Clothes maketh the man, and even if the man can’t see the threads he sports that’s no reason why he can’t step out at night in some of the most recognizable and killer costumes in comic book lore. One of the most interesting and psychologically compelling heroes in the Marvel stable; Daredevil’s look has undergone numerous fluctuations since his first outing in 1964. Despite the aesthetic changes, however, each look has retained a visual representation of the psychological and moral underpinnings of the character. As Daredevil, Matt Murdock takes on the mantle of a devil and thereby embraces his own myriad personal demons (and religious quandaries), repurposing them into a force for good. Never does a comic book character wear his motivations quite so literally on his sleeve.
The Man Without Fear’s look has undergone some drastic re-imaginings and reinterpretations over various media over the years, but the iconic silhouette of this fascinating and complex guardian devil is sure to strike fear into the hearts of criminals and hope in the denizens of Hell’s Kitchen…unless of course you count the cruel yet witty What If? comic in which an untrustworthy tailor equipped an unaware Matt with a plaid costume! Let’s revisit and rank some of DD’s best known threads…
15. THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR
It took a long time for Daredevil to find his voice as a character. For decades he was regarded as a second tier character, a poor man’s Spider-Man. It was Frank Miller who imbued the character with much of the infrastructure of Daredevil’s legend as we know it today. After years of sterling work on the character, culminating in the legendary “Born Again” storyline, Miller revisited Daredevil’s origin in the “Man Without Fear” graphic novel with celebrated artist John Romita Jr.
One of Miller’s stipulations was that the iconic red costume wouldn’t appear until the very last panel. Instead Matt would fight crime in an improvised black suit consisting of sweatpants, a hoodie and a bandanna. The lo-fi costume showed audiences that it’s Matt’s grit, resourcefulness and ability that make him a hero, not the psychological advantage the costume affords him.
14. EARTH X
1999’s Earth X maxi-series imagines a world where everyone on the planet is exposed to the Terrigen Mist, the substance that creates Inhumans. Resultantly, all of humanity is imbued with superhuman abilities. Little is known about this version of Daredevil outside of the fact that it is not Matt Murdock. The series’ numerous story arcs hypothesizes that numerous Marvel mainstays from Wade Wilson to Foggy Nelson could be behind the devil mask (which looks like the lovechild of Earth 616 Daredevil and Ultron).
Regardless of the wearer, the suit is a curiosity that offers an interesting spin on the character. Combining the high collar of a circus acrobat with a body suit and boots befitting a biker the suit is topped off with occult affectations like a pentagram and, of course, the iconic devil horns and red eyes.
13. THE TRAIL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Despite the technical constraints of being a TV series on network television in the ’70s, The Incredible Hulk managed to be one of the best interpretations of a Marvel character committed to the screen. Not only did the show bring us an interesting and multi-layered
Bruce David Banner, the spin-off TV movies of the ’80s introduced the first live action Thor, a Russian spy clearly based on Black Widow and the screen debut of ol’ hornhead himself (minus the horns).
1989’s The Trial of The incredible Hulk introduced Matt Murdock and his crimefighting alter-ego in a sleek black ninja suit. Though it bore little resemblance to its comic book counterpart it was a cool costume that allowed actor Rex Smith to portray the agility and martial arts prowess of the character.
12. AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
It’s always great to see how legendary comic book characters would be altered by a change in scenery, time period or a completely different parallel universe. DC has their “Elseworlds” line, transporting their icons to unfamiliar worlds and timelines while Marvel’s What If? takes a more subtle approach to re-imagining their characters, beginning every adventure with a hypothetical “What If?”.
In 1981’s issue #28 we see what would have happened if young Matt Murdock had been trained by Nick Fury instead of Stick. The result is a high-kicking, gun-toting S.H.I.E.L.D. agent neatly juxtaposing the blue and black vestments of the force’s typical uniform with Matt’s signature red locks. Plus the white headband around his eyes just screams ’80s action hero! While some fans may be rattled by the image of Matt leaping through the air firing weapons the blazing guns do somewhat complete the ensemble.
