Some comic book character designs are iconic. There’s Superman’s red and blue outfit. You have Batman’s animal-specific design. There’s even Spider-Man’s very intricate web-clad spandex outfit. These costumes have defined the character for ages, even they aren’t immune from getting a makeover. Some don’t really work out, like Superman’s “electric” Red and Blue outfits and Bat-Azrael’s shiny armor. Others fare much better, like Spider-Man’s all-black outfit have managed to enter the pop culture zeitgeist but it still hasn’t stopped him from returning to his good old costume eventually.
There are, however, those instances when a comic book character gets a fresh new look and the look just sticks because it’s infinitely better than the original. I’m not talking about when a new character takes over the superhero mantle like how Hal Jordan became the defacto Green Lantern from Alan Scott from the Golden Age. I’m also not referring to the times when a costume was changed after a few issues like when Matt Murdoch didn’t know yellow just looked silly when you’re name is something cool like Daredevil. No, I’m talking about those costume changes that became their default outfit and had the character ditch the old look.
No, this was before Carol Danvers was promoted to the rank of Captain.
Ms. Marvel, believe it or not, was just a side character of the original Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers just so happened to get exposed to an explosion that transferred some of the Kree warriors powers to her. This is probably why her original look of that almost all red outfit looked so similar to the original Captain Marvel. By the way, the image I’m using isn’t actually the first iteration of Ms. Marvel’s outfit. Her real first costume looked pretty much the same but had an inexplicable midriff. Even with this slight alteration, Ms. Marvel didn’t look like she was destined to be one of Marvel’s most popular superheroes.
That all changed after a few years when she got an all black design which, not only differentiated Ms. Marvel from Captain Marvel a whole lot more, became one of her most iconic outfits she ever wore. The all black skintight outfit had some nice touches, like the minimalistic lightning bolt that flows from her left shoulder all the way to her right hip and the dramatic red scarf makes this rather simple design stand out while giving Ms. Marvel her own unique identity. She did have a few costume changes after this, like the garish Binary costume and the more utilitarian Warbird outfit, the all-black costume is still her most memorable one during her Ms. Marvel stint.
From disco to goth.
When Dick Grayson decided to break out from the shadow of Batman and go out on his own, he decided to ditch the silly Robin outfit and become Nightwing. Unfortunately, the costume he designed from himself, while not as humiliating as his green underwear clad Robin, his Nightwing costume simply screams ’80s… if the Eighties still loved disco. While it did have the foundation of a cool costume for the time, there were just some things that looked too flashy. The large and exaggerated pop-up collar already looked silly and the shiny gold trim didn’t help much. The light blue trim that forms a mankini also looked weird with the very dark blue suit.
Thankfully, Dick Grayson got his act together and simplified his outfit but made it look so much cooler as a result. The newer Nightwing sported a skintight full body suit. I still wonder how he gets into it but I guess that’s the magic of comics. The electric blue also works much better on the all-black outfit. It makes him more like a talented gymnast than a guy who loves to go out to the club.
Thank god they gave Green Arrow the hefty makeover!
I honestly didn’t get the point of Green Arrow during his early days. Basically, Oliver Queen was a rich guy who was summoned by a signal in the sky to fight crime. He would then get his sidekick, travel in his special built vehicle and used various gadgets to help with his crime fighting activities. If this sounds a whole lot like Batman, well, you’d be right! Green Arrow was just a less gritty version of the Dark Knight and it certainly didn’t help that his costume just looked like something you could’ve put together by digging through your closet. His original costume consisted of an oversized green shirt and pants paired with red boots and gloves. The only real defining part of his outfit was his hat, which looked right out of some Robin Hood cosplay.
But when DC decided to reboot the character, they gave him a whole lot of personality. He lost his fortune and he became a champion of the downtrodden. With this new backstory came a new look. Gone were the baggy shirt and pants and a new streamlined and, more importantly, darker green outfit. He also now sports some archer arm guards, which makes a whole lot of sense as he has to tug on that bow but inadvertently makes him look tougher. The biggest change was now Green Arrow sports the iconic facial hair, giving him a more flamboyant look.
There is something to be said about his more recent outfit where he sports a hood as it does give Green Arrow a darker and grittier look. But there’s just something about the hat that I like. It’s just accentuates the Robin Hood look a touch more than the hood.
Yeah, it took Marvel a while to make Beast really look like a beast.
Beast was one of the founding members of the original X-Men way back in the ’60s. However, he looked way different from the way most people think of the character these days. That’s because, besides the oversized hands and feet, Hank McCoy just looked like a regular guy. Oh, a super smart guy with uncanny acrobatic ability but, if he did take off his mask, he was pretty much normal. Not exactly beast-like, really.
After leaving the X-Men, Hank formulated a potion that could give ordinary homo sapiens to get temporary mutant abilities. However, when his research was about to be stolen, he drank the serum himself, causing him to further mutate into a more furry state. He could’ve turned back to “normal” but he waited too long and this new Beast form became permanent and the more iconic “Blue Beast” appeared.
Oddly enough, the “blue fur” was actually a coloring error from Marvel. Much like how the Incredible Hulk was originally gray but, because of a simple mistake, he became green, Beast’s blue fur was supposed to be black but, since most comics would use dark blue in place of black, the color stuck. It’s a good thing, too, as the blue fur definitely made Beast stand out a whole lot more.
Whitewashing in reverse?
Okay, I’m cheating here a little because the original iteration of the character, Betsy Braddock, didn’t start her superhero career as Psylocke. She started out as the telepathic sister of the original Captain Britain. She was basically a nice girl (and a professional model for a while). She even took over the role of Captain Britain for a while when her brother was out of commission. She may have had her fans but she wasn’t all that popular until Marvel totally revamped her look and personality!
Thanks to the alien reality show producing Mojo and comic book science, Betsy Braddock’s mind was fused with the Hand assassin named Kwannon. Thus, the British born nice girl became the Asian bombshell martial artist Psylocke. Psylocke, along with other *ahem* strong female characters such as Rogue, was probably one of the reasons why a lot of boys going through puberty decided to start reading X-Men comics! I mean, most fans know about Psylocke and, because they wanted to know about her history, probably found out about the entire Betsy Braddock character!
Sometimes a classic design can work… if you mix it with some new ideas.
This is more of a personal choice but I never liked the original design of Brainiac when he first appeared. He looked like a green version of Lex Luthor but with silly eletrodes on his head and a purple leotard. Not something an alien android of superior intelligence would be wearing. I also never liked how he showed emotions, which just made him more like Lex Luthor as he would smirk with glee when besting Superman.
Which is why I fully approved the revamp of the character in the ’80s. They stripped away of his fleshy bits and made him look like a Terminator from outer space. They also gave him a super cool spaceship shaped like his head but with tentacles! The best change was they made him an emotionless husk with his only purpose was to collect knowledge of various sentient life as well as to demonstrate his superiority over organic life.
DC did return Brainiac to his original “Lex Luthor” look but he still retained the more robotic personality. While this is much better than the snickering original version, I still prefer the more Terminator-esque version of Brainiac.
What other comic book characters received successful makeovers? Let me know in the comment section below!