web stats

CSBG Archive

Top Ten Dave Cockrum Costume Designs

While I still have a little bit of 10/10/10 left (well, somewhere in the U.S., at least), let me do a special Top TEN list – the Top Ten Dave Cockrum Costume Designs for Marvel and DC



Most of the Imperial Guard

For most of the Imperial Guard, Cockrum just did variations of Legion costumes. One or two of the Imperial Guard DID stand out, though, most notably Gladiator.

The Starjammers

Good designs, and also ones that not many future artists would mess with. Then again, they didn’t exactly show up a whole lot.

Cockrum’s first Legion re-designs

The Shrinking Violet re-design is a good one, but not exactly special. I don’t like Chameleon Boy’s new costume. Karate Kid’s is probably the best of the three and it is probably more famous for just happening to be the outfit he wore when he got his own series.

Phantom Girl and Colossal Boy

I believe even Cockrum disliked the Colossal Boy design. The Phantom Girl one, I know, has a lot of fans out there, but I just don’t see it as much.


Wildfire’s costume is well-designed – nice and streamlined.

Timber Wolf

The Timber Wolf re-design is probably most famous for being the first appearance of the hairstyle that Cockrum would later give Wolverine. Still, Timber Wolf DID have a cool costume!


Another distinct look that is basically still used to this day (Cockrum did not draw the above first appearance of Mystique, though, Jim Mooney did – Cockrum still designed the character).

10. Gladiator

Out of a sea of fairly unmemorable designs for the Imperial Guard, Gladiator’s look stands out. It is certainly worth noting that the same look is used to this day, roughly 30 years after its introduction (without any real changes in the ensuing years). And really, giving the guy a MOHAWK? That’s brilliantly bizarre!

9. Storm

Honestly, the hair band is probably the most memorable aspect of the Storm design, but the rest of it is quite strong, as well.

8. Ms. Marvel

This is the design that is still used to this day, so you know it was a winner.

7. Element Lad

The arrow might not necessarily scream “elements!” And the dots on the sleeves are lame, but really, wow, what a costume in general. I saw Colleen Doran do a sketch of this costume on her site and even she remarked how cool the costume was. Cockrum sure did do “sleek” well.

6. Star Boy

What a great idea – the guy’s name is STAR boy, so his costume IS the stars! What an innovative idea for a costume.

5. Thunderbird

Once again, sleek and streamlined, yet still capturing his Native American heritage beautifully. You know a costume is good when they pretty much use the same design for the character’s brother years later, which is what they did with Warpath.

4. Colossus

A classic superhero design, this outfit works so well that outside of John Romita Jr.’s short-lived revamp of the costume, whenever other artists re-do Colossus’ uniform, they pretty much just use Cockrum’s original outfit as a guideline, with that original outfit SUCH an accepted part of Colossus that they just riff off of that accepted idea.

3. Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler’s outfit is so well designed that it outlasted every single member of the All-New, All-Different X-Men. Heck, except for one brief period where Nightcrawler had a shaved head in Excalibur, this costume has stuck with him from 1975 until his recent…problems. A remarkable achievement for a character who has appeared on a monthly basis for decades.

2. Lightning Lad

Again, sleek and streamlined are the name of the game. This design was so good that it was used by multiple reboots AND the cartoon series. That’s how far ahead of the game Cockrum was – he was designing costumes that would look modern in 2010! Only he was doing them many decades earlier!!! I believe this was one of Cockrum’s favorite designs himself.

1. Phoenix

Just a stunning outfit (Cockrum sure did love his sashes).

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


Good list. I was hoping you might do one for Cockrum”s costumes. I’m suprised you have Storm so low. Her’s strikes me as being one of the really great individual superhero costumes. Particularly the wings and the high boots. They always go back to something like the original.

I really love Ms. Marvel’s costume. I’d move it into the top 2 for sure.

