Ah, the ’90s. While kids around the globe were busy discussing Pogs and drinking Surge, the comic industry was experiencing a boom. New companies sprang up overnight, while the big publishers fought tooth and nail for market supremacy. Characters died only to be resurrected a month later, titles were relaunched frequently, and every new character was decked out with pockets and guns. These widespread issues were bad enough in the ’90s comic industry, but there was one offense all comic fans learned to fear: the dreaded ’90s costume change.
As the ’90s were so preoccupied on the cool, the crude, and the x-treme, comic companies opted to retool classic characters in hopes of capturing new readers. Characters sprouted mullets, they changed names, and lugged around cartoonishly large guns; no change was off limits when it came to reinvention. That’s not to say that every costume change ended in unmitigated disaster; in fact, plenty of characters received stylish new duds that fans loved in the ’90s. But there were plenty of terrible costume changes that readers hated. From grim and gritty reboots, to unnecessary alterations, to straight up changing a character’s species, fans saw it all in the ’90s. So join CBR as we take a look back at the silliest, the stupidest, and the just plain weirdest costume changes fans had to endure in the ’90s!
15. HEROES REBORN THOR
Let’s face facts, people: Thor’s costume has always been inherently goofy: that winged helmet, those giant spots, those knee high boots. Sure, it’s a classic, but we don’t blame Marvel for wanting to give Thor an update. Unfortunately, the costume the company decided on using in the wake of the Heroes Reborn event was met with plenty of fan hate. And looking at this costume, we can’t blame them.
Thor’s Heroes Reborn duds ditched the flowing red cape and knee high booties and subbed in golden metallic pants and a massive loin cloth. If that wasn’t silly enough, Thor’s trademark winged helmet was super sized, turning his wings into massive, head-dwarfing super wings. Critics and fans alike loathed the new costume, which was thankfully retired after a short while in favor of a more traditional Thor outfit.
14. JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE POWER GIRL
Power Girl is no stranger to costume controversy. While feelings concerning Power Girl’s infamous “boob window” vary wildly, there is one thing regarding Power Girl’s costume that all fans seem to agree on: Power Girl’s Justice League Europe costume was god awful.
During her run as a member of the JLE, Karen Starr was given fresh new duds, which worked to combine various aspects of previous costumes. Problem is, the costume was just a mess; Power Girl now had an oddball diamond shaped cleavage window, thigh high boots, a headband, a tiny cape, and a spit curl reminiscent of Superman’s. Fans were outspoken concerning their dislike of the costume, and this redesign was eventually dropped, reverting Power Girl to her famous OG costume.
13. INSECT WASP
In the ’90s, every comic company was dead set on making characters as x-treme as humanly possible. Characters were given giant guns, unnecessary spikes, and soul patches out the whazoo. Unfortunately, poor Janet Van Dyne was deemed not nearly x-treme enough, and the decision was made to turn the fashionista into a giant insect.
During the Crossing storyline, Janet was severely injured, forcing her ex-husband Hank Pym to put Janet through the same process she originally underwent to gain her powers, which, for reasons unknown, transformed Van Dyne into a wasp-like creature. In her new form, Janet rocked a shock of pink hair, giant wings and a very skimpy outfit. Fan outcry was quick, with readers despising the Wasp’s new look. Van Dyne was later reverted to her human form by Franklin Richards, and this universally hated change was never mentioned again.
12. LEATHER JACKET LUKE CAGE
Luke Cage has come a long way since his tiara and chain belt days. These days, the street smart hero manages to fight crime in what amounts to jeans and a t-shirt. But during the ’90s, Marvel wasn’t quite sure what to do with the character; after all, a tiara-wearing superhero wasn’t exactly “hip” or “with it” as the kids say. So Marvel decided to retool Luke Cage… only to saddle the character with a generic costume that remains a point of fan contention to this day.
In 1992, Cage #1 hit shelves, introducing a new generation of readers to the tough-as-nails vigilante. But Cage had dropped the yellow shirt and tiara that made him famous; now, the hero rocked a generic shirt and leather jacket look. Also, the tiara jumped from his head to his waist, becoming a giant, silly looking belt. Fans bemoaned the generic “urban tough guy” look, and after disappearing for a while after the cancellation of Cage, Luke Cage would eventually reemerge, donning the yellow T-Shirt fans would grow to love, leaving this unfortunate ’90s costume in the past.
11. HELMET THING
Ben Grimm, better known as The Thing, has an iconic design: whether he’s rocking a speedo or a singlet, this rock man manages to roll with the punches and make it work. But it turns out there is one look that not even Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew can’t pull off: a ridiculous, totally lame helmet.
