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Comic Theme Time Month – Best Superhero Costume Change

All December long, I will be doing daily installments of Comic Theme Time. Comic Theme Time is a twist on the idea of a “Top Five” list. Instead of me stating a topic and then listing my top five choices in that topic, I’m giving you the topic and letting you go wild with examples that you think fit the theme.

Today’s topic is “what is the best costume change that a superhero has made?”

Some examples of good costume changes include Quicksilver’s move from green to light blue, Nightwing’s move away from the “disco era” costume, Black Widow’s move from whatever the heck she used to wear in Tales of Suspense to the sleek cat-suit John Romita designed for her and the Angel’s move from the multi-colored suspenders look to the sleek number that Magneto designed for him in the Savage Land (without the parts of the costume that drained his powers, of course).

What are your top picks?

84 Comments

Huntress put on pants. Instantly became credible.

Daredevil shifting from the yellow and black costume to the red one is probably the most iconic and successful change of costume in my eyes.

Catwoman’s current costume.

I’m going with Robin ditching the bare legged look. That was a bit weird to have a teen boy run around in his underwear.

Thor getting actual Armour? Iceman losing the boots, becoming ice rather than snow?

I’d have to say DD going to the red outfit is probably the best.

I’d also give a noteable mention to Captain Atom losing the costume and going for the silvered skin, if that counts as a costume change.

I know I’m probably going to catch some flack for this, but I always thought the Superman Blue costume from the late-90’s was pretty awesome… I mean, I understand why you would stick with the classic, as it is pretty much the most recognizable and iconic costume in all of comics, but it would have been nice to spin off the Superman Blue costume to another character… like say, Superboy or something.

Ms. Marvel switching from her horrible first costume to perhaps my favorite female costume immediately sprang to my mind. Black Widow is right up there. I hated when Frank Miller changed her costume during his original DD run.

Spider-Man going black. I can’t think of another costume in and of itself that inspired hundreds of stories and a dozen or so new characters. (I’m not saying those were good, but the costume sure is swell)

Daredevil’s red costume is probably the most obvious one. Also, the silver-age Superman or Neal Adams’ Batman became so iconic they’ve been used all around the world.

On a personal favorite level, I’d pick Chris Sprouse’s redesigns of the Legion costumes for Legionnaires. The simple formula of the vertical bar in the middle has been a Legion standard since.

Hmmmm… Green Arrow switching to the Neal Adams designed outfit.

Elongated Man going from purple to red & black.

As a kid I liked the Cockrum era’s new designs for the Legion, although as I got older I found some of the old costumes weren’t that bad. Still of those that I still think were changes for the better…
Shrinking Violet
Duo Damsel
Phantom Girl
Element Lad
Star Boy
Lightning Lad

Wonder Girl’s first new costume

I co-sign the Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, Angel, Nightwing and Daredevil picks.

Spider-Man’s black costume, to me, is a far superior design to the classic red/blue. Plus, he LOOKS like a Spider!

Troia’s second costume (premiered in JLA/Titans #2) designed by Phil Jimenez was much better than the busy original one.

Hawkeye’s very recent costume change is a good one — that purple-blue tunic with the old-school mask was looking VERY dated.

Cassie Sandsmark’s original costume as Wonder Girl was one big hot mess. Todd Nauck’s smart upgrades in Young Justice made her look much better.

Wolverine’s Yellow/Blue to Brown/Tan. Makes more sense for the character to have darker, more nature colored costume.

Not gonna lie, I loved Aquaman’s crazy bearded harpoon hand look.

Coollikecolossus

December 21, 2011 at 5:48 am

Storm’s white 90s costume to her current black costume. It’s a mature throw back to her 1970’s original costume.

Agreed on Daredevil’s update, but let’s also not neglect Iron Man going from grey to gold armor, and then finally to red and gold. (I realize that Iron Man has worn a zillion different versions of his primary, non-specialized suits, but the red-and-yellow version is the most iconic and the usual frame of reference for any update.)

There’s a few I’d note:
Iron Man from that clunky gray/gold armor to the classic, sleek red and yellow (minus the nose of course).

Any costume change for Wonder Man out of that crazy green number he started in (even the safari jacket!)

I loved that Wasp would change costumes all the time as someone else would change outfits. George Perez’s original Avengers run was a great time time for that.

