Silly Costumes and Other Accessories


Some costumes and accessories for a superhero can be quite wonderful, cool and colorful. But there are also others that are just too silly for words. It can be masks, costume designs, hairstyles, gloves, colors, whether they’re appropriate for male or female characters, stuff like that. And here is where you’ll find some examples of what’s just too silly for words.

Stranger in a silly outfit


I’ve been to places in the deep south of the USA like Georgia and Florida, and my sister has been to Louisiana, and let me tell you that it is simply hot as hell. So it is simply beyond my comprehension as to why Gambit (see left), a gangster from New Orleans with Cajun ancestry and the most questionably written member of the X-Men to date, wears a heavy duster coat, which almost nobody living in the southern states owns, and, for a character who’s criminal activities require that he draw as little attention as possible, he’d set himself up for being the laughing stock of the town. The blame should be laid at the feet of artist Jim Lee, who originally designed the whole getup.

The “semi-mask” Gambit often wears doesn’t help matters either, nor do the long, bizarre boots he's got on his feet, or even the body armor he wears under the coat. Heck, where do you even buy that kind of stuff? It's not like Clover and Woolworth ever had a sale on that kind of jokery. If he's meant to be a take on old western movies, it's about as clever as Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, I'm afraid. Biggest complaint though, is his characterization, and how writers who dealt with him during the 1990s (Fabian Nicieza, Scott Lobdell) decided to depict a very sappily written relationship between him and Rogue (described as pathos, I think), and if Gambit's going to be written sloppily as a criminal, then she certainly doesn't work well with him around.

So in all due fairness, would someone please be so kind as to write Gambit into a better role than the crook he's been depicted as already? And yet, at the same time, write Rogue as wanting to get involved with more guys than just him, and especially wanting to learn how to control her power? It could do a lot of good for both of them, I suppose, to find other mates besides themselves.

Triple Trimming Tripover

 Frankly, the influence of punk subculture is just sickening, even if it only lasted for five minutes. Three cases in point:

Nuklon was a member of Infinity Inc, a team series from Roy Thomas where the costume designs for some of the members was a very mixed bag. Since it was started just two years before Crisis on Infinite Earths, a few of the members here have either been killed off, had their lives erased from history and restarted in a post-Crisis format, or have moved on to new codenames and outfits (or worse, as seen circa the Flashpoint crossover, erased from history altogether). Nuklon, alias Al Rothstein (see right), later changed his codename to Atom Smasher, and now wears a mask, is a member of the JSA and has grown his hair complete, as well as admitting today that to take up a mohawk hairstyle (and even his old codename) was a mistake!

As for OMAC (top center), he was a creation of the great Jack “King” Kirby, apparently not in the right frame of mind. A mere office drone with the almost apt name of Buddy Blank, he was transformed into a superhero courtesy of a great big eye-in-the-sky called - are you ready for this? - Brother Eye! And if that's not enough, he even chose to put a nice little eye emblem on his chest. Presumably, the crooks were lulled into a false sense of security by this goofy getup. Or maybe they just thought he was a refugee from a travelling rock band. The series, launched in 1974 by DC, was axed after 8 issues, yet OMAC (short for One Man Army Corps) turned up again in 1991, still wearing his mohawk, in a miniseries written by John Byrne, whose writing talent has seriously waned since the early 1990's. It was apparently abortive, which is why, thankfully, he's dropped out of sight again since then. (And it's probably safe to say that since Zero Hour, his existance is terminal.)

And if there was any really big case of excess done during the mid-80’s, a classic case of overreaching, it was when Ororo “Storm” Munroe (see left) started wearing a Mohawk haircut and in some cases even a leather jacket, supposedly in order to look tougher! OUCH! That was by far one of the most overreaching notions ever to take place at the time, and a major embarrassment. Thankfully, she was back to her regular hairstyle some time afterwards.

Frankly, it was by far the most embarrassingly bad decision made in character design for a superheroine at the time, and I'm glad that a short while afterwards, it was all set right again. Unfortunately, come 2013, they boomeranged back on this nonsense in one of the X-Men volumes that have been victims of repetitive relaunching.

