Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Who's the Best... Superhero Costume?

Doug: Design, functionality, color scheme - your choice how you want to tackle this one.


Edo Bosnar said...

Spider-man's original red-and-blue costume, as designed by Steve Ditko.
Runners-up: Iron Man's red-and-gold armor, also designed by Ditko, and Ms. Marvel's lightning bolt outfit (by Dave Cockrum).

david_b said...

Doug, you dawg. Of course you had to post my three fav's today. Both DC's GL and Kid Flash represent the coolness of Silver Age designs, effective yet not too dated or flamboyant.


I also agree with Edo on Ms. Marvel's later lightning bolt design. As we've mentioned about Legion outfits, Cockrum was easily a Bronze Age costuming genius.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MattComix said...

This is tough. I think superhero costume design has been a much maligned element in the modern era which I find really exasperating because it's always been an aspect that I enjoyed. Comics are a visual medium and costume design is a key component of that for this genre. Trying to compensate for the perceived lameness and unreality of the suits is just another way modern comics have sucked a lot of the joy out of this stuff.

Anyways, just offhand my top 5.

5. Kamen Rider Kuuga (hero from the 1999-2000 entry in the Japanese live action Kamen Rider series. Specifically the red "Mighty Form".)
4. Batman (Bronze Age design especially when they use a darker blue on it. Though ideally the black with blue highlight like Batman the Animated Series and JLU is perfect IMO.)
3. The Flash (particularly the Wally West variation with the angular "belt")
2. Spider-Man (I'm partial to Romita style "eyes" and web-pattern but I enjoy Ditko and Bagley to.)
1. Superman. Yes I said it! Trunks and all. (and yes the term is trunks) it's not that no trunks variations can't work to, I have just never understood the need to compensate for an overused joke that was never that funny in the first place but this plays into the larger issue of modern DC being seemingly ashamed of its characters.

Superman is basically the reason for all of this and no costume says superhero more than that one! The cape the boots the proud shield, when you draw it right or put it on the right actor it looks great! It's a little bit Flash Gordon, a little bit swashbuckler to but there's also something very regal about it while still retaining humility fitting the character. It's simple, clean, and absolutely awesome!

William said...

I have to go with Daredevil's monochromatic red suit, designed by the late great Wally Wood. A timeless classic that looks as good today as it did when it was first introduced. (So, of course Marvel is changing it again).

Spider-Man's original red and blue is also a timeless classic, that will never go out of style. (So, of course Marvel is changing it again).

I'd also throw in a vote for Spider-Man's black suit. The minimalist design worked perfectly on a character whose main attribute is his amazing agility. (So, of course Marvel took it away from Spider-Man and gave it to clumsy looking muscle bound brute like Venom).

Anonymous said...

The magic jammies from "The Greatest American Hero". It's a superhero costume that actually confers superpowers when worn; how is that not the coolest thing??

dbutler16 said...

Spider-Man's original is a classic, functional in addition to looking cool and appropriate for somebody named Spider-Man.

The Flash (I'm referring to Barry Allen, though Jay Garrick's costume is cool, too) is another, and Batman has some wonderful duds.

I also like Mister Miracle (I am a sucker for the red, green, and yellow color combination as well as just red and yellow) but, I think I will give my first place for to Captain Marvel...the Shazam one, that is. He may be a Superman knockoff, but the costume is just plain better than Superman's. I love the cape, and the way it attaches, plus there's that red and yellow combination again.

So, I guess my rankings go something like this (subject to change):

1. Captain Marvel
2. Flash (Barry Allen)
3. Spider-Man
4. Starboy (Dave Cockrum starfield costume)
5. Angel (blue costume from the 70’s)
6. Mister Miracle
7.Flash (Jay Garrick)

Anonymous said...

Kirby designs of the 70s! Metron, Big Barda, Omac (gotta love that mohawk) and Ikaris spring to mind as particularly good examples. Utterly distinctive.

The few comic appearances I've read were terrible, but even so I've always found the original Mar-Vell costume appealing. Theres something about that retro Adam Strange style look combined with an unusual green and white colour scheme that works well.

I'm afraid I have to disagree with Edo and david_b about Ms Marvel.... sorry, but thigh boots are a major error that cannot be excused - next you'll be telling us Killraven is a style icon:)


JJ said...

Bravo, MattComix. I'm with you on Superman. My runner-up would be John Byrne's Guardian -so sleek and modern -, followed by Dave Cockrum's glorious, flamboyant Phoenix design. It was originally conceived as white and gold, but I love the green and gold even more. -JJ

pete doree said...

