Change is a big part of comic books. Yet just because the comic book medium could become rather bland and stale without change, doesn’t mean fans are especially keen or opened-minded when a long-term status quo is altered. It doesn’t really matter the situation; you could have a gender-swap of a beloved character, a new hairstyle, or someone dying, fans will rage. In this case however, we’re talking about alterations in costume design. Held at nearly a sacred level, right up there with killing off a character and watching and waiting to see if they come back, costume changes are a fickle beast.
Characters might spend half a century wearing the same outfits; generations on top of generations grow up knowing said character a certain way. They grow comfortable in the knowledge that some things are sacred and ought not to be touched. Except in comics, nothing is sacred and everything is up for grabs. For better or worse, nearly every comic book character has found their classic costumes on the chopping block and then replaced with oftentimes less glamorous and even insulting designs. Whenever that occurs, fans are more than willing to make their ire known. Here at CBR we’re looking at 15 superhero-related costume changes fans raged against.
15 UNDERWEAR-LESS SUPERMAN
Superman has the most iconic superhero costume in all of comics. Easily identifiable by much of the world’s population, the Man of Steel’s outfit is one that will be forever remembered. Yet back when DC’s New 52 began, they did away with one of Superman’s distinguishing features: the red underwear.
In case you haven’t noticed, Superman wears red trunks over his blue Kryptonian bodysuit. Nobody questioned it and it worked perfectly for the character. The moment it disappeared, everyone noticed it and people made their displeasure loud and clear. It’s unlikely folks ever considered they’d one day have to ask for red underwear to be put back on the world’s greatest superhero, but for several years, DC unapologetically continued the trend. Eventually, fans have accepted the look as the Rebirth costume has done away with those red trunks.
14 BLACK LEATHER WONDER WOMAN
Starting with issue #600, during the Odyssey story arc, a plethora of craziness was going on with Woman Woman. The story itself, written by J. Michael Straczynski, introduced Wonder Woman and her readers to a bizarre alternate timeline the Gods had created. In this new reality, Paradise Island had been destroyed and the Amazons were now scattered across the globe.
While the reboot itself was not terribly well-received, leaving many fans disgruntled, perhaps the most alarming change was Wonder Woman’s new outfit, or rather her leather jacket and black pants. While she’d worn leather jackets before, back in the swashbuckling times of the '90s, this time around it felt like such a complete and utter departure from the character and her iconic costume. While the decision might have been based on trying to modernize Wonder Woman, it only further removed her from her fanbase.
13 THE IRON-SPIDER
Spider-Man has gone through a wide-range of costumes and new looks; all the while, fans of the web-slinger haven’t found significant problems with any of them. From his traditional red and blue, to the black alien symbiote and even his cosmic design, people didn’t complain. That was until the introduction of Spider-Man’s Civil War armor.
The anger didn’t come from the costume’s look, as it was everything an armored Spider-Man ought to look like, but rather in regards to how he acquired it. Peter Parker is a genius, more than capable of creating whatever he needs for a situation; the iron armor came from Tony Stark, Iron Man himself. Additionally, the armor not only left Peter somewhat indebted to the Golden Avenger, but also made him doubt his own intellect.
12 NEW 52 STARFIRE
Starfire of the Teen Titans is an alien from the planet Tamaran. By her very nature Starfire is a sexy female; she doesn’t fully understand Earth customs and is unashamed about a persons physical form. Yet she was never just eye-candy; she served her team well and fought as hard, if not harder, than those she went into battle with.
So when DC’s New 52 struck yet again, this time in Red Hood and The Outlaws, Starfire received a most egregious makeover. Made to appear not just self-confident but sexually promiscuous, comic book readers of all sorts, even those not terribly acquainted with the character, were up in arms about the sexist portrayal of the fan-favorite character. After Starfire acquired her own series a couple years later, she was granted a proper costume and didn’t act or look like an interstellar lady of the night.