Can’t argue too much about the success of the red Daredevil or initial Tim Drake Robin changes. Those are excellent. And I don’t know if it’s a change or not, but the Vertigo treatment of Wesley Dodds with the suit and gas mask is leagues better that the Sandman’s original generic yellow and purple number…

Namor switching from the green bathing trunks to the full-body blue costume with gold(?) highlights. Took him from goofy to slick and slightly sinister.

Currently, no underpants-on-the-outside for Batman or Superman. I’m not so sure about the Star Trek collars, but certainly the “underpants-on-the-inside” makes for a less goofy super costume.

When Bruce Wayne switched from wearing double-breasted suits to single-breasted suits.

Lots of good choices here. Don’t forget:

1) Neal Adams’s redesign of Green Arrow in Brave and Bold.

2) Dave Cockrum’s original redesign of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Let’s do the worst costume redesign next.

Uh, Sandman originally wore the suit, fedora and gas mask, Simon and Kirby changed it to the yellow and purple costume and added Sandy. Years later, when Sandman popped up on DC’s Earth 2, he was back to the suit and an updated gas mask. But yeah, that Vertigo Sandman series was awesome.

Actually, BOTH Vertigo Sandman series were awesome, btw.

Nightwing going from the gold frills and 70’s open collar to the sky-blue logo on black (prefer it to the current red).

Classic Thor Costume to Simonson Designed Armor.

Neal Adams’s Green Arrow redesign comes to mind.

Not the same character, but the Barbara Gordon Batgirl costume is a huge step up from the one Bette Kane wore.

I liked it a lot when Kyle Rayner ditched his original costume and crab mask for that sleeker post-Ion suit. I still think that’s probably my favorite Green Lantern design ever.

I’ll also be controversial and say that I loved the Wonder Woman costume change for JMS’s Odyssey storyline (especially once the 90s jacket was dropped). Ironically, for a younger take on Wonder Woman she had a much more mature and adult costume – something that was primarily designed to be functional over titillating.

Other good ones: Jean Grey’s green miniskirt, Captain Britain’s second costume, the yellow Kid Flash costume, Banshee’s switch to the X-uniform, and Captain Mar-Vell’s second suit.

Modern Catwoman
Immortal Ironfist’s redesign
Red Daredevil
Red and Gold Iron Man

When Storm joined The Misfits.

@Steely Dan, FTW!

Ms. Marvel was the first that leaped to my mind. Nightwing abandoning the disco outfit was the second. The current Robin look (more or less — the long pants with the red vest — I know it’s changed somewhat from Tim Drake to Damien) is a HUGE improvement over the old bare-legged look.

Spider Jerusalem

December 21, 2011 at 7:14 am

Iron Man’s Silver Centurion armor.

Supergirl’s current look.

While not a costume change, Hulk’s initial change from grey to green (closest you can get for a costume on that guy).

The Frank Quitely leather uniforms in New X-Men. A perfect fusion of the movie look with the original uniform aesthetic. Didn’t work for every character (such as the Beast, who already had a full fur coat and didn’t need a bulky jacket), but represented one of the few times superheroes have been even remotely fashionable.

Tim Drake’s Robin costume was a huge step up from the previous ones, then his one (post-Superboy death?) getting rid of the green was even better.

Nightwing’s first costume was atrocious, but it got better each time like Robin’s. Both of them stopped getting better with the New52 offerings.

Giffen/Lim/Del’Otto’s redesign of Thanos from his mini-series thru Annihilation. I didn’t mind his original purple and gold, but the white black and bald look was badass and made him look even more like Darkseid.

Madden the Scientist

December 21, 2011 at 8:01 am

Previously mentioned but deserving of an amen: Robin’s ’90s reboot (immediately post short pants) was a great look. I like it better than the current one. Neal Adams’ Green Arrow redesign was awesome, as was Cockrum’s new look for the Legion. And Iron Man’s red-and-gold suit is light years better than his original monochromatic designs.

Deadshot was redesigned from his first appearance, and it still works.

Kid Flash going from the all-red copy of the Flash to the yellow-and-gold look.

Elongated Man’s iconic red outfit was an improvement over the original shades of purple, although that wasn’t bad either.

I agree… let’s do worst next! I call dibs on all of Dr. Mid-Nite and Hourman from the Infinity Inc. days! :-D

When Spider-Man changed back from the black costume to the classic blue-and-red.

Amazed no one’s mentioned it, but Luke Cage, going from his “Power Man” gold tiara, chains and yellow disco shirt to just his basic t-shirt and pants. He went from hideously outdated racial/decade stereotype to serious street level muscle.