Yep, all of the above. Best costume designers ever were obviously Kirby & Cockrum ( except maybe Dave's Cosmic Boy... ) with Gray Morrow & Howie Chaykin not far behind. Really! Even Gray & Howie's crowd scenes have great costuming. But I'd go for, in no particular order:
Wally Wood's DD.
Gil Kane's Captain Marvel, or indeed any hero with a mask where you can see their hair, so Kid Flash too.
Neal Adams' Angel. The Blue and white outfit with the halo on the chest. Actually Havok too, while we're at it.
Gil's Green Lantern also.
Walt Simonson's Manhunter! Totally impractical, totally cool. Deadman also. Same reason.
Romita's Emma Peelesque Black Widow.
The Flash!
Ikarus. Actually most of The Eternals too.
And thigh boots are great. On. Girls. Sorry, Killraven.

Anonymous said...

I always liked the classic gold and red Iron Man by Gene Colan in TOS. Another fave would have to the Vision as he first appeared.

Also, for kicks, I always enjoy playing with the phrasing of these questions, particularly the use of the word "costume". Matt Comix kind of alluded to this in his post. The post Bronze darkness was a decided move away from the flashy colorful costumes we all grew up loving. But give me that Garcia-Lopez style guide anyday. If the question was instead who has the coolest look, I might have said someone that I didn't think of as being costumed.

On a related note, I've always thought a cape was the dumbest most impractical part of a costume, unless of course the cape itself had some kind of power. That having been said - love capes anyway.


Garett said...

1- Manhunter by Simonson. Red white blue and gold--standout colors. Impractical but cool boot and sleeve designs. The big shoulders and throwing stars--it's all impressive and exotic.

2- Huntress. Purple and blue, with a hint of yellow for contrast. Love how the mask echoes Batman, but is not a straight ripoff. The 2 tones of purple in the outfit give it more appeal and subtlety.

3- Thor. Another over-the-top costume. Primary colors, the tiger stripe boots, wrist bands, giant billowing cape, the dots, the helmet wings--all this conveys majesty, big and grand. It would've been easy to just design a more regular Viking look, so I appreciate the effort to make a mythological character fresh.

4. Wonder Girl. Simple but I always like looking at her. The gold stars circling around her costume add lightness and movement, and look good with the gold belt and lasso. Dark boots, wristbands and hair add depth and unity. For me, better than Wonder Woman.

Martinex1 said...

A lot of great suggestions. I particularly enjoy the suggestion of the Hulk; never really thought of those purple pants as a costume but it made me think; that look sure is iconic and the Hulk was the face of Marvel advertisement for many years. I also cannot disagree with Superman, Wondergirl, and Kid Flash… all really great. Here is my list of favorites:

1) Yellowjacket. Always enjoyed the character and when I first read his debut in Avengers #59 I was sucked in by the costume. Not many yellow and black heroes out there. The costume has not changed much at all over the years. The wings would be totally impractical, but from a sheer cool look, YJ has to be in my top 5 list. Ant Man is not in my top five but I like his color scheme and how the helmet resembles an ant head. Overall Pym was well dressed in most of his guises (except for his Dr. Pym days in the WCA).
2) Quicksilver (Silver Blue with Lightning). Not sure why Pietro’s original costume was green, but the color scheme change made all the difference. Again it was an odd color for a hero, but combined with his silver/white hair, he just looked sleek and fast, and the costume emulated his name.
3) Union Jack. I mentioned it recently, but I think that is the best use of a patriotic flag symbol. I am not sure who designed it, but it just works really well and stands out amongst a crowd. The full face mask adds some mystery as well.
4) Nighthawk. I’ve actually liked Nighthawk’s costume in all of his iterations, but the midnight blue, red cape, yellow markings is really a classic design. Should be used more.
5) Yondu. Tell me that guy doesn’t stand out in a room. Okay, I know the fin is less costume and more body part, but in terms of design it is very alien and very cool. Great color scheme.

Can I throw out a nod to a few villains as well?

1) Magneto: Regal. Unchanging. Great helmet. Yes … he wears a cape, but it fits his position of self importance.
2) Dr. Doom. Honestly a pretty weird ensemble, tunic over armor / no pants, but it works. A classic.
3) The Hellfire Club. Although, I am sure many minds go to the queens in the group, I am referring to the men. I like that these overlords would harken back a few centuries in their garb.
4) Living Laser. I am sure Arthur Parks makes no other lists, but I always liked his whacky, overly intricate, sometimes bulky, odd helmeted, green and orange togs.

