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What A Waist: The 15 Best Superhero Belts

by  in Comics, Lists, Comic News Comment
What A Waist: The 15 Best Superhero Belts

When it comes to superhero costumes, one of the easiest things to overlook is the belt. Off the top of your head, without looking, can you even recall what the belt looks like on Daredevil’s costume? How about Captain America? This is because on most superhero costumes, like Daredevil and Captain America, the belt just matches the same color of the costume and is therefore designed to blend in.

RELATED: DC TV’s Best (and Worst) Costumes, Ranked

Then you have superheroes who go beltless (like Hal Jordan’s classic Green Lantern costume) or completely hide their belts (like Spider-Man). Therefore, we should celebrate those heroes who have belts that standout from the crowd. Here, then, are the 15 coolest superhero belts of all time.

15. Punisher

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One of the all-time great superhero costume designers, John Romita was essentially Marvel’s resident costume designer during the time he served as Marvel’s Art Director. One of the most famous costumes that he designed was that for the anti-hero, the Punisher. The giant skull on the Punisher’s chest has helped make the Punisher one of the most marketable superhero characters ever. John Romita’s original design for the Punisher involved the skull actually being larger and taking up even more of his chest, particularly with the eyes of the skull.

The finalized costume, though, pulled back on the size of the eye sockets of the skull and instead emphasized the mandible area of the skull, having it merge with the belt of the Punisher. While a famous design, it is a bit less interesting since it does not stand on its own as a belt; hence, its relatively low ranking.

14. The Flash

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Likely designed by Carmine Infantino, the Flash‘s costume, which helped launch the Silver Age of superhero comics, was one with remarkable resiliency as a design. It did not receive any notable changes in the first 30 years of the character. Even when Wally West took over as the Flash and changes made to the costume, they were minor, typically reserved for the material of the costume itself (the red of the costume got shinier over the years). One aspect that remained the same in every design of the Flash was the awesome lightning bolt belt that cut a jagged swathe of gold across the costume.

When you’re trying to evoke speed, having a lightning bolt as a belt is an excellent way to get that point across. Surprisingly enough, then, the Flash TV series — while working in lightning bolts into different places on the costume — did not include the lightning bolt belt on the TV series costume.

13. Every X-Man Ever

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When the X-Men debuted back in 1963, they wore individualized versions of the same basic school costume, designed by their co-creator Jack Kirby. Those “school costumes” lasted for roughly 40 issues before the heroes all graduated into their own unique costumes. However, even when they got their own costumes, one thing that remained a constant was their belts. The striking big X on the belt of their school costumes carried over to their own costumes.

Over the years, while you would occasionally have members of the X-Men who had their own looks entirely, a good deal of them have made sure to somehow include that big X in the center of their belts (the New Mutants in the 1980s went back to the school uniform look). That old school style even made a surprising comeback during Jim Lee’s run on the title in the early ’90s. In the recent batch of “X-Men” titles, the generic X-Men belt seems to be a bit less common, but that might change with the upcoming batch of ResurrXion titles. Don’t be surprised if you begin to see that generic X belt once more!

12. Hyperion

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Hyperion is an interesting character, since there have been so many incarnations of him over the years, from the original Squadron Sinister member to the more classic member of the Squadron Supreme. However, the current Hyperion is from a bit of a fresh world without as much continuity baggage as some of the Hyperions of the past. This is the Hyperion who was part of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run and is part of the current Squadron Supreme (made up of superheroes from different worlds who are the sole survivors of their worlds).

Past Hyperions have had large belts, almost like a weight-lifting or professional wrestling belt, but the current Hyperion makes a statement about his power by wearing a large nuclear symbol on his belt. It truly is a case of “nuclear waist” if there ever was one. It makes him stand out as his own unique hero, which is a hard thing for a Hyperion to do in comics.

11. Sentry

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The concept behind the Sentry was that he was a Marvel superhero who was forgotten for decades, so the design for the character had to look iconic and vintage. At the same time, artist Jae Lee did not want to simply go for a traditional superhero costume, either, so the end result was a clever approach where the logo of the Sentry was actually on the BELT rather than on the chest of the hero. Like Hyperion, Sentry’s remains one of the rare superhero chevrons where that is the case.

Of course, part of the shtick about the Sentry was that his costume adapted to the times, so some of the earlier versions of the Sentry’s costume did include a chest logo. However, in modern times, the Sentry’s belt expanded in size and prominence as the character remained in the Marvel Universe (the original series tried to write Sentry out of the Marvel 616 again), making it one of the more most striking superhero belts around.