Everybody have a….sweet Christmas!

Chris Sprouses Legion of Super-Hero
Cyclops current look
Immortal Iron Fist redesign
Thors current look

Tim Drake’s Robin costume was a huge step up from the previous ones, then his one (post-Superboy death?) getting rid of the green was even better.

I agree, that was a very underrated costume. The red and grey Robin costume died way too quickly, and i hope when things go back to normal and Tim Drake becomes Robin again (we all know it’s gonna happen), that’s the costume they go with.

Booster Gold in 52 with the advertisements.

Amazed no one’s mentioned it, but Luke Cage, going from his “Power Man” gold tiara, chains and yellow disco shirt to just his basic t-shirt and pants. He went from hideously outdated racial/decade stereotype to serious street level muscle.

It’s funny but I think Cage looks more like a stereotype now than he did in the 70s. Sure he may have ACTED more stereotypical with the jive talk and all, but I don’t know a single black guy in the 70s or any other era who wore anything close to what he was wearing back then. On the other hand, since Bendis got a hold on him everyone who draws him now gives him a different stereotypical urban look of some type: bald head with earring and goatee and baggy puffy clothes or bandana with oversized jeans and construction boots, etc, etc.

I liked it a lot when Kyle Rayner ditched his original costume and crab mask for that sleeker post-Ion suit. I still think that’s probably my favorite Green Lantern design ever.

Are you talking about that awful Jim Lee design that was way too busy and glow-y? That, like all Jim Lee costumes, was an abomination. I still think that crab mask costume was and still is Kyle’s best costume.

These are mostly subtle changes that worked well overall for me.

Wally West Flash going to the darker red and mirrored lenses.

By the same token, Bats with the all black and yellow oval circa Morrison JLA.

FF ditching the original outfits for the dark blue and white look.

Professor Hulk! He wore a shirt and got his hair styled. What wasn’t to love?

Oh, and I don’t think that anyone has mentioned Dazzler dropping the white disco outfit for the blue costume in X-Men.

Actually, the Dazzler mention makes me think of a possibly even better follow-up question than worst costume change: most dated costume change. Costumes that regardless of whether you think they’re good or bad are simply too tied to the era they were created in to work in any other era. Dazzler went from one extremely of-its-era Disco costume to another extremely of-its-era Olivia Newton John meets New Wave costume.

At the time definitely putting The Black Widow into Emma Peelers.
Also taking Marvel Girl out of the green mini dress and into her Phoenix garb.

I loved the Silver Centurion Iron Man too.
How about Captain America’s Ultimate version. Not a change per se but a redesign.

Sterg said:

“Any costume change for Wonder Man out of that crazy green number he started in (even the safari jacket!)”

Really? Even that most hideous get-up he adopted during West Coast Avengers? With the jet-pack?

I agree with the Superman Blue guy, cuz that actually was a visually pleasing design; I always wondered why they didn’t just add it to his other back-up suits like the lead-lined and red-sun suits, like he only got the Blue powers when he wore the costume. I think that would have been a great way to keep it around. But DC had to go and make the whole thing silly by doing the whole Red/Blue thing.

Also, I want to throw my hat in with the Wolverine and Spidey redesigns from the 80s, costumes that are just as popular as the originals. But to add to that, I’d like to say Ben Reilly’s SWpiderman 2.0 costume was a really cool update on the classic red and blues, and I actually prefer it. I know a lot of people won’t agree with me, but hey, it was god enough for Spider-Girl right?

Then there was the Jim Lee X-Men redesigns, which lasted all the way through the 90s and have been immortalized thanks to the awesome 90s cartoon. You could make the argument that they’re even more iconic than the Claremont/Byrne era designs.

And speaking of Lee, I loved his early 2000s Kyle Rayner redesign; while his first appearance costume was actually pretty striking, there’s something about his second one that works really well and it’s a shame the one he’s using currently is an ugly mish-mash of the two. Either stick with one or the other, don’t mix them unless you know what you’re doing! For example, if you’re going to keep anythig from the first costume, it’s the gloves and boots, not the off center emblem and the mask.

See, now I feel like voting for the X-Men’s first costume change, because it was a nearly imperceptable tweak and yet they made a big deal about it at the time.

All the great ones have been listed already, but I’d like to throw in The Falcon’s switch from green and orange to red and white.

I like Mar-Vells move from the green costume to his reddish one. Still like both but the change was an improvement, makes him more unique.

