With the arrival of Justice League in theaters, the DC Cinematic Universe expands both its world and its cast of heroes and villains just a little bit more. Audiences get to witness the core members of the famous superhero team as they assemble for their maiden mission, battling foes and each other’s egos to save the world. Initially, there were seven founding members of the cohort, but not all get real estate in the big screen debut.
The Justice League at various times was a revolving door for the who’s who of DC superheroes. Some founding members, like Martian Manhunter, were hugely impactful but rarely mentioned outside of certain fandoms. It remains to be seen whether or not we’ll see the likes of him, Plastic Man, or Zatanna in a future installment of Justice League movies. The ’90s was a time for extreme shifts in the looks of classic characters. It was also a time for extreme plot developments and character arcs. Sales were declining, and artists and writers did what they could to entice readership. Miraculously, this resulted in some pretty great aesthetic choices for the Justice League members, 15 of which CBR has gathered for the pleasure of your eyeballs.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the infamous “Death of Superman” saga, in which Superman (sporting a super rad mullet) actually dies and pieces of his essence get scattered to the four corners of the Earth, only to come alive in different people and essentially jump starting several new superhero franchises? Yea, well, that’s the bare bones of the plot for Batman V Superman, and was the inspiration for the DOA would-be Superman film by Tim Burton entitled Superman Lives.
Superman’s death in the ’90s almost single-handedly destroyed the comic book market, but when he was resurrected, the powers that be decided that he needed to be hip enough for a new generation of comic book fans. Enter the Supermullet, which was also often paired with lots of large guns.
14. WONDER WOMAN
Of all the drastic superhero look changes, Wonder Woman’s was the most startling. She essentially donned none of her patriotic stars and stripes except for their suggestions on certain garments, and the color palate of red, white, blue, and gold was eschewed in favor of a whole lot of leather. Short biker jackets, mini-skirts, studded bras, and tall motorcycle boots were the pieces of choice in ’90s Wonder Woman’s closet designed by Mike Deodato.
Now, was it cool that in order to get this extreme ’90s makeover Diana had to lose her title as Wonder Woman in “The Contest”? Not at all. And the entire nature of Diana’s new and shockingly adult attire was pretty much just to sell issues, but dammit if she didn’t just pull it off.
13. THE FLASH
In the new Justice League movie, The Flash comes off looking like Iron Man Lite, with an armored suit and helmet/cowl combo that remove the small gold wings from either side of his head and only vaguely suggest a lightning bolt on his chest. He’s thin, lithe, young, and nowhere near as jacked as his super cohort.
The Flash of the ’90s kept the outfit he was consistently known for throughout his franchise, a look which was also used in the gone-too-soon Flash live action television series, and somewhat evoked in the current Flash on CW. The ’90s Flash was also athletic and built like most superheroes from the time, and not like a skinny track star. This meant when depicted standing around a bunch of his peers, he didn’t look lacking in the slightest.
After being ridiculed by the rest of the Justice League for long enough, Aquaman ditched his orange shirt, boyish haircut, and left hand in favor of a much more hardcore look. Sporting long blonde hair, a fierce beard, and a hook for a left hand, he was ready to show the landlubbers he was done messing around. He was grumpy, foul tempered, and would definitely not be opposed to making anyone sleep with the fishes. He also got to hang out with Dolphin, Storm’s aquatic doppleganger.
Like a mixture of OG Aquaman and Jason Momoa’s Tattooed King Triton look, ’90s Aquaman looked just feral enough that you forgot he ever looked like Chad, captain of the college swim team. He also sported some brutal half armor on his right arm, and mugged like he belonged on the WWF roster.
When Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27, the Caped Crusader looked more like an actual bat, with his ears protruding out of the side of his head and his cowl looking wide and bestial. As time went on, he began to resemble more of a man than a bat, and adopted a more colorful wardrobe and cheerful attitude (think Adam West).
In the ’80s, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight saga gave us the hulking tank like figure of Batman with kitten ears and a merciless temper. He’s who Ben Affleck is patterned off of in the Justice League film. But ’90s Batman? Well, ’90s Batman was slick, athletic, decisive, and his ears were like two feet long. He may not be the killer he was in the ’80s, but he savagely beats The Joker within an inch of his life in Batman vol 1 #496 with his bare hands.
10. MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Not many comic book fans will declare Martian Manhunter their favorite superhero, and only a few will have more than a tertiary interest in his storylines. Some don’t even know he was a member of the Justice League at all, much less a founding member. He’s not depicted in the current line-up of Justice League friends, but may soon make an appearance.
Unlike his recent appearance on Supergirl, in the ’90s, Martian Manhunter was a massive green humanoid from Mars that could take any shape he pleased, including everyman Detective John Jones. As J’onn J’onzz, Manhunter from Mars, he has the ability to read the mind of every human on earth at once, turn into things both real, imagined, and extinct, and is regarded by some as the most powerful superhero of all time.
Atom is the superhero name assumed by several superheroes dating all the way back to around the ’40s beginning with Al Pratt, and continuing with Ray Palmer in the ’60s. The third Atom, Adam Cray, was a member of the Suicide Squad while Ray Palmer infiltrated a group of villains called the Micro Squad, but eventually got impaled, leaving Ray Palmer to return.
The original Atom was a college student, whereas Ray Palmer, the Atom of the ’90s was actually a college professor. While the original Atom was a short guy of around five-feet, Ray Palmer is six-feet and can shrink himself to six inches. Unlike Ryan Choi, the Atom of the ’00s, Ray Palmer has a sleek silhouette rather than a bulky helmet and jumpsuit.
