Nothing signals the changing of the proverbial winds like the moment a comic book character changes their costume. It’s what has, up until that point, defined them in their respective fictional universe. It tells their fans something about their origins, whether or not they belong to a superhero team, and indicates their personal style. Therefore, when it changes, it means something important is about to happen for that character, and may mean a drastic alteration to their series as a whole. Costume changes can happen for a variety of reasons; a series needs narrative restructuring, the creative team changes, or the character undergoes personal growth in an event that alters how they present themselves. But, new beginnings and makeovers aside, sometimes a character “levels up” and their previous outfit doesn’t reflect their new path.
2018 was a year that characters across Marvel and DC saw themselves sporting brand new ensembles. Marvel, in particular, launched Fresh Start to take the aesthetics of its characters back to their origins after spending so long lending them to the whims of the moment. DC decided many of its core characters were better off with outfits they’d worn years before, or new outfits taken from old concepts. Soon, a trend emerged between the two big comic companies: homage to the past, and what made their characters great. But sometimes, just when fans had grown accustomed to a new look on their favorite character, they have to get used to something else. They can take comfort in the fact that certain things can always be relied upon; publishers listen to their fans in the world of comics, and the winds of change are ever-constant. With that being said, here are 10 Costume Changes We Liked This Year (And 10 We Didn't).
20 DIDN’T LIKE: WOLVERINE
It’s a truth universally accepted that throughout comic book history, making a superhero’s costume black was generally regarded as awesome. The change signaled the end of taking any nonsense, and that the hero in question was getting down to business. The buildup for Logan’s return as Wolverine was a long time coming, and when his new outfit was finally revealed for Return of Logan #2, fans went ballistic, and not in a good way.
Instead of his typical blue and gold, or even the black moto-style he’s been seen wearing in the X-Men films, he’s sporting what can only be described as a black chef’s uniform with red piping. He also appears inexplicably blue.
19 LIKED: CATWOMAN
Catwoman has had a few notable costume changes over the years, especially in regards to whether or not her hair would be worn outside the cowl or not. Given that she's a “cat burglar,” it would make sense for her to keep her hair covered, but that wasn’t always considered attractive to readers in the ‘80s when big hair was everywhere.
This year, as she's gotten more serious with Batman, her costume has been changed to a throwback vibe (that is, pre New 52 era): an amalgamation of her earliest debut (without goggles), and the iconic catsuit worn by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton's 1992 Batman Returns. It’s a sporty look, especially under the arms, that increases her mobility and gives her a fresh aesthetic.
18 DIDN’T LIKE: SUPERGIRL
One of the most drastic costume changes is Supergirl’s. At Comic-Con 2018, the trailer for Supergirl season 4 revealed a completely new suit. Whether it belongs to Kara Danvers or Kara Zor-El, the other Supergirl existing in the same time, is unclear, as season 4 looks to replicate the events of Superman’s Red Son storyline.
Meanwhile, in the comics, Kara Danvers has been sporting a new costume since summer, when she premiered a red, blue, and black super suit with a black cowl. While the suit does make her look slightly more unique, it looks less classic, and it encroaches on Spider-Gwen territory.
17 LIKED: AQUAMAN
We certainly saw the effects of arguably one of the biggest costume changes to shake up a comic book character when Aquaman was first glimpsed in Batman v. Superman and had a supporting role in Justice League. It was a huge departure from the classic green leggings and orange top he’s most often associated with, but fans of his comics know that Aquaman hasn’t remained stagnant all these years.
This past year, we’ve seen him rock his classic costume, but with a modern twist: he’s got the long flowing locks and Poseidon beard that Jason Momoa will be sporting in Aquaman. Blending the best of both worlds was a good choice, as the happy medium should please both new and old fans.
16 DIDN’T LIKE: CAPTAIN AMERICA
When Captain America: The First Avenger debuted in theaters, the impossible became true: a silly star-spangled superhero managed to look heroic and not hokey. And as his costume progressed, it became more utilitarian, the bright red, white, and blue subdued to better accentuate a hardcore military look.
The look progressed so much so that in Avengers: Infinity War, he looked like a shadow of his former patriotic self, even going so far as to sport a beard and ditch his helmet. Marvel’s Fresh Start series of comics, in which all its core characters received a complete overhaul, set the First Avenger back 50 years. In 2018, Captain America #1 depicted him as the hokey version he had come so far from.