Earth’s Mightiest Court Jester


Of all the members who’ve been in the Avengers to date, Jack Hart, alias Jack of Hearts (my, some coinciding of real with codename, eh?), has been the most absurd member in design I’ve ever seen. How exactly can you take a guy who’s got a valentine heart drawn over his left eye seriously, even one who's half-alien? It’s just too goofy for words, ditto the hearts on his boots. And why the arrow pointing up like that? GAH! There's one more thing I'd rather not contemplate as to what crudulence it could symbolize. All they did is make him into the joker in the deck.

Multi-mess-terpiece!

No, this isn't exactly a costume per se, but it's pretty close, even as an accessory, and it's pretty darn funny too! You haven't lived till you've known the story of "Ultra, the Multi-Alien!", from Mystery in Space #103!

A spaceship captain on a cruiser from Mars, en route to Jupiter (yep, you read that right), whose name is Ace Arn (ditto), gets caught in a magnetic comet (stop, please, this is serious!) and is towed along in suspended animation to another solar system, where he lands at a cavern with a very awkward looking laboratory in it, where a dead alien's body is found. It turns out the dead alien was a villain with plans to take over the system's artifical sun from its authorities (gee, what'll those intergalactic slickers think of next?). And not only that, it appears he was something like a mad scientist named Zobra (but where's the stripes?) who also invented a ray-gun that can turn its targets into awkward duplicates of the other aliens who fire it. Whoo baby, it's assimilation at its silliest, oh yeah! The crook died by accidentally knocking over a chemical beaker with "suffocation gas" in it. With a cork covering it up. Gee, can it really be that in such a future time, people are that negligent? And why keep such a lethal chemical around in a personal laboratory anyway? Not to mention that with all the threats of terrorism and chemical warfare looming out of the middle east these days, it's not as novel as the writers then must've thought.

The crook's four other cronies then arrive and - ta-da! - turn him simultaneously into a four-part amalgam that look just like them. His right upper side is green, strong and hairy, his left upper side is blue, magnetic and un-hairy, the lower right side is covered with feathers, has a wing on one leg, and is orange colored, and the lower left side is composed of electric pulses and is colored yellow. Neat, huh? And is also more than convenient enough courtesy of the accompanying alien powers to use for beating the hell out of the four of them before he then travels back to earth to become a superhero(!), completely oblivious to the fact that he's been in suspended animation for centuries, his going at the speed of light while his animation was suspended notwithstanding, and so his relatives and friends would surely all be dead! Not to mention that he ought to look at himself in the mirror before heading back, since I doubt if he'd get a date so easily with that ghastly new look of his now either! And even if he was able to time-trip back to his regular timeline, he'd still have to cope with his new look! Why didn't he think to check if he could turn himself back into his regular form using the same ray-guns that the crooks used on him in the first place?

In fact, how can he possibly handle much of anything with the way his body is set up? His spine would probably come from at least two of the alien crooks he encountered and there's no telling if one - or both - would be stable enough to support his back without breaking. Not to mention that if he lifted anything really heavy like a barbell, the owl-leg he's got would snap like a twig. And how can he stand with the electrical one if it's just merely composed of electricity, and how doesn't it electrocute the rest of his body? Nor can I understand how he could possibly fly on that one owl-leg either. Upside down, maybe?

And for a series called Mystery in Space, the only mystery here is why this story ever got written and published in the first place! While some backup features, which this laugh-riot was (and then, lo and behold, it became the leading one for the next several issues at the time!), did tend to get announced on the cover back then, the editors really should've thought better, since all it did was to induce laughter based on the character design!

There were only 7 or 8 stories published, since the series was cancelled with the 110th issue (though DC briefly revived it in 1980 for about seven more issues), and the weirdest thing is that towards the end, writer Dave Wood abandoned the concept of Ace being stuck in monster mode and was able to change back to his normal self. I'd assume they realized it wasn't going anywhere, and decided to just wrap things up. Ultra wasn't seen again for a while, though in recent years, he seems to have made some appearances during the 1990's in DC's The Kingdom miniserials. Well at least that would have to make a better place for him.

Beware my goof-off, my fashion's plight!

In a case of too much trendiness for brand new lead characters, when the third Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, hit the scene in 1994, he wore a mask that looked almost like a sea crab! Yep, it all begins - or did begin - here, thanks to artist Darryl Banks!