After a vicious battle with Wolverine left Grimm with gruesome facial scars, The Thing took to wearing a helmet in an effort to hide his disfigured face. The helmet was originally introduced in the early adventures of the Fantastic Four, and as such wasn’t entirely out of left field, but this fashion faux pa was not well received with readers. The helmet look hung around for a while, but after vocal outcry, it was unceremoniously dropped and the Thing went back to showing off his rocky mug.
10. MULLET SUPERMAN
Since debuting in 1938, Superman has been the clean cut, lantern-jawed face of the American dream. Sure, the Big Red S has had plenty of costume changes over the years, but Clark Kent has retained his iconic “short and spit curl” haircut across the decades. Well, except for that brief period in the ’90s when Superman rocked a mullet.
Sure, the mullet may be mocked now, but with the “business up front, party in the back” look all the rage in the ’90s, the decision to mullet Superman made sense. While the mullet had plenty of fans, die-hard anti-mullet critics rallied against Superman’s new long locks, calling for Supes to return to his old haircut. DC eventually relented, swapping Superman’s Billy Ray Cyrus look for his traditional short and tight haircut, but plenty of fans (and haters) of the Super-mullet exist to this day.
9. POWER ARMOR BOOSTER GOLD
While Booster Gold may have traveled to our past in search of fame and fortune, the fame-hungry superhero encountered plenty of hardships during his superhero career. Arguably the biggest problem Booster Gold encountered was a publisher that didn’t find the character interesting enough; yes, with superheroes all the rage in the ’90s, DC felt as though Booster just wasn’t captivating enough to sell books. Their solution: shove him into a robotic suit.
Introduced in 1993 after Booster’s original costume was destroyed in a fight with Doomsday, the power suit gave Booster enhanced strength, flight, and the ability to shoot energy rays. For longtime fans of the money-hungry hero, the costume was a slap in the face; gone was the sleek and memorable Booster costume of old, replaced with a clunky, ugly power suit. But DC wasn’t concerned: Booster actually rocked the power suit for three whole years before eventually reverting back to his classic look.
8. GRIM ‘N GRITTY NAMOR
Since debuting in 1939, Namor has kept things simple; throughout most of his existence, the Atlantean has favored a green speedo and little else. Unfortunately, this “less is more” approach to outfitting himself was not nearly x-treme enough for Marvel in the ’90s. As such, Namor was given new duds that brought this classic character kicking and screaming into the ’90s.
Gone was the green underoos; now, Namor was outfitted in spiked armor. Gone was Namor’s tight military haircut; now, Namor alternated between rocking the mother of all ponytails and a wild mane of unkempt hair. This new outfit was presented as armor that granted Namor improved invulnerability, but fans weren’t having it. This laughably ’90s costume was hated by readers, and Namor eventually reverted back to his iconic briefs before his series was ultimately canceled.
7. PATRIOT UNCLE SAM
Uncle Sam is a weird character. He is the living embodiment of the American Dream, and just so happens to look like the Uncle Sam featured prevalently in wartime recruitment ads. Also, he is super strong, can possess people, can grow at will, and wears a top hat. So yeah, weird character. But Uncle Sam’s oddball origin and iconic look have earned the character plenty of fans. And fans were not happy when DC made the decision to retool Uncle Sam for the ’90s, turning the character into an eagle helmet-sporting hero named “Patriot.”
During Our Worlds At War, Uncle Sam was resurrected as Patriot after a long absence from DC. In his new form, Uncle Sam exhibited all the same powers, but now rocked a more traditional stars-and-stripes costume. Patriot was also given a massive helmet featuring a prominent faceplate, which was topped by an eagle. Even for a character that spent most of his time in spats and a top hat, the Patriot look was just too silly, and fans hated it. Uncle Sam eventually reverted to his classic look, and Patriot was never referenced again.
6. POWER ARMOR CAPTAIN AMERICA
Sometimes, it can take several costume changes for a character to stumble upon the perfect look. Such was not the case with Captain America: when Steve Rogers debuted in 1941 sporting his iconic red, white and blue duds, a classic costume was born. Clearly, Marvel didn’t feel the same way, as Cap would drop his iconic costume and don a power armor interpretation of the outfit in Captain America #438.
