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Top Five John Romita-Designed Costumes!

Top Five Month (check here to see an archive of all the top five lists featured so far) concludes with a look at the brilliant costume design work of John Romita Sr. Romita was SUCH an excellent costume designer that almost all of the prominent costumes that he designed are STILL being used today, while most other costumes get changed over the years. Here are his top five costumes that he designed (or co-designed)!

Enjoy!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brother Voodoo

One thing you will notice on this list is that Romita goes for simple 9 times out of 10, but simple is often the most memorable. In the case of this Brother Voodoo costume, perhaps it is a bit TOO simple, but still, this is a memorable costume that was used pretty much constantly for decades.

Prowler

A bit more elaborate than other Romita designs, the Prowler costume is a striking design that, again, has never been changed (it has been slightly upgraded over the years, but only slightly). Who could do any better?

Shocker

The Shocker’s costume is interesting – it’s a great costume (and, again, is still in use today) but it really doesn’t SAY “Shocker,” does it? I mean, it certainly is a logical costume once you know what his deal is (he vibrates stuff, so he has a padded costume to protect himself), but it’s interesting that you would never get “oh, this guy must vibrate stuff!” from looking at the design.

Firestar

As I mentioned before, something you will see a lot of with Romita is simple designs. He is definitely a follower of the Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design. Romita designed the Firestar outfit for the Spider-Man cartoon of the time, and even though this one actually WAS changed (Darick Robertson changed it during his New Warriors run), it has since returned to Romita’s design.

Rhino

I’m torn on the Rhino. On the one hand, it’s an awesome look that, once again, really has never been improved upon over the decades he’s been around. On the other hand, would a different artist really have gone much differently from Romita had someone else designed it? If you think so, then bump the costume up a few more notches…

Tarantula

This is one of those designs where I think the awesome Romita costume is the main thing keeping the character around over the years (through at least two incarnations of the character).

Black Widow

This is the first one on the list where Romita’s design was not the original design. Romita re-designed Black Widow’s costume when she was about to star in Amazing Adventures. He made it sleek and, naturally, very simple – yet memorable. This was another one where it was re-designed over the years (including one version during the Crossing that violated the Frenz Rule) but ultimately returned to the Romita design.

Ms. Marvel

This is a cool design, but I think that later redesigns of the Ms. Marvel costume probably actually improved on the Romita design and it seems kind of weird putting a design in the top five when it isn’t even the best design for that particular character (the Cockrum design is tops, I would say).

5. Falcon

Falcon is interesting because I honestly don’t know when Romita came aboard, design-wise. I know he did the red costume (and later, the red costume with wings, which is the one that is basically still used today), but I am unsure if he or Gene Colan designed the original green costume. Colan drew it first, but I would not be surprised if Romita designed it, but it was early enough that I could see it coming before Romita was the go-to “design everyone’s costume” guy.

In any event, just the red Falcon costume alone merits an inclusion on the top five, I think, as it is a great design that, like I said, is still basically used today.

4. Wolverine

One of the most famous costumes out there, but likely more because the CHARACTER is so famous. In addition, I don’t know if I wouldn’t rate John Byrne’s Wolverine costume over this one. Still, it’s a great design and, again, with slight adjustments it is still in use today.

3. Nova

This is a tricky one because Marv Wolfman designed the costume initially and Romita just tweaked Wolfman’s original design. The helmet was there and the idea of a star pattern was there. Romita added the trim on the pants, reduced the star pattern from five to three and added the distinct star on the helmet. Enough to call it a Romita co-design? I think so, hence its inclusion here, as it is a really cool costume.

2. Bullseye

Now we’re just getting into iconic territory. Decades later, no one touches Romita’s design (streamlined it a bit, yes, but change it? No). Just a brilliant costume. One of those costumes that takes a character and makes him/her stand out so much.

1. Punisher

Like Bullseye, we’re just talking iconic right here. The costume is practically more famous than the character itself!!!

Okay, that’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

That’s it for Top Five Month! Hope you enjoyed it! Hopefully I won’t wait multiple years between installments next time around!