11. FLYING BLIND
The ’90s were known for their excess, characterized by the bulging muscles, billowing mullets and ludicrous firepower. With that in mind, it’s impressive that this S.H.I.E.L.D. redesign of DD’s threads showed as much restraint as it did. The four-issue story arc showed Matt Murdock stripped of his memories, identities and even his blindness (don’t ask!) as he goes deep undercover to foil a criminal plot in Paris.
The premise is wacky and the storytelling is sometimes questionable but the arc did contribute a cool new addition to Matt’s wardrobe. This red and black number has a mask similar to Captain America’s with the exposed ears and chin guard but curiously leaving Matt’s (or Laurent Levasseur as he believes himself to be) face uncovered. The costume features a utility harness, housing the famous billy clubs and a stylized version of the S.H.I.E.L.D. eagle. Very haute couteur!
In his early years, hornhead was known as ‘The Blind Acrobat’, thus his original costume was more reflective of the attire of a circus acrobat than that the urban vigilante that he would later become. The canary yellow body suit and mask were topped off with a red tunic, gloves and boots to imbue the gaudy acrobat aesthetic with more of a swashbuckling feel.
The costume originally incorporated a hood at the back which could hold Matt’s street clothes but it was torn off and never seen again. The torso was marked with a large D which would later be replaced with the more familiar DD logo. The look only lasted for six issues but it made a comeback in 2001’s excellent Daredevil: Yellow in which it was revealed that Matt crafted the suit from his father’s boxing robes.
9. DAREDEVIL NOIR
The late 2000s saw Marvel launch a brand wide re-imagining of several flagship heroes in a pulp / film noir setting. The stories were kind of hit and miss but they nonetheless boasted some impressive visuals, including bold re-imaginings of the costumes. In this reality, Matt Murdock was blinded by head trauma caused by his father’s assassin and growing up an orphan in prohibition era New York, Matt’s poverty prevented him from learning to be a lawyer.
Instead, he became a stage performer under the pseudonym Daredevil clad in a commedia dell’arte inspired mask and a wrestler’s leotard with the familiar DD logo. The genius of the story is its use of shadow to accentuate the long horns and fixed grimace of the mask while disguising the less intimidating elements of the costume like the bare shoulders and red trunks.
8. ARMORED SUIT
Another atypically cool product of the ’90s, the notion of Daredevil in armor should be anathema to fans but D.G.Chichester and Scott McDaniel managed to bring something unique to the new armored look without betraying the essence of the character. The red and black costume has a black mask which really accentuates the red lenses and makes them even more intimidating.
The DD logo is transplanted from the center of the chest to the left above the heart, and a series of red chevrons descend from the chest to the abdomen. The chrome armor plates on the shoulders, knees and thighs look cool but don’t seem all that practical, but Matt clearly took a leaf out of the Nightwing playbook with the forearm mounted billy clubs.
7. DAREDEVIL 2099
Imagine the lovechild of Daredevil and Deadpool’s costumes and you’ve pretty much got the Daredevil 2099 suit worn by Samuel Fisk, grandson of the Kingpin of Crime himself. Consumed with guilt at the crime and injustice caused in his family’s name, young Samuel vows to fight crime in a costume designed to replicate the abilities of his grandfather’s nemesis.
Boot mounted rockets afford Samuel the agility of his predecessor, while this armored yet lithe suit is a muted crimson with accents of cool black ribbing between the armored plates. The suit’s muted palette reflects Samuel Fisk’s moral ambiguity as do his ubiquitous firearms. While the costume looks great on the pages of the story, it never looks better than on the cover of issue #1 (which is, to date, the only issue).
The mid ’00s saw Matt Murdock tread a very dark path which saw him become the leader of The Hand and eventually get possessed by a demon known as ‘The Beast’. As one might expect, this dark turn for the character was reflected in his costume, which was virtually all black with a few red highlights. Despite the change in color, the aesthetic of the suit is virtually unchanged, implying that a dark presence has overtaken Matt and usurped the mantle of Daredevil for its own ends.
