When you think of some of the best superhero costumes in comics, most share one characteristic above all else – practicality. Batman has, arguably, the most famous superhero costume, and it’s also one of the most practical. Every facet of his costume has a function and purpose. Iron Man, Captain America, even Spider-Man all have very practical costumes. In Iron Man’s case, his suit is the definition of practical, as it’s the thing that gives him his power. However, over the years, some superhero costumes have been used that leave readers scratching their heads, wondering why would a hero wear THAT?
If you’re a ninja, why would you wear something brightly colored that doesn’t offer any stealth? If you’re a demigod warrior, wouldn’t you want just a little bit of armor? Also, if you’re a hand-to-hand combat specialist, do you really think that fish nets and a loose fitting, black leather jacket is the way to go? The artists who have designed these outfits were clearly thinking of iconic imagery and less about function. And no, it’s not all about skimpy female costumes, either. Male superheroes have just as many ridiculous outfits. Let’s take a look at 15 of the most impractical superhero costumes.
You may be thinking that Starfire is clearly only on this list because her outfit, through the decades, became a laughing stock because of how skimpy it is. While that’s completely true, that’s not the only reason she graces this list. When you look at Starfire’s beginnings, and hear her backstory, it makes her costume even more mind-boggling. Teen Titans artist George Perez described his inspiration in her design as “Red Sonja in space.” She was a princess on a planet, where she was a highly trained warrior, similar to Wonder Woman. So, why are her breasts popping out?
She was clearly created to be a sexy character, and that’s fine, but don’t give her a background that would suggest that she shouldn’t be wearing little strips of fabric for a costume. Never mind the fact that her power list would suggest that wearing that outfit while flying at super speeds would result in countless wardrobe malfunctions. It’s just a really badly designed costume.
14 JAY GARRICK
Let’s get one thing out of the way first, Jay Garrick’s Flash costume is one of the most iconic costumes of any superhero. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. When you talk about impracticality, you have to wonder why a man with superhuman speed would wear a loose-fitting, solid metal helmet. How does it stay on his head? Sure, it looks great, and has a backstory, but there’s no way that helps him as he runs.
Next, why no mask? What would be easier, concealing your identity with a mask or vibrating a superhuman speeds so that your face is a blur? Clearly, he needs a mask. Lastly, why does a speedster where a costume that is ill-fitting? If you look at the Barry Allen/Wally West Flash costume and then Jay Garrick, you see all the flaws in Garrick’s costume. No mask, bad helmet, and no aerodynamics.
13 RED SONJA
Have you ever seen chainmail in person? First, it’s heavy as hell. Second, it doesn’t really flex all that well. Lastly, it doesn’t really work unless you wear something under it, otherwise you get pinched by metal and it's incredibly uncomfortable. So, you definitely wouldn’t want to wear a bikini made from it and fight people in sword-to-sword combat like Red Sonja.
Chainmail is great at stopping knives and swords from slashing you, but it really only works if you either use it as accent material with lots of armor, or at least wear chainmail all over your body. Red Sonja just “protects” her breasts and then adds a little bit to cover her downstairs. Not the smartest thing for a savage warrior. Well, at least she wears leather gloves and boots most of the time.
Cable is a classic example of everything wrong with ‘90s-era costume design. When he was introduced in New Mutants, Cable was covered from head to toe in pads and pouches. No wonder he has to be incredibly strong, with that much crap weighing him down constantly. It’s madness. How does he even know what’s in his pouches? He must lose track. It’s as if Batman decided the utility belt wasn’t enough and then just draped belt after belt all over his body. It’s just overkill.