Bruce Adams said...

Really happy to make this my inaugural post.
Some favorites include:
1) The Destroyer (Timely) Not everybody can make vertically-striped pants work.
2) Mr. Miracle
3) Bronze Age Vision
4) Spiderman (original) Often tampered with, never improved upon.
5) Hawkman (Gold Age) His head is a hawk.
6) Havok Always loved the way the suit expressed the power and vice-versa.
7) Starlin-era Drax the Destroyer. See #4 re: tampered with and unimproved.
8) Atom (Gold and Silver Ages) "All in Color for a Dime" defined the Gold Age Atom as the "mean short guy" and I like the mask-cape combo. Silver Age suit is perfect balance and dynamism.
9) Cosmic Boy (Silver Age) Not easy to pull off pink.
10) Stardust the Super Wizard - To quote Motorhead: "everything louder than everything else"

HOWEVA: The original is still the greatest: The Phantom.

Anonymous said...

1) Black Bolt. I love the black body suit with silver lightning bolts and underarm wings. Best of all? He has a tuning fork on his head and it doesn't look stupid!

2) Flash (Silver Age). Sleek, with all the lightning bolts well-spaced. I like the Kid Flash costume but prefer dominant red to dominant yellow.

3) Batman. You know him by silhouette, and the various color combos (blue, gray, or black,; short or long ears; yellow oval or not) all look great.

4) Spider-Man. Visually appealing. The webbing over the red is an inspired touch. I prefer big eyes to small.

5) Yellowjacket. It's a shame the costume has become synonymous with Hank Pym hitting his wife because it looks so cool. Awesome helmet/mask, simple color contrast, and shoulder extensions that actually improve the overall look.

- Mike Loughlin

jeirich said...

Great question.

The ones that immediately come to mind are:

- 70's era Luke Cage. For whatever reason, the color combination and the use of metal (chain belt, headband) really appealed to me.

- Dr. Fate. The helmet is just badass.

- Mister Miracle.

- Steranko era Nick Fury. Sleek elegance with just the right amount of accessorizing. See also Black Widow.

Anonymous said...

Captain Ultra! Hey, say what you want, but he wasn't shy about using primary colours.

Mike Wilson

david_b said...

Mike, THANKS for the YJ mention. Agreed, it's a subtle, yet cool outfit.

Everybody seems to rail on about the high wings restricting his view, but it still ranks highly in my book as a wholly distinctive insect look. Sal Buscema and John Byrne really knew how to draw YJ well.

Russ said...

For me it's easily Ditko's Spider-Man, as well as Kirby's Cosmic Pantheons (both Asgard and Third World.) I don't know if it qualifies as a "costume",but surely there is perfection in the design of the Silver Surfer.

About Ditko, he also designed some of the best costumes for Villains as well. I've always thought a book starring Mysterio would be a winner, if drawn by Ditko.

Some interesting costumes not mentioned would include The Phantom and the Silver Age Goliath. Cool shades.

Russ said...

I meant "Fourth World" of course, though the Third World definitely needs superheroes.

ColinBray said...

Captain America - he IS the spirit of his country, wrapped in the flag in all the best ways.

Iron Man - the classic red and gold Bronze version, again more than a costume.

The Vision - high Bronze Age version. Again, more than a costume, in every panel his look showcased his alienation and confusion over who/what he was.

In my opinion, in all three cases these characters had a Bronze Age look that was later altered, damaging their intrinsic identity. In the case of the Vision, irretrievably.

ColinBray said...

Captain America - he IS the spirit of his country, wrapped in the flag in all the best ways.

Iron Man - the classic red and gold Bronze version, again more than a costume.

The Vision - high Bronze Age version. Again, more than a costume, in every panel his look showcased his alienation and confusion over who/what he was.

In my opinion, in all three cases these characters had a Bronze Age look that was later altered, damaging their intrinsic identity. In the case of the Vision, irretrievably.

Anonymous said...

Fave guys:
Kid Flash! I liked that we could see his hair, even though it wasn't good for his secret i.d., and the reversal of Barry's colors made him a standout!
Brother Voodoo! The first appearance cover called to me from the shelf, and it's the first custom action figure I ever made! (hanging on the wall over the computer as I type this!)
Phantom Stranger! Suit, cape, fedora, amulet. Simple, yet striking.
Fave Uni-sex: Northstar and Aurora! The original versions! Sleek, simple, and they made a statement!
Fave gals!
Wonder Girl by Gil Kane! Not the later Perez version, but the one with the crew neck. It was sexy because it appeared to be clothing! It was sleek, eye-catching, and functional!
Scarlet Witch: Buscema period. Simple, elegant, eye-catching.
Batgirl, the Infantino design. Fit in with the Dynamic Duo, while still making an individual statement. I would go with Byrne's change on the color of the weapons bag, though. Too much to match it to her hair. Later renditions with a gray bodysuit, a pointed collar, and/or a yellow lining for the cape ruin the overall look IMO.

