The 20 Coolest Superhero Costumes Ever! (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on April 4, 2007 @ 2:37 pm

What makes an awesome superhero costume? Is it the color scheme? A memorable chest emblem? Nifty accessories? An impossibly long and impractical cape? Well, to answer this question, I’m counting down the twenty coolest superhero costumes ever here at Apropos of Something. Today’s installment includes numbers 20 through 11; I’ll be back on Friday with the top ten.

The images used below are from Microheroes Archive. Check out the site for tiny reproductions of virtually every variation of every superhero costume ever. Now, let’s start the countdown!

20. Thor

Who would have guessed that the Norse gods ran around Asgard dressed like superheroes? Sure, it may seem like a silly get-up for a mythical being to wear, but Thor’s costume capitalizes on a red/yellow/blue primary color scheme that certainly captures the eye. I have no idea what purpose the light blue dots on the chest serve, but they look pretty cool too. Factor in the helmet — famously featured in Adventures in Babysitting — and you have yet another classic Jack Kirby design.


19. Angel

Angel has suffered through some pretty awful costumes since he debuted way back in X-Men #1, but this Neal Adams-designed version is a rare exception. Thanks to a simple color scheme and a stylish mask that allows Angel’s blonde hair to show, this costume is almost enough to distract you from the fact that you’re looking at a character with bird wings growing out of his back. No wonder artists have returned Angel to this costume periodically through the years.


18. Nightwing

Like Angel, Nightwing has also endured his share of terrible costumes. Of course, Dick Grayson started his superhero career as Robin the Boy Wonder, and we all know how ridiculous that get-up is. After he adopted the Nightwing identity, Dick fought crime for several years wearing what can only be described as a disco-rific circus costume. Then, in the mid-1990s, he switched to the design pictured at right (inspired by his appearance in Batman: The Animated Series). It’s simple, practical, features a cool domino mask, and, best of all, doesn’t include tiny green shorts.


17. Iron Man

Tony Stark has worn dozens of variations on the high-tech Iron Man armor during his career — from the original gray metal suit to the more recent anime-inspired iterations. Personally, I’ve always preferred the simplicity of the mid-1960s version pictured at right. Specifically, I feel the two peaks on the faceplate add a little more character than later rounded designs.

Iron Man

16. Blue Beetle

By eschewing the contrasting color schemes common to so many superhero costumes and instead adopting complementing shades of blue, artist Steve Ditko created a uniquely striking design for Blue Beetle. The subtle scarab design and yellow goggles are just icing on the cake. As one of the few comic book characters who has admitted to struggling with his weight, it’s a testament to the costume’s design that it still looks good when Blue Beetle is sporting a bit of a middle-age paunch underneath the spandex.

Blue Beetle

15. Storm

When I was growing up, Storm was one of my favorite comic book characters. Then, Halle Berry came along in the X-Men movies and ruined her. Nevertheless, Ororo’s original costume (designed by Dave Cockrum) remains a classic. Yes, it’s skimpy, but the cape and headdress give the overall design an exotic look that really fits the character’s personality. That’s right, true believers; Storm actually had a personality before Halle Berry got ahold of her.


14. Dr. Strange

Another Steve Ditko design, Dr. Strange’s costume takes advantage of the primary color palette to create an eye-catching look. Add in the sash, the amulet, the long tunic, and that wacky cape, and you have a costume that truly captures the magical nature of the character. Although it’s not part of his costume, Dr. Strange also sports my favorite comic book hairstyle: that gray-at-the-temples look that’s so popular among characters like Mr. Fantastic, J. Jonah Jameson, and Nick Fury. You know, I’ve been alive almost 30 years now, and I’ve yet to see that particular pattern of graying hair on an actual person.