In the story, Cap found the super soldier serum that had granted him his powers was slowly crippling him, leading to the Star Spangled Avenger receiving an advanced robotic suit designed to allow the hero to continue to fight the good fight. Unfortunately, the suit was nothing short of goofy and lame, and fans were quick to decry the costume change. Thankfully, Cap’s power armor was short lived, and the robo suit was dropped shortly after introduction, never to be spoken of again.
5. BIKER WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman may get guff over her costume, but let’s not kid ourselves: her traditional look is one of the most iconic outfits in all of comics. Unfortunately, DC didn’t see it this way in the ’90s, as the decision was made to give Wondey a complete costume overhaul. And boy, did fans hate it.
After Artemis assumed the role of Wonder Woman during 1994’s The Crossing storyline, Diana Prince set off to blaze her own trail. As she was no longer Wonder Woman, Diana opted for a new costume all her own; unfortunately, the costume she got was less “iconic superhero” and more “biker stripper.” Diana donned a leather jacket, leather bra and bike shorts, and, as this was the ’90s, she sported several unnecessary belts. Fans despised the new look, with many labeling it one of the worst costumes of all time. Once Artemis kicked the bucket, Diana resumed her role in the Wonder Woman book, and went back to wearing her classic costume.
4. SCARLET SPIDER
Now for a controversial entry. There are plenty of Spider-Man fans that will argue until they are blue in the face that Ben Reilly’s Scarlet Spider costume is one of the best Spidey outfits ever. And while we certainly agree that the Scarlet Spider look was awesome, the costume was not well received when it was first introduced.
During the mess that was the Clone Saga, Ben Reilly donned the Scarlet Spider costume. Composed of a red body suit, complete with giant Spider-Man eyes, and a blue hoodie, the outfit was simple but memorable. But when Reilly assumed the role of Spider-Man, fans rallied against the Scarlet Spider costume, calling it too different from the classic Spider-Man outfit. Reilly would eventually don a more traditional Spidey costume, but feelings on the Scarlet Spider costume remain strong on both sides to this day.
3. AZRAEL BATMAN
When Bruce Wayne had his back broken by the hulking Bane, the vigilante Azrael was enlisted to take over as Batman in Bruce’s absence. With Jean-Paul Valley donning the cowl, the decision was made at DC to give the new Batman a brand new look. Gone was the classic Batman costume; now, this new Batman would have a costume befitting the x-treme ’90s. Thus, AzBats was born.
While Batman’s classic costume was subtle, the AzBats was the polar opposite. Featuring spikes, over-sized gauntlets, claws, a giant neck brace, and pouches aplenty, the AzBats outfit wore its ’90s influences on its giant metal sleeves. While the new suit had its share of fans, and has since gained a cult following among modern Bat fans, the suit was met with harsh criticism and hate upon reveal. After the departure of Valley, Bruce would bring back the classic Batman costume, but the AzBats suit remains a polarizing costume.
2. ELECTRIC BLUE SUPERMAN
With comic companies fighting tooth and nail for that sweet, sweet comic boom money in the ’90s, the companies realized that big changes and big events equaled big money. Thus, DC decided to make the biggest change of all: to drastically change Superman. But the Big S didn’t just receive a revamped costume or yet another new haircut; no, in 1998, DC introduced the world to Electric Blue Superman.
With a new set of energy-based powers and a snappy new costume, Electric Blue Superman was a big departure from the Superman fans knew and loved. DC even doubled down on Electric Blue Superman, introducing Superman Red later in 1998, giving the DCU two Supermen running around slinging energy bolts. While the costume certainly had its fans, readers found the change too drastic, and cries for a return to the norm swiftly followed. After a brief run with the costume, Superman reverted to his original costume and power set.
1. HEROES REBORN CAPTAIN AMERICA
Captain America’s Herpes Reborn costume. Never before has such a small change drawn such fan outrage. It might seem silly, but the smallest alteration to Captain America’s iconic costume brought letter-writing campaigns, widespread fan outrage, and even death threats. We talk, of course, of Rob Liefeld dropping the “A” from Captain America’s forehead and subbing in an eagle symbol.
When Captain America returned in the wake of Heroes Reborn, he was sporting his classic red, white, and blue duds, with one noticeable change: the “A” on the top of the costume was now gone, replaced with an eagle symbol. Liefeld was vocal over his dislike of the “A,” leading to the letter being ditched. Fans hated the change, with many labeling the new symbol as unnecessary and ugly. Eventually, after plenty of fan outrage, Cap would ditch the eagle and revert back to the “A,” never to regain the eagle symbol again.
Which ’90s costume changes did you absolutely loathe? Let us know in the comments!
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