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.
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!
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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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Let’s play a game. Think of one thing about Lady Death other than her looks. Do you know her real name? Do you know her backstory involving witchcraft and her evil father? Statistically, if you're reading this, you probably just know that she has large breasts, hardly any clothes, and each cover has her posing in a suggestive way. The truth is most comic book fans have seen Lady Death, but maybe haven’t read her series. She is one of the prime examples of the excessively sexualized female characters of the ‘90s.
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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.