My vote is for Mar-Vell as well.

” How about Captain America’s Ultimate version. Not a change per se but a redesign. ”

Wouldn’t quite count, because in the Ultimate Universe, that’s the way he always dressed (other than the WW2 outfit, which was a pretty standard uniform with just the patriotic colors, and an aviator cap under his helmet). It’s not like he was wearing the traditional Cap costume, then suddenly decided ” I think I should clip off the wings and buccaneer boot cuffs, mute my colors, add a utility belt, and start hating French people as a running joke”.

If it did count, though, it and the other Ultimates designs would’ve been my first pick.

I agree that Wolverine’s move from yellow to brown was an improvement, but before that, his change from his very first yellow outfit in Hulk to the one he wore in the X-Men was also a huge improvement.

I vote for Spider-Man’s black suit. I remember at one point Marvel decided to compromise and have him wear read and blue during the day and black at night. Although, that was a little out of character for Spidey, I kind of liked that idea.

Iron Man changing his armor from the heavy gold suit to the red and gold armor would be a second place choice. It’s probably the only time that the costume most associated with a character is not their first costume (maybe Ms Marvel is in that category too).

Also the Wasp has changed costumes so many times that statistically you would expect her to have the best costume change, but I’ve never really liked any of her outfits.

Kitty Pride’s quest for her own costume is probably the most amusing story involving a costume change.

The worst costume change has to be the Black Cat’s plunging neckline. It was lower every time she appeared. By the early 90s it was down past her belly button. Her original costume was pretty great though.

I agree that the FF costumes changing after the negative zone was a real good one. They went from the most boring costumes to a pretty striking cover scheme. I also liked how, rather than choosing a new look, Byrne made the change a side effect of their abrupt return from the negative zone (don’t really see how it makes any sense, but it’s a fun idea anyway).

Spidey’s black costume was very cool, but I’m glad he still wears the classic one.

Alan Davis’ Captain Britain redesign.

Crap, all mine have already been taken.

1) Star Boy’s switch to the star field jumpsuit. Visually stunning.
2) Mar-Vell from the green and white to red and blue.
3) Wonder Man to the Safari Jacket look. Completely different, yet it worked for him.
4) Jean Grey from the Marvel Girl mini to the Phoenix jumpsuit and sash.
5) Green Arrow to the Neal Adams suit, then to Grell’s Errol Flynn look — both great improvements.
6) Most of Cockrum’s upgrades to the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I was going to jokingly suggest electric blue Superman, but it’s not funny if people are seriously suggesting it. :(

How about Ennis-era Punisher losing the white-boots-and-gloves superhero look?

Daredevil (red) and Wolverine (Byrne brown) were the first two I thought of. I also think Rogue looked her best in Jim Lee’s 1991 design with the jacket. I agree with Ms. Marvel.

And even though it’s not as good as the original, Spider-Man’s switch to the black costume was damn great for a blatant “let’s shock ‘em with a redesign.” It’s rare that a comic character has more than one iconic look, but Spidey definitely qualifies.

I’ve pretty much liked every Wolverine costume (brown and orange, ’90’s blue and yellow) except Patch. I understood the reason for it, but the fishnet over his eyes was really goofy. His current stealth costume for Uncanny X-Force is much cooler, in fact I like all of the Uncanny X-Force costumes. Even though they’re more color-swaps than anything.

Speaking of UXF members, I know that the ’90’s “bad-girl” costumes for superheroines are usually looked down upon, but I definitely prefer Psylocke’s sleek ninja outfit over the original purple and pink hooded monstrosity.

In just one panel, Marshall Rogers made Robin’s costume make perfect sense. All it took was tearing his collar open. open.

After decades, you could recognize it for what it was: Shakespearian doublet and tights. His legs aren’t bare. He’s wearing tan tights.

I feel like I’m the only person in the world who liked Storm with a Mohawk.

Since the Cockrum and Sprouse Legion redesigns have already been praised, I’ll put in the Giffen redesigns, both from 1982-1983 and his later re-redesigns in 1988. Sure some of that last atch were pretty jarring but the looked futuristic.

From Marvel I have to go with Mar-Vell’s red and blue Gil Kane designed suit from the green & white original.

I honestly loved the Red/Black Daredevil costume, the red, though iconic, is my least favorite. I liked the armored one(You’d think DD would be a stealthy character) and the Flying Blind costume was best.

