A comic universe like Marvel or DC often works to what is known as a sliding time-scale, which allows the character to continue having adventures over 50+ years of publication without aging too much. However, while they remain "stuck" in time story-wise, they are still affected by the events and fashions of the time.
That's why it is so easy to tell by a superhero's civilian clothes which decade the comic was written in, as fashion has always played a large part in comics. This is especially true when it comes to costume design, which is just as much a victim of the times as the characters and stories themselves. This was something fans saw in full effect during the 90s, as new or redesigned heroes all came equipped with head guards, pouches, and other effects common to the era. Let's take a look at some of the worst offenders.
10 WONDER WOMAN
Diana Prince got her own costume redesign in the 90s after she lost the title of Wonder Woman to fellow Amazonian Artemis, who adopted her costume as well. Diana continued to fight crime, sporting a much more casual look that was basically biker shorts, a sports bra, and a baby blue leather jacket.
Diana's new "costume" was not well-received by fans and showcased a troubling trend in the decade's design: replacing classic superhero designs with casual clothing items like leather jackets in an effort to "cool" somebody up. It didn't work, but fans will never forget Wonder Woman's "biker" outfit.
Doctor Fate was hit hard by the 90s, as the character was literally ripped apart and remolded using the Grunge movement as a guideline. Classic Doctor Fate wore a light blue costume with magical gold items like the Helmet of Nobu, but the new Fate turned these mystical items into bladed weapons and a golden wrapped arm, which was a favorite design feature of the 90s.
Looking past Fate's Anth eye tattoo and dyed hair, the character also got a derivative tough-as-nails attitude ripped straight from one of Arnold Scharzenegger's movie roles and wore tongue-in-cheek graphic tees while he cleaned up magic's garbage. Yes, he often wore a long duster to complete the forced look of coolness that thankfully didn't make it to the new millennium.
Spawn was created by Todd McFarlane and is a perfect example of a new character created in the 90s that was irreversibly influenced by the era. McFarlane and the newly-founded Image Comics were the new hit of the 90s, and the majority of their characters could honestly fill this list.
Spawn works so well because his costume is raw and edgy like most 90s characters, coming complete with flowing chains, spiked limb bands, and gigantic mismatched gauntlets. Don't get us wrong, Spawn looked great, but he is so 90s it kind of hurts.
When Daredevil got a 90s costume redesign, most fans were in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" camp, especially considering his new costume made little sense for the character. His solid red bodysuit was replaced with a grey onesie with dark red strips on the neck, chest, and arms.
The color change was drab and off-putting on its own, but then they added shiny metallic shoulder pads, kneepads, wrist guards, etc., which were completely contradictory to DD's style of fighting. It's hard to hide in the darkness when you're wearing the most reflective metal ever created. Sadly, he was just one of many who received edgy metal additions to their costumes in the 90s.
There have been a few to use the name over the years, but for our purposes, we are discussing Conner Kent, the cloned Superboy who was first introduced in the 90s during The Death and Return of Superman. The Superboy character represented the 90s through and through, from his personality to his costume.
The costume itself was an awesome updated version of Superman's, which added some black and a few well-placed angles. The ridiculous straps holding nothing that appeared around his waist and shins were the real focal point here. Superboy was also rarely without his leather jacket and even got some tubular high-tech specs to simulate heat-vision, though he lost them pretty quickly.
5 POWER ARMOR
Armor was also really big in the 90s, with all kinds of heroes modifying their outfits into bulkier robotic Iron Man knock-offs. This was usually done in order to deal with lost abilities, as we saw when Tony Stark created armor for Captain America (which he wore for far longer then he should have).
DC's Booster Gold also received a bulky version of his old superhero suit when he joined the equally 90s Justice League spin-off, Extreme Justice. The reasons for his bulkier suit made a bit more sense, as the materials needed to properly fix his futuristic suit didn't exist yet. Spider-Man's silver and black armor thankfully showed up and was destroyed in the same issue.
It was clear from his debut in 1990's New Mutants #87 that Cable was a trendsetter, as we would see many 90s costumes reflect his style choices over the next decade. Cable crashed onto the scene with the biggest shoulder pads on the market, weighted down with belts of bullets and pouches.
Now, Cable was a gun-slinging hero who had the need for a certain amount of pouches, though at times it felt like he was trying to win a contest for most storage options possible. He also has a metal arm, which is a staple of all cool characters from the 90s. Cable has toned down his costumes a bit over the years, but he still manages to usually rock a leg band of pouches to remember his roots.
As we mentioned before, a lot of characters armored up in the 90s and Batman was no different. However, when Jean-Paul Valley/Azreal took over as the Dark Knight, he pushed it to the limit. Bruce Wayne was forced to step down after Bane broke his back, and Jean-Paul didn't fare so well either, so he decided to build a new Batsuit.
Azbats, as he became known by fans, took one look at the other 90s armors and went one better when he designed his new costume. The new armored look added a bright yellow oversized chest piece, razor-claw fingers, and even a bladed cape to really showcase Batman's new edge in every possible way.
Still one of the biggest jokes of the 90s (yet one of the best representations of the era's comic design style at the same time), it's Adam-X The X-Treme. No, we are not making this up. Adam-X was a mutant who appeared in the X-Men comics during the 90s, whose mystery was much greater than his fashion sense.
Adam-X was once rumored to be a long-lost Summers brother, though he would have been the young cool Summers brother who skateboarded and played video games at the mall, based on his attitude and backward hat. Except, of course, for the shoulder pads and belt made of sharp blades. He's gritty, and he wants everyone to know it.
We previously mentioned that we could fill a whole list with Image comics characters from the 90s. On that note, we couldn't avoid mentioning Prophet, who perfectly exemplified every new character created during the "Generation Z" era.
Prophet fits a certain mold that characters like Shatterstar would be comfortable in as well. Prophet was actually a very successful release from Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios, no thanks to his oddly-colored costume and gigantic shoulder pads. Prophet also wore the weird forehead/cheek protectors that became so representative of this kind of character in the 90s.