In their many, many years of protecting a world that hates and fears them, the X-Men have met and battled with a seemingly endless parade of super-powered baddies, both human and mutant. Most remember these villains for their questionable deeds, the myriad times they’ve held entire cities or indeed the world hostage to their every nefarious whim until they finally taste defeat at the hands of Professor Charles Xavier’s student. Seemingly no deed is too despicable for this group of criminals, of madmen and mad gods. However, none of these acts should be so bad that we can’t also judge them for what they are wearing.
Supervillains traditionally seem to enjoy dressing the part; the more over the top, the better. In some cases, this works just fine — if you’re going to be chewing the scenery with your purple dialogue and entitled posturing, why not also dress as big as your ambitions? For the most part, though, a lot of these villains just end up looking pretty goofy. The scariest part of their attire is that, if they actually thought it would be a good idea to leave the house looking like that, what other horrors could they be capable of? Happily, there are more than a few of the X-Men’s rogues gallery who like the way they look, and why wouldn’t they? Please join us now as we give our favorite X-Villains the Mr. Blackwell treatment and find out which are hot and which are not.
20 BEST: MAGNETO
Just because you’re a mutant baddie bent on world domination and elimination of the inferior human race doesn’t mean you can’t look like a million dollars while doing it. Of course, the classic X-Men villain has the arguably most iconic look. Even though the cape is sometimes a bit overstated, there’s no stopping that classic red/magenta scheme. And that helmet? Forget about it!
In canon, the helmet is functional, helping keep Charles Xavier from reading his mind, but the form is important as well. In the Kirby days, Magento’s helmet had pronounced red horns, to point up his evil ways. Furthermore, the old-timey lock shape of the mask portion echoes the helmets worn by knights of yore, and Magneto most certainly sees himself in shining armor.
19 WORST: ‘80S MAGNETO
Fashionably speaking, the 1980s were very difficult for everyone. Magneto, having a change of heart, became a good guy, hoping to pick up where his friend Charles Xavier had left off. To go along with that, Magneto gave himself a whole new look, and boy, while his heart may have been in the right place, his sense of style got left on the bus or something.
The helmet is like the lynchpin: once you lose that, the whole outfit falls apart. On top of that, he chose a more purple color scheme, which does send a softer message than the strong reds he used to favor, but also makes him look like he’s in a lounge act. The big M across his chest? Well, the less said about that, the better..
18 BEST: SABRETOOTH
Sabretooth’s costume has gone through many, many, very different iterations, but they always come back to the same thing: simple functionality designed to improve his ability to slash guys. He also tends to favor the earth tones of brown and tan, acting as perfect counterpoint to his all-time arch-nemesis, Wolverine.
Sometimes he opts for that weird headdress a lot of ‘90s supes wore, where it goes up the back of the head and around the forehead, leaving the face and hair unencumbered. It looks very goofy on Cyclops, say, but Victor Creed can always pull it off. Same with the fingerless gloves: Any other character looks like they’re in Dexy’s Midnight Runners with those, but Vic actually makes them look good.
17 WORST: DONALD PIERCE
He may lead the Reavers, but certainly not down any runways. This may be a bold statement about superhero comics, but the cape? It’s not for everybody. Oh, sure, your Thors or your Visions might be able to get away with it. But a relatively low-powered cyborg? He just ends up looking like a really catty android.
Not to harp on the cape, but if you’re not flying through the night skies, it’s just kind of… there. Add to that the ordinate neck piece thing Donald used to wear a lot — what is that, a collar? A 1970s necklace to be worn to the Oscars? A golden toilet seat? Whatever it is, it’s tacky and seemingly non-functional. No thanks, Don.
16 BEST: ESME CUCKOO
Technically, all of the Stepford Cuckoos were always dressed to the nines, as one would expect of the ingenues of Ms. Emma Frost. But Esme was not only the one to turn heel, she was also the one who further rebelled by getting a bob and finally adding some color to her fashion palette.
And of course, when she hit the scene on Magneto’s arm, that was when she really let her freak flag fly. When the likes of Sue Richards became Malice, for example, what transpired was a gaudy, leather mess. But when Esme went over to the dark side, she at least was able to bring some fashion sense with her and make those fishnets work.
15 WORST: THE HELLFIRE CLUB
As we have already mentioned, the White Queen Emma Frost is one of Marvel Comics’ most valuable fashion plates, but that was not always the case. She and her compatriots in the Hellfire Club committed all sorts of bad deeds back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, but the worst was the devotion to Victorian girdle training.
