Artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Alex Ross and many more are responsible for some of our favorite character designs to grace the pages of our favorite comics. They created iconic costumes that defined and immortalized legendary characters like Spider-Man and Batman. But, before a character can officially hit the pages of a comic book, artists are tasked with designing a number of different versions of said character. Sometimes, a character or a whole group of characters, like the X-Men, need a fresh look for a new comic book title, so artists are invited to redesign the appearance of our favorite heroes. A bunch of different concepts are submitted to Marvel and DC Comics, but only one of those designs ends up making it to print. The designs that don't make the cut are sometimes shared by the artists on social media or published in books or collections.
Since we've had so much fun digging up unused concept art from movies and television series, we decided it's time to take a closer look at some of the rejected comic book concept art. Comics has been around for decades and in that time countless characters have appeared on in the pages of the ever-growing medium. A lot of those characters went through some fascinating costume changes dreamed up by amazing artists. Today, we want to honor those costume designs that didn't get the chance to become part of comic book history. For better or for worse, here are 20 abandoned pieces of comics concept art.
15 BLACK BOLT
The Inhumans were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, first hitting the pages of a comic book in Fantastic Four #45 in December, 1965. Not so long ago, the Inhumans got their live-action debut. Marvel’s The Inhumans television series, filmed in IMAX no less, debuted and failed miserably on ABC. Suffice it to say, compared to The Inhumans, Netflix’s Iron Fist is passable.
A couple of years prior, the Inhumans were revamped by Steve McNiven in the Uncanny Inhumans. McNiven’s final design foe Black Bolt was inspired by MCU costumes and Black Bolt’s original costume. Initially McNiven wanted to lose the masks but Marvel said no. Well, at least the belt made it into the final design.
14 KID FLASH
Ever since Bart Allen has arrived in the DC Universe, he's been through many costume and identity changes. Debuting as Impulse, then becoming Kid Flash, then the Flash and then back to Kid Flash, Bart settled in the DCU's New 52 era as the junior speedster to Barry (or Wally). Unfortunately, we have yet to see him in DC's Rebirth line, but our fingers are crossed for after "Flash War".
This sketch comes from DC Comics' short time in the New 52 and features a very different looking mask and hairstyle for Bart. With the top of his mask pushing his hair to the middle, the red mohawk look actually kind of looks cool, and we would've loved to see that mane in motion.
Everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood superhero, Peter Parker was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Spider-Man made his debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 in August, 1962 and has become one of the most iconic comic book characters ever made.
Though the Spider-Man we know and love today was designed by Steve Ditko, and Ditko is credited for Spidey’s creation, Jack Kirby also made his version of Spider-Man. What you see above is Kirby’s very different take on the web-crawler. A while back, an actual colored drawing of this Spider-Man appeared on the internet that some have claimed to be Kirby’s original design, but it turned out to be a hoax.
Created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, Nightcrawler made his debut in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in May 1975. Nightcrawler’s original costume is regarded by many as one of the best X-Men costumes of all time. Naturally, his costume changed throughout the years, but the original remains a fan-favorite.
In 2011, artist Rafael Grampa submitted this design to Marvel, which ended up not getting the green light. Marvel invited Grampa to do an X-Force cover and design a new look for Nightcrawler. According to the artist, the jacket is based on Michael Jackson’s jacket in Thriller, because he always thought Nightcrawler was based on the King of Pop.
11 RED HOOD
If there's one costume that we don't think needs any sort of major work done on it, it's the Red Hood's. Looking sleek and menacing in a jacket and a great looking mask, the former Robin's Red Hood look suited the character. This New 52 sketch isn't that far off from what he's wearing right now, but we're not sold on the slight changes.
With his sleeves rolled up (which he's been known to do), the strange gold gloves or arms don't really suit the rest of the look. We do sort of enjoy the utility belt strapped across his body though.
10 GHOST RIDER
Ghost Rider was created by Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog, appearing first in Marvel Spotlight #5 in August, 1975. Ghost Rider has one of the most memorable designs for one simple reason -- he has a flaming skull for a head. Which makes him a cosplayer’s greatest nightmare.
Javier Saltares is a longtime Ghost Rider artist and he shared this incredible unpublished redesign of Ghost Rider that he created in 2004. According to the artist, the design was an attempt to show Ghost Rider more in control of his powers. It’s a unique and bold design, but Marvel wan't sold on it.
Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat, made her first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #129 in January 1980. Chris Claremont and John Byrne are credited for the creation of Kitty Pryde. Throughout her comic book history, Kitty has had a number of very different, and at times crazy, costumes.
But aside from the myriad of great ones and awful ones that actually made it to print, just like any other character, Kitty Pryde has some unused designs too. Such as the one featured above, created by Michael Golden. Frankly, considering what kind of outfits she’s been put into in the comics, this would not have been the worst thing to happen.
Spider-Woman was created by Archie Goodwin, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney and Marie Severin, appearing for the first time in Marvel Spotlight #32 in February, 1977. Jess Drew donned on a red-yellow costume with a classic cowl.
In 2014, Spider-Woman got a brand-new costume, courtesy of Kris Anka. Anka shared a bunch of alternate designs that were rejected, including the ones you see above. According to the artist, the idea behind this design was to give Spider-Woman’s costume a stronger spy vibe. Because she’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Anka wanted to give her cool technology and fabrics that aren’t readily available to just anyone.
Matt Murdock made his debut in Daredevil #1 in April, 1964. The character was created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. Over the years, Daredevil’s costume has gone through a lot of changes, but perhaps the most controversial one happened in Daredevil #321. In 1993, writer D.G. Chichester and artist Scott McDaniel decided to revamp Daredevil and give him an armored suit.
The armored suit didn’t last long, much to the delight of the vast majority of Daredevil’s fans. If, however, you’re among the select few who liked Daredevil’s armored suit, here’s a couple of unused designs you might enjoy. Perhaps the ones without the shoulder plates would have worked better.
The X-Factor detector, Caliban, recently appeared on the big screen in X-Men: Apocalypse and Logan. Caliban made his first comic book appearance in Uncanny X-Men #148 in August, 1981. However, initially, Caliban was intended to be a member of an X-Men “in-training” secondary team, alongside Kitty Pryde. This idea was scrapped in order to avoid the “Legion of Substitute X-Men” stigma.
But, not everything is lost. John Byrne's incredibly creepy concept art for Caliban still remains. As you can see, Byrne's Caliban looked nothing like the Caliban we know today. Not even his powers were the same. In a way, only the name stuck around.
Thunderbird was created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, appearing first in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in May, 1975. Recently, the character appeared on FOX’s series The Gifted as one of the main characters and the leader of the Mutant Underground. Thunderbird is portrayed by Blair Redford, who hasn’t yet donned on a costume.
It will certainly be interesting to see what the concept artists will come up with, if Redford ever does get a costume. Until then, here’s the original concept art Dave Cockrum created for Thunderbird. All we can say is, it’s a good thing he wasn’t dead set on this particular design.
4 WONDER GIRL
Continuing the changes (or damage) that came along with the New 52, Wonder Girl also got a new look -- one that mixed and matched a bit of the old with the new. Donning some classic tights and a pair of superheroing boots, she goes a little modern up top with a sleeveless hoodie.
Considering how Cassie ended up looking in the New 52, we think this outfit would've look great on her during her time with the Teen Titans and she could've been saved from being on several "worst dressed" lists.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men series started its run after the release of the first X-Men movie, which inspired the X-Men’s new look. Quitely gave the team matching jackets with large yellow X’s that made the costumes stand out.
The abandoned designs featured above show that Alex Ross had a similar idea with the abstracted X’s but done in a very different, rather minimalistic style. While Angel and Nightcrawler both look very interesting, Cyclops’ costume is by far the coolest. The one question we have to ask though is, what the hell is up with all the hoods?
2 BLACK PANTHER
Black Panther was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, making his first appearance in Fantastic Four #52 in July, 1966. Black Panther made history by becoming the first black superhero to appear in a mainstream comic book.
T’Challa’s trademark look is an all-black costume -- a design that inspired the live-action costume worn by Chadwick Boseman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Black Panther almost looked entirely different. What you see above is Jack Kirby’s original concept art for Black Panther -- at the time, referred to as Coal Tiger. This old-fashioned design with no mask and bright yellow jumper luckily never made it to print.
We've already seen the kind of magic that Alex Ross can pull out of his hat when it comes to redesigned classic looks, so while his take on Robin might be a drastic change from the norm, we can at least say it looks pretty interesting.
Extending the fish scale-like tights he usually wears to go down both of his legs (with additions to his arms) and with a hood that looks very bird-inspired, this version of Robin is less susceptible to becoming the butt of jokes, or to being nothing more than a bright target.