Thor, the God of Thunder, has one of the simplest and most recognizable costumes in comics. With armor, a flowing red cape, and a winged helmet, there’s not much you can do with it (except making him shirtless), but during the '90s someone over at Marvel thought Thor lacked a leather vest. Amidst trying to figure out what else a Nordic deity needed to wear, they gave Thunderstrike, a poor imitation of Thor, a ponytail, a biker outfit, and decided to call it a day.
Eric Masterson had a brief tenure as Thor (in an equally questionable metal mask) before getting demoted to the less powerful Thunderstrike. While he had a similar power set, nobody seemed to like him and his Goodwill clothing didn’t help matters any. Following his death, Thunderstrike disappeared into relative obscurity; the only memorable thing about him was his silly outfit.
10 HIPSTER LOBO
Introduced back in 1983, Lobo would experience a rise in popularity in the '90s. Thanks to his badass demeanor and essentially satirizing the entire genre of gritty comic books and heroes, Lobo developed a passionate and rabid fanbase. Sporting a torn biker outfit, looking like he just walked off the set of a W.A.S.P. music video, when he wasn’t punching people in the face, he was talking about dolphins.
So when DC’s New 52 came around and introduced a brand new Lobo, one that looked nothing like the fan-favorite original, people were more than a little upset. Away was the grungy look and in was a hipster, pretty-boy look that was the complete opposite of everything that defined Lobo. It didn’t help matters any when it was announced the original Lobo was a fake and the new Lobo was the real deal.
9 THE NOT-SO INVISIBLE WOMAN
Ever since the Fantastic Four debuted back in 1961 as Marvel’s “First Family”, there haven’t been many changes to the initial design of their outfits. Already rocking sleek, blue jumpsuits, fans never thought the FF needed a dramatic costume update. Someone at Marvel disagreed and which team member would be better to try a grand experiment on than on Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman.
Introducing the infamous "boob window". There aren’t any other ways to describe it. Carving out a 4 right where Sue’s bosom was located, it was perhaps the crudest change imaginable. Originally known for her intelligence, power, and love of family, Marvel made Sue known for something else: breasts. Along with the new costume change also came a weird shift in her personality. Incredibly sexist, many fans made sure Marvel felt their rage.
8 MILITARISTIC HAWKMAN
Carter Hall, Hawkman, is a beloved and unique character. With a rich and interesting backstory, readers are always keen on stories involving the archeologist-turned-superhero. After the Hawkman-centric mini-series Hawkworld wrapped up in the early '90s, the writer and artist of the book continued working on the regular Hawkman title. Hawkworld itself introduced a brand new design to both Hawkman and the residents of Thanagar.
While it was an attempt to modernize Hawkman, many readers had a difficult time accepting the new status quo. There was substantial pushback from readers; they balked at the new militaristic style. They felt it was an incredible departure from the bright colors of the Golden and Silver Age Hawkman. However, when the series began anew in 1993, Hawkman would don a new outfit that while it wasn’t the classic uniform, did its best to harken back to it.
7 HEAVY METAL DAREDEVIL
No matter the decade, life has rarely been kind to Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. If villains like the Kingpin or Bullseye weren’t murdering everyone Daredevil loved or driving him insane, life itself takes swings at the poor man. Yet through thick and thin Daredevil maintained his iconic red devil suit for the longest time.
However, in the year of 1993 and issue #321 of Daredevil, ol’ Hornhead acquired some tubular new duds. Long story short, they were awful. While the costume’s actual purpose was to help Matt fight stronger foes, the armor itself looked like something out of an ironsmith’s nightmare. Edges jutted out in every direction and the overall look made Daredevil feel less like Daredevil; fans desperately wanted Murdock to get his classic look back.
6 POWER ARMOR BOOSTER GOLD
The time-traveling goofball hero known as Booster Gold has a pretty simple costume that’s hard to mess up. It’s already an outlandish piece of work, so there aren’t many ways to tamper with it. Except there are and that’s what happened during the '90s. Turns out, poor Booster went through a couple costume changes. One of them was his “Extreme” look, featuring every bad stereotype about '90s art, and then you had the Power Armor Booster Gold. Words can’t begin to express the general awfulness of the costume’s design.
