The Justice League is undoubtedly the most famous and most revered superhero team in the DC Universe. They have gone through many incarnations and many rosters since their debut in 1960, and they often include some of the most powerful beings Earth (and beyond) has to offer. But just because you can bench press a truck or breathe in the vacuum of space doesn’t mean you should be allowed to dress yourself in the morning. The League’s ability to pick out an acceptable wardrobe varies wildly from member to member and even from year to year, so we’ve put this list together to help you sort through their nearly 60 years’ worth of bad style choices.
Now to be fair to the sartorially challenged heroes among us, fashion is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, and we’re certain that at least a few of the costume changes on this list will strike you as not that bad or perhaps even better than than the previous look, and that’s not a bad thing! We’re sure the folks featured here today would appreciate every bit of validation they can get, because they certainly won’t be getting it from us.
15. WONDER WOMAN GOES MOD
Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful women in all of comics. That is to say, she is so now and she was when she debuted, but in-between (Wonder Woman #179, to be exact), Wondy was compelled to give up her Amazonian powers and accoutrements, and to fight crime as ordinary Diana Prince.
She studied martial arts and ran a boutique, all while donning a series of unremarkable all-white outfits, including a minidress, a turtleneck with slacks and even a traditional Chinese jacket as part of a disguise to make her look more Asian (uh…). Fortunately, DC was quick to realize (with the help of irate fans) the grave mistake they’d made in depowering Wonder Woman, and they gave her both her powers and her costume back in short order.
14. BOOSTER GOLD BULKS UP
We would have assumed that a time-traveling superhero like Booster Gold, a glory-loving ex-football star from the 31st century, would know better than to get caught up in ill-fated fashion fads. Sadly, no hero, no matter their superpowers, was strong enough to escape the ’90s unscathed. Booster’s simple blue-and-gold costume was insufficiently extreme for the new era, so he turned to his friend Blue Beetle to make him a suit that would help him blend in with his fellow shoulder pad-clad, pouch-loving heroes.
Beetle designed a series of increasingly large (and increasingly embarrassing) armored suits that granted Booster much the same powers as did his older costumes, so just why Beetle felt it necessary to make the new armor so much bigger is rather puzzling. Perhaps Blue Beetle secretly harbored a grudge against Booster and wanted to get revenge by making him look as silly as possible.
13. ZATANNA TRIES HER HAND IN FASHION
When Zatanna Zatara, magician extraordinaire, decided to follow in her father John’s crime-fighting footsteps, she also followed his example when it came to his choice of costume — well, she followed half of his example, at any rate. Business on the top and party on the bottom, Zatanna’s original costume (and variations thereof) have served her in good stead throughout her career.
Upon joining the Justice League in Justice League #161, Zatanna decided to try her hand at creating a completely original costume for herself. The highlights of the resulting outfit are her high-backed cape and honest-to-goodness curly-toed elf boots. It’s little wonder that, after another bit of experimentation with a wide-sleeved purple leotard, Zatanna went back to basics and has worn costumes more closely resembling her original look ever since.
12. SUPERMAN SEES DOUBLE
The Superman costume is one of the most iconic in comic book history. That basic leotard, cape and underwear set the precedent for every superhero that came after, so it’s especially baffling anytime DC makes a change to the Man of Steel’s wardrobe. No change was more shocking than when they split Superman into two distinct entities. Superman Red and Superman Blue were as polar opposite as could be personality-wise, but their costumes were identical aside from the obvious color difference.
Looking back on this event, the costumes themselves really aren’t that bad. Their main crime is that they are not Superman’s costume. Finally, after successfully preventing the villainous Millennium Giants from destroying the planet, Supermans Red and Blue merged into a single Superman once again.
11. GREEN LANTERN BECOMES ION
During “Emerald Twilight,” Green Lantern Hal Jordan famously became possessed by Parallax, the embodiment of fear, who resembles a giant yellow space bug. Jordan murdered all of his fellow Lanterns before dying and becoming the Spectre. Less famously, Jordan’s successor, Kyle Rayner, was also possessed by a space entity. This one was Ion, the embodiment of willpower, who looks like a big green shark.
