Designing a successful superhero costume is always a challenging job. The smallest details can make or break a design and the difference between an OK costume and a great costume can come down to something as trivial as a button. Of course, money often plays an important role in costume design, which is why it is even more difficult for TV series to pull of complex superhero costumes. A TV budget can only get you so far and at times it is just not enough. So, more often than not, compromises are made with varying degree of success.
Over the years, we’ve seen tons of superhero costumes on the small screen. And while some have impressed us with their design, ingenuity and style, others were such a letdown that they essentially ruined a great show. Comic book accuracy is not the be-all and end-all and simplicity is not always the best policy. At times, the costume designers on TV shows seem to forget about this and end up putting out rather regrettable superhero outfits. But for all the bad these awful costumes did, at least they gave us something to talk about. So, let’s check out 20 awful costumes that ruined great superhero shows.
20 DAREDEVIL (DAREDEVIL)
Netflix’s Daredevil series is a strong contender for the best Marvel/Netflix show. Daredevil has a lot going for it -- an excellent cast, fantastic writing, and interesting characters, just to name a few. However, there’s one department in which the show could use some improvement.
Although we still prefer Charlie Cox’s Daredevil costume to the one Ben Affleck wore in the Daredevil movie, we can’t say we’re absolutely satisfied with its design.
Daredevil’s costume may not be as horrible as some of the other entries on this list, but it most certainly doesn’t belong among the best of the best. At the very least the costume is generic and uninspired and if we’re being completely honest fails to capture the appeal of the comic book design.
19 BLACK CANARY (ARROW)
The extent to which Arrow ruined this iconic comic book character breaks out hearts. The character writing for Laurel was less-than-stellar from the get-go. Even as Black Canary, she was depicted as a less popular version of her sister Sara. Plus, the costume designers gave her a horrible black leather costume which appeared to be far more bulky than necessary and had way too many buckles.
It’s sad that the most iconic character to don on the Black Canary outfit was given the worst treatment of all three versions of the character that have appeared on Arrow. We’re well aware that the exact replica of the comic book costume wasn’t an option, but Sara’s costume came pretty close, and even Dinah’s costume on the sixth season of the show is a much better execution than what we got with Laurel.
18 RED TORNADO (SUPERGIRL)
When the first photos of Supergirl’s Red Tornado pooped up all everyone was thinking and talking about was how similar the character looked to Marvel’s Vision. The comparison went as far as describing Red Tornado as a bad Vision cosplay.
Whether Supergirl was "inspired" by the MCU's Vision design is debatable, still one can’t turn a blind eye to the more than evident similarities.
But the Vision comparison aside, the Red Tornado costume just doesn’t hold up. For a character who’s supposed to be an android, Iddo Goldberg’s Red Tornado looks suspiciously like a human man painted red and sporting a poorly designed suit. And while we were hoping these issues can be fixed in post-production that never happened. Instead, this horrible cosplay costume somehow made it on screen.
17 QUAKE (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a show that got off to a rocky start. If you go back now and re-watch the first season you’d get pretty confused as to how a mediocre show could have gotten so good over the course of five seasons. But while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. improved vastly in so many aspects, the show still seems to be having a hard time with costumes.
Take Quake for example. Introduced first as the hacktivist Sky, Chloe Bennett’s character was revealed to be none other than Daisy Johnson, aka Quake. Everyone was hyped about seeing Bennett suit up as Quake and shake things up, but sadly her costume was a big letdown. A far cry from her comic book look, Quake still looks more like an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. than an actual superhero.
16 WILD DOG (ARROW - SEASON 6)
At the start of season six, Arrow debuted Wild Dog’s new costume. And the updated costume has certainly got people talking. A lot of criticism has been geared toward Wild Dog’s new look with the character’s co-creator Terry Beatty saying that the new look erases any trace of the original concept and that the character is now Wild Dog in name only.
The assumption is that these changes were made in order to make Wild Dog more Team Arrow material but not only did the update not do the trick, it also made Wild Dog look even more out of place.
At least with his original design the character had his own unique style and appeal. Now, unfortunately, what we have is yet another guy in a poorly designed helmet that vaguely resembles the plague mask.
15 GUARDIAN (SUPERGIRL)
Let’s make one thing clear, we love Jimmy Olsen and we’re enjoying Mehcad Brooks’ performance on Supergirl. However, Guardian is a whole other beast. We’re not necessarily against James being a hero, we’re just not feeling this costume. No offense James, but you kind of remind us of a giant boulder.
First of all, whoever thought an all-gray costume was a good idea obviously didn’t quite think this through. And second of all, this contraption is just way too bulky for anyone to be able to fight in it. We get that James is at a disadvantage because he’s a hero with no superpowers doing his best to protect a city full of aliens and he needs a strong suit, but this may be taking it a tad too far.
