In the late 1960s, Marv Wolfman and Len Wein were two young aspiring comic book creators who self-published their own comic books. In one of them, there was a character named Black Nova, who spun out of one of the stories that they were telling at the time (Wolfman and Wein would trade off issues during their series). They came up with a basic design for the character, including five starbursts on the chest of the character.
You probably don’t remember the 1974 Sean Connery film “Zardoz.” No one can blame you because the film was a massive flop for the actor. However, the outfit worn by Connery in the film will go down as one of the most ridiculous in cinema history. Coincidentally, that same year, DC Comics decided to debut a new character named Vartox, who looked an awful lot like Sean Connery, probably thinking that sexuality would carry over to comics.
Today's comic books are descendants of 19th-century "penny dreadful" serials. They were multi-part sensational stories printed on cheap paper and sold for, what else, a penny each. These stories became popular among the lower and working classes. They couldn't afford and weren't interested in, the "important" literary novels of the day. Penny dreadfuls and the "dime novels" that followed them had clear-cut good-vs.-evil themes. And they weren't short on action or melodrama, either! By the early 20th century, we had such enduring characters as Tarzan and Zorro in "pulp" fiction. (So-called because of the inexpensive paper on which it was printed.) The first of the modern superheroes was Superman, who launched the Golden Age of Comics in 1938.
If the threat of facing off against two of S.H.E.I.L.D.’s top heroes isn’t enough to stop a villain in his tracks, maybe the head-to-toe look of a detailed superhero costume will make the bad dudes think twice. We recommend having Captain America pairing up a big ol’ fist along with his Vibranium shield , and when Iron Man stands by his side, the high tech armament courtesy of Stark Industries is sure to give the most villainous threats a pause before they attempt to enact their diabolical plans. Pose your children side by side to achieve this shot, and even if their sights are solely set on filling up their trick-or-treat bags, they’ll be able to make the neighborhood rounds like true Avengers.
Soon, other artists streamlined Shuster's original design and made it look more like spandex. Thus, the classic Superman look was born. This was not just the ideal Superman look, but it became the ideal look for superhero costumes period. The success of this design informed essentially every superhero costume ever to follow after it. For a character as popular as Superman, who has been adapted into so many different forms of media, it is an amazing testament to how good his first costume was that when Action Comics hit #1000, Superman was wearing essentially the same costume that he wore 999 issues earlier.
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As noted earlier, patriotic-themed heroes were hot in the early 1940s. America was going through a strange period of both isolationism and nationalism at the same time. Americans were really proud of their country, but also didn't want to get involved in the war in Europe. Patriotic-themed heroes captured that feel, by having noble American heroes defeat villains who dared to come over here to mess with us. Things got bolder, though, when Timely Comics introduced Captain America, who broke out of the isolationist viewpoints by having the lead character punch out Adolf Hitler on the cover of the first issue, a full year before the United States actually went to war with Nazi Germany!
Pick a random issue of “Witchblade” prior to the last year or so of its run and you’d be hard-pressed to find a cover that didn’t feature the main character sexualized. Obviously, the biggest reason for the sexual nature of the covers is the fact that the character’s costume is basically the most unrealistic armor ever seen. Basically just enough armor to cover her arm, her nipples and only the bare minimum below the belt, Sara Pezzini’s costume is pretty ridiculous. It’s no surprise when most people would define the character based on her appearance than on her actual heroics.
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When Frank Quitely redesigned the character for “New X-Men,” her costume consisted of an impossibly constructed top that had a huge “X” cut out in the front. The exact physics of the costume were never explained, but it’s clear that the artist was trying to emphasize her sexuality. The costume has since been updated, thankfully, but her sex appeal is still front and center, even today. Just searching “Emma Frost” in Google Images shows you exactly how she’s viewed. There aren’t any panels from her appearances in years of comics. Instead, it’s all sexually suggestive pictures.
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If Nightwing is known for his toned rear, then Power Girl is known for the “boob window.” While the character has a long, storied history in the DC Universe, most readers will only know her by her incredibly silly costume. While there are characters that show more skin than Power Girl, her costume still ranks as one of the most sexualized because of the big hole in the fabric in the middle of her large breasts that serves nothing reason but to show an abundance of cleavage.
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When he was originally working on Batman for National Comics, artist Bob Kane was thinking of the character as being a brighter hero, with a costume that would have bat-wings. Eventually, Kane brought in writer Bill Finger to work on the character idea and Finger explained to him that they should go the other direction. Finger was a big fan of the shadowy pulp fiction hero, the Shadow, and Finger felt that they should take the character into the shadows with a dark costume and a cape and a cowl to make him look more like a bat. Kane agreed and Batman was born.
Part of the appeal of the character was his awesome costume, which was designed by C.C. Beck. Fawcett's attempt to make Captain Marvel different from Superman was to try to work the magic angle more with their character, as Billy Batson says a magic word, "Shazam!" to transform into Captain Marvel, Earth's Mightiest Mortal. As a result, Beck went for a more ornate costume than Superman's, with a lot of flair thrown into the design. Elvis Presley would later mimic a lot of the elements of Captain Marvel's costume for his Las Vegas show outfits. If your superhero costume is cool enough that the King of Rock 'n' Roll works it into his stage outfits, then we think that merits a high spot on this countdown.
Superman soon had lots of company and lots of competition! What do they have in common? All superheroes have some type of extraordinary power or ability. Their "superpower" can be something they're born with: Superman, Wonder Woman, Thor. It can be the result of an accident or mutation: Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine. Or, it can be simply a skill they have learned, honed and perfected beyond the average: Batman, Hawkeye. They all have a strong moral code and a motivation to rid the world of some menace.
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Oddly enough, this is the second entry on this countdown where a writer came up with a basic design and then John Romita turned it into a classic costume. When he was working on a new character to be a sort of villain (more like an anti-hero) in his run on Amazing Spider-Man, Gerry Conway came up with the design of the character having a skull on his chest. Marvel Art Director, John Romita, who had been working closely with Conway on Amazing Spider-Man, despite Romita no longer actively drawing the series anymore, took that idea and turned it into the famous Punisher skull costume. No matter what else you may think about the Punisher, that skull design is amazing.
We found out in a hurry after the hit films, Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger, that our brand new cinematic heroes were going to need a little help saving the world. That’s why fans were prepared when The Avengers took the world by storm! With a bevy of films under the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this group has become a fan favorite for those watching and wanting to pay homage to them by going in costume. When you can find a friend to go in a Hulk costume or Thor costume we think you’re going to find that your group has the chops to get the job done. And if you have a femme fatale to be the Black Widow? Well, then you’re going to be downright unstoppable in your Marvel costumes!