While serving as Ion’s host, Rayner wore a variation of his usual Green Lantern costume that looked like someone splattered white paint all over it. The mask in particular looks like a speckled shadow trying to consume his face as Parallax once consumed Hal Jordan’s soul. Fortunately, Ion is less malevolent than Parallax, and Rayner ultimately sacrificed the additional power granted to him by Ion and returned to being a simple Green Lantern… at least until the next time he became Ion.
10. GYPSY’S MAKEOVER FAIL
The telepathic illusion-caster Cynthia Reynolds, who joined the League in Justice League of America Annual #2, is one of the lesser-known heroes on the team roster, and with good reason. Aside from the fact that her codename is a bonafide racial slur, her original look is less a superhero costume and more a stereotypical portrayal of traditional Roma clothing. One would think her vestiary choices could only improve from there, but that is sadly not the case.
There was one brief moment during her time in Justice League Task Force that Reynolds tried to look more like a traditional superhero, trading in her skirt and hoop earrings for a red leotard with yellow accents and huge knee pads and shoulder pads. Task Force didn’t last long, and neither did Reynolds’ new look.
9. ATOM COSPLAYS AS TARZAN
We’re sure there are legitimate criticisms to be made about Ray Palmer’s Atom costume, but “needs more loincloth” is not one of them. During the “Sword of the Atom” storyline in the early ’80s, the Atom became trapped at six inches high and encountered a race of tiny aliens called the Katarthans living in the Brazilian jungle. Palmer does all the usual things heroes do upon discovering undiscovered civilizations: fall in love with their princess and become embroiled in their politics, even joining up with a rebel faction intent on overthrowing the Katarthans’ tyrannical leader.
While leading these rebels, he continues to wear his blue-and-red costume, adding on top of it a long loincloth and some chunky jewelry. The Atom does eventually return to his normal height, only to then be de-aged to a teenager. Ah, the life of a superhero.
8. WARRIOR’S WAY OF FASHION
Guy Gardner was never the most fashion-conscious superhero anyway (check out that haircut!), but losing his power ring to Hal Jordan and being booted from the Green Lantern Corps only made things worse. When he acquired a Yellow Power Ring during the “Guy Gardner Reborn” storyline, Guy began wearing a new, definitively not-green costume that included a cut-off black jacket and a midriff-baring tank top.
Later, upon discovering he was descended from an alien race called the Vuldarians, Gardner decided to call himself Warrior and fight crime in a costume that was more body paint than cloth. With the new identity came the new ability to create any weapon his brain could imagine, which presumably came in handy when people made fun of his wardrobe.
7. BLACK CANARY EMBRACES THE ’80S
Black Canary (aka Dinah Lance) was a founding member of Justice League International, a U.N.-sponsored splinter group of the original Justice League that made its debut in Justice League #1. During this time, Black Canary ditched her famous fishnet stockings and went full ’80s, complete with feathered hairdo and headband.
She now fought crime in a one-piece pantsuit featuring a pair of stylized black wings that are probably supposed to invoke thoughts of her codename but instead make her look like she should be onstage playing bass for a hair metal band. Black Canary must have come to realize how terrible this costume was, because although she has had a number of different costumes since leaving the JLI, not one of them even remotely resembles this one.
6. BARDA OPENS HER HEART
Big Barda began life on the inhospitable planet Apokolips as one of Granny Goodness’ Female Furies, a position she gave up when she fell in love with the heroic Mister Miracle. She’s one of the League’s most well-protected heroines; her original blue-and-gold armor leaves nothing but her face and parts of her neck uncovered, and most criminals who are unfortunate enough to encounter her are probably too scared to think of aiming their weapons that well anyway.