Cockrum has always been a great Creator/Stylist , wonder why their arent references to his “Futurians”

– not necesseraly from the OGN , but from the later series published by “Quality comics” – the ones that did a great reprise of W.Wood’s Thunder agent in the ’80s

and its good to remind that most of the All New All different X-Men Designs came from non-used Legionnaires proposal ;)

Remember Ms. Marvel’s first costume? A wrestling costume with that feathered short 70’s hair. Blech! (Sorry JR.)

I like Gladiator’s anti-Superman/boy design with the flipped triangular logo. (Cockrum drew the Imperial Guard to look like Marvel’s version of the Legion.)

I dunno what they were thinking when Element Lad had that pink costume with the E on it when he first appeared.

And I completely forgot Mystique appeared that early in the series.

Great list!

I think it’s criminal that Wildfire’s costume doesn’t make the top ten when his Element Lad costume, which wasn’t even the best costume that character had (I much prefer Giffen’s), does.

You know that Timber Wolf riff in the lower left corner of the Imperial Guard pic? I think that’s the same outfit X-23 was wearing when she showed up in Uncanny X-Men (drawn by Alan Davis). I’m away from my books right now and can’t check.

In what issue can that Ms. Marvel image be found? I’ve never known when she went from the red outfit to the black one.

Wasn’t Duo Damsel’s outfit actually sent in by a fan? I seem to recall a Fashions From Fans feature (Adventure #403?) that had the two-tone look.

I like the Phantom Girl look.

One interesting thing about Shrinking Violet’s outfit is how much detail Dave put on it. When Mike Grell became the Legion artist it didn’t take him long to simplify those fancy black patterns.

Interesting that Saturn Girl’s pink bikini didn’t even get an honorable mention. *snicker* What was Imra thinking? “I have a body, dammit! Stop thinking of me as just a brain!!!” ;-)

Didn’t Dave also design Princess Projectra’s lace-up number?

It’s funny, I was drawing an upcoming page of my webcomic today & while the outfits were intended to be sexier versions of Buck Roger-style outfits, I realized that Dave Cockrum influences had subconsciously played a part and then I come here & see this topic. Go fig?

So, who enjoyed thigh-high/above the knee boots more: Cockrum or Brian?

I love Dave Cockrum and his costume designs, but seeing so many in one place really does highlight how repetitively he uses some elements of them. LIke pointy shoulder pads and thigh high boots. The guy REALLY seemed to have an obsession with thigh highs, on both men and women.

Nice list, though WILDFIRE should’ve gotten a lot better than honorable mention. It’s such a great design, it hurts me a little to see the character running around in that Gary Frank redesign.

Personally I’d have pushed Storm higher, beside the headdress all pieces of her costume are interesting, especially the weird sideways cloak. And since I am not so fond of too outre colour schemes that shiny black is just great.
Then again, I did like the next look too.

But yeah, there’s a lot of thigh-high boots here.

Nice List. I enjoy reading most of your lists Brian, but on this one I thought it would be nice if you had included the year each costume debuted. For many, you point out that the costume has been consistent since its introduction, and it would be helpful to know when that was. Still, fun to read.

I’d have swapped the top two, I think his Lightning Lad costume may be the best costume of all time, though; so I may be biased.

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 11, 2010 at 6:41 am

I’m surprised that you didn’t mention that Wolverine’s second costume design was also from “Most of the Imperial Guard” panel later on in the Uncanny X-men series.

Minus the belt buckle that looks like it has tooths, the costume is very similar to the one Wolverine used when he got rid of that horridous yellow costume with blue stripes.

I never noticed how many thigh high boots Cockrum had in his designs. There’s like 14-15 in these pictures.

I still feel Cockrum’s best period was during his Legion days. Maybe because he redesigned so many run-of-the-mill costumes into truly original, striking designs (not to mention utterly sexy! I always wondered why otherwise clean-cut girls like Saturn Girl were now suddenly wearing skimpy bikinis. This even extended to his male characters, with Cosmic Boy wearing what amounted to a black bustier! :D

The Cosmic Boy bustier debacle was designed by Grell not Cockrum.