56 Comments

Good list, though I think it’s Cockrum’s stylizing of the original Wolverine costume (making the “horns” longer) that makes that costume memorable. A top five Cockrum costumes list would be pretty sweet, too.

Prowler deserves more than an honorable mention. It’s one of my all-time favorite costume designs. Something about it just works.

I would bump Wolverine because while Romita’s design was the template, it was Dave Cokrum’s revised take on it that really made the costume work. The original doesn’t really pop. And I have beef with Falcon and Voodoo simply because they fall squarely into the 70s trend/stereotype of every black male hero wearing a shirt/tunic with a v-split right down to his navel (and, in Falcon’s case, the secondary trend/stereotype of having a topless cowl, so as not the muss the ‘fro).

Even as a kid I thought Ms. Marvel’s costume was kind of silly looking (although during the whole “Dark Avengers” thing there was a story that had the replacement MM wearing a version with red leggings and without the belly window that looked pretty good).

Didn’t he also do the dark blue Namor re-design from the 70′s/80′s? I always thought that was a cool look for Namor. I’ve always thought Romita Sr. had perhaps the greatest impact on my enjoyment of the 1970′s Marvel work, even if sometimes it was on a subconscious level with his designs.

Didn’t he also do the dark blue Namor re-design from the 70?s/80?s?

He did.

Brother Voodoo, Tarantula and esp. Black Widow should be in the top 5. And also Prowler, although I admit in the case of the latter my view might be influenced by the fact because he’s the first Spidey villain I ever saw in the first Spidey comic I ever had (i.e. the Marvel Tales reprint of that issue above).

If I remember correctly, in the issue where Prowler debuts, Stan Lee says that it was designed by John Romita Jr.!

Did he design Spider-Woman? I was expecting her to show up, but if he didn’t design it, I guess that settles that.

Shocker was actually the second one I thought of after Punisher. Always thought it looked cool (although I agree there’s nothing actually “shocking” about it).

Forgot about Falcon and didn’t know about Nova, but those are both great choices.

I’d even throw an honourable mention in for Kingpin. Even though it wasn’t a “costume”, it’s a look that has gone unchanged for decades.

Funny to see that Romita kept the Bare Chested Black Man costume alive and well. Were comic book creators of the time not aware that black men did, in fact, wear shirts?

I have to disagree about Wolveine…the subdued brown (of Cockrum’s) vs. the bright yellow, to me, makes it a different costume.

Funnier still, how many hip-hop artists keep the bare chested black man costume alive and well to this very day.

The thing I always found interesting about Rhino’s costume was the sad little rhino eyes on the sides of his head. Its not even like they’re painted on. They’re actually eyes. Though sometimes artists forget to add them.

I’m pretty sure Romita’s original design of the Punisher had irises in the eyes of the skull which looked 50% less badass.

I remember first seeing Spawn and being outraged thinking it was a Prowler knock off.

franser
October 1, 2010 at 8:28 am

If I remember correctly, in the issue where Prowler debuts, Stan Lee says that it was designed by John Romita Jr.!

I think you’re right. I’d forgotten all about that. (Although I’m guessing dad added some flourishes/finishing touches).

“I have beef with Falcon and Voodoo simply because they fall squarely into the 70s trend/stereotype of every black male hero wearing a shirt/tunic with a v-split right down to his navel”

Namor had the v-split in his (Romita-designed) life-support suit.
Both Goliath (Clint Barton) and Doc Savage were bare-chested.
Captain America’s “Nomad” costume had the v-cut as well.

“in Falcon’s case, the secondary trend/stereotype of having a topless cowl, so as not the muss the ‘fro”

Captain Mar-Vell’s red-and-blue costume, Clint Barton’s Goliath garb, and The Angel’s post-school uniform costumes designed at the same time, all had open cowls (and so did his pre-X-Men “Avenging Angel” uniform).
None had ” fros”!
Nor did Steve Rogers, whose previously-mentioned Nomad costume also had the open cowl.

As for Wolverine’s blue-yellow coloring…I don’t know who came up with it, but it was (and still is) the colors of the Michigan University Wolverines football team.
I’d lay odds, that was the inspiration.
And if you want to be literal, The Batman shouldn’t be blue and gray! ;-)

It was a trend, like jackets over costumes.