I must say, he looked very foolish with that huge piece of metal across his face, which supposedly made a good modern form of costume for a new protagonist in the role of the Emerald Gladiator. You couldn't see his nose and it almost went over his mouth. It certainly didn’t make him any more effective against various members of the GL’s rogues gallery than he’s been to date, nor did the unimpressive body suit he wore then, which was comprised of more black than green. And why the big shackle-like gear on his wrists and legs? That only makes this design DC's answer to the kind of wretched costume designs Rob Liefeld conjured, particularly at Image. And when they finally wised up and gave him a simpler mask in 2002 not unlike what his predecessors - Alan Scott and Hal Jordan - wore in their time, sadly, given how flatly written he’s been in the time since he was introduced, it didn’t make him any more interesting than he is.

And his writing situation hasn't improved much since. In fact, the crab-mask has since boomeranged back onto his face in the years after that, too.

For the record, Hal Jordan has finally returned after 10 years of being in the afterlife, and with him, the better mask. Too bad that it had to be tied in to DC's by now atrocity of the century, Identity Crisis, though. In fact, Hal's hardly had much better direction himself, what with all the crossovers even he's been through himself since that time, like Infinite Crisis, to name but one major embarrassment, that have only robbed him of any real organic storytelling.

Street-skatin’

Oh my, what’ll they think of next? Jubilee, alias Jubilation Lee, an Asian teenage girl who joined the X-Men towards the end of the 1980’s, may have been homeless for awhile when she fled from her orphanage after her mutant powers surfaced and she feared for her life, but why, oh why, did the artists of the time (beginning with co-creator Marc Silvestri) have to give her such a silly getup, that being a trenchcoat worn with shorts! It makes her look like a teenaged prostitute!

Although, as you can probably tell here, the shirt design is meant to suggest a female Robin, and to a certain extent, yes, her occasional partnership with Wolverine was meant as a kind of parody of Batman and Robin's own partnership, it just didn't help matters due to that trenchcoat. Maybe if they'd given her a cape...

It could probably have worked if she wore the coat along with a pair of pants, or if she’d worn a jacket with her shorts, but alas, they had her wear that absurd fashion for the first four years of her being in the books, and not only that, she even sometimes went roller-skating around the house in them, I kid you not.

Luckily, by about 1993, the artists changed her style for the most part to pants or no trenchcoat, and even drew her hair growing longer, and she happily looked prettier too. It was very fortunate, though it’s a pity that the TV cartoon that ran from 1992-98 had to depict her in that awful coat getup of hers when it began.

And when it comes to her roller-skating (or roller-blading) around Xavier's mansion (in a story called "The Executioner's Song"), you certainly haven’t lived till you’ve seen that part!

The Man Without Fashion Sense

Obviously, Daredevil can’t be faulted for his original getup – after all, he’s blind, isn’t he?

But Bill Everett, the great artist first assigned to the book back in 1964, wasn’t when he drew this buffoonery (see right), and the choice of yellow with cute little red boots and gloves plus a tank top doesn’t exactly strike me as convincing enough to make DD a crimefighter to be taken seriously, even though the color was used again in Daredevil: Yellow during 2002. Oh, and seeing that those are also lace-up gloves, surely they'd take more than an hour or so to strap on?

Thank goodness that Wally Wood came on by the seventh issue and turned the overall costume to a more convincing red, the leading color for the costume since then.

Star Spangled Daze Dressing

I wouldn't say that all the costumes in Infinity Inc. were bad, but very few stood out as great; Jade’s and Brainwave Jr's costumes were certainly some of the better ones. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at this classic gag of a getup here (see left), for the Star Spangled Kid!

On the one hand, his costume looks like Captain America’s with the costume’s color having been overrun with stars. On the other hand, it looks like Wonder Woman’s underwear turned inside out! Mind you, not that Sylvester Pemberton was that bad a character in personality, but his approach to combat didn't satisfy the writers so they decided to give him a staff similar to Starman’s gravity rod spear so that he could have some use to himself amongst the Earth-2 second generation superheroes. He was killed off in Infinity's 51st issue, sometime after he'd changed his name to Skyman, when the third villainess calling herself The Harlequin, who was manipulating Solomon Grundy, forced the humanoid Mr. Bones, who'd been taken under the team's wings, to give Sylvester a lethal dose of cyanide, killing him instantly.