Cockrum’s love for thigh-high boots and belt sashes suggests he really loved pirates & swashbucklers. Did he ever do a straight up historical story anywhere? At the very it seems he’s have happily spent the rest of his life doing something like Starjammers….


“Cockrum has always been a great Creator/Stylist , wonder why their arent references to his “Futurians”
– not necesseraly from the OGN , but from the later series published by “Quality comics” – the ones that did a great reprise of W.Wood’s Thunder agent in the ’80s”

Actually, it was “Lodestone Publishing”, a sister company of Deluxe Comics, who did Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (which Dave also illustrated).
Some of the Futuruians were also unused LSH designs.
Dave also redesigned GIl Kane’s 1960s Menthor costume for the new, female Menthor.

“Cockrum sure did love his sashes”
And hip-boots!
Saturn Girl
Ms. Marvel

Would Dave’s modifications to John Romita’s Wolverine design qualify as a “re-design”?
At the very least, his visual conception of Logan’s maskless appearance should count!

Phantom Girl’s bell-bottoms…AAARRRGGGHHH!

If only they had put Halle Berry in Dave’s Storm costume…

love the list. for Cockrum sure knew how to design costumes that really stood the test of time with characters. and seeing this list he was a good fit for the Legion. plus was hoping his design of Phoenix would show up or night crawler.

The character in the Imperial Guard wearing black, orange and brown is Fang. In one issue of X-Men (whose number I can’t recall) Wolverine beats him and steals his clothes so that he can sneak up on the other members of the IG. If I remember correctly he wears it for a few more issues and then gets his brown costume (a combination of his original yellow & blue and this one). So when x-23 appeared, she had this costume as a tribute to when Wolverine wore the costume.

Whenever I think Cockrum-designed I think Phantom Girl (and to a lesser extent Violet’s). Tinya’s is my all-time favorite Legion outfit, another that has undergone very few adjustments over the years.

That being said, Element Lad’s and Lightning Lad’s Cockrum designs influenced MANY characters I created over the years when I was a kid!

And I agree with Colossus and Nightcrawler – it’s hard to mess with perfection.

I also think Wildfire should be in the top ten . I love Cockrum’s designs . Didn’t Wolverine get his Brown costume while in outer space fighting the imperial guard ? I can’t remember if Byrne or Cockrum gave it to him. On aside note, It’s funny to think how the Ms. Marvel series is linked to the X-men . I guess when it got canceled Claremont rolled the ideas into the x-men . I guess why use other characters when you can use one’s you created .

Adam, i think you’re misremembering a bit. Wolverine’s costume was singed off of him in the fight with the IG so he attacked Fang and took his clothes! He wore them for another issue or two until things settles down and he was able to get a new costume made. He didn`t start wearing his own brown and orange one until the end of the Byrne era.

I didn’t know Cockrum designed that Ms. Marvel costume, which I agree is stylish and perfect for the character.

STRONGLY disagree with Colossus being on this list, though. I think it’s a ridiculous design and doesn’t do the character any favours. Picture someone wearing something like that in real life without laughing. Cassaday made a redesign look good, but he actually changed a lot of it, and, frankly, Cassaday can make anything look good. JR JR’s version around issue 200 looked good, as did Silvestri’s simple boots-trunks-bracelets-X belt style. Really, he’s made of steel and looks awesome; he doesn’t need a fancy circus suit.

Man, it’s a treat to see those Legion costumes again. To his great credit, Cockrum even came up with some cool looks for those “evil twin” versions in the Imperial Guard. Generally, that kind of thing doesn’t get much effort from an artist, because the characters are here today, gone tomorrow. One thing I’d change re the list: the only good thing about Thunderbird is that name itself. The fringe, the headband with feathers stuck in it – I think this would just look goofy and stereotyped to any Native American. And bright red & blue? I think that a different color scheme would’ve helped the character, too. (And I agree with Porter’s comments about Colossus – it’s just not as over-the-top as with Thunderbird.) Anyway, thanks for a fun look back at all this.

What?!! No love for Havok’s original costume? It’s better than Element Lad’s costume, for sure. Am I the only one who digs that costume or did Don Heck actually design it and that’s why it didn’t make the list?