Aquaman’s Blue Camo costume is so cool. Tempest got to keep his Red Camo, but not AC, which sucks. The Orange and Green is like Superman’s costume, tragically permanent.

My personal Top 5 are:

1. Wally Wood’s Daredevil. He went from a terrible costume to a good one.
2. Marshall Rogers’ Deadshot. Totally changed the character from mort to cool antihero.
3. Dave Cockrum’s Phoenix. Gave Jean Grey a totally sexy costume that was oddly modest and, thereby, turn “Marvel Girl” in to a woman.
4. Frank Quitley’s New X-Men. You could tell just by looking at them that it was going to be different.
5. The most recent Robin costume for Tim Drake. I was never a huge fan of the Neal Adams costume, but the red & black color scheme was great.

Ronald Jay Kearschner

December 21, 2011 at 9:35 pm

1. Daredevil
2. Black Widow
3. Ms. Marvel
4. Captain Marvel
5. Johnny Storm’s red and yellow uniform

Now if we are talking about costume that shouldn’t have changed:

1. Ant-Man
2. The Original X-Men uniforms
3.Dr. Strange (anyone remember that horrible mask?)
4. Spiderman (normally I like simple solid colored costumes, but not over a Ditko icon)
5.Prof. X’s green suit

Troia, the sleek black bodysuit with stars look (Jiminez designed). Sublime. I just wish people would have left it alone, all subsequent changes were blech.

Tempest, from non-descript Aqualad to wow. Jiminez again…

Superboy – black t and jeans. Some may say its not a super hero outfit. I am not one of them.

The X-men finally getting out of the spandex and into the leather get-ups has got to be one of the greatest costume redesigns in centuries.

I just remembered one of my very favorites: Fire and Ice changing out of their lame figure skating costumes and into their 80s-tastic Adam Hughes ones.

@ mbloom

Good call. That was a huge upgrade.

Madden the Scientist

December 22, 2011 at 7:33 am

Heh… I guess I’m the only one that thought Wolverine’s switch from Yellow to Brown was a bad move. The brown costume is so generic to me. I liked the “Fang” costume he wore better than that yawner.

@TerribleD
i like it too.
It didn’t occur to me to put in a vote for more than one when I posted earlier.

Wally West as Kid Flash going from the mini-Barry costume to the yellow suit. Great redesign.

While technically not a redesign, the Dark Flash costume was great. The darker red, silver trim, and the lightning bolt from the shoulder were distinctive but still identifiable as The Flash (or a version of The Flash).

Wally West as Kid Flash going from the mini-Barry costume to the yellow suit. Great redesign.

The best thing about that redesign was how it was done, with a bolt from Barry’s chest symbol magically altering Wally’s costume. Oh Silver Age, how I love you.

It’s funny to see my picks on this list (the Uncanny X-Force) show up on the comments for the “Worst Costume Change” list. We comic fans are a fickle lot.

I did get some support on Wolverine’s stupid “Patch” costume, though. I don’t think anyone can defend that crapper.

I found the DC One Million version of a future Wonder Woman pretty cool, like she was made of marble with, was it a computerized shield or bracelet called Harmony that turned into a plane? Did she ever appear again anywhere?

Arcangel was an interesting new look for X-Men’s Angel, though I didn’t have a problem with his red-and-white suit with the halo on the chest. He needed the new look and abilities to make him more than just a guy with wings.

Gotta love Grell’s Green Arrow costume.

[…] Comic Theme Time Month – Best Superhero Costume Change … salamurai. December 21, 2011 at 00:00 am. Spider-Man going black. I can't think of another costume in and of itself that inspired hundreds of stories and a dozen or so new characters. (I'm not saying those were good, but the costume sure is swell) . December 21, 2011 at 00:00 am. Other good ones: Jean Grey's green miniskirt, Captain Britain's second costume, the yellow Kid Flash costume, Banshee's switch to the X-uniform, and Captain Mar-Vell's second suit. In brief: Bank robber uses Spider-Man mask – El Paso Times A robber wearing a black Spider-Man mask held a teller hostage at gunpoint during a bank robbery Thursday in far East El Paso, FBI officials said. […]

Jeremy Aron Patterson

December 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Melissa Gold’s Songbird costume: MUCH BETTER than her tacky 1991 Screaming Mimi costume!

Jeremy.

i like spider-man’s iron spider suit. and the big time suit. those were his best looks

Jonathon Riddle

January 17, 2014 at 1:17 am

I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned Tom Mandrake’s Firestorm.

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