14 SAVITAR (THE FLASH)
The third season of The Flash was by far the show’s weakest point yet. After two seasons of faster speedsters kicking Barry’s keister, we’ve gotten pretty tired of the same old story. On top of that, the villain -- the self-proclaimed God of Speed -- Savitar looked pretty underwhelming despite the obvious amount of effort that went into creating his CGI look.
The moment Savitar appeared on The Flash the internet started brimming with memes about the villain’s appearance. Savitar’s "costume" reminded most of us of Megatron from Transformers and it was pretty difficult to take him seriously given the ridiculous design his costume. It’s even harder to believe that no one could have come up with a better design. All in all, it was yet another disappointment in an already lackluster season of a great show.
13 THE FLASH (THE FLASH - SEASON 1)
Grant Gustin’s costume got an awesome update this fourth season. Too bad he’s been in jail these past few episodes and wasn’t able to put it to good use. The new Flash suit is much sleeker, the brighter shade of red is more reminiscent of the comic book design and the more prominent gold-yellow details make this Flash costume the best one yet.
However, if you look at the costume Gustin wore back in season one you’ll see just how much the design has changed.
Not to speak ill of Cisco’s skills as a designer and engineer, but Barry’s first costume looked far too cheap and boring. The maroon red was just too dark and the lightning emblem on his chest didn’t pop up because it was on a red background. The cowl also felt a bit off and the overly pointy lightning rods on his ears were very distracting.
12 BRUCE WAYNE (GOTHAM)
Ever since the first episode of Gotham aired everyone was wondering will the show ever really see Bruce Wayne don the cape and cowl and become Gotham’s Dark Knight. In season four, we sort of got an answer to that nagging question. Determined to do something about the mess in his hometown, young Bruce Wayne steps up as the hero Gotham deserves in what was supposed to be a prototype of the Batsuit.
The problem with Bruce Wayne’s costume on Gotham is that it doesn’t look like a superhero costume, but rather like something a biker/bank robber would wear. The laughable design of Bruce’s first Batman costume quickly became the butt of every joke on the internet. Hopefully, the criticism will serve to inspire a much needed redesign.
11 SPARTAN (ARROW)
John Diggle’s superhero "costume" may as well have been a balaclava. Sure, it would make him look like one of the bad guys, but at least he wouldn’t look as if he stole Magneto’s prototype helmet. Spartan’s costume was a huge disappointment for Arrow fans who have been clamoring for Digg to finally suit up.
The moment we laid eyes on Spartan’s "costume" we regretted ever wishing for him to get one.
Listen, Mr. Berlanti, we’re sure your intentions were pure, but we’d rather have Diggle running around with a scarf covering the lower part of his face than have to spend one more episode trying to pry our eyes away from whatever this is. So, if you could please just call whoever designed this atrocity and have them do a better job that would be awesome.
10 THE ATOM (LEGENDS OF TOMORROW)
It’s a minor miracle that a character such as the Atom even made it on screen. And on top of that, he’s played by the former Superman actor Brandon Routh. Plus, he’s got a pretty good gig on Legends of Tomorrow. As much as we hate to complain about the Atom, we have to point out one issue that is just too glaringly obvious to ignore -- his costume.
The idea behind the science of the Atom is that his technology is light-years ahead and he’s able to create a simple-looking suit capable of amazing feats. Yet, the Arrowverse version of the character flies around in bulky version of an Iron Man suit. Creating such a costume must have taken a lot of money and on a TV budget it would seem more reasonable to go with something more akin to the character’s less pretentious comic book look.
9 IMPULSE (SMALLVILLE)
You know how we thought Grant Gustin’s costume on The Flash was kind of meh when we first saw it? And to be fair it was pretty meek, but let’s not forget that Gustin could have ended up in something as awful as Impulse’s costume on Smallville. It’s embarrassing enough that it happened one time, seeing such poorly dressed speedster once again would have been too much. The costume Impulse wore on Smallville left a lot to be desired.
His superhero outfit consisted of what can best be described as a custom-made hoodie and a pair of red pants.
The costume designers at least attempted to incorporate a something resembling lightning on the sides of the hoodie and for that alone they get props. Everything else is just atrocious.
8 SUPERMAN (SMALLVILLE)
Over the course of ten seasons, Tom Welling was deprived of one very important aspect of playing a superhero: putting on a real superhero costume. However, for reasons unknown till this very day, in season nine, Clark put on an outfit that resonated more with The Matrix than with Superman. In his all-black outfit topped off with an ankle-long trench coat Clark looked nothing like the Man of Steel.
This unique costume has been dubbed by the fans as "Neo Blur" or "Emo Blur" just for being ridiculously dark. While Superman did sport a black version of his traditional costume in the comics, Smallville failed miserably to capture the essence of the iconic outfit. Instead, what we got is an awful cyberpunkish version of an already horrible concept for a costume.
