Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fantastic Cleavage

Given the importance we attach to the look of a comic book character's costume, it's probably no wonder that we attach a near-equal amount of importance to that character's decision to change their costume to a new design--though the "decision" really came from the book's writer or editor, for one of any number of reasons. Perhaps it was done to invigorate sales. Maybe it falls in line with an attitude change the writer wishes to take the character through. It could even be as simple as the artist wanting to try a new look, or the creative team wanting to correct a flawed or out-of-date look for the character. Sometimes even the readers will chime in, loudly, at a costume misfire, as was the case with the eyesore that Wonder Man decided to wear when he was with the West Coast Avengers.

So I thought it might be fun to take a quick look at some of the costume changes we've seen over the years, as well as see how many of them managed to stick around for the long haul vs. those that came and went, as well as which ones pretty much crashed and burned with readers. (Yeah, I'm lookin' at YOU, Wondy. What were you snorting that day?)

We know that even stalwarts like Thor, the Sub-Mariner, and Captain America went through their costume change phases, the latter two of course as a result of a plot developments rather than personal choice. And Dr. Strange also had a dalliance with a different costume, though I wouldn't call a ghoulish mask much of a change. That's not to say he didn't go completely weird on us in later changes to his look:

That second, more ornate outfit doesn't exactly look like it's made for battling. I can just see him shouting to an opponent: "Stop! You'll ruin the material!"

Then there's the original X-Men, who started out in a very team-oriented look:

But after just 39 issues, they have their entire look altered by Charles Xavier, who felt it was time they looked like individuals instead of "products of an assembly line":

I don't know, Warren--there probably aren't too many angels who would dress up in a garish leotard like that. But since Jean made the costumes, I can guess why you're being tactful.

But let's move on to some better choices.

I really like John Buscema's change for Hercules:

Top marks on this one all the way.  Unfortunately, coming just four issues prior to cancellation, Ms. Marvel's cool change wasn't enough to stop the axe from falling:

Captain Marvel, of course, has gone though inner changes as well as outer, but his new costume debut made for a spectacular change from that awful green and white number he had to suit up in:

Over in the Defenders, the Valkyrie was perfectly satisfied with her original Norse garb. But as a present for getting out of jail (please don't ask, I'd rather not go into it), Dr. Strange's disciple, Clea, whips her up a new outfit:

Just seven issues later, though, it's tinkered with again:

And this one lasts for a little over forty issues--until Patsy Walker (the Hellcat) asks her to attend a funeral in her Norse garb, which afterward she keeps for the duration of the book:

Then there was Sue Richards, who went through her assertive-on-steroids phase under Tom DeFalco's and Paul Ryan's stewardship of Fantastic Four which resulted in a costume change that, well, made her stand out on the team, that's for sure:

While Reed, in this next panel, convinces me that he has absolutely no pulse:

As opposed to the Sub-Mariner, preferring the prior design when Sue changes into a more conservative outfit after sixteen issues:

Yeah, I'll just bet you did, bub.

And let's not forget her brother, the Human Torch, who makes a change to resemble his namesake while the team is adventuring in the land of the Inhumans:

There must be something funky about the Great Refuge, though, because people seem to have this urge to change their costumes there. When the FF travel there again in just twenty issues, Johnny inexplicably switches back to his original costume. Maybe with all that disrobing, he just likes giving Crystal a good look at what she could have had.  But as for his reason:

The thing is, given what Johnny said the first time:

Well, he can't make up his mind which look makes the FF look like a team, can he?

So these are the costume changes that came to mind off the top of my head. Who has some others that, for better or worse, should be added to this kind of lineup?


Unknown said...

Well, I loved Captain Britain's original red costume, resplendent with a lion rampant. The future Union Jack/Flag one from Alan Davis IIRC was a hideous contraption with no amulet -the whole reason for there being a Cap in the first place.

Comicsfan said...

Captain Britain is an excellent example. I don't know why they didn't at least transfer the lion in some form to the new costume. If I had to take a guess as to why the costume was changed, I suppose they might have wanted to cut ties to the original concept, which may not have resonated as well as expected with readers.

Kid said...

Susan Storm - ah, be still, my beating heart. You got her 'phone number?

Comicsfan said...

Yes and no. When she gave it to me, it turned invisible. Was she trying to tell me something? :)