The intersection between comics and film is both wonderful and strange. Millions of people enjoy everything Marvel and DC bring to the screen, as characters ordinarily restrained to the page are finally seen depicted in live-action. What fans don't really think about, however, is all the work that goes into bringing these characters to life. The villains, heroes, storylines, and, occasionally, soundtracks are all molded by the comics but directors, writers and actors still have to take some liberties when filming -- reality is nothing like the world Wonder Woman and Captain America call home.
One of the first things directors change during the conversion between page and film are the characters’ appearances. Hair color, race, and costume designs are easy ways for superhero filmography to diverge from the comics. We see this every time we go to the theater and complain about Batman’s newest suit or Black Widow’s most recent hairstyle. Sometimes the changes are for good and sometimes, not so much. When the public likes the changes, comic creators will frequently try to parallel the cinematic changes in order to reflect the on-screen characters. Of course, directors can also stick to the script and recreate characters exactly as they are in the comics. This is tougher, but it can definitely be done. In order to keep track of all these different variations of characters, CBR is counting down ten times comic book characters looked just like their on-screen counterparts and ten times they looked nothing alike. Want to know who made the cut and who didn’t measure up? Keep reading to find out!
20 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: NICO
From the first episode of the TV series Marvel’s Runaways, one thing was always certain: Lyrica Okano is the perfect actor to play Nico Minoru. Not only does she embody the moody teen’s bad attitude perfectly, she also looks a lot like the original Nico that Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona introduced in their 2003 comic series Runaways.
Okano’s dramatic hair and signature gothic wardrobe make it seem as though she stepped right out of an issue of the original Runaways. She doesn’t, however, look anything like the Nico from Rainbow Rowell’s 2017 series, which confused some fans. But, we think, for the younger, more rebellious version of Nico, Okano is the ideal pick.
19 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: BLACK BOLT
The recently-canceled Inhumans television show got a lot of bad reception that, in all honesty, it deserved. It wasn’t a great show but we don’t blame the original Inhumans for the poor reception it garnered. Marvel creators have written numerous successful series focusing on the Inhumans. The biggest problem with Inhumans was how the characters looked, and in particular how Black Bolt looked.
As one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe, all comic fans are familiar with Black Bolt’s trademark uniform. The black cowl, lightning bolt headpiece, head-to-toe bodysuit, and wing-like cape are as a part of Black Bolt as his famous voice. The show stripped the character completely, giving him a simple suit that’s barely reminiscent of the original Black Bolt.
18 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: SUPERMAN
Superman isn’t a hard character to cast. All you need is a tall, muscular guy with dark hair in a blue and red suit. We’ve seen tons of Supermen come across both big and small screens, and all of them bare some sort of resemblance to the comic book version of the Man of Steel. Still, there’s a difference between looking a little like the original Clark Kent and embodying the character perfectly.
In the 2013 film, Man of Steel, actor Henry Cavill becomes Superman. This includes both how he approaches the character and how he looks. The slightly curled hair, picturesque cheekbones, and saturated uniform look exactly like the Superman America fell in love with in 1938.
17 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: WOLVERINE
Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of famous X-Men member Wolverine garnered a lot of positive attention. Fans loved the brawny 6’2” actor who captured Logan’s standoffish attitude surprisingly well. His role in the first X-Men film helped spur numerous solo films, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Logan.
Jackman does a good job playing Wolverine -- that’s inarguable. However, he doesn’t do a great job looking like Wolverine. Fans of the comics know Wolverine as a short, hairy, and almost animalistic man. Jackman doesn’t fulfill any of those basic qualifications. We also never see the on-screen Wolverine in his classic yellow and blue tiger suit that defines the character in the comics. Without all these things, is the on-screen Wolverine even the same character as his on-page counterpart? We think the answer is yes and no.
16 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: JESSICA JONES
Marvel comic book character Jessica Jones doesn’t have a set uniform like most of our other picks, however, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a particular style. Her classic tattered jeans and bulky jacket -- all in dark, neutral shades -- is perfectly recreated in Marvel’s Netflix series Jessica Jones, where actress Krysten Ritter plays the title character.
It’s difficult to rank how closely an on-screen iteration of a comic book hero resembles their on-page counterpart when there aren’t any costumes involved. For Jessica Jones, we looked at her typical outfit choices in her numerous comic appearances and compared them to the Netflix show. While usually not identical, they share a lot of the same style markers.
15 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: NIGHTCRAWLER
Nightcrawler is a key member of the X-Men, so of course he needed to be included in the X-Men’s many theater ventures. Unfortunately, Nightcrawler’s Hollywood treatment isn’t what most X-Men fans were expecting. Instead of the lovable blue demon from the comics, the X-Men films gave viewers a slightly creepy blue-painted-boy with scarification on his cheeks and a generally lackluster style.