15 LIKED: CAPTAIN MARVEL
The excitement surrounding one of the genre’s most powerful superheroes is palpable; Captain Marvel is set to make her big screen debut in 2019, but the trailers for her feature film and the comics leading up to it have showcased a brand new costume design for her that has left fans buzzing.
In 2018, it was revealed that Captain Marvel is, in fact, half-Kree, and her costume took on a very utilitarian look. This makes sense, as her wardrobe is actually a version of the Kree battle uniform. Normally black and green, hers is painted with the red, gold, and blue colors so often associated with Jamie McKelvie’s artwork of Carol Danvers.
14 DIDN’T LIKE: SINESTRO
After Hal Jordan received a costume change in 2017, it was only fair his greatest nemesis did too, though it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been this year. Justice League #2 showed Sinestro in command of the ultraviolet spectrum, which he used to recruit the latest Green Lantern to the Sinestro Corps with the use of mind control.
Sinestro is seen wearing his original black and purple villain ensemble, and while it's a big improvement over the yellow and gold colors he had previously sported, it was hardly innovative. No longer the failed commander of the Sinestro Corps, he should have been given the opportunity to have a new look that echoed his power and hunger for the Invisible Light.
13 LIKED: THE PUNISHER
Frank Castle was about to get eliminated by Thanos, so he made a pact with Mephisto and was granted the power of The Spirit of Vengeance. This made him the sole survivor of Thanos’ actions on Earth, until Galactus imbued him with the Power Cosmic, turning him into Cosmic Ghost Rider. In Thanos #16, it’s revealed that he later becomes the right hand of The Mad Titan, in a ploy to eventually eliminate him with his new powers.
While it’s bizarre to think of Frank Castle as an interstellar Rider, him being stranded on Earth for eons made his characterization far more akin to Deadpool than his usual somber self, making his 5-issue standalone series as Cosmic Ghost Rider all the more intriguing.
12 DIDN’T LIKE: SUPERMAN
One of the biggest changes to Superman’s outfit over the years has been the removal of the iconic pair of red underwear that were as much of his trademark as the emblem on his chest. Another was the reintroduction of them in Superman #1000.
When superheroes were first created, they were meant to mimic acrobats, strong men, and circus performers. Leotards and externally worn undergarments were all the rage, but having the biggest new costume change to the Man of Steel be the return of the Big Red Shorts seems underwhelming and hardly worthy of the 1000th issue. Then again, how could they compete with the attention-demanding black suit and mullet he wore in the early ‘90s?
11 LIKED: THE WASP
Between the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp and the new comic series of the same name that premiered in 2018, one of the founding members of the Avengers has been getting a lot of attention. The Wasp’s outfit in the film received a lot of criticism for its muted color palette (historically, she has been known for her brighter hues) and for the unfortunate shape on the chest. But, where the film got wrong, the comic got it right.
Ant-Man and the Wasp the comic series depicts The Wasp in a black and red ensemble that matches Ant-Man’s, sporting the same wings that she does in the film, but with a slightly more aerodynamic design, as well as some pretty smart looking shoulder pads.
10 DIDN’T LIKE: STORM
Storm is one of those X-Men that tends to stand out when she gets a costume change. In the ‘80s, she became a biker chick that had fingerless gloves and a mile-high mohawk. Fans learned to take notice of big changes when Storm appeared in a new outfit, but when she joined up with Jean Grey’s new team of superhero samaritans this year, she sported a whole new look in X-Men Red #7.
Wearing a new black and yellow super suit, cape, and black circlet, the costume was an uninteresting step down from her previous garb as a member of X-Men Gold, when it should have been a chance to stand out.
9 LIKED: BATMAN
Over the years, Batman has had several costume changes, most notably, beginning with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns that is single-handedly responsible for the look we most closely associate him with today. From the grey and yellow suit and blue cape, to the shades of gunmetal, the Batman films took things a step further, beginning with Tim Burton's 1989 classic Batman all the way to his appearance in Justice League today.
In the world of comics, Batman's look has been relatively the same the last several years. Recently, however, it was announced that he would be going back to his pre New 52 era. Free from marital ties and recently having eliminated someone, it's appropriate that The Bat return to where he feels comfortable.
8 DIDN’T LIKE: BATGIRL
Summer proved a tumultuous time for several of Gotham City’s leading superheroes; Batman debuted a pre New 52 era suit, Catwoman got a sporty new outfit to go along with her solo series, and Barbara Gordon, a.k.a Batgirl, ditched her now iconic purple and yellow costume as she returned to her old stomping grounds.