The women and their thigh-high boots were bad enough, but all the men also dressed like turn-of-the-century fops. Sebastian Shaw is one of the most powerful mutants on Earth, but how intimidating can one be when one is dressed like a day player for a community theatre production of A Woman of No Importance?
14 BEST: THE PURIFIERS
Talk about your Sunday best: For a bunch of right-wing anti-mutant born-agains, the Purifers can really put an outfit together. Their leader, the Rt. Hon. Reverend William Stryker, from his first appearance, chose a dapper, soft-spoken three-piece suit, with a boutonniere that says he appreciates beauty even while practicing genocide.
The Purifiers’ later appearances in Uncanny X-Force were less understated but still not without a touch of class. Opting for classic brown robes with large white crosses down the front, they looked like modern-day monks yet somehow more celibate. Of course, the flowing robes allowed for more comfort while running from the comeuppance of the X-Men as well.
13 WORST: CALLISTO
Granted, a lifetime in the sewers, constantly on the run from the "flatscans" above and watching your friends and loved ones all perish will all take a toll on your looks. We also don’t hold it against her when she had her arms replaced with tentacles for a short while — happens to the best of us. However, let’s leave the eyepatches to heads of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Callisto also makes that rookie mistake of relying on lots of leather to make her look tough, but how does she keep it clean down in the tunnels? Spoiler alert: she doesn’t. Maybe you wouldn’t feel compelled to live in the sewers quite so much if you went to an actual hairstylist and did something about that mop as well.
12 BEST: BLACK TOM CASSIDY
His cousin Sean could definitely take a page out of Black Tom’s book and ditch that garish green-and-yellow flying squirrel costume for a nice black-and-red number. Although Tom has often indulged that X-Villain predilection for the oversized collar, generally speaking, his costume suits his name: simple, dark, only slightly inelegant.
His costume also comes into sharper focus when compared with his best buddy, Cain Marko, the unstoppable Juggernaut. Standing next to Juggy, Tom looks even more stylish, even with the strange Nightwing-ish logo on his chest sometimes, or that big goofy red belt. Sure, it’s easy to look subtle compared to Cain, but still.
11 WORST: JUGGERNAUT
Juggernaut is almost as definitive an X-Men villain as Magneto, but where Magneto relies more on intellect and skill than raw power, Juggernaut does so on not much more than brute strength. The same could be said of his ensemble. Again, in a counterpoint to Magneto’s cool, sleek helmet, Juggernaut’s headgear really paints him as the thick-headed simpleton he is.
Truth be told, Juggernaut’s outfit does really fit him well, which is likely why his outfit hasn’t gone through quite as many different iterations in the comics as some of the other characters discussed here. But what’s with the drab earth tones all the time, Cain? It gets kind of crimson sometimes, we suppose, but it seems like little of Cyttorak’s magic is used for color palette at all.
10 BEST: LADY DEATHSTRIKE
Yuriko Oyama just barely made this list, but if anyone can pull this look off, it is Lady Deathstrike. Her original look was kind of a weird samurai-meets-kamikaze-pilot vibe that took some getting used to. The head covering she used to wear looked like an old-timey football helmet which had pizzazzed-out by Steven Tyler; but again, she made it work.
Perhaps taking a cue from the movie version that appeared in X2, her appearance these days is much more simple and twice as deadly. If looks could slay, Yuriko wouldn’t need all those cyber implants she got from Spiral. Today, she goes with a much simpler ensemble, letting her luxurious hair breathe and sometimes even opting for day-of-the-dead facepaint.
9 WORST: MALICE
Oh, no, that hair simply won't do. Even for the late ‘80s, when she was rendered most often by Mark Silvestri, this was unacceptable. Chrissie Hynde never even got her hair like that, and we don’t care if Lorna Dane was being possessed by one of Mr. Sinister’s Marauders, there’s just no excuse for leaving the house like this.
Silvestri hair aside, Malice also seems to have an affinity for fishnets, though they were sleeves instead of leggings. How did fishnets become the official sponsor of bad girls of the Marvel universe? Like Black Tom’s shillelagh, it feels a bit on the nose most of the time.
8 BEST: VULCAN
The long lost Summers brother is also quite the hunk of burning love. If there’s been one recurring theme here, it’s that simplicity is key; less is in fact more. Gabe Summers tends to favor a simple red and blue outfit, which is a bit reminiscent of Thunderbird’s costume (though a touch less garish).
