Okay, let's be real, Daredevil's original costume was kind of garish. But really, Bill Everett's first pass for Daredevil's look really did have some good parts to it. For instance, the idea of the horns on the head so that he literally looks like a devil was a good idea. The part that did not work was to mix yellow and reddish-brown for the color scheme of the outfit. Also, it was odd that he went with just a single D on his chest at first.
But some female heroes haven’t been so lucky as to get more practical makeovers. Take for example Elizabeth Olsen's cleavage-baring Avengers: Infinity War look, which Olsen says isn't exactly her personal cup of tea for a character wading into battle with Mad Titans. Even she'll admit it's a step up from Wanda's comic book look, but in her words costumes like hers aren't "representing the average woman."
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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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Here, we will take a look at the very best of the best when it comes to superhero design. Do note that we are working with at least one major caveat, that the superheroes in question have iconic costumes. It does not do you much good to have a really cool costume if no one knows who you are. As a result, we are heavily weighing in the cultural impact of the costume design when we rank them. Where does a costume stand, historically, within the medium itself? That is one of the most important questions that we address when we start our ranking of the best superhero costumes of all-time.
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You don’t have to be a feminist to understand that the superhero game isn’t exclusively for men. Ladies have been busting up the bad guys for years in the pages of the comics, and they’ve started making a splash on the screen in a big way. If you have your eye on women’s superhero costumes , we’re sure you’ll be amazed with our selection. Check out some of these top picks and see if they give you inspiration in making your choice!
Vampirella is a character that is almost entirely defined by her looks. While she has been in comic book series regularly since her debut in “Vampirella” #1 in 1969, the character has largely been known for her incredibly skimpy outfit. Even in her very first comic, the cover is drawn by the legendary Frank Frazetta and shows Vampirella front and center with her legs spread and one hand placed suggestively on her hip.
Unlike Emma Frost, who arguably has a story reason to dress how she does, Psylocke is scantily clad only for the reader’s enjoyment. Sure, you can say that she is supposed to resemble a ninja, but you’d be hard-pressed to find other ninjas outside of the Marvel Universe dressed this way. She’s also a character that was reimagined as a sex symbol. Before her famous outfit, Psylocke was a pretty boring looking character. It wasn’t until she lost her pants and bent over all the time that readers really started to care about the character enough for her to garner enough focus resulting in some true character development. Her costume is so iconic, it’s one of the few costumes featured in the “X-Men” films that is almost completely untouched from its comic book counterpart. Goes to show you how much the costume defines the character.
Psylocke comes in as our fourth X-Men character on the list. It’s hard to pin down why the X-Men characters tend to fall into the “sexy” categories, but honestly, you could probably come up with a dozen or so to fill another similar list. More so than the other X-people on this list, Psylocke has been a character almost completely defined by her sex appeal to readers.
Mike Zeck came up with the actual look and it is a stunning piece of design. All black except for the prominent white spider. Rick Leonardi also did some tweaks to the costume and it soon became the most controversial, yet surprisingly popular costume change in comic book history. Fans were aghast at first but then really started to enjoy the new look. Eventually, the design was adapted for the villain Venom, with Spider-Man returning to his classic look. It is popular enough, though, that it still makes occasional comebacks.
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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!
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Bomb Queen is actually a villain, but she has her own titular comic book series in Image Comics and, given her ridiculously revealing costume, it would be criminal not to include her. She first appeared as recently as 2006 and has eliminated and banned all superheroes from the fictional city she lives in - New Port City. She rules the city as its dictator and is a popular leader amongst the criminals who reside there.
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She-Ra - who first appeared in 1985 in the Filmation movie The Secret of the Sword and the Filmation cartoon series She-Ra: Princess of Power - is, of course, the sister of He-Man. Wielding the Sword of Protection, she is granted similar powers to her brother - superhuman strength and durability, for example - as well a few more esoteric abilities, like healing and the ability to speak to animals.
Not only are they unnecessarily sexualised, they are also extremely impractical in most cases. For instance, why would a female character with no superhuman durability to speak of go into battle with heavily armoured and massively powered opponents wearing what is essentially a bikini? It shouldn't happen, but it does happen in comic books - and it happens a lot. Of course, there are characters whose durability is such that they don't necessarily need to wear full body armour in battle but, even so, revealing 90% of their body is still unnecessary.
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.
Much of the success of the film's visuals owes to the physical performances of the actors in the suits, but even more of it is thanks to the atmosphere and carefully crafted darkness of the film's entire look. Of course, as more live-action Turtles films debuted, their visual language began to skew ever closer to the hugely popular films, cutting their effectiveness. The Turtles received updated looks in the recent Michael Bay produced reboot to wildly mixed reactions.
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Artist Dave Cockrum had already famously re-designed most of the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, giving them modern revamps to their rather staid older costumes. His Lightning Lad re-design was particularly good, as while many of the character got later revamps over the years, Cockrum's Lightning Lad look became a standard one for the character for decades. Essentially, Cockrum was so far ahead of the game that when the team was revamped in the 1990s, his early 1970s design fit right in. While working on the Legion, Cockrum designed a new team of heroes called the Outsiders who were set to team up with the Legion. DC passed on the concept.
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Hathaway played sly, morally ambiguous cat burglar Selina Kyle (Catwoman) in The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s final instalment in his Batman film trilogy. She described the role as being the most physically demanding she had ever played, and confessed that while she thought of herself as being fit she had to redouble her efforts in the gym to keep up with the demands of the role. Hathaway trained extensively in martial arts for the role, and looked to Hedy Lamarr—who was the inspiration for the Catwoman character—in developing her performance.
In the 1950s, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the same guys who brought Timely Captain America, had worked on some comic book ideas in the 1950s and one of them ended up becoming the Fly for Archie Comics. When Stan Lee asked Kirby to come up with a new spider-themed hero, The King of Comics adapted some of the design ideas that he had for the earlier spider hero and used them for Spider-Man, including a gun that shot webs. Lee was not a fan of the look and asked Steve Ditko to try to do a take on Spider-Man. Ditko dropped pretty much every element of Kirby's design, including turning the web gun into webshooters that Spider-Man had on his wrists.
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.
However, when Wolverine was then chosen as one of the main characters in the All-New, All-Different X-Men to debut in Giant Size X-Men #1, Marvel turned to Gil Kane, who had become a go-to cover artist for Marvel in the mid-1970s, to draw their cover debut. Kane looked at Wolverine's costume and decided to add a cowl to his face mask rather than the whisker look that Romita had on the original costume. Dave Cockrum had drawn the original costume throughout the issue, but after he saw the Kane re-design, he liked it so much that he went back and re-drew it all the way throughout the issue. Almost five decades later, that Romita/Kane design still stands out as Wolverine's most commonly used costume.