Sep 14, 2010

Top Ten Superhero Costumes, Comics Cube Style!

Since we all love superheroes, I figure I'll do this now, because I'll eventually do this later. Here's the Cube's list of Top Ten Superhero Costumes!

The criteria is simple. First, the costume has to look awesome. It has to be able to grab your eye, and maybe drum up some interest, and make you wonder, "Who is that?"

The second criterion is that it has to tell you something about the character. It has to give you an idea who he is, what his powers are, and what he's about. If I give someone who knows nothing about superheroes a piece of paper with a bunch of names, and then a poster with all the characters in there, would said person be able to match the characters to the names? Big points if the answer is yes. (Granted, if they don't fit this criteria, it may have more to do with the name, so I'm allowing some leeway.)

Obviously, subjectivity is in heavy play here.

Honorable Mentions:

Superman's costume takes a really good artist to make it work properly.


Daredevil's costume fits all the criteria, but is a little too bland to make it to the top ten.


Green Lantern would have been number 11 on this list. Do not ask me to pick which one, as that was partly why he didn't make it in. You can view a whole lot of them in the Sinestro Corps War. (Here, here, and here.)



So without further ado, let's start. The list is after the jump.



10. Captain Marvel


Designed by C.C. Beck, Captain Marvel's costume was eye-catching in the 40s and it's eye-catching now because of the bright colors and the red lightning bolt, which signifies the magic lightning that would transform Billy Batson into his superpowered persona whenever he yelled "SHAZAM!" (Note that there is only a one-month delay between the original Flash and Captain Marvel, so there was no ripping-off involved.) The "Captain" part of his personality is embodied in the military-style vest, while the sash by his waist and the intricate design of his cape gives him a more-than-regal presence. The folded boots and the armbands also serve to set it apart from the generic Golden Age superheroes. Moreso than even Superman (if we remove cultural impact and considerations, and just look at the design, per se), Captain Marvel's costume screams "Big Gun."

It should also be noted that the costume of Captain Marvel Jr., essentially a blue version of the same suit, is what inspired Elvis Presley's look.

9. Dr. Strange


Created solely by Steve Ditko, regardless of what the history books say, Dr. Strange is Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme, its preeminent magician, and you can tell. There aren't many Marvel superheroes with capes, which makes it even more special for the ones that do. Everything about Stephen Strange - but especially the cloak - screams "magic," and while it may be considered an eccentric costume for some, it has to be said that they've tried changing Strange's costume multiple times, and have always ended up changing it back.

8. Hawkeye


Clint Barton has undergone a lot of different variations on Don Heck's original design over the decades, but the essential Hawkeye still stays cool. Everything about Hawkeye's costume makes it the coolest archetypal archer in the Marvel Universe or any other universe - and that includes the Neal Adams-designed Green Arrow, so you know that's high praise coming from me. For a color scheme, various shades of purple also works perfectly for the world's mightiest marksman.

7. Thor


Thor Odinson, God of Thunder, as designed by the KING OF COMICS, Jack Kirby! Remember what I said about capes being a rarity in the Marvel Universe? That makes the guys with the capes even more special. Even without a defining symbol, Thor's design not only tells us he's a Norse god (granted, it's based more on the misconception of the Nordics rather than what they actually were like), it also tells us that Thor is the freaking big shot of the Marvel Universe, and if you mess with him, your ass is going to get kicked.

Any attempt to change Thor's costume (like in Walt Simonson's classic run) over the last 50 years has fallen short, in my opinion.


6. Batman


Name me one other character in the entire realm of comics for whom, if you place everyone's silhouettes in a row, you can name them instantly in a minimicrosecond. Go on. I'll wait.

Although there have been more than a dozen variations on Batman's basic costume in his 70-year existence (from blue and gray to black and gray to all black to having a yellow oval around the bat symbol to having no yellow oval to having a metal utility belt to having a pouch belt), this particular costume has been my favorite since it debuted. I always thought it made sense for Batman to be in all black - that's more in keeping with a bat's colors and nocturnal nature, after all, than blue - and I always liked the yellow oval around the symbol. From a practicality standpoint, it offers gunmen a target (he's wearing kevlar underneath) and makes the emblem pop. From a design standpoint, it makes for better silhouette shots - you can just do an entire shot of him in silhouette and have the bat pop out, which you can't do without the yellow oval.

Batman was designed by Bill Finger. No credit for that other guy.

5. Starman


Jack Knight is my favorite Starman. But he doesn't wear a costume. On the other hand, Will Payton's black costume (not the yellow and purple one), designed by Dave Hoover, is awesome. As a young'un, I thought it might have been the coolest costume ever, with that gigantic emblem that connected to his gloves and boots. Everything about Will Payton's costume was cool, and so simple in its design.

4. Captain America


Though there were many US-patriotic superheroes to debut in the 40s, the best design is by far Jack Kirby's Captain America. From the chainmail armor to the way that the star and stripes are laid out to the A on the forehead to the wings on the temples to the way the gloves and boots aren't skintight, there has never been anything wrong with Cap. Ever. He just looks cool, and he looks like the Marvel Universe's moral compass. He commands respect. The best superhero costumes aren't necessarily simple, but they work from a simple template and add from there. Kirby's design does that perfectly.