Here’s the thing, though: even when he became Emperor Vulcan and began wearing a cape and more golden armor type stuff, he still looked pretty good. Maybe it was the Caesar haircut (who would have thought he’d be able to bring that back), but Emperor Vulcan ruled with an iron fist over the finest in menswear, that's for sure.
7 WORST: THE SHI’AR IMPERIAL GUARD
We hate to paint an entire alien race with such a broad brush, but could we get a break on the headdresses already please? Just in general, the Imperial Guard is all over the place: you got the guy who looks like Wolverine, and then there’s Space Colossus, and then the guys who are pretty much Master Blaster. Not every team needs complete costume solidarity, but this is just a mess.
We don’t want to be completely negative here, though. Manta is another one of those few supes who can really pull off a cape, doing a credit to her namesake. Smasher manages to look like America’s sweetheart even though he’s from the Throneworld, and of course, there’s nothing more classic than Gladiator’s mohawk.
6 BEST: SHADOW KING
Despite his penchant for evil, there’s no denying that Amahl Farouk has a rather keen eye for style. Very much in the vein of Casablanca, the Shadow King favors smart white suits (even after Labor Day, but we’ll look the other way on that) and a nice fez at a jaunty angle, which really goes well with his head shape.
Topping off the whole ensemble are those little granny glasses, a very John Lennon look for such an un-peaceful fellow. As we’ve said a few times now, subtlety is really the key to the best villains’ fashion sense — when you’re a powerful enough telepath to battle with Professor Charles Xavier, you don’t need a lot of peacocking.
5 WORST: MR. SINISTER
Fashion sense is likely not genetic, since one of the greatest living geneticists at Marvel, Dr. Nathaniel Essex, has spent most of his career dressed like an understudy of The Road Warriors. A search of the Internet turns up no explanation as to what those streamer things are — did he have a cape that got caught in an industrial paper shredder and he pulled it out before it strangled him?
The latter-day Mr. Sinister is an improvement, having turned in his Gene Simmons duds for a nice Savile Row suit. However, he has also grown his hair so he looks like Anthony Kiedis circa 1991. An improvement over the old days, it still makes him look like he’s trying to bounce back from his second divorce.
4 BEST: ZERO
Not to be confused with the troubled Generation Hope member, ADAM Unit Zero was a cyborg from the far-flung future where Cable grew up. Found and repaired by Stryfe, this mute android was very helpful in teleporting the Mutant Liberation Front around and looking good while doing it.
We really can’t stress it enough: Less is more. And you can’t get much less than Zero. In a simple white unitard with a zero on the face and on the chest, Zero was a definite departure from the Liefeld-era, heavily armed and pocketed heroes and villains in the pages of X-Force. The fact that he didn’t say much really drove that home as well.
3 WORST: STRYFE
Speaking of the MLF, their leader Stryfe was a clone of Nathan Summers -- the man they call Cable -- gone bad. Cable’s own sense of style, as mentioned, consisted of a lot of utility belts and pockets and ridiculously oversized guns. Not to be outdone, Stryfe took his clone-daddy’s look and double-downed on it; triple-downed even.
Encased in armor that is reminiscent of Cable’s own techno-organic virus, Stryfe went ahead and added a cape, which we’ve already established as gaudy at best. And then there's his helmet, which looks like the inner spindle of a huge blender, hollowed out and turned upside down. Yeesh.
2 BEST: CYBER
For the most part, the real powerhouses the X-Men have had to face -- guys like Juggernaut -- subtlety is hardly in their wheelhouse. Silas Burr, aka Cyber, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to overthink things... nor under-think them, for that matter. Again, we see with Cyber a take on the techno-organic look, but this is set against the very simple costume with matching helmet.
Given that he was one of the first to train Wolverine’s son Daken, you’d think Cyber could pass some of this sense on to the lad, but Daken rebelled (as he does) and opted for the blah mohawk and those goofy tribal tattoos. Some things you just can’t teach.
1 WORST: FERAL
A member at different times of both X-Force and the Mutant Liberation Front, the only thing worse than Feral’s wandering loyalties is her Wolfsbane-on-performance enhancers haircut. This was another trait of the Liefeld era: female characters would often go to the same hairstylist as Patti LaBelle. And let's be real, only Patti LaBelle can pull off Patti LaBelle.
Also, when one has the powers of a large cat, certainly one might expect some extra hair growth on one’s upper arms. What one does not, should not do is then pick a top that flares over the shoulders, drawing the eye even more to the furriest arms since Randall “Tex” Cobb. It's not the worst look ever, but it's not the best either.