Humanbelly said...

Hey, a shout-out to new-poster Bruce up there! Welcome aboard-!

Man, I was reading down through the posts, here, and while a couple of my personal faves were mentioned early-ish (Vision, Jay Garrick Flash), NOBODY had snagged two of my big ones! Then Russ called MYSTERIO, who might sport my favorite costume ever-- even in several incarnations; and then Kevin swiped PHANTOM STRANGER, whose look, if anything, becomes even cooler with the passage of time. Boy, ya wait too long around here. . .

Dr Strange, anyone? Even though there were several attempts to revamp and update him over the years-- his overall look always drifted back to pretty much what Steve Ditko gave us right off the bat. I do have to grudgingly admit, though, that his trenchcoated, gritty STRANGE phase not too long ago was a hopelessly overdone cliche that he honestly did carry off rather well.

*sigh* Does anyone remember the hoot of a bracketology we had with this subject? Who was the champ finally? Spidey? Batman?


Redartz said...

Russ- I completely agree about Spiderman, Mysterio and Ditko's design skills in general. Dr. Strange is near the top of my list, and I also always liked the looks of the dread Dormammu ( it's the flaming head thing...). Again, all Ditko. If he had done nothing else but design Spidey's costume, his place in comics history would be secure (imho, of course!).

Redartz said...

Ah, HB, I salute you.Once again you scoop me! You're quite right about the consequences of waiting too late to post here. Of course, it often seems that if I was to miss a chance to comment, your comments would state what I would have, and probably more entertainingly!

Dr. Oyola said...

The Hulk.

gotta love stretchy purple dungarees.

Anonymous said...

Oh man what a ton of great costumes choices. I'd give my vote to Spidey's classic red and blue costume, Captain America (seriously no one has ever looked better dressed basically as a flag), Batman (those pointy ears!), Gil Kane's Silver Age Green Lantern, the Flash's red costume and Ms Marvel (the Cockrum designed black outfit with the sash). Dave Cockrum was a great costume designer (see the new uncanny X-men), but why all the sashes? Phoenix had one too!

- Mike 'jeans and t-shirt kinda guy' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Allen said...

I would have to go with the icons of DC and Marvel - Neal Adams Batman, silver age Green Lantern (with the green shoulders), I really like the John Byrne Superman with the giant S Shield, Kirby's Thor, Romita's Spiderman, The Flash (Barry Allen), red and gold Iron Man (late 60's/early 70's - no nose), of course classic Captain America (pirate boots and gauntlets), Wonder Woman (when she still wore the eagle on her chest). Less iconic but still awesome - Kid Flash (one of my favorites), Hawkman (especially the golden age helmets), and of course Neal Adams Green Arrow - maybe the coolest superhero costume ever. I could go on and on but you get the idea (Oh - Black Canary and top hat Zattana - I mean - what's not to like?)

Rip Jagger said...

I've been reading vintage Legion of Superheroes and one of my all-time favorite costumes, one that seems to stay despite all the changes around is Sun Boy's vivid red and yellow. It works!

Kid Flash had the best ever.

Rip Off

johnlindwall said...

Like others have stated here I feel that Dave Cockrum is a master costume designer. My first thoughts of great costumes are centered on his LOSH designs:

1. Cockrum's Lightning Lad: The black suit with the over-the-shoulder lightning bolts and the white inner-leggings (where had you ever seen anything like that before!?). The black boots perfect the look. Classic!

2. Star Boy: Just so cool to have a starfield for one's duds! Such a marked improvement over his old crappy purply suit. This could be done amazingly in a live-action or CGI movie with the starfield on his clothes animated with blinking stars, shooting stars, etc. WHOAH!

Side note: Dave's Chameleon Boy outfit was a big improvement over his old clothing, but the color scheme always makes me thing of (another blast from the 70's past) -- Dynamints! They had a pack with grape, orange, and cherry that had his same color scheme!

Side note #2: (Switching to Mike Grell's Legion handiwork): I am the only person in the universe who likes the man-corset that Mike invented for Cos. I just love it and always thought it was very logical and futuristic, given how scantily the ladies were clad especially.

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