Not all superhero costumes are created equally. Some are better than others and more than a few of them likely wouldn’t be considered very appropriate for running around town and beating up bad guys. Superhero films have generally done a good job of altering costumes to be more appropriate for a general audience, which basically means no boob windows, or thongs, or bikinis pretending to be adequate armor. It also means we won’t be seeing Hawkeye running around naked anytime soon.
Over the years, many comic book characters have changed what they wear into battle. Not everyone is Superman, who basically wore the same thing for decades. Normal people like to change it up every so often. On many of these occasions, though, we have seen superheroes remove clothing, rather than add more, and the result isn’t exactly “PG.” Most of the time these new costumes are ill-advised and look pretty bad, but sometimes good things can happen by removing some of the more misguided pieces of clothing out there. We may never see any of these more revealing costumes in the movies, but that doesn’t mean that change is always bad. Sometimes, some good can come out of shedding a little skin.
15. BETTER: RED SONJA’S CHAINMAIL BIKINI
Red Sonja didn’t always wear her signature chainmail bikini. When Roy Thomas adapted the Robert E. Howard story “The Shadow of the Vulture” for Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian #23 from 1973, he included the tale’s original protagonist Red Sonya of Rogatino. By mixing in elements of another Howard creation called Dark Agnes de Chastillon, he created Red Sonja.
In her first two appearances, artist Barry Smith drew her with a long sleeve chainmail shirt and short red pants. However, when Spanish artist Esteban Maroto submitted his depiction of the She-Devil with a Sword, she was clad in a more bikini-like outfit, and only a year after her debut, Red Sonja gained her iconic costume. It might be a bit revealing, and ultimately not very practical, but it has certainly proven to be memorable.
14. WORSE: INVISIBLE WOMAN’S BOOB WINDOW
After years of uniformity when it came to the Fantastic Four’s costumes, things began to change in the ‘80s. In Fantastic Four #280, all of Sue Storm’s hateful emotions were brought out by the Psycho-Man to create the evil Malice persona. The experience messed her up pretty badly, and she started wearing a pretty messed up revealing outfit.
Sue dealt with the aftereffects of this incident for years before she created a new costume in 1992’s Fantastic Four #371. This outfit was basically just a bathing suit with an open stomach and cleavage window in the shape of a 4 emblem. It was all a little too much for everyone involved. It still managed to last a full 16 issues before being wiped from existence, though.
13. BETTER: PSYLOCKE’S NEW BOD
Want a better costume? Get a new body. That’s how Betsy Braddock did it when she infamously swapped bodies with Revanche. After joining the X-Men, the transformation gradually happened over time. She dropped the Captain Britain persona in favor of becoming a purple-haired telepath, until she was captured by the Hand and transformed. It was later discovered that she had swapped bodies with a Japanese assassin with psionic abilities.
Her new identity as a purple-haired Japanese assassin led to a series of costume changes that were far more revealing than anything she had ever worn before. However, less clothing doesn’t always mean bad because Psylocke’s costume has become one of the more unique and identifiable in comics. She’s gone through a lot over the years, but things turned out alright for her.
12. WORSE: ZATANNA’S FLASHPOINT THONG
She might wear a sexy magician’s outfit, but Zatanna herself has typically been depicted more wholesomely than most other female superheroes. That’s why it was kind of a gross surprise when she was reimagined for the Flashpoint event as a gothic biker babe in a thong with what appears to be either the lowest pants ever or very high leggings.
Sure, it was only a temporary storyline, but it wasn’t exactly a good, or even recognizable outfit. At the time, people didn’t know what Flashpoint would lead to. The Secret Seven miniseries that Peter Milligan and George Perez put together could have very well depicted the future of the DC Universe. Zatanna went through some costume changes during the New 52, but has since returned to her classic look in Rebirth.
11. BETTER: STORM’S ONE-PIECE
In 1975, the X-Men concept was reinvented with the introduction of many of the most famous team members in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Among the members of the team was one of the first black female superheroes: Storm. Initially, Ororo was created by combining two of artist Dave Cockrum’s superhero ideas, and she was given a rather revealing outfit that was becoming more common in 1970s comics.
Over the years, Storm has gone through many different costume changes, from a punk look in the ‘80s to an all-white bodysuit in the ‘90s. In the 2000’s, Marvel returned to her more traditional costume, but with some new elements. Biggest among them was the switch to a one-piece bathing suit. Ororo has never been one to worry about covering up, but this was a superior look for her.
10. WORSE: HARLEY QUINN’S CORSET
Harley Quinn was originally created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm to give the Joker someone to talk to in Batman: The Animated Series. She wore a jester outfit from head to toe in order to connect to “Mistah J’s” clown aesthetic. When she made her transition to the mainstream DC Universe, that jester outfit came with her. That is, until the New 52 rolled around and apparently a change needed to be made.
Because a skintight leotard wasn’t sexy enough, Harley Quinn was forced to wear a skimpy clown costume that was essentially booty shorts and a corset. Nothing about this new outfit looked comfortable or practical, and it was clear she had trouble holding in the girls during her time in Suicide Squad. Thankfully, she has a much better costume now.
9. BETTER: SPECTRE’S CLOAK (AND NOTHING ELSE)
The Spectre has always been a mysterious hooded figure who only wears shoes, gloves and underwear underneath his cloak. Despite his roots in the Golden Age of superheroing, the Spectre is actually a magical being who is God’s vengeance on Earth. When you consider his origins, it becomes kind of weird that an agent of Heaven would wear such a ridiculous outfit.
