Costumes for superheroes and villains are among the most critical aspects of a character’s commercial success. When someone new arrives on the scene, there is usually one chance to win over readers or become a complete joke in the mind of comic fans. However, there are also characters that developed a nice fanbase from the start. They wore iconic outfits through the years, but then underwent a costume change that fans rejected. Whether it was an embarrassing look, a humiliating appearance, or simply a tasteless costume design, it is these poorly thought-out uniforms that can drive a character’s value to the lowest of lows.
When it comes to tasteless uniforms, they come in many styles and designs. For some, these costumes can be in some way offensive, making the hero or villain a caricature instead of an actualized three-dimensional being. For others, the distaste comes from the fact that their costume is ridiculous and looks like someone with no idea what a superpowered character should look like designed it. Other times, the costumes are just inappropriate in every possible way, whether the character is a hero or villain.
When it comes to Psylocke, the costume that most fans know is her skimpy attire that she has wore for much of the last three decades. However, when Marvel Comics moved the mutant from the pages of Captain Britain to the world of the X-Men, a change was made. Betsy Braddock, the twin sister of Captain Britain and a telepath, had her mind placed in the body of a Japanese mutant, a move many fans believed was cultural appropriation.
While still a British woman on the outside, Betsy took on a bizarre looking version of the Captain Britain suit before eventually moving on to the world of mutants and becoming a Japanese woman. Interestingly, while she always wore full body suits and armor while in her own body, as soon as she took over the body of an Asian woman, she started to wear almost nothing, exposing someone else's body.
While putting superheroes in skimpy outfits is nothing new in a comic book world that often oversexualizes female characters, it seemed the wrong thing to do in the pages of New Mutants. The problem isn’t so much the costume in this case, but the character who ended up wearing the outfit. Illyana Rasputin was the kid sister of Colossus, and X-Men fans started following her as a very young girl.
After a stint in Limbo, she returned to life and ended up changed – a powerful sorceress with the mutant power to teleport. Illyana also changed mentally, becoming much more nihilistic at times due to her living mostly without a soul. The artists at this point chose to dress her in very skimpy and revealing outfits, which some fans found highly distasteful since she was still a young teenage girl at that time.
You have to feel sorry for Vinnie Jones. There were a lot of options when designing a Juggernaut costume for X-Men: The Last Stand. Sure, the comic book version seemed hard to pull off in a live-action movie, with the giant armored helmet and shiny red body suit. However, the final result made it look like the costume designers saw the armored rings on his biceps and forearms and had immediate thoughts of bondage.
That might be the best way to describe the way Juggernaut looked in that third, critically-panned X-Men movie. The helmet was there, but the rest of the costume makes Juggernaut look like a medieval torturer, with brown leather straps crisscrossing his upper body while allowing a good look at a bare torso. They kept the armbands, but this costume made no sense outside of a bondage parlor.
It is often hard these days to please everyone, but there are times where some comic book characters dress in excess, and not always in the form of revealing outfits. In the case of Cable, there have been a ton of costume and design changes since his introduction but when it came to X-Cutioner’s Song, the excess of the ‘90s was on full display.
In this costume, Cable has enough guns to arm an entire branch of the NRA. With his giant shoulder pads and all those guns strapped to his back, it seems almost impossible to understand how he could move around at all, much less go into battle. Of course, knowing how much Cable loves to shoot things, it makes sense, but it was just overdone to the point of ridiculousness.
11 THE HATE-MONGER
When comic books start to deal with real-life issues like racism, there is a fine line to follow. The X-Men provide the perfect way to deal with issues like prejudice in a way that entertains everyone, regardless of political belief. However, some characters are so over-the-top in their design and features that it makes the entire thought of them tasteless.
The Hate-Monger is one of these characters in the Marvel Universe. His start was controversial, as Hate-Monger was a clone of Adolf Hitler. Created by Arnim Zola, this character allowed the former Nazi leader to transfer his mind into a new body and continue as a force of evil. Interestingly, it was the Fantastic Four who first battled Hate-Monger, and his costume was a completely tasteless purple outfit that looked just like something out of the Ku Klux Klan.
10 INVISIBLE WOMAN
When it comes to Marvel Comics, there was a period early on where female characters either dressed like high society debutantes or housewives. There were some who broke the stereotype, such as Carol Danvers, but when it came to Marvel’s female superheroes, they erred on the side of Janet Van Dyne or Susan Storm. In the ‘90s, Marvel started to sexualize the characters, selling the new look to its male teenage fanbase.
When the Invisible Woman underwent a costume change in the ‘90s, it was a shock to the system. A mother and powerfully independent character, Susan Storm suddenly and without warning changed her costume from the traditional Fantastic Four look to more of a swimsuit. It featured the "4" as a cutout on her chest along with knee-high boots. This change in costume lasted one year before Marvel put clothes back on Storm.
9 KITTY PRYDE
Sometimes, tasteless costumes have little to do with risqué or controversial looks. Sometimes, tasteless just means tasteless, and there is one Marvel Comics character who had almost no taste when trying to design her own costumes. It all started in The Avengers comic books when Janet Van Dyne began using her designing skills to create new outfits for The Wasp. However, when the X-Men books decided to have Kitty Pryde do the same thing, it was a disaster.
Of course, that was the joke. Kitty was not a fashion designer like Jan, and the entire purpose was for her to create terrible costumes, each more ludicrous than the last. In her time of designing her outfits, she at one time dressed up in a gaudy disco skate outfit with legwarmers. Her uniforms ended up more and more flamboyant with dozens of tasteless changes over the years.