When it comes to characters like Nightcrawler, directors have to tread a thin line. Yes, he’s blue, but that doesn’t mean he has to be stereotypically “exotic” with tattoos on his face. Instead of pushing how sleek and cool Nightcrawler is, the various X-Men directors emphasized how freakish he is instead. That really doesn’t make for a close physical adaptation of a character.
14 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: LOKI
Tom Hiddleston’s iconic character, Loki Laufeyson, became an overnight success after Avengers director Joss Whedon used him as his leading villain in 2012. Viewers fell in love with the sarcastic villain who served as the antithesis to Thor’s good-humored nature. What most Avengers fans probably don’t know is that the MCU version of Loki doesn’t look anything like his original comic counterpart.
However, after MCU Loki became popular, Marvel comics began crafting their illustrations to more closely resemble Hiddleston’s classic look. In the 2015 series, Mighty Thor, artist Russell Dauterman perfectly captures both MCU Loki’s signature style and Hiddleston’s specific facial features. Even though we most likely won’t be seeing any more of Hiddleston in the MCU (spoiler alert), at least we’ll always have his visage in print.
13 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: VISION
The MCU got a few things right when designing the red, green, and yellow android known as Vision. The comic version of Vision sports the same colors as his on-screen counterpart. They also both have the same-looking life-giving stone on their forehead. But, as with a lot of MCU characters, the two iterations are nowhere near identical.
Vision from the MCU is considerably duller in color. He also has human-like eyes, whereas the comic version of Vision has completely yellow eyes. While they both have capes, the comic version of Vision typically has a more dramatic look. By "dramatic" we mean a standing collar and more flamboyant details on his suit. The 2016 series Vision saw the hero wearing normal clothes, as the MCU Vision does, but this is out of the ordinary for the character.
12 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: MERA
DC’s Aquaman hasn’t hit theaters yet, but we’ve already seen a slew of official photos showcasing Mera’s new outfit. In Justice League, Mera, played by Amber Heard, sported a geometric green suit covered in gold detailing. This look wasn't anything like what Aquaman’s wife wears in the comics.
Apparently, Aquaman director James Wan wanted things to be a little more comic book accurate in his film, which sees Heard wearing a long-sleeve scale-covered emerald green suit. For Aquaman comic fans, this look will sound a lot like Mera’s costume during the New 52 Aquaman run. Heard’s bright red hair also matches Ivan Reis’ iconic illustrations from that series. While we haven’t seen Heard’s acting in Aquaman yet, we’re already impressed by how much she resembles the character.
11 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: BLACK WIDOW
We weren’t the only ones who were disappointed by Black Widow’s look in Avengers: Infinity War. Fans flocked to social media questioning the change from Black Widow’s emblematic red hair in Captain America: Civil War to the washed out blonde color seen in Infinity War.
For comic fans, the switch appears completely random. Natasha Romanov never sports a blonde bob in the comics (although a different Widow did), so why is she rocking one on-screen? Little about this particular version of Black Widow makes sense. Compared to the comics, where Black Widow has vibrant red hair and usually wears a black suit, this blonde iteration wearing a military-esque getup is kind of bizarre. We can only hope she’s a Skrull and the real Black Widow is still out there.
10 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: WONDER WOMAN
Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder is far from the star-spangled comic book character from 1941. Her costume from the 2017 film Wonder Woman completely remakes the classic all-American get up Diana Prince wore throughout the 20th century. However, when compared to the version of the iconic character seen in the recent Wonder Woman Rebirth series, Gadot strikes an uncanny resemblance.
Comic illustrator Jim Lee’s redesign for Rebirth Wonder Woman has the same Greek-inspired red and blue armor that Gadot sports in the movie. He also gives Diana gold accents instead of the silver ones seen in the New 52 Wonder Woman in order to parallel the film. Gadot and her comic character even share the exact same over the knee boots and gold armband. Now we're starting to wonder if Gal Gadot actually is Wonder Woman...
9 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: BANE
Actor Tom Hardy gave an excellent performance in Dark Knight Rises that truly embodied the character. Because of this, you may be a little surprised to see Bane on our list, but rest assured we’re only critiquing his appearance -- not his acting. In the comics, Bane has a very signature look that creators almost always draw him in: a black mask with red eyes, a black leotard, and black fingerless gloves. There are other aspects to his uniform, but those are the most prevalent elements.
The cinematic Bane features none of those things. His “costume” is an insect-like mask with an armored tank top. While not a bad look, it definitely doesn’t conform to the comic character whatsoever.
8 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: VALKYRIE
While comic fans quickly warmed up to Tess Thompson’s portrayal of Valkyrie after the release of Thor: Ragnarok, they initially weren’t very happy with the character’s design. The futuristic, armored look differed drastically from the more traditional Nordic inspired outfit the comic book version of Valkyrie wears. The change in hair color and the addition of face paint also spurred some negative comments. Though, most of those were canned after Thompson’s above-and-beyond performance.