But during her tenure with the superhero team Birds of Prey, the neckline on Barda’s armor was inexplicably lowered several inches. It’s not that Barda hasn’t fought in cleavage-bearing outfits before — her red bikini is almost as iconic as her Fury armor — but rather that this change makes the rest of her costume look sort of silly. It seems pointless to wear heavy armor over everything except one of your most vulnerable spots.
5. AQUAMAN GOES COMMANDO
Aquaman is both a founding member of the Justice League and the ruler of Atlantis, making him one of the most important people on the team roster. He achieved most of his greatest feats while wearing his famously garish orange shirt and green tights, but during the “Thicker than Water” storyline, he adopted a different color scheme.
When an important Atlantean artifact is stolen, it’s up to Aquaman to get it back. In order to prevent his enemies from seeing his scaled shirt coming from miles away, the King of the Seas uses a blue-and-purple (or darker blue) ensemble designed to help him blend into his oceanic surroundings. Judging by the fact that he ends up getting captured in the same issue he first wears his camouflage suit, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that this costume’s designer should probably go back to the drawing board.
4. STARMAN TONES IT DOWN
Mikaal Tomas made his debut in 1st Issue Special #12, when he decided to defend Earth rather than destroy it as his people (blue-skinned aliens called Talokites) wanted. His appearance was updated slightly over the years, with more details being added to his initial costume, but by the time “Cry for Justice” rolled around, Starman had traded in his gloriously campy costume for an outfit that can hardly be called a superhero costume at all: a plain white T-shirt, long black jacket and jeans.
Well, maybe when you are as blatantly extraterrestrial as Tomas is, you don’t have to worry about wearing clothes that specifically mark you as superhuman. After tracking down his boyfriend’s murderer and helping to clean up Star City in the wake of the supervillain Prometheus’ attack, Starman became an official Justice Leaguer, but he didn’t stay long.
3. PLASTIC MAN PAINTS IT BLACK
Plastic Man may be one of the zaniest and most unpredictable members of the Justice League, but his costume has remained surprisingly consistent. That laced-up red swimsuit is as much a part of him as his ability to mold himself into any shape necessary. But earlier this year, DC revealed that Plastic Man would be giving up his scarlet duds and replacing them with a black-and-white version of his old reliable costume.
Now technically, Plastic Man hasn’t yet officially debuted his new look (the change was only recently announced at San Diego Comic Con), so it’s a bit early to go into a nerdrage about this alteration to a classic costume. With any luck, Plastic Man will only pull out his new outfit at formal gatherings.
2. RED ARROW JUST LOSES IT
Things were finally looking up for Roy Harper. After an adolescence spent battling drug addiction and suffering neglect as Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy, Harper grew up to become Arsenal, a hero and a single father in his own right. Eventually, he changed his name and costume again, becoming Red Arrow in honor of his mentor and joining the ranks of the prestigious Justice League. What could possibly happen now?
Well, “Cry for Justice” happened, in which Harper lost his daughter and his arm when Prometheus attacked the League and then Star City. The follow-up miniseries, “Rise of Arsenal,” which can only be described as the bizarro version of “The Winter Soldier,” saw Harper change his name back to Arsenal, acquire a gold prosthetic arm, and cuddle dead cats while high on pain medication. Really, the blandness of the new Arsenal costume is the least of Roy Harper’s problems.
1. POWER GIRL COVERS UP
While Power Girl has had numerous costume changes over the years, one thing has remained consistent to the point where it’s become her signature: the boob window. As ridiculous as it is, Peej’s unique way of showing off her cleavage is the most recognizable thing about her, so it came as quite a shock to fans when DC got rid of it as part of the New 52 rebranding in 2011.
Replacing the fanservice-y old costume was a white one-piece leotard that completely covered her (insofar as a leotard can really cover anybody) from neck to ankle. More sensible? Surely, but given how Power Girl’s costume was her most famous feature, the new look renders her almost unrecognizable. Couldn’t she have at least put a circular design in the middle of her chest to let us know who she is?
Which Justice League costume change bothered you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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