Since the Batgirl of Burnside reboot, Babs has been sporting a purple moto-style outfit that fit her gal-on-the-go millennial vibe in 2015. This new Batgirl suit looks more like Batgirl: Year One, and we’re told it’s supposed to be designed for stealth, but it’s got a bright yellow belt, arm bracers, boots, and emblem.
7 LIKED: STARFIRE
The Teen Titans have been around in various animated forms for quite some time. But so far, Titans is the first live-action depiction of the young super group to attempt to keep the costume changes in line with the Teen Titans comic franchise. Appearing in 2018 in a newly conceived story of the origins of Krypton’s turmoil, Starfire pops up in the latest Superman comics with a much more modest costume.
Previously depicted as a walking ode to the ‘80s, with lots of skin along the midriff and thighs, she now has a super suit that depicts her as an intergalactic warrior princess, retaining the distinct purple and white colors and flaming orange hair.
6 DIDN’T LIKE: THOR
Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man are considered Marvel’s “Big Three” when it comes to popularity and brand recognition across titles. Along with the rest of the Marvel Universe, when Marvel’s Fresh Start lineup of its most beloved characters came to pass, Thor received a bit of a facelift.
Having been gone from the spotlight since Thor: Mighty God of Thunder, with Jane Foster having been wielding Mjolnir for so long, you would think that the reappearance of Thor would mean a truly epic costume change worthy of his return. Instead, he gets a shiny gold piece of armor on his arm that would make the Winter Soldier jealous.
5 LIKED: RED HOOD
The positive result of training under a brooding vigilante is that you get excellent stealth skills and a penchant for edgy costumes. Dick Grayson trained under Batman as the first Robin and when it was time to make his own mark, he became Nightwing. And after Jason Todd was done with being the next Robin, he became the Red Hood.
For much of his recent comic career, he’s worn a red mask without much of a hood, but that all changed this year with artist Pete Woods giving him his namesake, and we have to say, it's the perfect blend of combat styling and bold aesthetic.
4 DIDN’T LIKE: SPIDER-MAN
As if Spider-Man: Homecoming wasn’t great enough, it had to go and include not just Tony Stark showing up and raiding Aunt May’s fridge, but also him gifting Spider-Man his very own Avengers-Grade Spidey suit. And not just any type of Spidey suit, but one especially made to look like a hybrid between his original one and an Iron Man suit.
The Iron Spider suit isn’t the only new costume change Spider-Man received, though. As part of Marvel’s Fresh Start series of comics, which premiered this year, every character got a new super suit. Except that Spider-Man’s looks almost exactly the way it had in the past, with none of the cool elements that the movies introduced.
3 LIKED: IRON MAN
Tony Stark, self-professed “tinkerer,” gets a new Iron Man suit (or five) every movie he appears in (or he's giving them away, see also Spider-Man). In Avengers: Infinity War, he premiered the Iron Man Bleeding Edge armor on screen, which had an insect-like appearance and boasted wings that not only assisted in aerial maneuvers, but also came equipped with laser cannons. It also made him look, well, not like Iron Man and more like The Wasp.
For Tony Stark: Iron Man #1, he returned to a more traditional version of his armor to coincide with Marvel's Fresh Start, in the same way, that the rest of the “Big Three” (Thor and Captain America) had returned to some semblance of their former glory. His just happened to work out the least embarrassingly.
2 DIDN’T LIKE: THE FANTASTIC FOUR
Marvel’s first family has been “lost in space” since the end of the Secret Wars narrative, leaving the Marvel Universe devoid of one of its franchise pillars. The decision to halt production on Fantastic Four comics in 2016 may have had something to do with the lack of Fantastic Four films, and while their return is welcomed, it comes bearing very little in the way of new material or a new look.
The costumes of the Fantastic Four in their 2018 debut end up looking like even more streamlined versions of their normally mundane garb. With a chance to showcase the new and improved versions of themselves, safety is favored over risk-taking.
1 LIKED: THANOS
Fans of Thanos have seen The Mad Titan go through a series of great changes cinematically, from omnipotent celestial god ruminating on the cosmos from his high chair in the stars, to casually strolling through the solar system, sans helmet, contemplating the meaning of life even as he eliminates it.
This year, in his series that coincided with Marvel’s Fresh Start lineup, Thanos was returned more or less to his origins, conquering galaxies and smiting star systems. And as startling as it may have been to see him without headgear in the movies, seeing him back in his roots and looking like his prime is a comforting image, even if he is taking out innocents.