Fans were so impressed by the reimagined Valkyrie that Marvel introduced this “new” Valkyrie to the comics via the 2018 series Exiles. Artist Javier Rodriguez recreates Thompson’s look from the movie on the pages of his comic perfectly. The armored breastplate, blue cape, and dramatic white face paint help bring Thompson’s character to life on the page.
7 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: POLARIS
The popular mutant-centric show The Gifted features the first-ever on-screen adaptation of long-time X-Men member Lorna Dane. Actress Emma Dumont portrays the mutant character who, like her father, has the gift of magnetism. In terms of her look, The Gifted creators did recreate Polaris’ famous green locks for the show, but they didn’t push very far beyond that.
In the comics, Polaris has bright green hair, bright green eyes, and, typically, a green uniform. On the show, Lorna Dane’s greenness is restrained. On-screen Polaris has green hair, but just barely. Dumont’s character doesn’t have an official uniform. If she did, it would probably be black since that’s what the character typically wears instead of green. All of these things make the distance between screen and page uncrossable.
6 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: DEADPOOL
Deadpool is another character who, like Superman, doesn’t have a very intricate costume. The classic Deadpool uniform is pretty basic and easy to emulate on-screen. However, as seen X-Men Origins: Wolverine, even something as simple as a red and black suit can be butchered by silver screen executives.
Thankfully, Deadpool director Tim Miller stuck close to the source, taking Wade Wilson’s costume straight from the pages of Marvel comics. Recent comics, such as Deadpool: Assassin, try to bridge the shrinking gap between page and screen by adding little things, such as extra belts and straps. The final result is a costume that looks almost exactly the same, in theaters and in comics.
5 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: ENCHANTRESS
Out of all of our picks for on-screen characters who look nothing like their comic counterparts, DC’s Enchantress just might be changed the most. Suicide Squad director David Ayer took what was a fairly normal character and transformed her into something completely unrecognizable.
Physically, the Enchantress from the comics has nothing in common with the on-screen version of the character. Comic Enchantress typically wears a green dress or corset with gold accessories. Besides being a little too close to Marvel’s Enchantress, there isn’t anything that crazy about her. But in Suicide Squad, Cara Delevingne’s character is cryptic. Dark, sunken eyes, straggly hair, and some seriously strange tattoos add up to one scary picture. This version of Enchantress looks like the comic book Enchantress’ creepy grandmother who’s been using soul-sucking magic for way too long.
4 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: GREEN ARROW
We’re sure a lot of you are assuming we’ve lost our minds with this one. Arrow star Stephen Amell has blonde hair, like the comic character Green Arrow, but beyond that their signature looks are very different. Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, wore a pretty stereotypical “Robin Hood” getup during the first few decades of his fictional life. Tight green tights, a red feather, and a strangely small hat once characterized this famous DC character.
But, with the success of the CW show Arrow things began to change. Oliver’s look became more modern and by his 2016 Rebirth series, his costume was nearly identical to that of Amell’s on Arrow. The hood, mask, armored chest plate, and shorter sleeves make these two iterations stylistically very similar.
3 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: SCARLET WITCH
While Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in Avengers: Age of Ultron was on point, her outfit, hair, and ethnicity were all wrong. We may have got an on-screen Scarlet Witch but it definitely isn’t the Scarlet Witch we know from the comics (at least not in terms of looks).
On the page, Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, is of Eastern European Romani descent. She typically has dark hair and a medium complexion befitting someone of the region. While her costume has changed countless times over the years, she almost always wears her signature red headpiece. In the MCU version of the character, Wanda has fairly light hair, a light complexion, and sports a unique uniform. Why Marvel Studios wanted to change the character so drastically is something we’re still wondering, two movies later.
2 PERFECTLY ADAPTED: IRON MAN
The Iron Man we all know from the MCU isn’t exactly reminiscent of the character’s long history. For a long time, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, wore a suit that made him look more like a garbage can then a high-powered superhero. It really wasn’t until Iron Man that the character gained what would become his most famous suit.
The MCU version of Iron Man isn’t far from the comics that were coming out around that time. However, there were some small changes Marvel made to create a cooler, sleeker design. The comics quickly picked up the narrower eyes and broader shoulders that the MCU added. Nowadays, the comic Iron Man and the MCU Iron Man are hard to tell apart.
1 LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THEY SHOULD: MYSTIQUE
Like we already covered with Nightcrawler, the X-Men franchise struggles with blue characters. The classic villainess Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, gets a Hollywood makeover in X-Men: First Class and it isn’t pretty. While a lot of fans enjoyed this unique interpretation of Mystique’s character, others were quick to note just how different the character looks when compared to the comic version of Mystique.
Film Mystique has scaly blue skin, slicked back red hair, and a predilection for rocking her birthday suit. In contrast, comic Mystique typically wears a white dress with skull details (including on on her forehead). We guess they had to keep up with her look from the original movies but with a reboot in mind, they could have gone to the source material instead.