This Top 5 List needs to be in the top 5 of favorite Top 5 Lists.

@Atomic Kommie Comics

I said “every black male hero” not “only black male heroes.” A very clear and crucial distinction.

RE: “[Romita] is definitely a follower of the Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design.” Romita the follower? Frenz the rule maker? Given that Romita was designing costumes for Marvel back when the talented Frenz was in diapers that’s a little like saying the Clash and Ramones were followers of the Green Day school of songwriting.

Funnier still, how many hip-hop artists keep the bare chested black man costume alive and well to this very day.

Uh, like who? I can’t think of a significant amount of hip-hop artists keep the bare-chested thing alive. Maybe 50 Cent and Lil Wayne? A vast majority of hip-hop artists of today (Jay Z, Nas, Drake, Cam’ron, B.o.B, Kanye West, Clipse) all wear shirts.

“Hobie Brown was created by Stan Lee, John Buscema and Jim Mooney, following a “suggestion” by a young John Romita, Jr.”

Per Wikipedia. Source is ASM #79 inside front cover.

This is like the opposite of “top five Perez designs,” which is basically saying it’s good.

FYI – John Romita JR designed the Prowler when he was a kid. ;)

I thought everyone just memorized all of my editions of Comic Book Legends Revealed! ;)

I guess not, so in that case, check this one out to see how Romita Jr. did not design the Prowler costume…

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/03/27/comic-book-legends-revealed-200-part-2/

Romita the follower? Frenz the rule maker? Given that Romita was designing costumes for Marvel back when the talented Frenz was in diapers that’s a little like saying the Clash and Ramones were followers of the Green Day school of songwriting.

Or you could just read the link to the Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design and it would make sense to you. Either way you want to go.

This is a very impressive list, nice way to finish off the month. For some reason, I’ve always like the Shocker’s costume (I’m an old-timer), probably because it always just made sense, as you pointed out.

sackett
October 1, 2010 at 8:34 am

I have to disagree about Wolveine…the subdued brown (of Cockrum’s) vs. the bright yellow, to me, makes it a different costume.

Actually, it was John Byrne, not Cockrum, who created the brown-n-tan costume. Cockrum’s version had the same color scheme as the original, but with a different mask and boots.

I like Wolverine better in brown-n-tan, even though my first exposure to the character was the yellow-n-blue.

There is something funny about Bullseye’s costume. In theory, it shouldn’t work. A supposedly bad-ass killer with a bullseye on his brow? Is he inviting someone to shoot at him or something? But for some reason it does work, and it never looks silly, even though it should.

The same is true of the Deadshot costume designed by Marshall Rodgers. Should look silly in theory, but is actually awesome.

Good list. May I add my voice to those asking for a Cockrum top 5? To my mind he is possibly the best superhero costume designer after Ditko and Kirby.

I think I would probably switch Nova with Rhino. Rhino is one of those characters who helped set the tone for the whole Spider-Man universe. Nova is just a tad dull.

@ kalorama

“I said “every black male hero” not “only black male heroes.” A very clear and crucial distinction.”

From 1969-74.
Prowler?
Black Panther?
Shilo Norman?
Black Racer?
Vykin?
Eddie March/Iron Man II
John Stewart/Earth-One Green Lantern III?

Not an inch of bare chest on any of them!
“Clear and crucial”, I’d say… ;-)

Prowler was introduced as a villain. Black Panther was introduced in the 60s, not the 70s. Shilo Norman and John Stewart originally wore costumes that were designed for other, white characters. Vykin and Black Racer aren’t superheroes, strictly speaking, and unlike the characters I was speaking of, their costumes weren’t designed with Earthbound fashion/style in mind. I have no idea who Eddie March is.

Now, all that being said . . . it’s pretty clear you care more about this/take this a whole lot more seriously than I do, so I’ll be opting out off this argument going forward having (A) suitably made my point and (B) better things to do.

Clear and crucial, indeed.

So why is his son so bad at costume design (especially during his time on X-Men)?

Somehow I just knew the Punisher would be number one, even though there are so many other great choices. (By the way, the Punisher was the surprise villain mentioned on the Tarantual cover– it was only his second appearance, I believe.)