Dr. Strange

13. Wolverine

Fanboy favorite Wolverine debuted in the early 1970s wearing the University of Michigan’s team colors and a mask with whiskers on it. Over time, however, his uniform has evolved into several more stylish variations — my favorite of which remains John Bryne’s orange and brown version pictured here. As the first X-Men film pointed out, it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine a vicious killer with unbreakable metal claws poking out of his knuckles running around wearing a spandex suit. That being said, I think this design reflects Wolverine’s personality better than any of his other superhero get-ups.


12. Wonder Woman

Yes, the star-spangled panties are silly, but Wonder Woman’s costume is iconic nonetheless. Back when he was writing his Wonder Woman script, Joss Whedon was apparently adamant that Diana would not wear her traditional costume. What Whedon didn’t realize, however, is that most people’s notion of Wonder Woman is wrapped up almost entirely in the costume — the tiara, the bracelets, and all the rest. Ask the average person on the street Wonder Woman’s real name, origin, or major adversaries, and they’ll likely draw a blank. Show them the costume, on the other hand, and they’ll recognize it immediately. That’s why star-spangled panties aren’t enough to keep her off this list.

Wonder Woman

11. Moon Knight

Even if Moon Knight is little more than Marvel’s Egyptian-themed Batman ripoff, the all-white costume and creepy hood are certainly striking design elements. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to keep a suit like that clean while you’re fighting crime? I suspect Moon Knight must go through a lot of bleach in the course of his adventures.

Moon Knight

Click here to check out the top ten!

Be sure to check back on Friday to see the top ten! Also, feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Posted by Jess | Filed Under Pop Culture |

13 comments so far...

  1. Chris April 4, 2007 3:03 pm

    Decent list. I think Nightwing’s is kind of blah. Thor’s is great, but I’m biased because he was my favorite growing up. As for Iron Man - the lumbering furnace boiler look does it for me. :D

  2. yoshi April 4, 2007 3:10 pm

    Love it. I’ll reserve my favourites for friday when you release the rest of them. :)

  3. Jess April 4, 2007 3:18 pm

    Chris: I can see finding Nightwing’s costume a little “blah.” Taken in the context of the tacky earlier designs, I think the simplicity not only works in its favor, but also reflects Dick Grayson’s personality rather well. Plus, it looked hella cool in the Batman animated series. ;)

  4. buttler April 4, 2007 3:26 pm

    yeah, that was easily angel’s best costume, which (as you point out) isn’t saying much.

    i’m not a fan of iron man’s bat ears, but it’s funny that they keep going back to wolvie’s tacky yellow costume when the brown one had more class. it’s like going back to daredevil’s yellow costume, which is always a bad idea.

    i actually didn’t even notice the various variations of the basic nightwing costume dick went through until a recent cover that showed them side by side. but then, he’ll always be the sensational character find of 1940 to me.

  5. Ruko April 5, 2007 12:19 pm

    Thor should be much, much better rated than 20. His boots are awesome, his helmet is winged, and he carries a hammer. Seriously, top 5 at least.

  6. Ben April 5, 2007 1:52 pm

    If Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan Green Lantern) isn’t in the top 10, you and I are going to have words.

  7. Thud April 6, 2007 2:04 pm

    Re: graying at the temples. I distinctly remember Dan Quayle sporting that kind of look in 1992 at the Republican convention. I think I remember it so well because it looked so fake.

  8. Sleestak April 6, 2007 6:16 pm

    Angel’s costume is basically Green Lantern’s with a different color scheme.

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  10. Jess April 6, 2007 8:12 pm

    Sleestak: Wow…good point. I never really made that connection before. Still, I prefer the green and black over blue and white.

  11. Dwight April 8, 2007 3:34 pm

    Re: Graying at the temples. Check out former president of Argentina Carlos Menem–

    It’s more at the jaw, but pretty close.

  12. K May 16, 2007 2:09 pm

    Where’s Daredevil? He should be top five.

  13. esany June 2, 2007 10:10 am

    WONDER WOMAN:BECAUSE shes cool what the fuck is angel wearing?

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