Change is a part of life, especially when it comes to the world of comic books. Today, there seems to be a major shakeup at Marvel and DC every six months, whether it’s a change of the status quo through a big event or a complete revamp of their lines. Whatever the case, usually the first things that are tweaked are the costumes. DC’s New 52 era introduced completely new looks for all of the publisher’s major characters. Until recently, Superman lost his red trunks and Batman is still missing his black underpants. Wonder Woman’s suit seemed to get even tinier while Starfire… well, the less said about her redesign the better.
One thing’s for sure: these redesigns can either make or break a character. And let’s face it, comic book fans don’t always appreciate change. When a new suit is introduced, it better wow the audience or else publishers are going to hear about it. Sometimes fans just need to warm up to the redesigns, though. Not all controversial changes turn out to be failures. Take Greg Capullo’s “Babbit” Batsuit, which turned the costume into a giant mech. People complained but ultimately welcomed the new look. With that in mind, CBR has selected 15 suit changes that fans either hated or ended up loving!
15. NEW 52 SUPERMAN
The New 52 was a time of big change for the DC Universe. Not only was it the beginning of a new era for DC Comics, which introduced a new timeline for all of the major characters, it also gave us some brand new looks for all of the members of the Justice League. Legendary artist Jim Lee was tasked with redesigning the suits for Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Cyborg.
Most importantly, he recreated Superman’s suit. He did away with the red trunks and the yellow belt, a major change to the character that’s lasted almost a decade. (Superman will get his red trunks back in Action Comics #1000, thanks to another redesign by Lee.) The artist also gave Superman’s suit a more segmented, armored look as well as a high collar that gave the suit an old-timey quality.
14. PHOENIX FIVE CYCLOPS
In 2012, Marvel Comics introduced the world to the Phoenix Five in the aptly named crossover Avengers vs. X-Men, which saw the World’s Greatest Heroes and the mutant team facing off for the fate of the world. (Isn’t this always the case?) During the event, five mutants were possessed by the Phoenix Force: Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, Magik and Cyclops.
With their possession came new costumes for the characters, which symbolized their Phoenix-related powers. Cyclops’ new suit was a point of conversation among many fans who didn’t love the mutant’s more heavily armored look. The Phoenix symbol pauldron seemed ham-fisted to some. Fortunately, this look didn’t last too long. Cyclops has gone through another redesign in recent years. He now wears an ill-advised X-shaped visor… well, when he’s not busy being dead, anyway.
13. THE BABBIT
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo considered calling their DC You return to the Dark Knight “The All-New Batman” as a tongue-in-cheek nod to traditional Marvel titles. While the book continued to be called Batman, “All-New Batman” couldn’t be closer to the truth. When DC unveiled the Caped Crusader’s new look after Bruce’s “death” in “Endgame,” fans were taken aback by the giant blue mech that had replaced their beloved hero.
In more than 75 years of Bat adventures, Capullo’s “Babbit” (a combination of “bat” and “rabbit”) suit stands as one of the biggest shakeups of the Dark Knight’s suit in DC history. Some readers weren’t too happy about the look. Fortunately, Snyder and Capullo more than justified the new look with their “Superheavy” arc, which introduced Jim Gordon as a new, GCPD-sanctioned Batman. There’s never been a story quite like it, and while it remains a divisive look, most fans got used to it pretty quick.
12. BLACK SUIT SUPERMAN
The ’90s were a time of excess, especially in superhero comics. Take DC’s approach to Superman, for example. There aren’t many comic book stories as big as “The Death of Superman,” which featured the Man of Steel’s final struggle against the beast Doomsday. As you probably know, Superman died fighting the monster and other characters showed up in Metropolis to replace the Man of Steel as the city’s protector.
But then, Superman returned as a black-clad, mullet-wearing, gun-toting badass to take back his spot as the Earth’s greatest protector. This black suit was created by Jon Bogdanove for Superman’s shocking return. It was known as the regeneration suit and raised quite a few eyebrows at a time when audience’s were kept guessing about the Superman line. The regeneration suit remains controversial today.