8. BLACK CANARY
Back in the ’40s when Black Canary was created, she was the only child in a family of police officers and, unable to join the force herself, was a florist by day and a crimefighter by night. She had no superpowers and was one of the earliest female superheroes. Later on, along with being a gifted martial artist, she was given the super power Sonic Scream.
Originally, Black Canary’s outfit was always a black bodysuit accompanied by a pair of fishnets, though they were more opaque. Sometimes she wore a blazer, and sometimes she was given a jumpsuit, but the ’90s solidified the triangular mask, black bustier bodysuit, and fishnets combo that have become her signature look. Canary’s outfit on Arrow had enough leather but lacked the best part of the original outfit mainstay: fishnets!
7. GREEN LANTERN
The ’90s was a dark time for comics, with sales dropping rapidly across titles a lot of new ideas were tried in order to shake things up. Poor Hal Jordan was driven insane during the timeline of the “Reign of the Supermen”, after which he was replaced as the Green Lantern by Kyle Rayner, a young graphic artist. Kyle could be a little naive and immature at times, but his look and attitude were actually a more refreshing change than the WTF changes happening to other superheroes of the time.
Instead of the classic green and black suit he sported a black and white suit, with a green mask that wrapped more fully around the top half of his face. He looked a little edgier with black hair instead of brown, and doesn’t look like the Green Ranger we saw in the Green Lantern movie.
6. PLASTIC MAN
Who would have thought that a petty thief saved by Batman from an acid vat would someday become a member of the Justice League. The Joker fell into a vat of acid and didn’t come out of it with the special powers that Plastic Man did, who was suddenly able to bend his body into any imaginable shape.
Plastic Man was often the comic relief, but beneath the sarcasm and jokes he dealt with the duality of being a superhero that used to be a criminal, and having to constantly suppress the despondency that comes with a conflicting personality. Plastic Man of the ’80s and ’90s wore a red bodysuit with some Renaissance straps, because he’s secure with himself. He also has a snazzy black pompadour.
While Aquaman was getting an extreme makeover, Hawkman was also getting one of his own. Suddenly the ordinarily lithe Hawkman, immortal god from Egypt is looking like Conan the Barbarian, with something like the Thundercats insignia on his chest, huge gauntlets, and an impressive golden bird headdress. Also, massive freaking wings.
Other versions of Hawkman depict him as more of a celestial guardian, replete with a cape, shoulder armor, and equipped with staffs and scythes, all in-keeping with his noble origin story. Hawkman has had full bodysuits of green, and yards of brown leather trappings, but nowhere was he more impressive in visage or might than in the ’90s, especially when hunting the missing Aquaman, who was his long time brother in arms (even if their giant influx in testosterone made them occasionally go at it like wild grizzly bears).
Stargirl, aka Courtney Elizabeth Whitmore, is one of the more recent members of the Justice League, appearing in the DC Comics series, Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. in 1999. S.T.R.I.P.E. referred to the giant robotic suit that her stepfather, mechanic and strategist Pat Dugan, builds to accompany her as she heads out and fights criminals.
Originally her outfit belonged to the Star-Spangled Kid (or Skyman), a kid superhero that used to fight Nazis during WWII alongside his adult sidekick “Stripsey”, aka Pat Dugan. Courtney finds the Kid’s outfit in Dugan’s belongings and wears it to annoy him since she wasn’t that keen on him marrying her mother. Her outfit was a more versatile version of the Star-Spangled Kid’s original gear, and she wore a half mask versus a cowl.
Shazam will soon get his own major motion picture debut, which makes fans wonder what look he’s going to sport on the big screen. Typically, Shazam is known for wearing a bright red suit with gold bracers, boots, and belt, with a large lightning bolt emblazoned on his chest. Sometimes he had a cape, and sometimes not.
The latest comic book version of Shazam makes him look like some character in Assassin’s Creed, with a giant white hooded cloak and solid gold bracers. For a superhero who also once went by the moniker Captain Marvel, the look is a little too Spectre. When little Billy Batson shouts Shazam!, he’s probably a little disappointed with his threads when he looks in the mirror (though obviously not with the superpowers).
Cyborg has always looked like both man and machine. Since his inception in the ’80s, Cyborg’s look hasn’t changed a whole lot. In fact, his original design was always very visually compelling, and only got more so as time went on. Since the ’90s was all about over the top embellishment, why not put handlebars on the side of his legs?
The cinematic Justice League version of Cyborg currently has him looking like an Olympic athlete and a Terminator, which isn’t exactly terrible, but all the sleek metal and chrome tends to make him blend in with mechanized Batman. In recent comics, since the cybernetic aspects of his body have taken to doing their own thing, he’s been rebuilt to almost look completely human. The ’90s white-on-white Cyborg was visually striking and compelling, which made him stand out from the other members of whatever team he was on.
The mysterious and alluring magician known as Zatanna, Mistress of Magic, has either looked like a festival sorceress or a magician with a residency in Vegas. The top hat, tailcoat, arm cuffs, and baton have been mainstays of her outfit for decades. But the ’90s had its own special look and so did she, which really just resulted in more hot pants, thongs, exposed skin; in other words, her updated outfit was more of a lack of outfit, but it still managed to give her a vigorous charm.
Whereas the current Zatanna of comics and cartoons depicts her in her classic magicians garb, the ’90s changed it up to include different collared leotards (red, gold, etc), and thigh high boots instead of those that reached the knee.
Which of these ’90s look do you like the most? Let us know in the comments!
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