Then we have to mention the big guns he always carries around. This man is a telepath, telekinetic, and expert marksman, right? Wouldn’t he be able to use much smaller guns, when needed, and still be able to take out most villains? The whole costume just screams of overcompensating. That being said, Cable’s costume is way more functional than his clone’s…
There’s no point in trying to explain Stryfe’s background. For all intents and purposes, he’s just Cable’s evil clone, and boy, does he look ridiculous. There isn’t one aspect of his costume that serves any function. He wears head-to-toe sharp metal. He even has metal spikes on his thighs! That’s not even close to as crazy as his headdress/helmet. For no reason, the helmet looks like he glued large razor blades to the side of his head.
Now, an apologist could say that this is all armor, and villains should wear armor. Okay, sure, but why then does he wear a huge, flowing red cape? If he’s so worried about combat injuries, then maybe don’t have a huge liability strapped to your body, like a red cape. Then the icing on the cake is the “nipples” that he is sometimes drawn with, which are little circles, inexplicably placed on his pecks.
In theory, if you’re a ninja, you want to have a costume that is easy to move around in and provides great flexibility. However, if you Google pictures of ninjas, they definitely don’t look like Elektra. Ninja costumes have always been about function. They conceal your identity, provide stealth, and obviously, are light and flexible. Elektra’s costume fails two of those three criteria.
First off, her costume is bright red. There’s no blending in the shadows when you’re wearing bright red. She stands out like a sore thumb, especially among the rest of the ninjas that have appeared in Daredevil. Then there’s the fact that there is no denying who she is, as she makes no attempt to hide her identity. Her face is not covered at all, like how she doesn’t really cover much else of her body. While her costume is striking, it is perhaps the worst possible costume for a ninja.
Unlike most of the characters on this list, Grifter doesn’t really have much of a costume. He’s just a guy who wears a trench coat and kills lots of people. However, he wears a loose-fitting piece of fabric over his face. It’s that silly fabric mask that destroys the functionality of his costume.
It doesn’t matter how great of a marksman you may be; if you put a loose mask over your face, with two small eye holes, suddenly you can’t shoot anything. It might be possible to still hit your target if you don’t move at all when firing your gun, but even if there’s a little breeze, and your mask flutters, your vision is all screwed up. Grifter should go down to his local department store and buy a ski mask. That’s a much better option than covering your entire face with a bandanna.
8 BLACK CANARY
Black Canary has one of the best costumes on the list, from a pure design perspective. The costume fits her character’s personality, and looks great on the page. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t make any practical sense. The loose fitting leather jacket just is not the best idea if you’re someone who is an expert martial artist. The jacket limits your arm movements, and gives your enemy way too much fabric to grab onto. The jacket is just one of her problems, though.
Those fishnets... just... why? Yes, it’s a cool visual. Sure, it adds some sex appeal, and women are allowed to dress however they want. But damn, it doesn’t make sense for a martial artist to wear fishnets knowing full well that she’s going to be fighting hand-to-hand. Does she own the world’s strongest fishnets or does she just have piles of them back at her home? Just buy pants.
7 AZRAEL BATMAN
As we discussed at the very beginning of the list, Batman might have the most practical costume of all time. He looks intimidating. The utility belt and other gadgets provide increased functionality. And of course, the lightness of the costume gives him the flexibility to fight bad guys. Well, when Jean-Paul Valley, aka Azrael, took over as Batman, the costume he adopts just ignores all the practicality of the original Batman costume.
The Azrael Batman costume completely ditches the stealth aspect. There’s bright gold metal all over the place. Next, it’s not very intimidating. The classic Batman costume looks scary and menacing, whereas the Azrael Batman looks silly and over the top. Lastly, it’s not very functional. Even if the comics show him doing the same things as classic Batman, the weight of the armor, and the overall bulkiness, just completely make it impractical as a Batman costume. Oh, and of course, it’s just ugly.
6 EMMA FROST
No, adding Emma Frost to this list has nothing to do with her being scantily clad. The reason she’s on this list is purely because her costume just doesn’t make any practical sense. As a member of the Hellfire Club, you may be able to argue some parts of her costume as reasonable. However, as a hero, it just doesn’t work.