The few hints of red in the logo and the billy club holster hint that the real Matt is buried deep down somewhere but the wrist mounted blades showed us that DD had crossed a new line when it came to his increasingly violent and bloody methods.
5. THE 2003 MOVIE
While the film itself is a decidedly mixed bag, the suit is actually the best that we could have expected given the costume design palette of the era. Anyone conversant with the special features on the DVD or Blu-ray will know what a nightmare the costuming process was, with many costume concepts (including a ridiculous hood over the cowl and a cowl that was modeled to look like a bandanna) rightly jettisoned.
The suit had a modicum of sculpted musculature but it’s more subtle than, say, the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies and the crimson pleather finish set it apart from anything we’d seen before. The style and placement of the logo is appropriately subtle, and the red lenses looked awesome, especially when lit right. Despite the suits impenetrable appearance it looked like it had the excellent range of motion necessary for a gymnastic character like Daredevil.
4. SECRET WAR
We don’t know whether it’s the suit’s design itself or Gabriel Dell’Otto’s stunning painted artwork but there’s something special about this version of the costume. The story sees Daredevil join a strike force led by Nick Fury and featuring fellow Defender Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Wolverine and newcomer Quake. The team were at the head of a covert incursion in Latveria and as such wore more muted versions of their usual duds.
Matt’s suit was charcoal gray with a scarlet torso and scarlet piping around the legs and forearms. The suit had some cool cowl details too, somewhat reminiscent of what would later be used in the Netflix series. While the costume was only seen fleetingly (the incursion is presented in flashbacks) it has been given a new lease of life by the Marvel Heroes video game as an alternate costume.
3. ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT
What’s great about Daredevil’s current costume is how it occupies the exact middle ground between his classic red costume and the black costume that he wore in his darkest hour in “Shadowland”. Returning to Hell’s Kitchen from San Francisco, Matt Murdock is a changed man and this new look offers a new spin on the character that embraces what’s gone before.
After coming through the dark days of Bendis and Brubaker’s runs and the “Shadowland” saga, Matt was put through hell until Mark Waid injected some lightheartedness and swashbuckling back into the mythos (yes we know the red three piece happened, no we don’t want to talk about it). This suit offers up the best of both worlds with more red than the Shadowland suit and a curiously blurred look to the logo perhaps hinting once again at the character’s sometimes ambiguous morals.
2. THE NETFLIX SERIES
Loyal fans waited dutifully for 13 episodes before they got to see Daredevil’s latest live action costume. Fortunately they were 13 episodes of excellent television and while the placeholder black suit was a fun nod to “The Man Without Fear” that showed off actor Charlie Cox’s insanely ripped physique, we wanted to see him in the real DD suit. Designed by MCU mainstayRyan Meinerding (who also had a hand in designing Cap’s duds in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) this suit walks the difficult line between being plausible on screen and remaining true to the comic book legacy.
The suit looks tough and durable, yet supple enough for actor Charlie Cox and the stunt performers to move like Daredevil. The interplay between the burgundy shade of red and black works well here, and while the DD logo is notable by its absence it wouldn’t really suit the costume’s aesthetic anyway.
1. CLASSIC RED
As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Whatever deviations Daredevil’s costume has taken, the character has always reverted back to this classic red ensemble, and with good reason! As a character that has always relied on agility and dexterity (and the pigheaded determination he inherited from his father) Daredevil has never really lent himself to bulky armor or hi-tech flourishes.
Adorned with no more than the iconic logo and his billy club holster, this sleek red costume is a classic example of “less is more”. He’s not weighed down by bulky gadgets or armored to the eyeballs, all he needs are his wits, his fists and his trusty billy club and anything else is an unnecessary distraction. Plus, let’s not overlook the awesome silhouette he strikes on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen.
What Daredevil look is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section!
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