A major challenge whenever a comic book adaptation comes along is making the outfits look right. Purists will enjoy a comic book outfit that looks exactly the way it does on the page. However, the brutal truth is that so often comic book costumes look amazingly ridiculous in real life. It's one thing to try them out for cosplay at a convention but another for a major live-action blockbuster. Non-comic book audiences may not react that well to the classic outfits as they sometimes don't look right on film. However, those who grew up adoring the comic books look forward to seeing their favorite characters come to life in the way they desired.
That includes a lot of trial and error. Every MCU movie has a "The Art of" book which showcases slews of alternate takes on various super-hero or villain looks. Yes, the artists look to the comics for inspiration but also have slews of other looks just in case something sparks on paper. Often, it works out nicely for some great looks. However, quite often, some of the best designs for characters never make it on screen at all. Indeed, a few concepts are much better than what you see in the movies.
27 THOR GLADIATOR
Thor has often undergone a few changes on screen as his character has evolved in the movies. While the classic look with the helmet doesn't work as well on screen, he's retained much of his regal power. For Ragnarok, there were slews of concept ideas for Thor as a gladiator. Several of them were wild in colors and frankly looked too crazy. But this look by Andy Park actually would have worked. The purple tinges fit the alien world and the wild motif of the movie, the armor is good and the helmet is perfect. The cape also adds a nice touch that would have looked good in a fight. His movie look was good but this was better.
Her role in the first Ant-Man movie was small (no pun intended) but vital. Janet Van Dyne had worked with Hank as a special agent with their shrinking powers. Her disappearance drives Hank through the movie and leads to him hunting for her in the sequel. The movie version had her outfit looking much like his, sleek and dynamic. This version from Andy Park might have looked more fun. It's a throwback to the classic 1960s look of the character but it is modernized with the cool coat top. The helmet also looks pretty nice.
It's well known how the Suicide Squad movie was a major mess. The character of Katana should have been a big deal but shunted to the sidelines too much. There was also her bad outfit, which looked more like she was heading to a Tokyo nightclub than into combat. Maybe the producers should have borrowed from the Arrow producers take on Katana. This version for the character (designed by Maya Mani and Andy Poon) in season 3 is much better, covering her body and makes sense for a ninja character. The mask is much better, not as distracting and this would have been more intimidating.
24 IRON MAN CABLE SUIT
Iron Man 3 boasted a slew of cool armors. Many were used for the big showdown between Tony and the main villain, with a lot of great looks. However, this idea by Josh Nizzi might have been an interesting one to see on screen. The camouflage motif is interesting to see and could have helped it blend into some surroundings. The green heart at the chest also helps it stand out more. Then there's the cable grapple, an idea you're amazed never got into the movies. It takes a lot to stand out from the pack of armors in Tony's closet but this could have been a great one to see on screen.
23 BATMAN, BATMAN V SUPERMAN
This comes close to the version we saw in Batman v Superman but a few differences. Crafted by Michael Wilkinson, it's less bulky than the movie version which makes sense as Batman would want to be at his best in terms of flexibility to get around. The armor segments aren't as obvious and it could actually fool an opponent into thinking it's just cloth until he attacks. The gloves are also nicely done without the huge "spikes" yet clearly formidable for attacks. The belt isn't as flashy and clearly meant to carry the various gadgets Batman needs rather than just decoration. The mask also looks more natural. Altogether, this could have been a better fit for Ben Affleck then the movie version.
Okay, probably nothing could have saved the version of Batgirl in Batman & Robin. From her lame "ward of Alfred" backstory to Alicia Silverstone's poor acting, the character was doomed. But this version of her costume by Miles Teves would have at least looked a lot better. It fits the Batman motif more with its solid colors and nice flow and even the "combat heels" don't look as bad. Most importantly, it has the full cowl with pointed ears which just looks awesome.
21 BEAST, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
In X-Men Days of Future Past, the Beast is shown in her younger persona in the 1970s, played by Nicholas Hoult. An earlier version of the script had Kelsey Grammer as the elder Beast in the dark future where mutants are hunted. He joins the rest of the X-Men in their quest to change time and a last stand against the Sentinels. This artwork by Joshua James Shaw shows how he would have looked great, the elder Grammer nicely detailed with aged and war-weary features.
The movie version of Peter Quill is much different than the comic book one. The comic version had been a true cosmic warrior turned gunslinging leader with a nice outfit. The movie had him as more the loveable thief and scoundrel with a laid-back attitude. In early plans for Guardians, designer Anthony Park went to the classic Star-Lord look. That includes this version with an outfit that looks far more combat ready with a nice jacket top and various weapon pouches. The helmet is right out of the comics and looks a lot cooler than the "mask" bit Chris Pratt wears in the movies. Cool as Star-Lord is, this look would have helped him be even slicker.
19 CAPTAIN AMERICA SHIELD AGENT
The movie versions of Captain America's outfits have shifted over the years. He had the classic red-white-and-blue for the 1940s, and then he was modernized for the present day. At the beginning of Winter Soldier, Cap is working for SHIELD and wears a more combat-ready version of his costume. This concept by Andrew Kim would have pushed that more with a truly notable outfit highlighted by the Avengers "A" on the chest and standard "A" on his mask. Better would have been Cap using the triangular shield he had all the way back in his debut, saving his "superhero" outfit for Avengers missions. This could also work into the script when Cap leaves behind this outfit for his classic colors. Yet this would show the "soldier" part of the Super-Soldier far better on screen.
In the comics, Gamora goes around in what amounts to a green suit that shows off way too much skin for a space warrior. That required some changes for Guardians with the movie version showing her in a mostly covered outfit. This concept art strikes by Andy Park strikes a good balance between the movie and comic books. It doesn't show off too much skin but still flashes to highlight her beauty. It also emphasizes her warrior upbringing and how she's able to carry herself very well in a fight. The addition of the cloak is also good to give her a mysterious air. This Gamora would be far deadlier on screen.
With her empathic powers and fighting skills, Mantis has been a good addition to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yet some fans have complained that her looks are a bit bland, just the antennas to an otherwise attractive person. The concept art showed several versions of Mantis that pushed the alien motif to the extreme. Many were too weird to use but this one by Andy Park might have worked out. The yellow skin fits her insect name and the design is a good contrast to Drax's own skin. The outfit is a bit daring yet it emphasizes her nature more. This version of Mantis fits the alien universe much better and would have been cool to see on film.
16 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
When Supergirl began, fans were expecting DEO chief Hank Henshaw to be revealed as a bad guy. Instead, it turned out the real Hank Henshaw had died in a mission hunting an alien. That alien was J'onn J'onzz who took Henshaw's place to turn the DEO around. Due to the FX budget of a CW show, we don't see the Manhunter too much on screen. When he does appear, it looks a bit rough, the character's head too squared and strange ridges on his forehead. This concept art by Alan Villanueva is a much better fit for the Manhunter, capturing the pointed head and his regal bearing. It also shows a better outfit that doesn't come off too cheesy.
15 TEENAGE X-23
In Logan, X-23 ends up being a ten-year-old girl. That was a good way to integrate a father-daughter bond into the movie but it was a change from the teenager of the comics. However, it was clear in the design phase that the producing team was thinking of a teenager in the role. As these images by Aaron Sims show, Laura was going to be a full-on rebellious teen. That would have added a new dimension of Logan handling a teen with attitude as well as claws. The outfits range from a regular goth to a more "uniform" look and are intriguing to see. While the movie version ended up being good as a little kid, Sims showcases a fun concept for an older X-23.
14 JEAN GRAY
Jean Grey has worn a lot of costumes in the comics. From her classic Marvel Girl period to the Phoenix to today, Jean has shifted outfits quite a bit. Fans have a soft spot for her 1990s costume which had a very cool gold and blue design with a fun headpiece. A few early versions for the first X-Men movie tried to make it work but it eventually went to the black leather. When Jean (Sophie Turner) dons an outfit in Apocalypse, it's mostly the same color yet this drawing from Alan J. Villanueva shows they wanted to mix that headpiece in. Something about it just appeals to fans to wish any on-screen Jean could try it out.
13 STORM, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Fans have complained over Halle Berry's performance as Storm in the X-Men movies. While an Oscar winner, Berry doesn't seem to capture the regal character very well. Yet she was a key part of the movies and so was brought in for Days of Future Past. While she wears her classic X-Men outfit in the film, the concept art by Joshua James Shaw showed a different take on Storm. The idea was to have her closer to nature in this dark world and thus her outfits were made to reflect that. One thing that kept them from being used was how Berry was pregnant when filming the movie and so too many of the costumes would have shown her bump.
12 THE ANCIENT ONE
The Art of Doctor Strange book illustrates that no character had so many varying concept looks as the Ancient One. Pages of drawings show the many takes on the character mixing in various cultures and different colors of robes and hairstyles. Some had her in near armor outfits while others far more elaborate. This look from Andy Park actually would have gone pretty well in the film. It's sleek and nicely flowing, letting her shift into combat but still believable as a teacher. Also, the long braided ponytail looks much better than her being bald and would add to her mystique.
11 BLACK SUIT SUPERMAN
In the classic "Death and Return of Superman" storyline, when he's revived from his battle with Doomsday, Superman briefly wears a nearly black costume. It's not for long but fans have taken to it ever since as it's pretty daring look for him. When Man of Steel was being produced, a major concept from Warren Manser was a black suit that would have been a very bold difference for the character. They realized it was far better to stick to those iconic colors yet this shows how that could have been a great look on screen.
10 STORM, APOCALYPSE
Alexandra Shipp did well in the role of a younger Storm in X-Men Apocalypse. Her look was based on the one Storm had in the 1980s wearing dark leather and a white mohawk. This early version by Greg Hopewood actually might have looked a bit better. It pushes the "punk" motif more, perfectly capturing the '80s fashions from the buckles to the studded leather vest. Her hairstyle is also interesting, half brushed back and some nice waves with the white coloring mixed in. It better serves the character as a rebellious type who's swayed by Apocalypse's promises of power and glory. The movie version is okay yet this fits a younger Storm better.
The character of Jubilee has been mocked a lot as her power basically amounts to creating fireworks. However, she has been quite popular with plans to work her into a few X-Men movies. However, almost every time, her role has been majorly cut down to barely more than a cameo and not showing herself off. An early script for Days of Future Past has Jubilee working with the mutant rebels in the future and her powers actually effective. This look by Phillip Boutte Jr. is a far cry from the character's trademark yellow coat but makes her look far more intimidating and believable as a fighter. The character didn't make the cut yet this concept shows she could have worked out well.
8 WOLVERINE, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
There are still purists who are sorry that Hugh Jackman never got to wear his famous cowl at all in the movies. However, given how well he captures the most popular X-Man, they're willing to overlook it. Logan has had a few takes on outfits in the movies but these concepts for Days of Future Past by Joshua James Shaw show a pretty interesting take. They seem laid back but also combat ready to show how Logan is prepared to go into a fight at a moment's notice. The version on the right highlights a brown motif much like the one Wolverine had in the comic for a long time.
For all its many faults, fans are ready to credit the 2003 Daredevil movie for how well it captured the character's iconic costume. It took until the final episode of the first season of the Netflix series for Matt to don his outfit. However, it has been criticized as too dark, nearly all black and crimson and too many overlapping patterns. This concept by Josh Nizzi shows DD in an outfit straight off the pages of Gene Colan or Frank Miller. It perfectly captures the classic design in the color scheme and even the small "DD" logo fits well. The horns also look good and it's great how the billy club flies about. Even on TV, this would have been a better look for the Man Without Fear.
6 SCARLET SPIDER
When Spider-Man first shows up in Civil War, it's explained that he's been fighting crime in a homemade costume. He goes around in a cool high-tech one worn by Tony Stark in Homecoming. When Tony takes it back, Peter goes back to his older look to fight the Vulture. Among the concepts was one from Ryan Meinerding that was based on the popular Scarlet Spider character. It actually makes sense, a full red bodysuit and a red and blue sweatshirt top with fingerless gloves. It's totally believable this is an outfit a teenager would just throw together yet still capture the character well. It was a fun look and '90s fans would adore seeing it on screen.
5 BLACK PANTHER T'CHAKA
The legacy of the Black Panther stretches back centuries. It thus makes sense the outfit itself has changed a lot over that time. At the beginning of Black Panther, we see T'Challa's father, T'Chaka, in the role. His suit keeps to the streamlined look of his son and emphasizes the character's stealth. But this concept courtesy of Adi Granov might have been a cool look too. It's more ornate which makes sense as T'Chaka rarely left Wakanda so his Panther would be more a symbol to the people. It also has the short cape and high collar that fans always loved on the character.
4 SCARLET WITCH
The Avengers have shown how tricky it is making classic super-hero costumes work on screen. However, fans do complain about how the Scarlet Witch's outfit basically consists of red shirts and a dark jacket. Several concepts have emphasized a more classic super-hero look that also integrates Wanda's gypsy roots. This image by Anthony Park is pretty good, a throwback to her outfit of the 1990s. The bare shoulders offset the crimson and black suit which flows about well with the sashes. It also has the headpiece that fans insist is key to the character. It's truly other-worldly which is what the Witch should be.
3 MASKED HAWKEYE
Even the biggest fans of the archer will admit that his classic huge headpiece/mask would look ridiculous on film. However, there are still ways you can make him stand out better. This concept from the popular MCU artist Andy Park is a pretty good way to go. It emphasizes Clint's "black ops" past better with the great touch of one forearm covered and the other bare as legitimate archers would do. The face mask with goggles and bare head fits a look Hawkeye had in the '90s and helps him stand out more. This sells Hawkeye as a great fighter and soldier.
2 SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN
You'd think Spider-Man would be an easy character to capture on screen. Everyone knows that iconic red and blue outfit with the spider pattern and mask. However, the MCU design team did take some ideas on how to modernize Peter Parker for the Marvel universe and play around on the classic outfits. One idea by Ryan Meinerding for when Peter gets an upgraded suit was to play on the "Superior Spider-Man" arc where Doctor Octopus takes over Peter's body and upgrades his tech. So you have the red top over the shoulders with the spider then flowing into a solid black suit. It's a pretty cool look and might actually have been pulled off well on film. If nothing else, it shows how Spidey's history lends himself to so many alternate looks.
1 BEARDED LOOK
One of the bigger twists in the MCU is in Thor Ragnarok. Forced into gladiator combat on a distant alien world, Thor is surprised to discover the long-missing Hulk is his opponent. The character's look was inspired by the "Planet Hulk" storyline with his armor and a cool helmet. One idea by Ryan Meindering was taken from another Hulk tale. It would imagine the Hulk growing a long beard during his time on this planet, inspired by the Maestro from the story "Future Imperfect." It would have been interesting, a bearded Hulk with a clean-shaven Thor and showing more of the change in the character. Maybe trying this out could have added more fun to an already great movie.