Thank goodness that today, the costume works to much better effect upon the adorable teenage superheroine Courtney Whitmore, one of the top members of the JSA of today, though it should be noted that her costume doesn't sport quite as many stars as Pemberton's did.

Foul masking

The new Mr. Terrific, Michael Holt, who first appeared in the Spectre's series during the late-1990's, and today takes up the role vacated by Terry Sloane, the original one, one of the coolest members of the Justice Society of America when they first began in the Golden Age in All-Star Comics, is just as cool a cat as the first one, including his own ability to evade security devices, but for heaven's sake, what exactly is that thing supposed to be that's covering his face? Yipe!

Nothing wrong with his suit, which is very impressive, but the mask, if that's what it's meant to be...well, how exactly do you breathe in it? Or talk in it? Or see in it, even? And I'd rather not think about what happens if he sneezes!

Now that is really what I call unfair play.

What a Wonder-ful World we live in!

Simon Williams, Wonder Man extraordinaire, has plenty of qualities given to him as a character in the Avengers by talented writers of the past. Unfortunately, his first suit (see above), while it did have a great pair of wraparound Ray-bans, wasn't one of them. With those swirly-lines on the waist-section, he was quite a titter-inducer. It was designed by the Enchantress (or, more specifically, by artist Kirby) who must've really gotten too caught up in designing ballet dresses at the time.

Later on, a new costume design was thought up (see left), but alas, they made the mistake of using yellow lines the wrong way, and the diamond-shaped lining on his chest almost looks like a talkative mouth! It was meant to be his initials, but to figure that out takes a lot of work! And Beast/Hank McCoy was the one who designed it for him during the time he'd been working with EMH. Nice try, Hank, but I think Scarlet Witch would make a much better costume designer, don't you think? Oh, and is that a camera on his forehead? I can only wonder, if you'll pardon the expression, if Candid Camera hired him for a gig?

Who knows, maybe he should've gone "back to civvies" after his original costume got messed up!

Fortunately, he dropped the next costume later on, settling for a suit consisting of a brown jacket, black leggings, and red boots almost like Superman's for at least a decade. Afterwards though, he took up an absurd red-on-black suit with a letter W that wrapped around almost like Charlie Brown's own shirt. But today, happily, he's become composed of "iconic energy", and his costume is a somewhat silver-like one generated by his powers.

Angels in the awkward

When The X-Men were flagging in sales after a couple of its first years, Marvel thought to give the costumes some more difference between them by moving past the original blue outfits with yellow stripes and on to more variety and flamboyance. It didn't help, alas, and they were cancelled in 1970 for five years. Luckily, before this happened, the magnificient Neal Adams did away with the dreadful yellowish outfit that Warren Worthington III, alias Angel (and later Archangel) initially wore when the changes were in order. And a good thing too at that, 'cause that yellow shirt with red pants and suspenders was a real theater-of-the-absurd contribution! And what use were those hand bands he wore either? Not with the suspenders present, that's for sure!

As if things weren't bad enough regarding that suit of his then, Roy Thomas, who was writing the book at the time, had poor ol' Warren declare, "for the first time - I really look like an angel - I guess!" Sorry, Warren, but no, you didn't. Luckily, when Neal Adams took over, and gave you a great blue and white costume that was easily a Jewish outfit too, that's when you started to look like an angel, ol' chum. Also, when the X-Factor series was published in the late 80s to late 90s, there was also a dark blue bodysuit conceived by Walt Simonson with red lines featured on the sleeves and such. It may not have been perfect, but also made for a far better design than the yellow shirt.

404 Bulk Error -- Can't connect!


Man, will you look at the negative influence Rob Liefeld had on the industry, and left behind, when he was on the loose plying his trade in Marvel comics! Cable/Nathan Summers has never struck me as much of a character, and neither has this sample of his own costume, one of the most oversized monstrosities I've ever seen. You can practically tell that he must be tired having to hoist those huge shoulder pads, armor and firearms around, including at least one shoulder mounted gun he's got smoking there, even though it's not often he's depicted with them. Though that doesn't make him any more interesting character-wise, of course.