I like Cockrum’s stuff but I got to say that his Duo Damsel costume is kind of a bad idea. When she splits into two, one is wearing a brown costume and one is wearing a purple one. This means it is immediately obvious if she is split or not. Not very smart tactically.

I think Cockrum may be the greatest superhero costume designer.

His Storm, Ms. Marvel and Phoenix looks are the best versions of those long-running characters. Overall, his modernization of the X-Men designs played a key role in salvaging that franchise from the dust-bin of history. Prior to that, he managed to give the huge cast of the LoSH distinct personalities.

Neither John Byrne, nor Keith Giffen, would have had much to build from without the work of Cockrum.

Ah, thanks for clearing that up Bill Lee!

Lightning Lad’s is tops for me – it still looks modern. Wildfire is definitely a top 10 contender – again, it still holds up now. And I’m with some others – the DD one was a horrid idea tactically…

Not sure about the lack of love for Chamelon Boy either…it’s visually very striking.

And no mention of Cosmic Boy’s girdle? I guess that would make his ‘worst designs’ list…

@ funkmasterdre
What?!! No love for Havok’s original costume? It’s better than Element Lad’s costume, for sure. Am I the only one who digs that costume or did Don Heck actually design it and that’s why it didn’t make the list?

Neal Adams designed Havok’s original costume.
Though Heck illustrated Alex Summers’ first “civilian” appearance, Alex didn’t get his blast-controling suit until Adams was on the book.
Heck WAS partially-responsible for the X-Men’s “individual” costumes as of V1 #39, and Mesmero’s outfit in V1#49. Since he and Werner Roth were sharing the pencilling, how much each contributed to the costumes is unknown.
Heck DID create and pencil Sunfire’s costume in V1#64.

@ jccalhoun
I like Cockrum’s stuff but I got to say that his Duo Damsel costume is kind of a bad idea. When she splits into two, one is wearing a brown costume and one is wearing a purple one. This means it is immediately obvious if she is split or not. Not very smart tactically.

But it ‘s great visual shorthand for the reader!
And, each of the two bodies had different personalities ala Capt. Kirk in “The Enemy Within”!

Heroes are not noted for being “smart tactically”, tending to yell slogans like “Avengers Assemble”, “It’s Clobberin’ Time”, “Haawkaaa”, or even “Spaaaace Ghooooost” before attacking! ;-)

And no mention of Cosmic Boy’s girdle? I guess that would make his ‘worst designs’ list…

*sigh* Once again, that was Grell’s fault, not Cockrum. Grell gave Cosmic Boy his 70s gay disco bustier after taking over the book from Cockrum.

@funkmasterdre: Neal Adams designed the black bodysuit/conentric circle costume that Havoc wore for years.

@Dominic: As sopmeone mentioned above, Grell designed the Cosmic Boy Bustier design.

@jccalhoun: Simpler times, I think. As a kid, I loved it, especially the story it debuted in, in which the colors are used to appeal to different warring groups.

@sijo: Cockrum didn’t design the Saturn Girl Swimsuit costume, although he sure did draw it well. I think it was one of the fan costumes shown in Adventure Comics 403.

Damn, I need to type my comments faster!

Saturn Girl was a fan design. But yeah, Cockrum sure seemed like he loved to draw it, as she featured prominently in a lot of panels during his issues.

Yeah, Duo Damsel was a fan design. Oops! Off the honorable mention list!

Cockrum’s Legion designs are pretty amazing in that they actually look futuristic — the Legionnaires actually look a good deal sleeker than their 20th Century DCU counterparts.

Never much cared for the red & purple color scheme on Chameleon Boy, though — it looked much better when they switched to a purple & yellow color scheme and ditched the skullcap. Colossal Boy’s costume also looked much better when Cockrum revised it slightly & extended the red torso part.

Ms. Marvel is one of the all-time GREAT superhero outfits. I could very easily put it at #1. Ditto Lightning Lad and Star Boy.

I’d never really stopped to notice just how many costumes Cockrum did that are still in use all these years later.

