Superhero costumes were never meant to be on screen. In the dawn of the superhero, the Great Depression, the skin-tight costumes we know so well were chosen for a couple of reasons. First, they show the contours of the body extremely well, so you could eventually have comic covers like this. Second, they recall outfits of old-time strongmen—you know, the guys that used to tour in the old timey side shows with the bearded ladies, bending iron bars and ripping apart phone books. Obviously, it makes for a look that isn’t all that fashion forward. With few exceptions, this costume has been repeated again and again through the years with results ranging from excellent to disastrous. These are the costumes at the furthest end of the latter part of the spectrum.
5. Superman (Zack Snyder version)
Supes was among the first few designs and an archetype for all that came after. Joe Shuster was frighteningly prescient with his creation, as his model has lasted for almost a century. Almost is the key word. The one part of the Superman costume that has always been mocked is the underpants. Though they are decidedly ridiculous, they have inspired generations of young boys. They showed that with a pair of tighty-whities and a towel, you could be the greatest superhero ever. Zack Snyder’s reboot has done away with the briefs and the belt, and the result is jarring. This Superman has no proportion—only bulges.
4. Captain America (Modern)
Marvel nailed it with their costumes for the Avengers. Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit has entered the pantheon of great movie costumes. Thor’s cut-off armor was a pleasant surprise. Black Widow’s leather catsuit was exactly what you saw in the comics. And Captain America’s World War II look based on The Ultimates was timeless. Then The Avengers came along and took it away. Audiences were left watching a little guy in blue pajamas give directions to the police while the other Avengers were smashing whale-sized Transformer-worms above Midtown.
The modern solution to the spandex conundrum of comic to movie transfers has been leather. This was most perfectly done in the X-Men movies. Their dark black and blue leather looked classy and rugged. Continuing on that trend, the designers for Daredevil decided to give him the leather treatment. He came out looking like bright red version of The Gimp from Pulp Fiction. Continuing the awfulness was the little “DD” logo on his left pec, making it look like he bought it at the mall. Red leather pants, red leather shirt, and red leather mask do not a good costume make.
2. The Phantom
The Phantom has one of the cooler backstories of the classic heroes, as he’s the Ghost that Walks, a legendary immortal hero that dispenses brutal justice. The only problem: he wears a skintight bright purple suit. That bright purple has popped the pages of comics from the 1930s on, and has been replicated in the designs for heroes such as Hawkeye, Psylocke, and even Batman on occasion. The only issue: a bright purple body suit looks abhorrent on the screen. Not even the perpetually underrated Billy Zane with a set of akimbo handguns could make this suit look good.
1. Batman (Joel Schumacher Edition)
Two words: bat nipples.
Green Lantern: We get it Ryan Reynolds, you work out.
What's your least favorite big screen superhero costume?