The costume of a superhero is almost as important at their virtues and personalities. Characters are defined by what they wear or the emblem emblazoned across their chest. Superman’s iconic "S" and Captain America’s stark "A" on their uniforms are as ubiquitous with fans as their adventures and backstories. And over time these symbols change. They evolve and often revert back to their original form. There’s nothing wrong in creators branching out with regards to design choices and color schemes, even if these changes reflect the time during which they are executed. They only further a character’s mythos, and their importance is paramount in the annals of comic book history.
But what does it mean for superheroes when fans step in and give their distinct interpretation of these characters? Usually, it doesn’t add up to a lot in the grand scheme of things. They are often seen as fun exercises in creativity and nothing more. However, some of these changes and redesigns are just as good, if not better, than what the pros have given fans. Fan art is the language of creative hearts. The work of fan is a labor of love that is rarely recognized. We, however, appreciate them as much as “the real deal.”
Say what you will about Todd McFarlane’s ‘90s demonic anti-hero, Spawn, one this is for sure: he looks cool. Honestly, if you go back and read those early issues of Spawn (the ones before McFarlane brought on writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore to inject the series with some much-needed pedigree), the series was coasting on style over substance in a big way.
So what’s wrong with the way Spawn looks? Well, nothing really, but variety is the spice of life and artist Desmond Thompson’s minimalist redesign adds subtly to a character who is anything but. The one thing that always seemed to be missing from Spawn was a spectral quality. This is a guy who has been plucked from the depths of Hell and given magical powers. Thompson (known as DezzManX on Deviant Art) has adorned Spawn with a wonderfully haunting quality and we love it.
Warren Worthington III might be the most unsung mainstay characters in the X-Men Universe. He was one of Xavier’s original students. He’s been put through the wringer on multiple occasions. And he was the focal point in Uncanny X-Force, which was arguably the best X-Book published in the last decade. But both of Worthington’s personas (Angel and Archangel) have had some silly costumes and or haircuts (need we discuss the mullet era that was the ‘90s?). While other costumes are sort of generic (which we suppose is fine for team uniforms).
What we like about Lee Chen Fang’s take on the character is how he incorporates the duality between Warren’s natural state as Angel and the dark genetic seed trying to corrupt into becoming Archangel. It might be a little too on the nose, but we think it’s a nice touch.
Subtle changes can go a long way when it comes to costume designs. Adding some needed flare (or stripping it away) can make all the difference in the world and can actually revitalize or update a classic costume without leaning on drastic changes. Take this redesign of the X-Men’s most lovely Southern Belle Rogue by artists Yanni Davros (known as ProlificPen on Deviant Art) for example.
Davros has taken the most iconic costume Rogue has ever squeezed into (the classic green and yellow with a bomber jacket that we all grew up loving from the ‘90s cartoon and comics), and tweaked it ever so slightly to make it look less…well ‘90s. This outfit would work in pretty much any contemporary setting in both the comics and any future X-Men films (wink, wink Marvel Studios).
Dick Grayson is basically Batman but with a sense of humor and heart of gold. This isn’t to say he’s superior to the Dark Knight (Bruce Wayne trained him after all) but when Grayson took up the mantel of the Caped Crusader after Bruce “died” during Final Crisis, he played the role extremely well, proving that the better part of a century being a sidekick paid off.
But when Dick Grayson is too old to be Robin and there’s already a Batman prowling the rooftops of Gotham, he slips into his other masked persona, Nightwing. And while, yes Nightwing is awesome, his costumes haven’t always knocked it out of the park. Thankfully we have artist Kevin Shah pulling it down with this amazing redesign. This is a far more brooding and frightening Nightwing, one that any wrong-doing resident of Bludhaven would cower before (also, no mullet).
So quick question: why doesn’t Robocop have some sort of futuristic baton? He is a cop after all. He has the gun and the badge (which is stamped into his chest), but never any sort of close quarter combat weapon (unless you consider that data spike in his first). Luckily Sledgehammer concept artist Jason Hazelroth decided it was high time that Alex J. Murphy was issued a good ol’ City of Detroit whoopin’ stick/laser sword (?).
What makes Hazelroth’s reimagining of our favorite cybernetic judicial officer is how it leans heavily on the cyberpunk roots the original film planted. This version of Robocop looks like he’d spring out of the pages of a William Gibson novel. He has the Eastern aesthetics that so many American cyberpunk works revel in, and it rules.
Betsy Braddock, better known as the purple-haired psychic warrior Psylocke, might be the embodiment of early ‘90s X-Men comics. She’s bold, beautiful, and ostentatious. While so much of her seems superficial at first, Psylocke has had a long, storied history that goes back to the late 1970s when she was introduced in Captain Britain #8, years before she ever adopted her codename.
Over the decades since her inception, Betsy has gone through several costume changes. From groovy butterfly facial effects and puffy purple sleeves to revealing cat suits and arbitrary ribbons, she’s worn it all. But what we love about this redesign from the Malaysian artist Nic Goh is how it incorporates several previous costume designs and blends them into something fresh and new without seeming completely alien.
New Mutants team member Illyana Nikolievna Rasputina (or Magik, if you like) has been one of the strangest characters in the X-Men universe, which is saying a lot considering that universe is populated with alien space whales, pterodactyl men, and ladies who can turn into diamond. But Magik has always been a source of fascinating stories and bizarre turns of events. She has also always has had a pretty cool costume no matter what era of the books you pick up.