I prefer the Darick Robertson Firestar. That ’90s jacket trend actually worked in her case.

Eddie March is a black boxer and supporting character that donned the Iron Man armor in a few stories in the 1970s. I suppose he was a sort of proto-James Rhodes.

Ya know, instead of bitching about the costume designs, you guys should be glad they were beginning to introduce more black characters. Everybody complains that there is not enough racial diversity in comics, but whenever somebody introduces some, ( or female or gay characters ) it’s cause for debate. Easier not to bother then eh?

@kalorama
“Prowler was introduced as a villain.”
So were Medusa, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and a host of others.
Your point?

“Black Panther was introduced in the 60s, not the 70s.”
You made no mention of timeframe of creation
Quote: “…70s trend/stereotype of every black male hero wearing a shirt/tunic with a v-split right down to his navel.”
Implication is that it refers to characters active in the 70s, not created in the 70s. (And the Falcon, whom you refer to, was created in the ’60s, like the Panther.)

“Shilo Norman and John Stewart originally wore costumes that were designed for other, white characters.
Shilo wore his own costume for over a decade before taking up the Mister Miracle mantle.
At the time, the only variation in Lantern uniforms was dictated by anatomy (six arms, wings, a tail, etc.) Not like today.
And since Hal, Guy and John were all humanoid bipeds…(Note: John did drop the mask!)

“Vykin and Black Racer aren’t superheroes, strictly speaking, and unlike the characters I was speaking of, their costumes weren’t designed with Earthbound fashion/style in mind.”
They wear unique, colorful garb, have abilities/skills beyond those of normal people, and act in an altruistic manner towards the populace.
Sounds like “superheroes” to me!
And, you obviously haven’t studied 1960s fashion (Rudi Gernreich, for example) to even know what qualifies as “Earthbound fashion”!

“I have no idea who Eddie March is.”
I find your lack of Marvel Comics knowledge disturbing. Wheeze. Wheeze. ;-)

“Now, all that being said . . . it’s pretty clear you care more about this/take this a whole lot more seriously than I do…”
I take neither this discussion, nor you, seriously.
For me, it’s just…fun. :-)

“…, so I’ll be opting out off this argument going forward having (A) suitably made my point and (B) better things to do.”

FIne. I don’t mind having the final word.
Clear and concise, indeed.

Not to belittle John Romita Sr’s considerable skill as illustrator, designer, and art director; until Jack Kirby left Marvel in 1970, HE designed the vast majority of costumes for both heroes and villains, most of which are still, recognizably, in use today!
And, you’ll note most of the designs (and characters) he created when he returned in the late 1970s are going strong, as well!

I wasn’t aware it was a Romita design, but I always liked that Black Widow costume for being functional, attractive and showing less female flesh than is fashionable.

Showing skin may be fashionable in recent years but so impracticable as to be unbelievable. Like that long scarf on the original Ms. Marvel costume. She got swung around by a few bad guys who grabbed it, but not often enough…

jerks in the art dept nowadays need to take NOTES and genuflect at the foot of one JR SR.

Always loved the Rhino’s look, especially because he has the FACE of a rhino. He’s one of the few Romita-era Spider-Man villains who still feels like a Ditko villain to me (and yes, I mean that as a compliment. Big time.).

Always thought the original Ms. Marvel costume was pretty hideous. Hated it on Mar-Vell, too. Too much red, and Ms. Marvel’s peekaboo midriff just looks dumb on a superhero.

The Falcon’s red & white costume is one of my all-time favorites. To this day, he hasn’t had another costume with as much personality & where all the colors balanced so well.

Romita’s Wolverine is a pretty good costume, but in my mind the definitive costume for Logan will always be the Byrne brown and tan version. Suits his personality much better.

Nova’s costume always seemed rather fannish to me. Don’t hate it, but it doesn’t do much for me.

Black Widow’s costume is great just because it’s so sleek & simple. Ditto Bullseye & Punisher (HOW did they not go with the Bullseye costume for the Daredevil movie? Colin Farrell’s outfit just looked dumb).

