When the great Wallace Wood took over the series early on, he came up with one of the most strikingly simple fixes of a costume in comic book history. He just made the costume red all over and it instantly made it an iconic look. The double-D had already been added before Wood changed the color, but the combination made for a striking costume that comic book artists always seem to eventually default to whenever Daredevil gets a costume change. When it comes to Daredevil costumes, we should always paraphrase Nuke from the classic Daredevil storyline, "Born Again" -- "Gimme a red."
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.
Over the years, though, in an attempt to lighten the character up, the black of Batman's costume became bluer and bluer and during the 1960s, DC even added a yellow oval behind Batman's bat symbol on his chest. In the 21st Century, however, artists have re-embraced that classic design and gone in the direction that Jim Lee took the costume during "Hush," which is to make it dark and have the chest symbol return to just a black one without the yellow oval, which brought a little too much lightness to the design. Frank Miller famously was initially stuck with the yellow oval look in Dark Knight Returns, but then had Batman shot in the chest. When he fixed the costume, the yellow oval was gone for the rest of the series!
If you talk to many comic book fans that entered puberty in the ‘90s, they might list Gambit as the cause of their sexual awakening. Maybe it was the Cajun accent? Or perhaps it’s the dark, red eyes? Either way, Gambit will go down as one of the all-time sexiest characters in the Marvel Universe. The character is one of the few on this list with a costume that covers almost his entire body, down to just leaving his face and hair exposed. This modesty doesn’t stop Gambit from being a character that’s known for his sex appeal.
Years later, with Wolfman and Wein now working for Marvel Comics, Wolfman brought the character to Marvel's Art Director, John Romita, who took Wolfman's original design and adapted it into the character that would be known as Nova. Romita reduced the starbursts on the chest to three and added a bit of a starburst onto the helmet. Using bold, primary colors, the Nova armor design was often the most notable thing about the character for years. Even as other characters took over the identity as the main Nova at Marvel, the costume itself remained the same, as it was near impossible to improve on that basic design of Romita/Wolfman. If/when Nova shows up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can bet that this is the costume we will see.
The comic book version of Thor has never really been a sex symbol. Sure, he’s incredibly good looking, as the God of Thunder probably should be, but he’s never been viewed as sexier than, say, Wolverine. However, when Thor debuted on the big screen, anyone with eyes saw that Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is most definitely a sex symbol. It’s become so much of an issue that the recent Thor shorts directed by Taika Waititi even poked fun at Thor’s big muscly physique. His looks are so vital to the character that when fans saw his new look in “Thor: Ragnarok,” they obsessed over his haircut more than anything else.
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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.
Characters like Tony Stark and Diana Prince are more than just good looks, however. When you read the adventures of Captain America, you don’t think about how sexy Steve Rogers is. Well, maybe you do, but that’s not all you care about. Unfortunately, for some characters, their appearance trumps most everything else about them. Let’s take a look at eight male and eight female characters in comics who are viewed as being more “hot” than “hero.”
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The 1960s Batman TV series helped to identify the fact that a black leather outfit was her best look, but that did not last too long in the comics themselves. Her most famous costume for years was a tight purple outfit designed by Jim Balent. The late, great Darwyn Cooke, however, came up with this brilliant mixture of a functional,black leather outfit that she wore on the Batman TV series and the film, Batman Returns. The use of the goggle mask was also a great touch. Jim Lee was wary of changing looks during his "Hush" series on Batman, but he adopted the Cooke Catwoman design entirely, that's how good it was.
And that's saying nothing of the show's villains. Even with Cesar Romero's ubiquitous mustache, you'd be harder pressed to find a more colorful cadre of costumed crooks that so gleefully and shamelessly embodied the campy, all-for-fun spirit of their medium. the 1966 Batman was, in many ways, like a comic ouroboros, with Batman's printed adventures and his television capers influencing each other in equal measure. All of this came full circle when DC Digital launched Batman '66, putting the show's highly stylized aesthetic under the pen of artists like Mike Allred and Ted Naifeh, and proving its enduring value in the process.
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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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By the end of the 1940s, superheroes had lost a lot of their appeal to the public. National Comics (now DC Comics) went from having dozens of superhero titles to only having a handful. Most of the members of the Justice Society of America fell out of sight in the world of National. Flash and Green Lantern went from appearing in multiple titles to not appearing in any books at all!