That’s what makes Michael Lee Lunsford’s redesign so great. It takes all the awesome Magik costume from the last 35 years and tosses them out the window, but not before he memorizes all the little details that made them cool. This is one of those pieces of fan art that makes us wish the artist was drawing the character’s book. We’d love to see Lunsdord tackle a Magik mini-series.
Lobo rules. Plain and simple. And while he had been used a source of satire to poke fun of some of the tough guy characters in the Marvel canon, he has always been a great source for fun. He’s basically a 2000 A.D. character who escaped the pages of a Judge Dredd strip and wound up in the pages of DC Comics.
For the most part, Lobo hasn’t changed much since he first showed up in 1983 until 2014 when a new version of Lobo was introduced during DC’s New 52 relaunch. And while this Lobo was a far cry from what we had grown to love, he still had his merits, even if he wasn’t our Lobo. Slovakian artist Tibor Bedats fixed this little issue with an updated version of the bad bastisch we all love.
7 BLACK PANTHER
There’s something to be said for embracing practicality. Over the years King T’Challa of the Nation of Wakanda has gone from donning the persona of the Black Panther by what looked to be a simple black jumpsuit to slipping into something far more technologically advanced. The Black Panther costume in the most recent run of his flagship title by author Ta-Nehisi Coates looks like something from another world. And while this is awesome (Coates’ run will be right up there with Priest’s when it’s all said and done), grounding a character never hurts.
It’s the use of tangible technology and a taking a more mechanical approach to things is why we really like this version of Black Panther’s armor by an English Deviant artist known as kaseddy. Kaseddy, if you’re still out there, we dig this take on the King.
6 CAPTAIN PLANET
Nostalgia can go a long way in the hearts of a diehard fan, but it can’t forgive a green mullet. Nothing can. Not even the altruistic environmentalist lessons doled out by the owner of the aforementioned green mullet will let anyone forgive and forget. Captain Planet and the Planeteers was a Saturday morning staple for ‘90s kids for the better part of that decade. And while the messages Captain Planet and his multinational crew of defenders will always right true, Captain Planet’s get up (and hair cut) is a product of its time.
We all have been waiting with bated breath for a revival of the series. Its themes would play well to kids these days. And if the powers that be to grace us with a new version of the hit ‘90s show, we’d love to see artist Phil Cho’s take on Captain Planet, who apparently means business. Yikes!
5 RED ROBIN
Artist Toks Solarin has a knack for creating subtle, yet impactful redesigns for popular comic book characters. He incorporates the aesthetic of a superhero’s existing costume and puts his own spin on it, making it look more tangible even when his style may not convey something that could exist in the real world. Solarin adorns his heroes with more texture (think of how Frank Quitely used to draw the X-Men’s leather-clad get ups from the Grant Morrison era of New X-Men).
Solarin’s take on Tim Drake as Red Robin blends the existing outfit at the time of this redesigns inspection with a more high-tech bend. This version of Drake looks bullet proof, much like the armor worn by Batman in the Arkham series of video games. But more importantly than looking tougher than nails, this Red Robin just looks awesome.
4 WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman has seen her fair share of costume changes in her seventy plus years as the lead female superhero in the comic book world. Artist Renae De Liz added her own flair to Diana Prince in this stunning piece. This is wonderful example of an artist taking an icon and giving her just enough alteration to make her feel fresh without disrespecting what came before.
What we love about Liz’s Wonder Woman is the incorporation her more recent Greek mythology roots. Her armor looks as if it had been forged on Mouth Olympus by Zeus himself. Diana looks prepared for battle in a way that a pair of tights can never convey. Redesigns of such classic characters can go south quickly, but Liz makes this version of Wonder Woman sing.
Even if you have never read a comic book in your life, you know who Superman is. His bright blue costume and blazing red cape define his as much as his super-human strength and heat vision. Superman is impossible not to recognize. But this redesign from Slovakian artist Tibor Bedats posits a Superman that is both alien to fans and the character’s larger mythos.
With his green and white color scheme and technologically advanced Kryptonian weaponry, this vision of Kal-El redefines Superman as the alien he’s supposed to be. Perhaps this is what he would become if Krypton hadn’t been destroyed that fateful day when his birth parents sent him away to a foreign planet. If you were to see Zod don this outfit, you wouldn’t bat an eye, but with Superman wearing it, one’s imagination is piqued.
Ororo Munroe might be one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe. Her gift allows her to control the weather, which is nothing to sneeze at. Ororo (better known by her X-Men codename Storm) has seen many costume and design changes over the years, some of which have come in the form of a punk rock Mohawk and tattered leather jacket.
Mildred Louis’ revamped version of Storm is both bold and oddly makes a lot of sense. Louis has taken the route of making Ororo appear more like the goddess she truly is. Her outfit is adorned with representations of the elements. It harkens back to Storm’s African roots with a modern spin. It’s sultry and jaw-dropping. This redesign shows Storm in a manner in which other characters would bow at her feet…as they should.
The Finish artist known as BrotherBaston on Deviantart has given X-Men team leader (or mutant terrorist depending on which storyline we’re talking about) Cyclops a bold redesign. Scott Summers has gone through a myriad of getups since he’s inception back in 1963. Sometimes these outfits were based on form and function, but other times they were based on having lots of little pouches on belts for some reason (what did he keep in those?).
This redesign of Cyclops looks like something out of a Metal Gear video game. It’s a smart blend of Western comic sensibilities and Eastern techno flair. While this Cyclops would see like a fish out of water in most incarnations of the X-Men, he would have excelled in story arcs like “Age of Apocalypse.”