The only solution? Take it all off. In Kingdom Come, from Mark Waid and Alex Ross, the creative team depicts the Spectre as an ethereal entity who comes to Norman McCay on the eve of the superhero apocalypse. It’s done extremely well and tastefully, so it’s easy to miss, but in this story, the Spectre only wears the hood and cloak. He’s actually completely naked otherwise, and it works.
8. WORSE: MARY MARVEL’S BDSM LOOK
Things got a little weird in Final Crisis when the corrupted Mary Marvel shows up on the scene sporting a new BDSM leather outfit and buzz cut with pink ponytails. Mary’s storyline had been heading this way for awhile with the character taking on a darker attitude and sporting a new black outfit, but no one was prepared for what Grant Morrison would ultimately transform her into.
For a character so sweet and innocent, seeing her show up, murder people and rub her crotch in Freddy Freeman’s face was all a little too much for Shazam fans. It was a bit on the offensive side, which of course, was the whole point. It would be discovered that Desaad had possessed her body and she would be freed from his influence, but the damage had already been done.
7. BETTER: EMMA FROST’S NEW PANTS
Nothing Emma Frost wears will ever be considered family-friendly. Once we’ve all come to accept this reality, we can talk about which outfits are superior. When Emma was the White Queen in the Hellfire Club, she literally just wore lingerie at all times, for reasons not entirely clear. She’s worn different revealing outfits over the years, but the real change came when she started wearing pants.
The change coincided with her move from villain to hero. She dressed more conservatively as a teacher in Generation X; however, she has also played with the designs for her tops, which might make parents a little wary of allowing their kids to benefit from her… tutelage. Her X-shaped shirt in New X-Men might be the most infamous of all. To this day, she likes to show off the goods, but the pants were a good addition.
6. WORSE: COSMIC BOY’S “COSTUME”
The Legion of Super-Heroes have gone through many different iterations over the years, and with each change in continuity, the team’s costumes are changed. In the ‘70s, though, Mike Grell decided to give some of his characters a cosmetic makeover. He believed that in the far future, fashion would be much different, so he gave Cosmic Boy an… interesting… new look.
This new costume was basically just a black bustier with gloves and boots, and nothing else. His arms, shoulders, chest and legs were all completely bare. You might suspect it was a coloring mistake, considering his previous costume was pink, but Cos was rendered with chest hair and everything. None of his teammates found it weird because that was normal in their time period. Mercifully, the costume didn’t last long.
5. BETTER: MAGIK’S BLACK ARMOR
Illyana Rasputin has been through a few changes in her time with the X-Men. She has died, was resurrected, became a sorceress, took on a demonic form and even made a few costume changes. She is best known for her costume that is a deviation from the traditional X-Men uniform, but that has changed in recent years.
Everyone got to know Magik by the magical armor she wore on her arm and leg, as well as the giant sword she typically carried around. When Cyclops separated from the X-Men in Marvel Now from 2012, Illyana followed him and started wearing a new black costume. This new suit showed more skin and gave her a far more dangerous look. There was nothing wrong with her old costume, but this new one is truly something to behold.
4. WORSE: SUPERGIRL’S RED ZONE
After years with Supergirl running around with a crop top and skimpy skirt, DC had only just figured out a better way to render her costume when the New 52 revamps came in. Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle had given Kara a longer skirt and red shorts underneath that seemed to be more practical and less sexualized.
In the New 52, DC went even more obvious than ever before by introducing a costume that was a longsleeve shirt and… a bikini bottom? To make things even worse, the sexualization of the character was made even more apparent thanks to a red section of fabric that really only covered her crotch. You know, just in case you forgot where you’re supposed to look. It was a huge step backwards for the character, and those knee-hole boots were just ridiculous.
3. Better: Tigra’s Big Change
Tigra wasn’t always a sexy cat lady. Greer Grant Nelson was originally created in 1972 by Roy Thomas as the superheroine known simply as the Cat. She gained superhuman abilities and dressed up in a blue and yellow catsuit to fight crime. Two years later, Greer was retooled by Tony Isabella and transformed into an actual cat person with super feline powers of her very own.
It was at this time that she abandoned her superhero costume for the more revealing bikini outfit she still wears to this day. She might not wear much, but it has become an outfit synonymous with her attitude and sexuality. Her old costume has since been picked up by another costume hero by the name of Patsy Walker, Hellcat.
2. WORSE: WONDER WOMAN’S BIKER SHORTS
If you think Wonder Woman’s traditional costume is a bit too revealing for superheroing, take a look at what the character was wearing during a storyline in the 1990’s. Diana loses the title of Wonder Woman to Artemis during William Messner-Loeb’s run on the title. Even without the costume she was most known for, Diana continued her career as a superhero in a new costume.
Designed by Mike Deodato Jr., Diana started running around in a black biker chick outfit, sporting a leather coat, tight biker shorts and basically just a bra. It was, of course, Wonder Woman themed, but it wasn’t exactly popular. In the end, it wasn’t long before Artemis was killed and Diana took back her mantle, ditching the new costume for good.
1. BETTER: HAWKEYE’S BIRTHDAY SUIT
OK, sure, being naked is not really a costume, but when you think about it, it’s probably better than whatever it is Hawkeye normally wears when he’s a member of the Avengers. Whether it’s the purple pointy outfit, the purple toga, or any number of the other purple-themed bodysuits he wears, it’s common knowledge that everyone hates Clint’s costumes the most. Even his current one, while being inoffensive, is still pretty boring.
The only way to improve whatever he’s wearing is to basically start from scratch, and what better way to do that than to to take it all off? We first see naked Hawkguy in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye #3 from 2012. There’s another incident in Secret Avengers #1 from Ales Kot and Matt Walsh. Yes, it burns our eyes too, but maybe that’s for the best?
Did we miss any good ones? Let us know in the comments.
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