Thor has undergone many costume changes, although he always ends up going back to the more traditional outfit time and time again. However, out of all the costume changes, the most tasteless and embarrassing came in the ‘90s during The Crossing. Forget about Iron Man turning out to be a villain all along, the most embarrassing moment in this entire crossover was the Thor costume reboot.
Thor had giant shoulder pads, a strange helmet that was nothing like his classic headgear, straps that crisscrossed his body and a large buckle in front of his chest. There is also a long chain that connects to Mjolnir, making no sense at all. Add in the long wavy blonde hair, and the entire outfit looks like something that Fabio might wear. Marvel soon retconned The Crossing storyline and Thor went back to dressing semi-normal.
7 FERAL WOLVERINE
Wolverine has some of the most iconic and beloved costumes in the Marvel Comics universe. Both his classic yellow and blue outfit and the John Byrne designed brown uniform remain entrenched in time as some of the best in the history of the X-Men. Most movie fans are used to his black costume from the movies, and the Old Man Logan look even made an appearance in Logan. However, there is one costume in the comics that remains a tasteless embarrassment.
In 1996, Wolverine lost his adamantium skeleton at the hands of Magneto, and then his bone claws returned. Following a battle with Genesis, he ended up devolving into Feral Wolverine. Hair sprouted all over his body, and his costume was a ripped up mess. However, the most significant sin was his mask, making it look like Logan no longer had a nose. It was the worst look of Wolverine’s existence.
6 LUKE CAGE
Luke Cage’s original costume remains iconic and beloved by many of his fans. However, the entire idea of the Power Man outfit was offensive and tasteless, the design based on the Blaxploitation genre of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He wore a yellow shirt, unbuttoned to his waste, with a giant chain used as a belt. It is a classic look but made Luke Cage look like a stereotypical African-American crime fighter from the start.
It also didn’t help that he teamed with Iron Fist. Danny Rand was a white rich kid who ended up taking on the role of the oriental-based superhero Iron Fist. Much like Luke Cage, Marvel created Rand's costume, based on an exploitation design, this time from classic martial arts films.
The classic Magneto costume was a brilliant red uniform with the awesome helmet that made him one of the most recognizable villains the Marvel Universe. Even when the X-Men movies removed the colors from his costume and made it black, Magneto still maintained much of his classic appearance. By X-Men: Days of Future Past, he had the closest look to his favored appearance.
However, in the comics, Marvel decided at one point to make him a hero to try and atone for his previous sins. The company took away his iconic costume and helmet and dressed him in a full purple, sleeveless bodysuit to make him look different. There was also a giant M on the front, from his shoulders down to his waist, so everyone would know he was Magneto. It was ugly, tasteless, and a massive disappointment for a character with such an iconic look.
Hawkeye's iconic purple and blue suit will always remain the preferred classic look for the popular Avengers’ archer. His more recent uniform is a take on the S.H.I.E.L.D. look, although sleeveless for some reason. Despite that, the look works for Clint Barton. However, there was one look that Hawkeye took on in the early ‘70s that stands the test of time as the worst of his entire career.
Hawkeye left his role as an archer and used Pym particles to become Goliath for a period. However, after this stint ended, Hawkeye returned but took on a new look where he wore a strange sleeveless tunic. That was also all he wore, outside of his boots, wristbands and quiver, so it looked like Hawkeye was heading out with his bow and arrows to attend a medieval fair. This was one of the strangest costumes in Marvel history.
Storm has undergone many changes in costumes over the years. Her original outfit was a simple X-Men uniform before she took on her iconic look with the swimsuit looking black leather costume with a long cape and thigh-high boots. Her next look was highly controversial at the time, with a tall white mohawk, black leather sleeveless jacket, black leather pants and a white low-cut top. Both of those looks remain iconic and have their large share of fans.
However, that changed when Emma Frost took over the role as the leader of the Xavier Institute. Emma has always loved her risqué uniforms and is not one to bow before modesty. That made the school uniform she gave Storm very out-of-place for someone with her elegance and history. It was a schoolgirl costume that even Storm found tasteless and unnecessary.
There were a lot of complaints after Iron Man 3 about the revelation that Ben Kingsley’s character was not The Mandarin. However, bringing a character like Mandarin to the big screen was a tough task anyway. Over the years, Marvel even figured out that it needed to change Mandarin in the comics by making him look like a younger businessman, which was very important to make him acceptable by today’s standards.
That is because the original costume for Mandarin was completely tasteless since Marvel threw just about every offensive Asian stereotype at the villain, making him the poster child for the so-called "Yellow Peril" trope so pervasive at the time. From the horns and Asian-styled cape to the Fu-Manchu, the original Mandarin costume is everything that is wrong with stereotyping in comic books.
The Whiplash character in Iron Man comics had a nice sleek look that bordered on cool at times; an armored villain with an iron mask and glowing electronic whips. He was a powerful looking villain, but it seemed that Iron Man 2 wanted to make Whiplash look different than the villain from the first Iron Man movie. The MCU took away the armor until he geared up for the final battle and put Mickey Rourke in a ridiculous costume during one particular scene at a car race.
Whiplash in Iron Man 2 saw Rourke wear baggy orange pants and no shirt. Instead, he used the reactor on his chest and had random straps moving down his arms to create the electric whips. While it made sense from a scientific point-of-view, it looked completely ridiculous. By the time they put Whiplash in the armor at the end, it couldn't erase the memories of the tasteless costume he had worn early in the movie.
Which Marvel costumes do YOU find tasteless? Let us know in the comments!