For over 80 years, superheroes have been showing off their muscles with stylish and tight costumes full of wild colors. And while every hero has seen their look change from the first appearance to today, some of those changes are minor while others have gone into wildly different designs. Batman, for example, has had a number of costumes, but in the end, his look is basically the same as it was when he first showed up in Detective Comics #27.
Most superhero costumes don’t have much of an effect on the world at large, but there are ones that changed the game completely. Costumes that were so different from what had come before that they caused a shift in the way characters were designed moving forward. Some of them even had an effect on the real world.
10 Superman Kicked It Off With His Now-Classic Suit
Being the first superhero means that Superman got to set the basics for superhero costumes. From the underwear on the outside to the symbol across the chest to the cape, Superman’s look is the definitive costume. The design created by Joe Shuster is still used as the template for costumes today.
And while Superman’s costume has changed over the years, the Man of Steel always seems to find his way back to something close to the original look. Even the iconic underwear on the outside design came back after being gone for years.
9 Flash Made It Slick
The original Flash costume worn by Jay Garrick is a fine design, but it was the look created for Barry Allen by Carmine Infantino that changed the game. Considered one of the best superhero costumes ever created, Infantino gave Flash a slick look by keeping the suit bright and bold.
Infantino’s design looks like it could be a hood ornament, which only helps sell the idea that the Flash is fast. The way Infantino used the colors of the costume to show Flash’s speed also helped change the way other artists showed off movement in comic panels.
8 Cable Brought The Pouches
It can be hard to understand just how important pouches on superhero costumes became in the early 1990s, and it all comes back to Rob Liefeld’s design for Cable. With his big shoulder pads, pouches, and huge gun, Cable ushered in a new look for heroes that both Marvel and DC desperately tried to mimick with little positive effect.
While the use of pouches has eased up over the years, they still show up on plenty of characters, and with good reason; it just makes sense that heroes would keep items in pouches. After all, their costumes rarely have pockets.
7 The Challengers of the Unknown Matched
Superhero teams are usually made up of various characters with different looks, but the Challengers of the Unknown brought something new to the team dynamic by having matching costumes. The four members of the Challengers all wore purple jumpsuits with their logo on the upper right of the shirt along with white boots and gloves.
Jack Kirby, who created the Challengers of the Unknown, would later use the same concept with the Fantastic Four. Over the years, other superhero teams – most notably the X-Men – have played with matching costumes, but few have stuck with it.
6 Storm Went Punk
While she wasn’t the first superhero to add a little punk to her look, when Storm first showed up with a mohawk, a leather suit, and a choker, comic fans took notice. Storm’s new look heralded a new age of X-Men comics where things would be dirtier and sexier. The disco-ish designs of the 70s were giving way to something new and Marvel’s mutants were going to show everyone the way with their new leader and her very cool new style.
While Storm’s punk look lasted just a few short years, it had such an effect on readers that it is still one of the most common looks for cosplayers who want to dress like their hero.
5 Wonder Woman Reminds Us That Change Isn’t Always Good
Not every superhero redesign is as successful as Storm’s was. When DC Comics chose to get rid of Wonder Woman‘s iconic look and put her in a white pantsuit, fans revolted. DC soon changed the Amazonian back to her classic look, but that didn’t stop them from trying a few more times over the years to update her style, and almost always for the worse.
The black bra and biker shorts look was another attempt to update Wonder Woman’s style that was quickly derided by readers. If anything, DC learned that sometimes it’s better to stick to the basics than to try and keep up with the times.
4 The Shield Gets Patriotic
While Captain America may be the most famous patriotic superhero, he wasn’t the first. That honor goes to The Shield. Making his debut in Pep Comics #1, The Shield, as his name suggests, wore a shield across his chest that was painted to resemble the American flag. When Jack Kirby and Joe Simon would introduce the world to Captain America 15 months later, the resemblance was enough for Pep Comics publisher MLJ Comics to contact Timely Comics and threaten to sue over it.
To keep things from getting litigious, Kirby and Simon redesigned Captain America’s shield.
3 Iron Man Makes Armor Look Good
In the early days of comics, superheroes who wore armor tended to look clunky. Even Iron Man‘s first design was less than sleek – he looked like a big grey garbage can. But by his second appearance, Iron Man had traded in his MK I armor for the much cooler MK II.
The yellow and red design was form-fitting and less robotic looking, and the rest is history. Iron Man’s second look took armored heroes to a new level, and while Old Shellhead has had a number of looks since then, he always returns to the same iconic color scheme and basic design.
2 Spider-Man’s Black Suit Opened The Gates To Change
While DC’s attempts to change Wonder Woman’s look were met with disastrous results, when Marvel decided to give their most famous character a new costume, a new iconic look was born.
After damaging his classic red and blue costume during the Secret Wars, Spider-Man found himself creating a new suit with alien tech. While he didn’t mean to, the suit he “created” ended up being all black and having special powers. The black suit would go on to become Venom, but to this day Spider-Man sometimes decides to go back to that look, and fans love it.
1 Captain Marvel Jr. Gave Elvis His Style
While the other superhero costumes here led to changes in comics, only one hero had an effect on rock ‘n roll. Captain Marvel Jr., the sidekick to Shazam, caught the eye of Elvis Presley, who became a huge fan of the character’s adventures. Elvis was so taken with Captain Marvel Jr. that he had his hair styled just like the teen hero and even had his wardrobe designed to look like Captain Marvel Jr.’s costume.
Even in death, Elvis continues to show his love for the character. At the Graceland museum, a copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #51 is prominently displayed in a recreation of Elvis’s childhood bedroom.
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