7 HAWKGIRL & HAWKMAN (LEGENDS OF TOMORROW)
It’s safe to say that the entire story arc revolving around the Hawks is what ruined the first season of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. However, the godawful costumes of the eternal lovers, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, sure didn’t do the show any favors. To say that the costume design for the Hawks was bad would be a gross understatement.
Hawkgirl and Hawkman’s costumes are among the worst costume designs we’ve seen in a long time and quite possibly the worst Arrowverse has to offer.
In the process of adapting their original not-television-friendly costumes the designer decided to do away with all the references to the character’s Egyptian heritage and give them weapons that look like poorly made Halloween props. Luckily, the Hawks left the Arrowverse and it does not seem they will be coming back.
6 SUPERGIRL (SMALLVILLE)
Smallville’s costumes designers hardly had a difficult job. In fact, looking at some of these designs we find ourselves wondering if anyone spent even a good hour of work on these costumes. It just takes one look at whatever it is Supergirl is wearing to see that no one could have actually been bothered to spend some time on designing her costume -- if it can even be called a costume.
Honestly, what Laura Vandervoort is wearing on this picture can be anything but a superhero costume. The skirt and top could have been easily bought off the rack at any clothing store. The poor girl doesn’t even have the S on her chest or a cape for that matter. To call this outfit a bad cosplay would be an insult to cosplayers.
5 DEATHLOK (AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Deathlok was supposed to be Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s big selling point. At a time when ratings were plummeting and the creators desperately needed to introduce some actual comic book characters in order to maintain their audience, Deathlok was the solution they came up with. Unfortunately, though, the execution of this plan wasn’t quite what the fans expected.
Just like that, the savior of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. became one of the biggest disappointments of the show simply because he looked goddamn awful.
We get that recreating the exact same costume Deathlok wears in the comics, and on a TV budget, would have been downright impossible. However, we refuse to believe that there was absolutely not one design that could top this plastic laser tag vest.
4 CYBORG (SMALLVILLE)
Obviously, it’s unrealistic, not to say idiotic, to expect movie-level quality costumes from television shows. It’s all about the money and, let’s face it, TV shows can hardly afford to spend copious amounts of it on a single outfit. That being said, perhaps they should reconsider using characters that require just a bit more money to look the part. Case in point -- Smallville’s Cyborg.
As to why the show felt the need to introduce Cyborg of all people we may never know. All we know for certain is that Smallville’s embarrassing attempt to bring Cyborg to life on a TV budget looked pathetic. Wearing a silver jumpsuit that would be more at home on a bad sci-fi show, Cyborg failed to convince anyone he was indeed a cyborg.
3 AQUAMAN (SMALLVILLE)
Aquaman may look all hot and mighty in the Justice League movie, however, his previous live-action appearance was a far cry from impressive to say the least. In 2005, the character appeared on Smallville portrayed by Alan Ritchson and looked absolutely awful. Smallville was never known for well-designed costumes, but with Aquaman they took it a bit too far.
Ritchman’s Aquaman costume looks like a cheap Halloween outfit you can order online.
It’s hard to believe that something this bad actually made it on screen, even if it is on a show with a low budget such as Smallville. It is pretty obvious that whoever designed this outfit put no forethought into it and just went with the simplest and cheapest option. The result is one of the worst costumes ever seen in live-action media.
2 SUPERMAN (SUPERGIRL)
Whether it was really necessary for Superman to appear on Supergirl is questionable. However, his visit to Kara sure gave the show’s ratings a boost, so we can see why The CW felt it was a good idea. Not that we’re fundamentally against the idea of having Superman pop up on Supergirl every once in a while, we just wish more thought had been given to the design of his costume.
Although, the criticism towards Supergirl’s version of the Man of Steel usually comes down to Tyler Hoechlin not being a good enough choice, we’re more concerned with the costume than with the actor. The biggest problems we have with Superman’s costume are the monstrous boots which don’t appear functional at all, the bulky belt that just doesn’t seem to serve any purpose and last but not least, the horrible gold clasps that hold the cape.
1 ELEKTRA (DAREDEVIL)
Elektra hasn’t exactly had the best of luck when it comes to live-action adaptations. First, she was put through the mess that was the Daredevil movie and then to prolong her suffering the studio gave her an even worse solo movie. The Greek ninja assassin got yet another chance in Netflix’s Daredevil and while the portrayal of the character saw much needed improvement, her costume didn’t quite live up to expectations.
Unlike the awful costume Jennifer Garner wore, the one they gave Elodie Yung wasn’t as spunky and tacky but it wasn’t the best either.
While there’s nothing incredibly offensive about Yung’s costume on Daredevil, it just doesn’t work as a superhero costume. All we’re saying is, it’s way too boring for a character like Elektra.