Mexico Minions of Dominus.
Top 5 Best Costumes in Comics
05 – Post-Avengers Disassemble Thor – One would be hard pressed to find a bigger Thor fan than the Odinson here. When I heard in 2007 Marvel was finally bringing him back after a three year hiatus, I was overjoyed. When I heard that his costume was going to be redesigned, I shuddered. How could anything possibly improve on the design of Jack “The King” Kirby, the man that designed the Marvel Universe? But once I saw Olivier Coipel’s sketches for the new look, I cheered. Thor’s new look is amazing and it’s amazing that it’s taken this long to get to it. He looks like a Viking god of thunder, a warrior prince from a fabled realm of myth and legend. This is a fantastic example of an outstanding redesign of a modern classic.
04 – Original Luke Cage – I’m talking about the original street tough, jive-talking, steel tiara-wearing Power Man from the 70s and 80s. This man’s man sported a yellow silk shirt, open in the front so the ladies could get a look at the goods. He had to wear steel wrist bands because any other kind wasn’t tough enough to endure the rigors of his diamond hard skin and super human strength. He had a great head of hair. And to top off the ensemble, the man wore a steel chain as a belt. He just exuded toughness. The only guy that could keep up with him was Iron Fist, one of the world’s greatest martial artists. This was one Hero for Hire that nobody messed with, just ask Doctor Doom.
03 – Dr. Fate – As much as the colors baby blue and yellow look bad on the X-Men’s feral hero, this master of the mystic arts simply owns it. It’s his flowing cape, always billowing behind and around him, his flaring leather gloves, the Amulet of Anubis, his armored shorts, and the item that brings the whole ensemble together, the Helmet of Nabu. When drawn right (see Todd McFarlane) there are few heroes in the realm of comics that look as cool as Dr. Fate.
02 – G-Force – Battle of the Planets was a really cool cartoon from my youth and it starred the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, a.k.a. G-Force. This was a team of teenaged super heroes that defended planet Earth from alien attacks. Each member of the team represented a different species of bird – eagle, condor, swan, swallow and owl. They have these really neat feathery capes that flash around them as they perform super human feats of agility and kung fu. The glass visors on their helmets were each in the shape of the beak of the bird each member of the team represented. Each member had different skills and unique weapons. The styles of their costumes were uniform yet unique, in color as well as design, so they looked like a team but kept their individuality. And who could forget those thigh-high boots? I say we don’t have enough thigh-high boots in the modern super hero costume design.
01 – Batman – Other than maybe Iron Man, Batman’s costume has had more redesigns than any other super hero in the history of comics, and every single one of them works. It’s all about the cape and the cowl. I was watching the movie The Dark Knight the other day and there is a scene that comes on the screen where Batman is standing on a building and the skyline of Gotham is all around him. He is almost completely in shadow, his cowl silhouetted against the backdrop of the city and his long cape draped around him. It’s a spectacular shot, right out of the comic book. Everything about the guy’s outfit is cool and everything has a practical use. The brass knuckles in his gloves, the spikes on his forearms, the strategically placed body armor, even the cape, it all serves a purpose. His utility belt has become a part of pop culture, so much so that many, many modern costume designs include this piece of attire whether the character wearing it actually uses it or not (90s Cyclops, Cable). Bruce Wayne dresses like a six-foot bat to strike fear in the hearts of evildoers, but his super cool costume sets a high standard for others to follow.
Honorable Mentions for Best Costume: Goggles Catwoman, Red and Blue Spider-Man, Black and White Spider-Man, Vampire Hunter D, Robotic Pre-Crisis Brainiac, and Original Havok.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell