For as long as superheroes have been around, so too have good, bad, and occasionally outlandish costumes. Some costumes, like Spider-Man’s classic blue and red, are timeless, while others like Thor’s crop top are forgettable.
Just because a superhero has a timeless costume doesn’t mean that they don’t change what they wear every now and then. Some heroes change them out of necessity, some change them in reaction to an event, and others change them to fit the time period they are in. Whatever the reason, most superheroes have a carousel of costumes.
This very thought got me thinking about some of the costume changes Marvel superheroes have had over the years. When thinking about creating a list of this, I didn’t have specific criteria in mind. Instead, I wanted to search through the Marvel archives and pick the ten changes that caught my attention. Here are the top ten Marvel superheroes that changed costumes over the years.
Can we be honest with ourselves for a minute? I mean, really be honest. Of all the superheroes who have changed costumes, none are more deserving than Hawkeye. Am I right?
The original design for Hawkeye, while not entirely the fault of the era he was created in, was terrible. He looks like a swashbuckling hero that’s better suited for the high seas than an Avenger. From his blue costume with purple accents to the cowl he wears on his face, Hawkeye’s original costume should be found, burned, found again, and burned again. Thankfully, after the success of the MCU, the Ultimates, Matt Fraction, and David Aja’s amazing run Hawkeye has changed for the better.
10. Jessica Jones
The best part about Jessica Jones changing costumes is that along with it, she became an incredibly relatable character. The worst part about Jessica Jones changing costumes is that it happened in response to the worst of circumstances.
Before she was the superhero known as Jessica Jones, she was Jewel. Jewel, for any who doesn’t know, had a terrible costume. It was bland, uninspiring and the only thing it could strike fear into was a bologna sandwich. After she ditched the white costume, Jessica proudly wore a leather jacket and jeans and transformed herself into a “take me seriously or else” type superhero. This look was so good that it heavily influenced the Netflix television series of the same name.
9. Invisible Woman
Invisible Woman is one of the most highly respected characters in all of comics. She’s a founding member of the Fantastic Four and is arguably one of the most powerful women in comic books. This is why, when Marvel changed her costume in the 1990s fans all over the world became outraged.
The costume in question is, for lack of a proper description, her infamous “peek-a-boo” outfit. This costume saw her ditch her classic full-body blue for an outfit that was better suited at a beach. It was skimpy, revealing, and had a cut out of the number four on her, ahem, upper body assets. Costume changes should benefit those who wear them. I’d be lying if I said I could figure out a way that this one benefitted her. Of all the Marvel superheroes who have changed costumes, none were as far from the mark as hers.
The 1990s comic books were plagued by a lot of issues. Some of these included variant covers, market oversaturation, big muscles, over-the-top characters, and terrible costume changes. Jim Lee did a lot of good things for the X-Men. He successfully relaunched the book, pushed the franchise so much that it received mainstream attention, and gave almost every member of the team a brand-new costume. Most of the costumes were great. Cyclops’s costume, however, was not one of the great ones.
Gone was the headpiece that he had adorned for decades and in its place was a luscious flow of hair. Gone was the skintight spandex and in its place were bulky belts and shoulder straps. And gone were the…I think you get the picture.
Cyclops would go through a few more costume changes before landing at the one that redefined him…his Astonishing costume. The Astonishing costume took everything that worked over 40+ years and molded it into one great ensemble. It was so great, in fact, that the next many costumes recycled it by only changing its color scheme.
7. Iron Man
Iron Man first appeared inside the pages of Tales of Suspense 39 back in March of 1963. In it, he wore a bulky grey suit that was more suited for space exploration than fighting supervillains. By December 1963, Iron Man has made the change to his now-famous red and gold suit.
Iron Man’s red and gold suit is as synonymous with the character as Tony Stark and his various mustaches over the years. Although it was created in the same year as the original, the new suit brought the character into a new age of heroism. The sleek look allowed him to fly seamlessly through the air while the new color scheme made him instantly recognizable to any who saw him. The new design proved that change can be a good thing. In fact, it’s still used nearly six decades later.
Very few characters undergo a costume change shortly after their creation. Even though there is a multitude of reasons for this, only one of them matters. Superheroes don’t change costumes shortly after their creation due to character recognition. Think about it. If a superhero changes his costume within months of his debut, how many people would know it’s them the next time they see them?
Daredevil is an exception to this rule. After rocking a yellow costume for a whole six issues, Daredevil changed course and chose to wear red. And you know what? He’s better for it. Daredevil and red are as perfect a match as a cold beer on a hot day. Daredevil has become so synonymous with red that it’s difficult to see him in anything but. Since turning into a red costume, he has barely ever deviated from it.
Wolverine has had a ton of costume changes over the years. Some have been great (his Brown and Tan) and some have been downright awful (Feral Wolverine). None, no matter how good or bad they are, come close to his monochromatic X-Force costume change.
Swapping out the yellow and blue for the grey and black was a stroke of genius. Wolverine is known for being without mercy and the X-Force costume played into this perfectly. Not only does it look violent, but it also hides him perfectly in the shadows. Of course, when you belong to a covert team of assassins, hiding in the shadows only makes sense.
Wolverine’s Grey and Black costume will go down as the second-best costume he has ever worn no matter how many costume changes he has yet to go through.
In all the instances of Marvel superheroes who have changed costumes and grown in unimaginable ways, none may provide a better example than Storm. Before her costume change Storm was a great character with an unmemorable costume. After her change, she was a great character with one of the best costumes in comic history.
During the 1980s, Storm dropped her very average costume and began rocking an all-leather and mohawk look. The look was a drastic change over anything we had seen her in up to this point. Although it could’ve been poorly received, it wasn’t and over the years she has gone back to it. More than just a great look, however, the costume became a metaphor for her character. Storm has used the haircut to signify when she’s either about to experience or is experiencing change.
3. Jean Grey
Like so many others, Jean Grey’s original costume was straight out of the era she was created in. In line with her X-Men teammates, Jean wore a yellow and blue costume with a face mask. It wasn’t the worst costume that she has worn but it also wasn’t the best. Jean spent the next many years going through costume changes, eventually landing on her best…the Phoenix costume.
Like the entity she eventually bonded with, the costume looked powerful and signified a change for Jean. The Phoenix costume took everything that worked from her previous costumes and blended them into a super costume. The costume was green and yellow with a sash around her waist.
Changing costumes is a tricky business for creators. It can either brilliantly succeed or fail miserably. In terms of Jean Grey, it succeeded brilliantly. As such, it was easy to put her on this Marvel superhero who has changed the costume list.
2. Black Widow
Six years after her creation, Black Widow changed costumes and never looked back. Gone was her fishnet stocking and it was her leather catsuit. The costume found a way to streamline the character all the while giving her an identity that remains unchanged to this day.
The suit incorporates a utility belt, and her famous widow’s bite stingers, and allows her complete flexibility and freedom to do whatever needs to be done. The suit is so iconic that A) her various appearances in the MCU have always used it in one way or another and B) subsequent Black Widows have also adopted it.
Spider-Man ditching his Red and Blue costume for the Black Symbiote costume is one of, if not the best costume change in the history of comic books. Not only did it signify a huge change for the character, but it also allowed Marvel Comics to take him to places not possible with the Red and Blue.
Shortly after he became one with the Symbiote, Peter Parker developed a much more mean and no-nonsense type attitude. He began to act more violently and without remorse. The Black Symbiote costume allowed the writers to write Peter Parker in a way that readers had wanted for decades. Aside from the above, the costume looked great and paved the way for more amazing Spider-Man (see what I did there?) costumes.