10. Adam Warlock

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Adam Warlock is a perfect example of the power of a particular creator’s artistic vision. He was a very distinct type of character throughout his early history, though it was not one that particularly caught on with readers. That changed dramatically when Jim Starlin took over the character and turned what was a pretty basic adventure story (complete with a cool-looking, but standard superhero costume by Gil Kane) into an introspective fantasy epic.

To fit the change in his story, there was also a change in Warlock’s appearance, with his flashy superhero costume replaced by a more regal appearance. The belt worked perfectly with Warlock’s new, almost haughty look. Interestingly enough, the belt was pretty much the one area where Starlin didn’t change the design that much — it was more a case where the large, ornately-articulated golden belt looked out of place on the earlier design and now fit perfectly with his new style.

9. Thor

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One of the areas where Thor is a really interesting character study is the dichotomy between him as a… well… GOD, and him as a thriving being with a thirst for action and adventure. Few places make that contrast more apparent than his costume, which is generally an ornate design involving circular pieces of steel on his chest. In his earlier appearances, however, he has a belt with a big ol’ “T” right at its center, surrounded by what looks to be a sort of Norse rune (perhaps a symbol of physical health?), and it really serves to keep the character grounded, not in his mythological Norse roots necessarily, but definitely in classic superhero style.

When Jack Kirby first designed Thor’s costume, the T on the belt was very elaborate, with a detailed wing design surrounding it…

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Presumably, later inkers did not feel like putting that much work into the design, so it was simplified to the point where you got the Walter Simonson look above; the accents are more suggested than anything. In his newer incarnations, the Odinson Thor has (some might say unfortunately) traded in his classic “T” for a simple buckle. Luckily, the new female Thor has taken up wearing a battle harness, which is its own great style statement.

8. Luke Cage

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Few superhero costume design attributes are quite as visceral as the belt that Luke Cage wore as part of his original costume. Luke Cage’s origins involved being framed for a crime he did not commit and then subjected to abuse during his stay in prison, leading to him volunteering for a dangerous experiment for a chance to get early parole. Instead, he was almost killed, but luckily was given superpowers. He escaped prison and started a new life as a superhero for hire. Thus, it is fitting that for a man who broke from the shackles of prison to wear a belt that is literally iron chains.

While originally it was just as simple as “Luke went to a costume shop and this is what he got,” it was later explained that the costume first belonged to a traveling escape artist, adding even more layers to the costume for Luke. During the “Luke Cage” TV series, there is a great moment where Luke quickly grabs some clothing while he is on the run after escaping from prison and manages to deck himself out in essentially his original costume, complete with the chain around his waist.

7. Wonder Man

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Wonder Man‘s return from the dead in the 1970s led to an interesting study in the reactions that characters have to their own mortality, as writer Jim Shooter explored how Wonder Man very much did not want to die again; at the same time, he also had to deal with an “impostor complex,” feeling that he did not belong with the rest of these heroes on the Avengers because of his constant fear of death. As a result, Wonder Man did everything he could to give himself an edge in battle, which led to his famous belt.

You see, another relatively new member of the Avengers at the time was Hank McCoy, the bouncing boisterous Beast. The two hit it off and became fast friends, and Beast even took to designing new costumes for Wonder Man (to hilarious effect). But Beast also came up with a belt with rocket packs on it that would allow Wonder Man to fly, giving him more utility during battle. Wonder Man kept the rocket belt even as he went through a variety of costumes over the years, until eventually he gained the ability to fly on his own.

6. Drax

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Few comic book character designs get the point of the character across quite as quickly as Drax The Destroyer‘s original Jim Starlin costume does. The guy’s name is Drax the DESTROYER, after all, and he shows up with a giant skull on his belt. There’s not a whole lot of mystery left as to what this guy’s purpose in life is.

Not only that, but the way that the belt is designed gives off the appearance of a championship belt, which also serves to drive the narrative of what kind of brawler this guy could be. This especially worked after Thanos died, and for quite a while, Drax was set adrift without a purpose in life (what could he do if he no longer had “kill Thanos” as his life’s mission statement?); all he could think to do was wander from fight to fight throughout the cosmos. There is a good reason that when the Infinity Watch split up the Infinity gems, that Drax got the Power Gem — his whole look just screams power, especially his awesome belt!

5. Black Widow

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In her early days, Black Widow had a bit of a rough go at it when it came to costumes. Her original design fit her initial use in the comics well, as she was more of a Lady MacBeth type figure, someone who would control others into doing what she wanted, rather than mix it up herself. When Marvel decided to have her become more of an active figure, it was still a bit too decorative to be effective (lots and lots of fishnets). So John Romita, Marvel’s king of costume design, stepped in and looked to the past for inspiration. He basically just put her into a variation of the costume worn by the Golden Age heroine, Miss Fury (some people mistakenly believed that Romita was inspired by Emma Peel’s outfits on “The Avengers” TV series).

The sleek leather jump suit was perfectly accentuated with the light belt consisting of yellow discs to offset the black. It was a brilliant design, though one that did not lend itself very well to the era, where coloring was so sketchy that you often could barely see the belt on the Widow. In the first few issues of her solo feature in “Amazing Adventures” (which she got the costume for) by John Buscema, the belt is barely noticeable at times. It was more prominent once Gene Colan took over on art duties.

4. Captain Marvels

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While John Romita was the undisputed king of costume design at Marvel, there was one artist who at least gave him a run for his money: Dave Cockrum, who designed most of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, whose costumes (particularly Colossus and Nightcrawler) have lasted the test of time quite well. Cockrum also re-designed the costume for Ms. Marvel (he had a rather X-rated protest over her original costume design), using one of his go-to design choices: the sash belt. He also gave one to Phoenix. That sash has lasted through to Carol Danver’s current Captain Marvel costume as one of the few design elements to make it from the Cockrum classic to the current-classic Jamie McKelvie design.

What’s fascinating is that the sash is also a prominent feature in the legendary C.C. Beck design of the original Captain Marvel from Fawcett in the early 1940s. That’s also a costume that has survived in remarkable shape throughout the decades. What an interesting design coincidence!

3. Deadpool

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The amazing thing about Deadpool‘s famous belt is that it was not part of his original character design. When first drawn by Rob Liefeld, Deadpool just had a standard early 1990s belt. Even as other artists took over the design of the character, his belt remained like many superhero belts: a non-descript design intended to blend into the main costume. That changed when Deadpool received his own ongoing series. Artist Ed McGuinness gave him a new belt with a variation of Deadpool’s mask on the belt buckle. That was the design for a number of years until “Cable/Deadpool” launched.

This time, artist Mark Brooks mistakenly thought that the belt buckle was of an “evil” looking Deadpool, so Brooks drew it that way, remiscient of the logo for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. That new look caught on and soon Deadpool had a new official emblem that became prominently featured in the promotion of the blockbuster “Deadpool” film.

2. Jim Lee’s Cyclops

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The most popular line of comic books in the early 1990s was clearly the “X-Men” line of comics, and there was a certain amount of design similarity to a lot of the X-titles in the early ’90s. One area in particular was when it came to belts. You see, the X-books were a great believer in utility in their belt designs… and by “utility,” we of course mean “pouches.” And more pouches. And even more pouches.

There were certainly characters (*cough*Cable*cough*) who better personified the obsession in the early 1990s with pouches, but the issue is that Cable tended not to have a specific look. He had different outfits for different days. Instead, the poster boy for this era in X-Men design was Jim Lee’s 1991 re-design for Cyclops. This is because not only did it last for quite a while in the comics themselves (practically throughout the rest of the decade, which was an eternity in an era where characters seemingly changed costumes every other issue), but it became the design used for the popular “X-Men: The Animated Series”, thus becoming the Cyclops look for a whole generation of kids. And what a look it was! The sheer fury of his belt could not be contained just to his waist, and just had to crawl up his chest and around his neck. Now that’s a belt!

1. Batman

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Who else could it be at #1? There really isn’t a superhero who is as associated with his or her belt as Batman is with his; his utility belt even had its own entry in DC Comics’ “Who’s Who!”

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It’s interesting to note that Batman’s utility belt made a very early debut in the comics, showing up just two issues after Batman debuted in “Detective Comics” #29. So it has been a part of the Batman mythos for nearly 80 years now. Despite the word being in its very name, Batman’s belt doesn’t only have a utilitarian purpose in the strictest sense. It also works well to break up the darkness in Batman’s costume, especially in later years as artists have made the rest of Batman’s costume darker and darker.

The specifics of the belt have changed over the years, with the containers going from vials to pockets. One of the coolest versions of the belt is in “Batman ’66,” which went with pockets, not to mention a gigantic golden belt buckle with an engraved bat-symbol. Holy style icon, indeed!

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What’s your favorite superhero belt? Let us know in the comments!

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