Completely uninteresting in its presentation, the Power Armor did nothing to differentiate Booster from every other Robocop simile running around during the same time. Suffice to say, fans didn’t dig the uniform; it’s gone on to leave a sour taste in in the annals of comic book history.
5 CAPTAIN HOOK AQUAMAN
For the majority of his superhero career, Aquaman wore his classic orange and green outfit. It came to define him and any changes to his costume have generally not been well received. In an effort to attract new readers to Aquaman, DC decided to spice up Arthur Curry and the look he’d been sporting for decades.
Swinging right off a pirate ship, Aquaman was perpetually angry, had a hook for a hand, and swam the world’s oceans sans shirt. People were more than perturbed about the change and especially curious about why Aquaman wasn’t covering his upper torso. The general reason was that since he’s effectively bulletproof, there wasn’t much need for armor or an outfit; why not go au naturel?
4 LEATHER BIKINI WONDER WOMAN
When Hippolyta, the mother of Diana, caught wind of a prophecy stating that Wonder Woman would die in battle, the Queen of the Amazons did everything to prevent Diana’s death. She created a new contest to determine a new Wonder Woman. Diana entered, as did her fellow Amazon Artemis, the contest was rigged for Diana to lose, and she did lose; Artemis became the new Wonder Woman. She did a hell of a job, but true to the prophecy, she got killed.
After losing the title of Wonder Woman, Princess Diana adopted a new, hideous look. Now sporting skintight shorts, a leather bra that did little in offering any modesty, and a blue leather jacket -- there was nothing good about her new costume. Wonder Woman readers, despite liking the story, couldn’t believe their eyes at the sight of Diana prancing around dressed to star in a death metal music video.
3 GRUNGY THOR
The '90s were a tricky time for superheroes, if only because artists and writers wanted to make them look more extreme and hardcore. Thor, the God of Thunder, was not exempt from such a transformation. During the early parts of the decade, the mighty thunder god experienced a rather simple, but simultaneously awful, makeover: he started wearing the dreaded dark leather.
Inexplicably, his shirt and armor were done away with and he was left in tight leather pants, long unwashed-looking hair, and a tight black half-shirt. Going about like it was no big thing, Thor continued his adventures, oblivious to the fact that this torso was mostly bare. His readers did not ignore it though as they, and even future readers, pointed out that it made little sense. To this day, looking back at '90s Thor is still a painful experience.
2 JEANS AND TEE SUPERMAN
After going through one dynamic change at the beginning of the New 52, Superman unfortunately fell prey to yet another. During a series of lengthy and tedious events, Superman ended up losing most of his powers. Not only did he become substantially weaker and vulnerable, but his attitude altered dramatically, becoming slightly more hostile, along with his new uniform.
“Uniform” is putting it nicely, as Clark dons an outfit similar to a D-list MMA fighter. Instead of any spandex whatsoever, Superman’s new outfit was a T-shirt with his emblem, jeans, and pieces of his indestructible cape wrapped around his hands to punch people with. The general response was not positive; even when Superman has lost his powers before, he never felt the need to look like he just escaped a yearlong frat party.
1 ROBOT-BUNNY BATMAN
One of comics’ most iconic costumes, many consider Batman’s costume virtually flawless in its design. Sure, it’s been updated every now and then to catch up with the times and its readers, but rarely has the Dark Knight’s outfit come under such fire and scrutiny as when Commissioner Gordon became Batman and donned a new costume.
Ridiculed for looking like a giant robot bunny, the new Batman armor might have helped Gordon in his war against crime, especially since Bruce Wayne was “dead,” but fans were not happy. They made their displeasure known all over social media. Yet DC and its creators would not be deterred and Robot Bunny Batman stuck around for a while. The suit would even continue appearing in future timelines in other comics not directly Batman-related. It will never go away!
What costume changes did you hate? Let us know in the comments section!