Havok, people! Havok!!!

Was Shadow Lass not a Cockrum redesign? Because I must say, I’m a fan.

Havok, people! Havok!!!

What I don’t get is why people think Cockrum designed Havok’s costume. When would he have done that?

Was Shadow Lass not a Cockrum redesign? Because I must say, I’m a fan.

He did do a re-design, but it wasn’t much of a re-design – it was the same as her original costume just with less skin.

I don’t love all of them, but overall, much better costumes than in that John Romita Sr list.

Nightcrawler should be #1 though!

WHA? Storm’s original threads at #9? INSANITY!!! She at the very least deserves to be in the top 5. That costume is inspired! Good look on Phoenix at #1, though. It’s a gorgeous outfit.

Oh, and BTW, who did the original Multiple Man design? Was that Byrne or Cockrum? I think that’s a really clever costume (well, clever logo and fun costume).

And Brian, totally unrelated, but maybe you could do some sort of “The Top 10 Superhero Costumes Involving Trenchcoats” or “The Top 10 Superhero Costume Redesigns that Involve Unzipped Leather Jackets”

Yeah, I’d have rated Storm higher, too, certainly higher than Colossus, and I’m not wild about Thunderbird and Element Lad’s costumes at all. But mostly I’m just glad to see so many great Cockrum designs in one place.

Thank you thank you thank you!!! I was soooooo disappointed that we did not have something like this last month, so I really appreciate you doing this now, Brian. Dave Cockrum was such an amazing artist with an incredible design sense. He either created some amazing-looking characters from scratch, or revamped existing characters’ costumes & appearances to such a degree that they far outshone the original versions.

Really good list. One thing I will disagree with is Phantom Girl not making it into the Top Ten. But I understand that it is a matter of personal taste. In any case, I love that costume, even got a sketch from Cockrum of Tinya several years ago…


By the way, the Futurians did first appear in a Marvel graphic novel, so I would consider them eligible for an honorable mention. I always thought Sunswift’s costume was fantastic. In any case, I would really like to see those stories return to print. They were some of Cockrum’s best work.

That Hellfire Club will seduce anything in a sash. Watch out, Corsair!

@ Ben Herman:

I second that request for a CBLR.

It would be interesting in light of how much Byrne appears to have brought to the Hellfire Club party in X-MEN.

I might dicker about individual placements, but I’m certainly cool with Phoenix in the top spot. Cockrum was an amazing designer, both for costumes and tech. (Note: His worst costume design has to be Sprite circa X-Men #149. I know it was meant to be bad, but it’s still burnt into my brain!)

Great list!


This is cute, Byrne critiquing Cockrum’s tendency to reuse costume elements:


My top three would definitely be Ms Marvel, Storm and Phoenix, in no firm order. Probably with Phoenix at the top – she features quite heavily in my toy and statue collection, with Dark Phoenix leading 3-2. Shame there are so few representations of classic Storm, though.

Got to love that Storm and Ms Marvel piece – that’s really fun – and that Ms Marvel #20 splash page probably marked the start of my collecting comics.

Thank you, Dave Cockrum. We are truly not worthy.

What the- Storm’s and Ms. Marvel’s costumes are NOT the same by a long shot! The only thing they have in common is the bathingsuit + tight boots idea. EVERYTHING ELSE IS DIFFERENT. It’s like claiming that I’m imitating every other man in the world for wearing a shirt and pants! Sheesh!

The designs are hit or miss for me but the new X-Men designs are some of the best of all time.

Agreed, Sijo, that’s just balderdash. Robin’s costume is closer to Superman’s than Ms. Marvel’s is to Storm’s.

Chameleon Boy’s costume colors always made me think of the orange/grape/cherry multi-flavor pack of Dynamints

I wouldn’t take the Byrne critique too seriously. I just thought it was cute and harmless fun that people would be interested in seeing.

T: Well of course it is, but for a joke to be funny it should be apparent; this one is reaching quite a bit.