11. BATGIRL OF BURNSIDE
DC felt that Batgirl needed a bit of a change when it hired Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr to replace veteran Gail Simone on the heroine’s solo comic. Batgirl was given all-new surroundings, the borough of Burnside — Gotham’s version of hipster Brooklyn — as well as a new support team. A new storyline focused on Barbara Gordon trying to lead both a college career and social life while protecting the city; it was meant to connect with younger audiences, and in many ways it did that, though not without its hiccups.
Still, the approach was largely a success and much of that had to do with Batgirl’s cool new look, which was designed by Stewart and Tarr. It’s much closer to what you might see a millennial wearing on the street, down to the Doc Marten-like boots, which of course Babs uses to kick villains’ faces in.
10. CREEPY SCARLET SPIDER
When Ben Reilly returned as the Scarlet Spider, first as the villain of “The Clone Conspiracy” event and then as a hero with his own solo title, fans were less than enthused. Some readers were underwhelmed by the character’s strange return to the Spider-Man universe, but even more were taken aback by Scarlet Spider’s new suit, which is perhaps the most horrifying superhero suit since Spawn was revealed back in the ’90s.
Most readers were disturbed by the creepy smile on Scarlet Spider’s mask, which seemed to be permanently stuck on the character’s face. It was the stuff of nightmares. Fans hated this suit so much that Marvel had to go back to Scarlet Spider’s original ’90s look — a blue hoodie over a red suit — after the comic’s first arc was complete.
9. DC YOU SUPERMAN
In the final days of the New 52, Superman spent some time not being super at all. After discovering a new ability — the solar flare, which temporarily drained the Man of Steel of all his power — and having his true identity exposed by none other than Lois Lane, Superman was forced to live as the rest of the people of Earth live. That is, while fighting a new villain known as Hordr_Root.
The Man of Steel’s look is both a nod to Grant Morrison and Rags Morales’ early New 52 Action Comics run and the hero’s Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons from the 1940s. The new look was the least shocking of the changes made to the Trinity during the DC You initiative that also revamped both Batman and Wonder Woman’s costumes. Gene Luen Yang also justified the look with a great story to accompany it.
8. GIANT “M” MAGNETO
Uncanny X-Men #200 delivered a big shakeup in the status quo that would change the dynamic of the mutant team. The villainous Magneto had been captured and was being put on trial. During the story, the X-Men were forced to join forces with the Master of Magnetism in order to fight a common threat. The experience led Magneto to turn over a new leaf and seek redemption.
On top of adopting a new role with the X-Men, he also donned a new look. It was a VERY ill-advised style that involved an overwhelmingly purple color palette and a HUGE “M” symbol running down the chest of the suit. Perhaps this was meant to signify a more superheroic look, but it was just bad. Thankfully, this is not the Magneto look we’re familiar with today.
7. NEW 52 NIGHTWING
The start of the New 52 era featured tweaks big and small to the costumes of DC’s most popular heroes. While Superman received the biggest revamp of all the Justice League members, the New 52 also introduced new looks for the Batman family. Red Hood, for example, received a completely new costume that featured a leather jacket and a new mask. On the other hand, Nightwing received a seemingly arbitrary color change.
Nightwing’s costume went from blue and black to red and black. It might have been small, but it was not really a change that made much sense. It seems that DC wanted to create a more uniform look for the Bat family, using a palette of red and black to create unity in the look of the Dark Knight’s team. In the end, fans got used to the change. In the end, though, Nightwing was changed back to blue and black in the Rebirth era.
6. INVISIBLE WOMAN
The objectification of female characters in comics has always been one of the industry’s most glaring problems. The past few years have seen a lot of progress in both female roles in comics and the kinds of stories being told about them. A big improvement is the number of female creators now working in mainstream comics. This means writers like Gail Simone and Kelly Sue DeConnick have been able to leave their mark on the most popular female characters.
But there was still quite a lot of work to be done in the ’90s. Take Sue Storm’s costume change in the mid-90s, for example. It was a controversial tweak that took a very different approach with Invisible Woman, turning her into overly sexualized character. The cut out in her costume that exposes her cleavage is just absolutely ridiculous, even if it was explained that her decision-making was impaired by a form of mind control.
5. CRAB MASK GREEN LANTERN
In 1994, Kyle Rayner became DC’s newest Green Lantern and turned heads with his very different look, which was a big change from Hal Jordan’s well known black and green suit. Where Hal preferred a sleeker costume with classic design elements, Kyle was all about armored gauntlets, a strange design that involved splashes of white across his chest, a “modern” take on the Green Lantern symbol and a terribly bulky crab mask.
It was very ’90s to say the least. If fans were already a bit cold about Kyle’s arrival as the new Lantern, it was only amplified by his strange new look. Fortunately, Kyle grew into his own as Hal Jordan’s successor and even received a redesign from Jim Lee in the early 2000s.
4. PANTLESS HAWKEYE
Clint Barton has gone through several iterations of his Hawkeye persona. The heroic (and sometimes villainous) archer has played a few roles throughout the years, but we mostly know him as the brave Avenger from both the modern era of the House of Ideas and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What you may not know (or perhaps want to forget) is that Hawkeye once decided that he didn’t need to wear pants to fight the bad guys.
For some reason, Hawkeye decided to go very retro with his look. The costume redesign ended up being… less than inspiring. In fact, it looked downright silly when compared to the hero’s comrades. While most of the World’s Greatest Heroes looked mighty, Hawkeye was just running around in what looked like a skirt. Fans never warmed up to this look and the costume was fortunately reworked.
3. DC YOU WONDER WOMAN
DC You — that very brief revamp initiative between the New 52 era and Rebirth — gave us new looks for both Batman and Superman, harsh changes that ushered in all-new stories for the characters. The Dark Knight turned into a giant mech and the Man of Steel went casual (and even got a buzz cut!). These were controversial changes, but ultimately welcome ones.
Wonder Woman, on the other hand, got a variation of her traditional armor that fans had a huge problem with at first. While some fans were happy with the focus on Wonder Woman’s warrior qualities, with big metal shoulder pads and knives coming out of her bracelets, others were annoyed at the addition of pants and the way the pauldron emphasized the hero’s breasts. Ultimately, most readers got behind the suit, which wasn’t Wonder Woman’s look for very long anyway.
2. ELECTRIC BLUE SUPERMAN
Of all of the tweaks to Superman’s look, this is the one fans usually want to forget the most. We’re of course talking about the 1998 “Electric Blue” Superman storyline, which saw the Man of Steel lose his solar-based powers and gain energy-based ones instead. In order to use these new powers, which included being able to detect and absorb radioactivity, he had to don a new “containment suit.”
The costume just looked bad, and it was made worse by the appearance of a red version of the Electric Blue Superman. A cape-less Superman look is always a controversial one, but turning the Man of Steel into a character ripped out of a bad Tron movie was a little too much for fans. Fortunately, Supes went back to his classic look after this storyline was up.
Speaking of the ’90s, nothing screams excess like the suit Jean Paul Valley, aka Azrael, donned during his time as Batman’s replacement in the “Knightfall” storyline that saw Bane break Bruce’s back and put him out of commission. Azrael’s costume, an amalgam of both his old armor and the Batsuit, represented his much more violent approach to crime fighting. There’s not been a Batsuit quite like the AzBat look since.
It’s also plain HUGE. It seems impossible that Azrael would be able to move so fast with all that armor, those big gauntlets, the gold plating, not to mention the dude looks TOO jacked to perform stunts. While the suit was ridiculous (apparently on purpose as a form of parody), fans were excited by the Batman line’s new direction. This was the first real time Bruce was replaced as the Dark Knight and it allowed for some very interesting stories.
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