Comics have tried for the past decade or so to get away from the stigma of tights and capes. Brightly colored, ill-fitting and potentially looking like an absolute train wreck, there’s nothing better than a good costume, and there’s nothing worse than a good character wearing a bad costume.
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But of course, there are times when the costumes stray a little too far away from tights and capes and get into the slightly risque territory. Comics have had a long history of revealing a bit too much, and while female characters are obviously more prone to this trope, there are quite a few men who fell victim as well. With that in mind, here are 16 of the most revealing costumes in comics, for better or for worse.
16. POWER GIRL
Few costumes in comics are as simultaneously revealing and iconic as Power Girl’s. Lovingly dubbed the “boob window” by fans, Power Girl has changed up her look a number of times over the years as her origins were called into question, but traditionally has gone back to the classic look in time. The suit is simple and subtly sexy, a tight white body suit with blue gloves and a flowing red cape.
The origin of the “boob window” varies from writer to writer; “Justice League Europe” established it as a symbol of her strong, healthy femininity. Geoff Johns had it in his “JSA” run because she had no symbol such as Superman’s and was never able to find one that fit. Other runs play it for laughs as a straight distraction in battle. Most recently, Power Girl was a major supporting character in the “Earth 2” line from DC, where she did finally find a symbol to place on her uniform, becoming that Earth’s Supergirl.
The X-Men’s resident Russian strongman, Peter Rasputin has always been known for being a big, muscly farmboy. His costumes have had a tendency to skew towards a somewhat conservative, though flashy design sense: sleeveless top and big boots, things that showed off his physique (and, in turn, his mutant ability to turn his flesh into an organic steel) but also served a somewhat practical purpose.
Colossus got a bit more revealing in the ’80s, though, when he decided to go topless. Wearing only boots, briefs and wristbands, the look is honestly really great. Colossus’ superpower has always left him an impressive appearance and showing it off works very well for the character. The look was somewhat short-lived, as Colossus went back to his classic look when the majority of the team did for the 90s X-Men boom, and lately, he tends to stick to full body jumpsuits that leave his arms bare.
14. RED SONJA
Red Sonja is probably the originator of the revealing costume. Created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith for Marvel Comics, Red Sonja is inspired by a Conan The Barbarian character, Red Sonya of Rogatino. Though Marvel has long since lost the rights to the character, she continues to be popular, despite the original Sonja being killed years ago and being replaced with a “reincarnation.”
Sonja’s attire is perhaps one of the most popular among cosplayers, right after Vampirella and Power Girl. With a tall, imposing figure, Sonja’s body is just barely clothed in a chainmail bikini, paired with leather gloves and boots. She typically carries a large sword and has been known on occasion to sport a shield or even a cloak. You may think this outfit is outrageous, given how many pieces of Red Sonja art seem to depict her in a cold wasteland. Recent artists did as well, as, at the same time as Vampirella received her recent update, Red Sonja upgraded to a chainmail shirt and a flowing, belted loincloth.
13. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Torn purple trousers were the Hulk’s standard outfit for years, though it has changed on occasion. His most revealing by far? A pair of purple briefs. It spun out of Hulk’s 20th-anniversary issue (coincidentally, the first appearance of Rocket Raccoon, long before he was in “Guardians of the Galaxy”) where Hulk was stranded in space and zapped back to Earth via a gamma-powered teleporter. Absorbing the additional radiation affected his mind, giving Banner control of Hulk’s body.
With his gamma powered body now being run by the brilliant Banner, Hulk is pardoned for his crimes and accepted by the superhero community at large. To commemorate the change, he doffed his typical torn trousers for a pair of tight, purple briefs. While the look may be revealing on Hulk, it’s easy to forget how much worse it is on poor Banner. Banner’s an average guy in pretty decent shape, but you still get the feeling he isn’t keen on showing so much skin, not to mention running around barefoot. The look lasted a while, but eventually, Hulk became savage again, and his pants went back to being torn.
A popular character in “Teen Titans,” Starfire has always had a very free-spirited aura to her while also being traditionally depicted as very strong-willed and loving. She was a foundation of the Teen Titans after she was introduced, with a number of strong relationships spinning out of that. In The New 52, this was pretty much wiped. Starfire’s free-spirited persona was replaced with a distant, emotionless void wearing a series of increasingly skimpier and more revealing costumes, including her infamous New 52 outfit.
Starfire had always been portrayed as sexy and body-positive, but her appearances in “Red Hood and The Outlaws” turned off fans as it went too far in the other direction, with numerous stories coming out about young fans who were lost in the changes. Writers, fortunately, saw where they went wrong and corrected the course by restoring Starfire’s memories. Now a member of Damian Wayne’s reformed “Teen Titans,” Starfire more closely resembles her classic depiction and has started to win back fans she lost just a few years ago.
11. MARTIAN MANHUNTER
There’s a long-standing philosophical gag of sorts that Clark Kent is representative of what Superman thinks of the human race. J’onn J’onzz, The Martian Manhunter, has something similar going on. It’s well established that J’onn shape-shifts, his original martian form being portrayed as small, gangly and thin with an oblong skull. When he arrived on Earth, perpetually stranded and afraid, he took on a form he perceived as “less terrifying” to humans.
This form is very human, yet still blatantly alien. Wearing only a pair of blue briefs with two red straps crisscrossed over his chest and a flowing, blue collared cape, J’onn looks like Charles Atlas by way of the Jolly Green Giant. J’onn’s oddly revealing look does make sense when you consider similar costumes of the era, but why he thought a 6-foot tall green man with a protruding brow and no pants was less terrifying is anyone’s guess. In the mid-2010’s, J’onn finally dropped this look for some pants and a shirt, but in The New 52 was back to inexplicably baring his abs again.
10. LADY DEATH
Lady Death doesn’t have a costume so much as she does a standardized appearance, but boy, what an appearance it is. Depicted as statuesque, alabaster and gorgeous, Lady Death’s attire consists of a barely-there black bikini, typically paired with thigh high black boots and arm coverings. There’s also a long, flowing black cape that clasps at her neck with a golden skull. There are a few minor variations on the look and, notably, the all-ages “Medieval Lady Death,” who sports a more conservative form fitting corset and black pants.
Lady Death’s look seems largely to play off her appearance. With chalk white skin and flowing silver hair, her appearance is incredibly striking. Right at home with the rest of her Chaos! Comics brethren, Lady Death has uniquely never really gotten much of a redesign to cover up more of her skin, allowing her to be instantly recognizable to long-time fans of Brian Pulido’s incredibly popular creation.
Namor has worn largely the same uniform up until the past several years… if you can call it a uniform. Now billed as Marvel’s First Mutant, Namor has traditionally worn a pair of short fish scale patterned briefs and bracelets. And… that’s it. No shoes, nothing on his legs but wing tips, nothing else. It makes sense, given he’s constantly swimming. Still, as revealing costumes go, little is left to the imagination.
But it wouldn’t do a revealing costumes list justice not to mention Namor’s most ridiculous, revealing look: his Phoenix Five uniform from “Avengers vs. X-Men”. Wearing a top, pants, boots and gloves, Namor’s costume is still specifically designed to have an open front, so as to show off his chest and abs. This wasn’t something he was given, he obtained God-like powers and made a conscious decision to permanently keep his six-pack on display. It may not be as physically revealing as his other costumes, but what it reveals about Namor’s ego is pretty telling.
8. SUE STORM
The Fantastic Four have worn fairly similar costumes for the bulk of their adventuring career. The suits, originally designed by Susan Storm, were made of unstable molecules that allowed the uniforms to work with their powers so they’d remain functional. Sue herself was never known as much of a fashionista in the comics, though she did regularly change her hairstyle. But in “Fantastic Four” #280, the villain Psycho-Man turned Sue’s hateful emotions up to 11 and created an evil alternate persona, Malice.
Sue spent years struggling with the evil Malice presence, and it manifested in her personality changing in a number of bizarre ways over the years. In “Fantastic Four” #371, this culminated in Sue donning this odd, bathing suit uniform with a bare stomach and a 4 emblem cleavage window. It was a time of changes for the FF in comics, as within the next year The Thing would be scarred and forced to wear a helmet, while Reed would be believed dead for about a year. As for Sue, a future version of her son Franklin would remove the Malice persona and she’d go back to a more standard FF uniform just 16 issues later.
Debuting in an issue of “Superboy”, Tyroc is the lone hero of an island that disappears from reality every 200 years, resulting in an isolated society. Marzal Island refused trespassers and was brought into conflict with Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. None of this explains Tyroc’s incredibly dated outfit, a high collared white body suit with a bare chest and chains running across. His legs are bare too, save for a pair of pointed pixie shoes. A pair of white gloves completes this oddly revealing outfit.
It wasn’t anything to do with his powers; Tyroc had a sonic scream that would warp reality. Though with screams that could do anything from starting fires to telekinesis, even manipulating plants, Tyroc has an impressive power set. No one else on Marazel is wearing similarly styled outfits, and Tyroc doesn’t wear a mask. No, it appears that Tyroc (or, more accurately, creators Cary Bates and Mike Grell) just thought this oddly revealing white bathing suit number was something Tyroc would actually wear. This was perhaps the case in the 1970s, but in recent years long-time Legionnaire Tyroc has opted for full body suits and fewer chains.
Arthur and Heather Douglas may have the most convoluted origin stories in comics. Thanos blew up the car they were driving in so no one would know Thanos was on Earth. At the behest of Thanos’ father Mentor, Arthur had his memories stripped and was reincarnated in a new body as Drax the Destroyer. Heather, however, was still alive. Mentor took her to the planet Titan, where she was raised by a band of monks and became Moondragon.