The Saturn Girl pink bikini costume was submitted to Adventure Comics by Kim Metzger in 1968 (apparently inspired by an outfit Diana Rigg wore in The Avengers) , though it wasn’t used until the Legion’s final Action Comics appearance in 1970.

I believe the original design and first appearance used Saturn Girl’s traditional colours (red & white) and only turned pink in the ‘fashion from fans’ feature in Adventure 403 the following year. So Win Mortimer / Jack Abel and Ross Andru / Mike Esposito all had input to that outfit before Dave got his hands on it.

Sorry… but I see Element Lad’s Big Arrow either as “I’m With Stupid”, or as a big phallic symbol.

[…] I see this as a ironic tweak on Dave Cockrum’s noted mastery of costume design, but then it was just a nice character detail, one that helpfully emphasized the difference between […]

They should bring all of Dave’s iconic designs back ASAP!

I think that Star Boy should be #1, and Phantom Girl should be in the top 10, but otherwise a very good list. Cartainly, any costume that’s still being used today, 30 odd years later, especially for a major character, must be great.

I love Cockrum, but I’ve never liked Thunderbird’s costume.. Blecch!
It sort of hits you over the head with the Native American stuff.. way too obvious and corny looking.. But even his failures (like the Chameleon Boy “shoulder pads”), are interesting.

Also Phoenix as number One ?? It’s a great costume, but it worked a lot better when it was Red. This green one I’d just give Honorable mention.

So many good ones. … I couldn’t pick a single one (or even ten) as my favorite. But Lightning Lad & Saturn Girl together, really blew my mind as kid. I never imagined that Super Heroes could look like that!

I love the Phoenix outfit — and prefer the green — especially since she used a similar color scheme as Marvel Girl. Red hair and a red outfit — just too monochromatic for my tastes. That Gladiator design is pretty good, but not my favorite of the Imperial Guard designs. I though Oracle’s outfit was very dynamic, but she’s probably too minor a character to be considred. I don’t know if Brian is aware, but Cockrum designed the Black Cat — and I think that outfit is probably better than a couple that made the top 10. I do think that Lightnng Lad design was brilliant — and no one has come up with anything better in the nearly 40 years since! Oh, I’d also give an honorable mention to Polaris’s Shi’ar outfit — that design was brilliant — and much better than her current outfit.

[…] fama era a de um grande “artista de uniformes” (clique aqui para os top 10 designs do artista no Comic Book Resources) e tudo o que criava visualmente […]

[…] audience collectively mourned in late 2006 when we learned that notable creator and artist Dave Cockrum passed away due to complications with a long-time illness. He’s most noted for being a […]

Dave Cockrum also designed the Doom Patrol’s red-and-white costumes, which followed their original green costimes, back in the mid-1960s. This was before he turned pro, and was mentioned on the letters page.

Cockrum was King of Costuming! I’d place Lighting Lad, (green) Phoenix, Storm, and Ms. Marvel up there tied for first place. They were all so dynamic and modern! Had we ever seen anything like Storm’s cape before? Ms. Marvel did great homage to the original Capt. Marvel with her lightning bolt. Loved the vast majority of Cockrum’s costumes. (And I was honored that he chose to use my design for Light Lass, even if he revised the hot pants and symbol.)

strangely enough,it was with an interview with john byrne that cockrum’s fascination with thigh high boots and long gloves was explained: dave believed that no woman in her right mind would want to have that much exposed flesh if she was going into battle-there is even a cartoon dave drew of ms.marvel in her old suit with cleavage where she is smacking the hell out of a fanboy,nit just with her fist but with her bust as it has slidden out of her costume-the caption was something like, “does this answer your question why i don’t where a costume with cleavage anymore?!?!”
also,about wolverine wearing fangs costume-dave wanted that to be logans new costume-but byrne took over the pencil chores,hated the costume,and as soon as the x-m return to earth logan claws off (sorry for the pun) claiming that the alien material made his skin crawl-and yes,i know i need to get a life-still-great article-cockrum was my sole biggest influence as both a penciller and inker-i really miss the man—-

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives