A very common trope in superhero comics is the notion of a strategically torn superhero costume, where the resulting costume is torn to pieces but there’s just enough fabric to cover very specific body parts, the exposure of which would turn the comic book from PG to R in a hurry. Recently, in an issue of Gwenpool, the hero of that series (who knows that she is in a comic book) even made fun of the trope when her costume was torn to shreds, but left her basically wearing a two-piece bikini. However, on occasion, superhero costumes don’t follow that standard pattern.
In this list, we’ll count down the most embarrassing superhero warddrobe malfunctions of all-time. Some of them are just examples of poor costume design (like a hero tripping over his own cape) but a lot of them are more like Janet Jackson’s famous Super Bowl wardrdrobe malfunction and left some superheroes accidentally exposing more of themselves than they should.
15. TAILOR MAIDENS
While Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti never had Power Girl have a wardrobe malfunction when they wrote her ongoing series, they did manage to get her out of her clothes on a number of occasions (like bad guys attacking while she was taking a bath, that sort of thing). They kept that up when she guest-starred in their Harley Quinn series in Harley Quinn #11 (by Conner, Palmiotti, Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair).
Power Girl lost her memory after getting into a super-battle and Harley Quinn took her into her home and tried to convince her that they were partners. To help sell the illusion, Harley had a tailor make matching costumes for Harley and Power Girl, based on Power Girl’s classic outfit (with a Harley Quinn twist). When Power Girl put the costume on, though, it burst under the strain of her body, leaving her standing there nude.
14. MUSICAL CHAIRS… WITH CLOTHES
When Red She-Hulk debuted in Hulk #15 (by Jeph Loeb, Ian Churchill and Mark Farmer), she was wearing Domino’s costume (well, a torn version of her costume). It would not be until Incredible Hulk #608 (in a back-up story by Harrison Wilcox, Ryan Stegman and Tom Palmer) that we would learn why she was wearing Domino’s costume. You see, in that story, Domino blasted Red She-Hulk with a gun that shredded Red She-Hulk’s clothes. She then stripped Domino of her clothes so that she had something to wear.
In Hulk #17, at the end of the original Red She-Hulk storyline, Domino ended up stealing Silver Sable’s clothes, but it wasn’t until Incredible Hulk #608 that we learned how this little game of costume musical chairs began!
13. POWER GIRL PROBLEMS
Oddly enough, despite wearing a very revealing costume, Power Girl never had any wardrobe malfunctions before the New 52 (which is somewhat surprising, considering how easy her outfit made it for things to slip out). After the New 52, however, when she and Huntress were re-imagined as the Earth-2 Supergirl and Robin stranded on Earth-1, she couldn’t seem to keep her clothes on! Seemingly every issue, some sort of explosion would shred her costume or whatever clothes she was wearing (Huntress joked that she might get arrested for indecent exposure).
It got to the point where Huntress even asked her about it in Worlds’ Finest #5 (by Paul Levitz, George Perez and Jerry Ordway) and Power Girl basically told her that it was a good excuse to go buy new clothes.
12. BREAKING THE FOURTH… SHIRT?
In the late 1980s, John Byrne launched a new take on She-Hulk following his usage of the character in Fantastic Four. Dubbed The Sensational She-Hulk, Byrne turned the series into a humor book where She-Hulk would routinely break the fourth wall and interact with the readers. Byrne would also make fun of comic book tropes, including the whole “costumes torn during battle” cliche. He had She-Hulk wear clothing made out of the Comics Code so that it wouldn’t tear and reveal anything.
However, he also occasionally had her run into the torn costume syndrome, like in Sensational She-Hulk #38, where a villain shredded her shirt, leaving her to need her boyfriend Wyatt Wingfoot’s shirt to prevent the comic book from becoming R-Rated (this then left him topless, which she explained was throwing their straight female readers a bone).
11. CIVIL WARDROBE
During Civil War, while the other superheroes were at war with each other, Wolverine decided to concentrate on getting revenge on Nitro, the villain who caused the actual explosion that killed the people in Stamford, Connecticut. Wolverine hunted him down, but in Wolverine #43 (by Marc Guggenheim, Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba), Nitro exploded once more (his powers were amped up with Mutant Growth Hormones) and burned Wolverine to a crisp.
When Wolverine healed himself by the end of the issue, he was naked, and he spent the rest of the next issue fighting Nitro and a group of Altantean soldiers (sent by Namor to capture Nitro, as well, due to his murder of Namorita in Civil War) while naked. Eventually, he put on the clothes of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent killed by Nitro.
10. CAP’S CAPE’S CRAP
Following the events of the original “Secret Empire” storyline, Captain America was extremely disillusioned by the United States. He couldn’t bring himself to continue to call himself “Captain America” anymore. However, he decided he didn’t want to stop being a hero period, so he came up with a new superhero identity. As he was sort of without a country, he became Nomad in Captain America #180 (by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema) !
However, he soon learned why he never wore a cape before, as he tripped over it while fighting against the Serpent Society and they escaped as a result of his miscue. He quickly dropped the cap from his costume. It proved to be a short time away from the costume, as his successor as Captain America got himself killed very quickly, leaving Nomad to become Captain America once more!
9. A FOUL COWL FAIL
In the first issue of Captain America Comics, Captain America both carried a triangular shield and wore a mask that was not connected to the rest of his costume. In the second issue, he now had a round shield (MLJ Comics threatened to sue due to their superhero known as the Shield) and his neck was no longer bare.
Years later, in Captain America #255 (by Roger Stern, John Byrne and Joe Rubinstein), Stern and and Byrne used their “history of Captain America” issue to explain a few different things about Cap’s past, including why Cap made the change to his mask. You see, a Nazi knocked it ajar at one point, nearly taking the whole mask off! So, Cap decided to fix that in the future by connecting his mask to his shirt.
8. STORE-BOUGHT SPIDEY
At the end of Amazing Spider-Man #25 (by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee), Spider-Man was hit with a double-whammy. First, he had to abandon his costume to get out of the grips of a robot sent after him by J. Jonah Jameson. He returned home only to discover that Aunt May had discovered his spare Spider-Man costume in his room (she presumed it was for a costume party)!
So, in the following issue, Spider-Man was forced to temporarily wear a Spider-Man costume from a costume shop. It quickly proved to be far inferior to his normal outfit, and he spent the whole issue dealing with it falling apart on him while he fought against the bad guys (luckily, he then maneuvered his way into Jameson’s office and stole his costume back).
7. BATMAN BLOWN AWAY
In Batman #101 (by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris), Batman and Robin were checking out their trophy case and Batman pointed out a special cape that a crook had once sent him that threatened that he knew Batman was actually Bruce Wayne. The villain died before he could use the information, but Batman decided to keep the cape as a souvenir. Alfred, though, moronically put the cape into rotation in Batman’s wardrobe.
While worrisome, so long as the wind didn’t blow his cape and cowl off of his head, Batman would be fine… but wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened! The cape and cowl made their way throughout Gotham City in one day before Batman got it back (before anyone read the note, as one of the people who encountered the cape during that day was Clark Kent, in town for a story. He erased the note).
In Dave Cockrum’s last issue of his initial run as the artist on X-Men, he introduced the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, who were based on the Legion of Super-Heroes (Cockrum had drawn the Legion before when he worked for DC Comics in the early 1970s). During the battle in X-Men #107 (by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Dan Green), Wolverine’s costume was shredded.
He continued to battle while naked and beat up Fang (based on Timber Wolf of the Legion) and stole his costume. This was Cockrum’s way of giving Wolverine a new costume (Wolverine was one of the only All-New, All-Different X-Men whose costume was not designed by Cockrum). Incoming artist, John Byrne, didn’t like the new costume and sent Wolverine back to his original outfit (before ultimately designing his own new costume for Wolverine).