A powerful telepath, Moondragon’s original costume was always revealing. Complimented on occasion by the Mind Gem, Moondragon wore a green, revealing body suit with green boots and gloves and a flowing, high collar green cape that was attached to the body suit. However, as was customary of ’90s art, the suit started to metamorphose from artist to artist until her body suit was less than a bathing suit. In recent years, Moondragon underwent a significant costume redesign and now wears far less revealing costumes.
5. B’WANA BEAST
B’wana Beast is kind of a weird character. Carrying a name that translates to Lord or King in Swahili, B’wana Beast has the ability to fuse two animals together into a powerful chimera. Part of the power comes from an elixir he drinks, but part of it also comes from the helmet he wears. His outfit is already pretty revealing, with its loincloth and boots. But the addition of the huge, bulky helmet somehow makes him look more naked than he actually is.
In addition to a comics history dating back to pre-Crisis DC, B’Wana Beast gets a lot of play outside of comics, with memorable appearances on “Justice League Unlimited” and “Batman: The Brave and The Bold.” In the comics, B’wana Beast retired and passed the mantle on to Freedom Beast in Grant Morrison’s acclaimed “Animal Man” run. He returned in The New 52, but only showed up long enough to be denied membership in “Justice League International.”
“Witchblade” was true lightning in a bottle when it debuted in 1995. Over the history of comics, you’ll see big releases come and go, but few caught the attention of comic book fans quite like the plight of Detective Sara Pezzini and the mysterious Witchblade gauntlet. It didn’t hurt that the books caught the eye with sex appeal and Sara’s incredibly revealing “costume.”
With covers by the late, great Michael Turner, Sara’s costume was created whenever she tapped into the Witchblade itself. Originally somewhat of an organic, crusty appearance, the Witchblade would cover Sara in revealing, protective “armor” that seemed focused only on covering the parts of her body that would keep the books off newsstands. “Witchblade” enjoyed a healthy 20-year run thanks as much to its eye-popping art as its convoluted tale of mystical artifacts, and did well enough to warrant an anime and a TV series, with an upcoming TV reboot in the works.
Hawkeye changed identities the way Susan Storm changed hairstyles for a little bit, and after being in the Goliath identity for a while, he finally went back to being Hawkeye. Clint’s Goliath costume was always more revealing than his traditional uniform, consisting of pants, a huge belt buckle and a strap to protect what must be overly-sensitive nipples. But it’s his second, brief Hawkeye costume that takes the cake.
With his team having been disbanded, Clint dropped the Goliath identity and returned as Hawkeye in “The Avengers” #98. But rather than his circus performer attire, he turned up wearing this odd Steve Reeves inspired tunic and skirt combo with a headband and purple boots. The skirt portion is uncomfortably short, and one can’t help but wonder how many awkward conversations it led to with Cap over decency. Clint must have felt the same way too because he didn’t wear this get-up for long; in “The Avengers” #109, just 11 issues later, Hawkeye went back to his old costume and left the team.
Few costumes are as effortlessly sexy and long-lasting as Vampirella’s. Ironically not really a vampire but an alien from a planet of sort-of vampires, Vampirella first appeared in her own book in 1969 and has been published with relatively regularity since. In the bulk of those appearances, Vampi’s sporting a very low-cut crimson “sling suit” that’s seemingly held up only by a single gold ring joining it to her collar and accentuated with a pair of shiny black high heel boots.
Though the classic Vampirella look has remained over the years, over time it has become notorious for its revealing nature as the comic industry continues to change. Now published by Dynamite, attempts were made to redesign her on multiple occasions, donning a more stylized adventurer’s style outfit and a simple dress evocative of her classic outfit in her two most recent Dynamite series. But the classic “sling suit” remains a part of Vampirella’s history, so thoroughly ingrained that even among the Dynamite redesigns it still appears on variant covers.
1. DOCTOR MANHATTAN
This one feels a little bit like cheating, but you can’t deny that Doctor Manhattan has an incredibly revealing costume. That is to say, he doesn’t really have one. He did at one point, though. During the years where he still held onto a touch of humanity, Doctor Manhattan displayed modesty in the form of black briefs with sharp points on their sides. In the world of “Watchmen,” Manhattan is implied to have worn this look for several years after he first came out as a hero.
But as you surely know, Doctor Manhattan wasn’t human for long. With the omnipotent power of a God and the ability to exist in simultaneous instances at once, he quickly became distanced from the world at large. Once his humility was gone, he stopped worrying about things like shame and acceptance and spent his days perpetually nude. It’s a long-standing joke among comic fans about Doctor Manhattan and his casual nudity, but it honestly is a great piece of character development.
Did we miss a costume or uniform that shows a little more skin? Let us know in the comments.