3. Promethea

We mean the one on the right.

Designed by JH Williams III, I always thought that Promethea's costume was so simply mythologically inspired, but so clever in that every single thing she was wearing represents something. From her sandals to her chest plate to her skirt to her robe to her tiara, and even to the Thoth and Hermes tattoos on her legs, Promethea doesn't just look cool, she looks genuinely awe-inspiring.

2. Spider-Man


If anyone actually has a problem with this pick, I must highly question your design taste. Spider-Man's costume is the perfect costume. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, and everything about it screams "fun-loving arachnid-powered superhero." He looks creepy, but he has fun with that creepiness, as evidenced by the fact that no other superhero exists that can contort his body to such ridiculously creepy - but fun - positions while he's web-swinging. His face and body are fully covered - so under that costume, he could be anyone, which is perfect for Spider-Man's everyman persona. And just from a design point of view, can you imagine being in the 60s, being fielded costume after costume after generic costume, and then all of a sudden seeing something where the gloves connect to the body, where the symbol can't stand without the red, where there's a different symbol on his back, and with creepy-looking eyes? Steve Ditko designed a classic, ladies and gentlemen, and it would be number one on the list, if there wasn't one more costume that encapsulates perfection just a little bit more.


1. The Flash


You know, it really doesn't matter which Flash costume - Barry Allen's or Wally West's - we're looking at here, since they're essentially the same costume, with just a few tradeoffs. Barry's has got the little wings on the boots that say "fast." Wally's got the V-shaped belt that is more streamlined and also says "fast." Barry's costume is brighter red, which would denote that it's faster. Wally's costume is shinier, which would also denote that it's faster. Regardless, it's pretty much the same costume. And that costume, the original of which was designed by Carmine Infantino, says exactly one thing, encapsulated by three words: "Fastest man alive." Scientifically speaking, red is seen as the fastest color (that is, if a red car and a car that is not red were to travel at the same speeds, the human eye would perceive the red one to be going faster). The lightning bolts all over the costume lend themselves to dazzling speed effects, as, ever since the 50s, they had a habit of being depicted as separate from the costume. The symbol is iconic - so much so that any yellow lightning bolt would be interpreted by a casual reader as a Flash symbol - the wings on the temples call to mind the god Hermes or Mercury (far more blatant with the original Flash on the far right), and the running boots are just that - running boots.

When one looks at the Flash's costume, even without knowing anything about him, a reader can immediately tell you one thing. This guy runs. And he runs fast.


That's my list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

11 comments:

ike said...

I like some variations of the Green Lantern costume. Wildfire is also good. One winged hero in a costume list is also cool. Gary Frank made a cool Dawnstar remake, but the original still rocks.

I would remove Starman in favor of the Legion version.

Spidey says that it's not a costume, but a uniform. Hehehe.

Long live the Legion! Some Guardians of the Galaxy looks are also funky. Oliver Coipel designs are also very good - Hawkeye, other Legion.

So many!

Duy said...

It was hard for me to leave Green Lantern out, but in the end I really prefer the top ten I picked.

Will Payton's Starman is still my favorite Starman costume. The Legion has great costumes, but I don't know if I'd be able to pick them out of a lineup. Except maybe Lightning Lad and Blok.

Matthew said...

I mean, the problem with Green Lantern is picking one. There are too many. It's classic, but I don't mind it not being here.

Duy said...

Yep. I imagine if I were to have picked Iron Man (which I would never do), I would have a hard time picking which one, too. I'm a fan of Hal's suit and I'm a fan of Alan's. It was hard to decide, so I just bumped them off the list.

ike said...

The Rocketeer dude is a super-hero? That's a great costume, too.

And Iron Man...yeah, much props to the armor.

Duy said...

Rocketeer's got a cool-looking helmet, I don't know if the rest of it counts as a costume.

Eisner's The Spirit is a great costume too, in the sense that he basically just drew plainclothes and said "fuck it, I'll put a mask on him."

As for Iron Man, which armor? I'll pick the one with the nose.

waps said...

Doctor Strange FTW!!!

The Professor said...

I'm glad you mentioned the Spirit as an option. But, if I was going for a "minimalist costume prize," I'd probably opt for Golden Age Sandman. Plainclothes and a cool gas mask.

Duy said...

I love Wesley's gas mask! Always awesome to me -- too bad Golden Age DC seems to disagree and put him in that really generic suit.

Allysons Attic said...

Jack Knight had a Costume.

It was the night goggles and the cool Jacket.

I always loved that look.

And I like the costume of The Ray.

Duy said...

Allyson, Jack doesn't have a costume so much as Jack has a wardrobe... It's pretty much the equivalent of saying that Jesse Custer has a costume. I'd be much more willing to call it a costume if he wore the same leather jacket throughout his entire series, but he didn't - eventually it went to one that didn't have the ULTRACOOL SYMBOL on the back.

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