Not to belittle John Romita Sr’s considerable skill as illustrator, designer, and art director; until Jack Kirby left Marvel in 1970, HE designed the vast majority of costumes for both heroes and villains, most of which are still, recognizably, in use today!
And, you’ll note most of the designs (and characters) he created when he returned in the late 1970s are going strong, as well!

I don’t think anyone is denying Kirby was way more influential at Marvel, but therein lies the problem. Imagine trying to limit a list of Kirby costumes down to just the 5 best. I can’t think of where to begin when it comes to limiting the top 5 Kibrby costumes, although I’m sure Captain America would be on it.

I can’t think of where to begin when it comes to limiting the top 5 Kibrby costumes, although I’m sure Captain America would be on it.

That was designed by Joe Simon, actually:

http://www.thegraphicnovels.com/img/captainamericasketch.gif

Didn’t he design the 1982 Monica Rambeau Capt. Marvel costume? That was a classy look for her.

“So were Medusa, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and a host of others.
Your point?”

My point (stated in clear English in the initial post) is that I was talking quite specifically about hero costumes. Prowler was not designed as a superhero, so his costume isn’t relevant.

“Shilo wore his own costume for over a decade before taking up the Mister Miracle mantle.”

But it wasn’t until he adopted the name and costume of Mr. Miracle that he became a superhero. And since I was talking about superhero costumes . . .

“You made no mention of timeframe of creation”

Wrong. Again.

kalorama
October 1, 2010 at 7:48 am
And I have beef with Falcon and Voodoo simply because they fall squarely into the 70s trend/stereotype of every black male hero wearing a shirt/tunic with a v-split right down to his navel

“Implication is that it refers to characters active in the 70s, not created in the 70s.”

Nope. That’s your inference, not my implication. And your inference is wrong. I was (pretty clearly) talking about costumes designed in the 70s. Anything before (or after) that is irrelevant to my point.

“At the time, the only variation in Lantern uniforms was dictated by anatomy (six arms, wings, a tail, etc.)”

Exactly my point. The GLC costumes were all the same, and they were all based on the costume originally designed for Hal Jordan in the late 50s, so that design has no relevance to my initial observation concerning costumes introduced in the 70s.

You’re right. (And, admittedly, pretty easy)

What else ya got?

Rene
October 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Eddie March is a black boxer and supporting character that donned the Iron Man armor in a few stories in the 1970s.

In other words, he was a guy who wore a costume designed in the 60s for a white character.

Copy/Paste error. That should say:

You’re right. This is fun (And, admittedly, pretty easy)

Me; “So were Medusa, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and a host of others.
Your point?”
K: “My point (stated in clear English in the initial post) is that I was talking quite specifically about hero costumes. Prowler was designed as a superhero, so his costume isn’t relevant.”

None of the others were “designed as a superhero” either.

Me: “Shilo wore his own costume for over a decade before taking up the Mister Miracle mantle.”
K: “But it wasn’t until he adopted the name and costume of Mr. Miracle that he became a superhero. And since I was talking about superhero costumes . . . ”

So by that standard, Bucky (and any other hero who uses their civilian name as their non-du-guerre) wasn’t a superhero either, even though they wear a costume and fight evil.

Me: “You made no mention of timeframe of creation”
K: Wrong. Again.
kalorama
October 1, 2010 at 7:48 am
And I have beef with Falcon and Voodoo simply because they fall squarely into the 70s trend/stereotype of every black male hero wearing a shirt/tunic with a v-split right down to his navel
Me: “Implication is that it refers to characters active in the 70s, not created in the 70s.”
K: Nope. That’s your inference, not my implication. And your inference is wrong. I was (pretty clearly) talking about costumes designed in the 70s. Anything before (or after) that is irrelevant to my point.

Nothing states it was heroes “created” in the 70s.
And Falcon was created in the 60s. (1969 to be exact)
So, YOU are using heroes created outside the timeframe YOU specify!
Wrong, again, son.

K: …John Stewart originally wore costumes that were designed for other, white characters.”
Me: “At the time, the only variation in Lantern uniforms was dictated by anatomy (six arms, wings, a tail, etc.)”
K: Exactly my point. The GLC costumes were all the same, and they were all based on the costume originally designed for Hal Jordan in the late 50s, so that design has no relevance to my initial observation concerning costumes introduced in the 70s.
John Stewart was introduced in 1971, thus he’s a character introduced during the time period you specify.