First, there’s no reason any hero should wear high heels. As long as a character walks around, and might have to run at some point, then high heels are out of the question. Of course, Emma is not much of a hand-to-hand specialist, but she does throw a punch every now and then, especially when she's in her diamond form. The way the upper half of her costume defies gravity, well, it’s not very smart of her to ever punch or make sudden movements. She’s bound to have an embarrassing wardrobe snafu.
Let’s be honest with each other, the only reason Tigra is wearing what she wears is because artists want to show off her tiger-like body. She’s basically a pure animalistic character that’s all about slashing enemies with her claws, similar to Wolverine. However, you don’t see Wolverine running around in a speedo to fight enemies. So, why does Tigra just wear a skimpy bikini?
You can argue that cats, in general, tend to not wear clothes, therefore a cat-like character shouldn’t need to wear a full costume. However, anyone who fights with claws should probably want some level of protection, right? It doesn’t make sense that she would leave 95% of her body open to injury. Sure, the stripes are cool to look at, but let’s give the girl a little more armor and protection!
Speaking of armor and protection, let’s talk about Hercules. The most apt comparison to Hercules that Marvel has is Thor. They’re both super powerful gods, with strength and invulnerability. However, Thor actually wears armor over most of his body, knowing that even he can get hurt from time to time. Hercules, on the other hand, wears a sash and a skirt.
That’s not to say that male characters can’t wear things like that, but someone whose first inclination is to run headfirst into danger, even when he’s outnumbered and out gunned, you would think he’d want to protect himself. Even in the most recent costume, he puts on some pants and knee pads, but for some reason, just decides to go shirtless. Yes, he’s proud of his power and physique, but he can still wear sleeveless armor and flex his biceps.
If you had the superpower of stealing the memories, personality, and powers of people just through the slightest skin-to-skin touch, wouldn’t you want to completely control when that happened? With Rogue, X-Men artists through the years have always made sure to cover 95% of her body, but honestly that’s not enough!
This might not be the most popular thing to say, but to make Rogue’s costume the most practical it can be, she needs to wear a full face mask. Spider-Man has a more practical Rogue costume than Rogue does. Rogue shouldn’t leave anything open to chance. It’s not just her enemies that are affected by her power, she is greatly affected too, to the point of being debilitated. So, while it might not be the most attractive costume for Rogue to wear, it just makes the most sense to cover every inch of her body. Then give her removable gloves for when she needs to use her power.
Shatterstar’s old school costume must have come from the same tailor that designed Cable’s excessive outfit. Yes, he has the pouches that don’t make sense, but Shatterstar has a few extra flourishes that push his costume into complete impracticality. First, you have to talk about the double-bladed swords. What in the world does a sword with two blades do for you? It has to be way harder to maneuver and use in battle. It’s silly looking, also.
Next, as an expert fighter, why would you wear anything that restricts movement or impairs your senses? A cushioned headpiece that covers your hears, impairing your hearing, and goes around your face, which might impair your vision, just doesn’t seem functional at all. These practicality complaints also extend to the little weird cape and oversized shoulder pad. None of it makes any sense.
Imagine taking Spider-Man’s sleek, maneuverable, costume and put a trench coat over it. Suddenly, he’s weighed down by the fabric, unable to swing very well, and just can’t do the same moves that he could do with his normal costume. That’s the problem with Gambit’s very impractical costume.
Gambit is a character who is good at martial arts, and uses a staff quite often. So why would he want to limit his movements by a heavy trench coat? It doesn’t make sense. It doubly doesn’t make sense when you factor in his mutant ability of “charging” inanimate objects, making them into exploding projectiles. If you constantly have to throw things, why would you wear a coat of any kind? If any character should be sleeveless, it probably should be Gambit. Instead, he wears this bulky, trench coat and tries to throw playing cards with accuracy. It’s just silly.
Can you think of anyone else who has an impractical or completely inappropriate costume? Let us know in the comments!