Sex-change operation!

While we're on the subject of Rob Liefeld, I think it's worth presenting some of his worst output as an artist. I can't say his art was that great to begin with, and over the years, it got progressively worse. It was at Image Comics in the early 1990s that he really plummeted into jaw-dropping awfulness, yet inexplicably enough, he kept getting jobs. And one of the most notorious assignments he got was Marvel's ill-advised "relaunch" of at least 4 titles in 1996-7 as Heroes Reborn. Jim Lee, who's much better an artist than Liefeld (but has since devolved into an awful publisher at DC), did the art chores on Fantastic Four and Iron Man's relaunches (although Scott Lobdell, an otherwise bad writer himself, may have done the writing), while Liefeld himself did both the art and the writing, if memory serves, on Avengers and Captain America.

And if there's anything that disastrous step, a precursor to Marvel's destruction of its universe under Joe Quesada in the following century, will be remembered for besides the pedestrian writing, it's the astoundingly poor quality of Liefeld's art. Badly drawn torsos that are off-balance, neckless bodies and even crummy costumes, more on which anon. It was a pure nightmare.

Here now are two examples, Liefeld's rendition of Scarlet Witch in volume 2 Avengers, and Steve Rogers sans costume in volume 3 Captain America (today, there's only so many relaunches it's pointless to count them all). What's ghastly about these is how Liefeld makes Wanda look masculine and Steve look feminine. GAH! Wanda looks like a transvestite and Steve looks like a tomboy (and yes, by that I mean a woman with a short-cropped hairstyle). What kind of mindframe was he in when he did this? Did I mention just how awful the nod to one of Wanda's early costume designs from the Silver Age really is? Liefeld is truly the pits.

It gets worse with some of the following. Take a look:

So in that next panel, Steve is implausibly much taller than the guy carrying his shield. I guess we really are confusing him with someone else, because the "guy" we see in the other panel is only a head taller than the one confronting "him", and not as towering as Liefeld drew him in the first. What happened, did he take some of Hank Pym's massive growth formula that turns him into Giant-Man and it went bonkers? Steve looks even more disturbingly feminine in both that beanstalk-picture and the cafeteria scene in the middle, where, by contrast, he looks quite the normal size, yet isn't even as muscular as the super-serum experiment made him way back in the Golden Age. This is a glaring example of Liefeld's inconsistencies from one panel to the next.

I can guess why this initially got past the main editors at the time: basically, Marvel farmed out the books to "hot" writers/artists to do with as they pleased, Liefeld inexplicably being one of that kind of bunch. Frighteningly enough, the books may have had fairly good sales results at first, though they did plummet soon afterwards. In any case, Liefeld was thankfully taken off the books and let go, and the relaunched volumes were canceled and given to better writers to relaunch again in ways that fans would recognize. An interesting note: Marvel had attempted to renegotiate its contracts with Lee and Liefeld to cut their salaries. Guess what happened? Lee agreed, whereas Liefeld refused. Isn't that amazing when the better artist turns out to be more sensible as well and not make it look as though he's only interested in money, while the poorer artist can only think of greenbacks. I guess I might also mention that Liefeld has also signaled he's a leftist, and since 2009, he's really alienated me politics-wise as well as art-wise.

Old gigolo

A classic case of having to suspend one's disbelief, namely, at how the character shown in the picture on the side can possibly introduce himself to earth's residents in the goofy garb he's wearing!

During the Bronze Age period, Superman sometimes featured an otherworldly superdoer called Vartox, who first debuted in Superman #281 Vol. 1, November 1974. He was a hero from the planet Valeron, and sometimes assisted the Man of Steel with several of his cases.

Trouble was, this guy (whose design must've been drawn from Sean Connery and his role in the 1974 sci-fi movie Zardoz, where the setting "the vortex" must've served for drawing the character name from), was kind of old for the role of a superhero, which was one of the main reasons why he once traveled to earth to ask the Man of Steel for help after his powers for paralysis came up short during one crimefighting case he was working on. But old or not, his getup was truly embarrassing, and as time went by, the way he was written kept getting worse with each consecutive appearance.

Now the vest he's wearing is okay, but the knee-length boots, and the very skimpy pair of underwear/jock-strap are exactly what do in his outfit, since it comes very, VERY close to making him look like...well, you get the idea.

What was the talented Curt Swan thinking when he came up this monstrosity? It wouldn't pass muster even in the World Wrestling Federation, which I couldn't stand when I was a youngster anyway. It does seem to have been [un-]inspired by such foolish baloney, though.

Vartox was later reintroduced post-Crisis in 1999 in a book called Team Superman, and while my knowledge on how he was reintro'd then is insufficient, I certainly do hope that they gave him a better costume, and, come to think of it, they probably did anyway.

Ultra-mold setting on!

The following character, Captain Ultra, seen (assuming it's possible to do that, of course) on the left of the page, appeared as a joke character in Fantastic Four #177 (he first appeared as an attempted applicant to be the fourth member of the crooked Frightful Four, but was rejected after he turned out to have a problem with fire and smoking. He subsequently became a hero, and was better off that way). And seeing him, well, you could very easily wonder if the color on the pages - and on Captain Ultra himself - faded to yellow over the years. The "bib" on his chest appears to boast a letter U, though it's hard to tell if the black or the yellow are what to look for. If anything, this reminds me of a joke involving C3PO from Star Wars in MAD magazine: "I gotta start using a sunblock!" Oh yeah. And I gotta start using a pair of sunglasses to view this ridiculously drawn character. He is so headache-inducing!

It's possible that he may have appeared in a couple of other Marvel books as well during that time. Today, however, he's been forgotten.

Separated at birth?


Mike Grell did have some good ideas for costume designs when he first began his career in the mid-1970's by penciling the Legion of Super-Heroes back then. But there were also quite a few embarrassments, as this Cosmic Boy outfit shows. Good gosh, it looks almost as if he'd been fooling around in his girlfriend's underwear drawer, or was so dizzy after a night of heavy petting, that he looked through the wrong clothes drawer when he woke up! All the accessories he's got on are practically female, for pete's sake! Is he modeling a futuristic line of swimsuits, maybe? Umm, Cosmic, please leave that to Dream Girl to deal with; you're not the one who's meant to be doing it, you know. Or, if you are, then it should be the male swimming trunks you should be modeling, not that wretched ballerina-style getup you've got on there. Yikes, what an embarrassment!

Then, there's Tyroc, an Afro-American Legionnaire, who wore a similar costume, with chains included! And if you ask me, that outfit too is quite an insult. The white gloves aren't much help either.

Cosmic Boy was lucky that by the time the Iron Age came around, artists Steve Lightle and Ernie Colon gave him a new, full-body costume that was certainly an improvement over the one he'd been wearing during the Bronze Age. And the one he's been wearing since Mark Waid and Art Thibert took over the writing for the Legion in 2004 is certainly an improvement too. But even so, this does come as a real embarrassing moment in Grell's career as an artist. Maybe that's one of the reasons why, since the mid-80s, he's drawn so little since then?

As for Tyroc, I'm not sure, since I don't know enough about his appearances post-Zero Hour, but I expect that even he too has been given more respect than Grell ever did when designing him.

They took their clothes from the wrong drawer in the store!


More nuttiness can be summed up in the guise of the Red Seal, a Golden Age hero who appeared in Target Comics in 1941. His costume with long sleeves and bare leg fittings could work on a woman, but on a man looks ridiculous with the long sleeves, which Robin didn't use (and neither did Golden Age Atom Al Pratt, seen higher above). Next to that is an outfit worn by Aqualad in the 1990s a short time before he changed his codename to Tempest, that looks like one of Ms. Marvel's costumes with brighter colors. I just can't comprehend why some artists want to use costume designs that look more feminine on male protagonists. It's not like it's that hard to differentiate from those worn by other notable heroes!

A thorn in the side


Another gem from the 1990s, when bad costume designs really peaked. Sub-Mariner, while frequently going bare-chested macho as a hero, had a pretty decent design when he was originally created in 1939. But in the mid-90s, a really bizarre new look was introduced, and was it ever waterlogged and messy!

Why all the long, unkempt hair around prince Namor's head? And the sharp fin-style pointers on his legwear just don't fit the bill either. They make it look like his legs are covered with seaweed. Thank heavens this goofiness didn't last long.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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