Is it “costumes” or “heroes” introduced during the 70s?
You seem confused as to which it is.
If it’s costumes, then the Panther is in. His garb went thru minor modifications during the 70s.
(And since he was renamed the Black Leopard in 1972, it’s a new costumed identity, as well, and thus qualifies for discussion)

Either way, by your own standards, the Falcon, who was created in 1969 is OUT.

But, you seem confused about a great many things.

Like Brent Farve, you keep “unretiring”
K: “…, so I’ll be opting out off this argument going forward having (A) suitably made my point and (B) better things to do.”
Your track record seems to equal his since his most recent “unretirement”.
Keep up the good work, kid.

What else ya got?

What I love best about the Punisher costume is that the skull’s teeth are the bullets.

5. The Prowler
4. Brother Voodoo
3. The Shocker
2. The Falcon
1. Wolverine

Wow that is a load of really bad costumes.

Bullseye, Black Widow and The Punisher are fine, but the rest are truly awful!

Uh, ok, DanCJ, whatever you say…

Ron Frenz aside, my rule of good comic book costume design would be: ‘If a kid can draw it from memory, it’s a good costume.’

Too many modern costumes would require a 3D model and an instruction manual to get right.

@ Atomickommie
You are completely missing the point. Why can’t you simply accept the fact that the comic creators we all know and love, bought into (subconsciously, or not) the racist stereotype of black men in the ’70′s… Why do you feel the need to defend them?

@pachanga
“Why can’t you simply accept the fact that the comic creators we all know and love, bought into (subconsciously, or not) the racist stereotype of black men in the ’70?s… Why do you feel the need to defend them?”

I’m not defending them.
I’m just pointing out there were examples of OTHER types of costumes worn by Black male characters including full bodysuits with face-obscuring masks, full body armor, and standard superhero-type leotards, not just the open-shirt type of costume.
(in fact, if you count the Black heroes active in the 70s, the number who had the “open shirt” style and those who didn’t are about even!)
In addition, some White (and Asian) male characters ALSO went with an open-shirt style…or shirtless!
How is that “defending” anyone?
Why can’t you accept that?

Ron Frenz aside, my rule of good comic book costume design would be: ‘If a kid can draw it from memory, it’s a good costume.’

Too many modern costumes would require a 3D model and an instruction manual to get right.

I’m a big fan of Brian’s Ron Frenz rule (I’d have used Sal Buscema, but Frenz works), but I have to say, your rule is pretty good too. For example when I was a kid I could see drawing Iron man’s costume from memory, but his latest one? Forget it.

The impossible-to-design-from-memory costumes were another sad legacy of the 1990s.

>>Funny to see that Romita kept the Bare Chested Black Man costume alive and well. Were comic book creators of the time not aware that black men did, in fact, wear shirts?<<

That was a design Romita used for many characters in the 70s — not just black heroes. Moribus, Nomad (Captain America) and Namor all had similar motifs. It was only an exageration of the trend for men to open morre than just the top button on their shirts, I guess.

I agree, though, that Wolverine should be bumed down to honorable mention. Cockrum's simple revision really made a huge differences. Most people look at Wolverine's first appearance and laugh.

I think that Black Widow costume should take its place. That is truly a classic.

Two of the many things I loved about Marvel's 70s were the Romita cosutmes and the Gil Kane covers, and when the two came together — like the Punisher first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man (seen above) it resulted in pure bliss.

I agree, though, that John Romita Jr. is NO chip off the old block when it comes to costume design.

Hmm… I just reaad that Ross Andru drew the first appearace of the Punisher (Gil Kane obviousy drew him on the cover). Gerry Conway said that Andru designed the outfit based on his notes.

I’d put Black Widow as his best design — certainly the most enduring.

I think the thing about Romita’s costumes is that they look ahead of the times. Many of the costumes, while staying silver-age simple, look sleek and stylish enough to have been designed much later. I was especially surprised a few years ago when I found out how long ago the Prowler costume had been designed.

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