5. THREADBARE SCARE
Marvel shocked the world in 1983 when Spider-Man, the publisher’s most famous superhero, gained a new costume! Not only did he get new duds, it was dramatically different-looking than his original! This new costume was all white and black. It was a striking design that he picked up on an alien world during Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars.
However, in Amazing Spider-Man #258 (by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein), Spider-Man ran into that very rare superhero wardrobe malfunction — his costume turned out to be an alien and attacked him! The Fantastic Four helped capture it, but it later escaped and bonded with someone else and became Venom! Spider-Man ended up deciding to keep the look for a while (only in cloth, not alien symbiote) and wore black for much of the rest of the 1980s, until Venom’s debut made that look problematic.
4. A LITTLE TOO FRIENDLY
After having Doctor Octopus in control of his body for over a year (of real world time — it was probably only a couple of months in actual comic book time), Peter Parker finally got control of his body again at the end of the Superior Spider-Man series. That led to a re-launch of Amazing Spider-Man by Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba. The issue opened up with Spider-Man fighting a group of off-kilter villains, including Skein. Skein has telekinetic powers that allow her to manipulate clothing, causing it to unravel.
This led to most of Spider-Man’s costume unraveling, leading Spidey to have to throw together an impromptu pair of underwear using his webbing. This also led to Anna Maria Marconi (a love interest of Peter while Octavius was in control) realizing that Peter was Spider-Man, as she recognized the freckles under his belly button.
3. A DIFFERENT KIND OF SHRINKAGE
After a long stint on the title (well, he did issues #1-7 and then #31-50), John Byrne decided to leave Sensational She-Hulk after #50. The over-sized 50th issue was filled with sample stories by possible new writers and artists that could take over the series. Byrne had a lot of awesome comic book friends, so there were short stories by huge names like Frank Miller and Walter Simonson, poking fun at their own work (like Miller proposing doing She-Hulk in the style of Sin City).
One of the “possible” artists was Adam Hughes, who poked fun at his well-known expertise in drawing the female form by doing a short story where She-Hulk teams up with the Wasp, who transforms into her shrunken Wasp form but forgets that her new clothes had not been treated yet, so she ended up shrinking herself naked!
2. “WE’RE IN MIXED COMPANY, HERCULES!”
Avengers #252 (by Roger Stern, Bob Hall and Joe Sinnott) brought the long-running subplot about the Vision slowly taking over the world (through his merger with the Titan supercomputer, Isaac) to the start of a boil. It also continued Stern’s subtle shift in the roster of the team. He had brought Hercules back to the team a few issues earlier and now he had Black Knight show up at Avengers Mansion. Soon, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Starfox would be replaced by Hercules, Black Knight and Namor.
During a fight with the Blood Brothers, Hercules’ costume is damaged and he ends up showing off his… godhood… to everyone. You have to love that Captain America’s initial reaction was that it was an issue because they were in mixed company. So if it was all guys, he’d be totally fine with it? “Heck, if it was just us guys, we’d all have our pants off!”
1. NOT SUCH A TOTALLY AWESOME LOOK
In Totally Awesome Hulk #1 (by Greg Pak, Frank Cho and Sonia Oback), we met Amadeus Cho for the first time as the new Hulk (it would take a number of issues before we learned how Cho had taken the place of Bruce Banner as the Hulk) and we very quickly saw how different Cho’s take on the Hulk was from Banner’s. The most important was that Cho was clearly having the time of his life being the Hulk.
On top of battling monsters, he also made sure to take out time from his schedule to flirt with the people that he was saving. However, he failed to keep track of the fact that during the battle, his shorts had, well, gone missing. You have to get a kick out of the cheeky censorship box saying “Censored so that the editorial team can keep their jobs”!
What’s the most embarrassing superhero costume fail that you’ve ever seen? Let us know in the comments section!
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