Most comic book characters have an iconic look, and some are even lucky enough to land the right look right off the bat. People like Superman and Batman have definitely gone through changes, but their core appearance has not truly changed since they debuted. You can still go back to the very first issue of either hero’s comic and instantly recognize them. Not all characters are that fortunate, though.
Heroes and villains alike have gone through that phase of trying to find themselves just like teenagers do. To be fair, not every character who changed their first appearance started with a terrible look, but obviously it lacked a little something special at the time to be the look that stuck.
We’re going to check out those abandoned outfits and examine why they weren’t good enough to last in 15 Comic Book Characters Who Look Totally Different From When They Debuted.
15. HARLEY QUINN
When Harley first started appearing in Batman: The Animated Series, she fit her name perfectly with her court jester costume. The classic red and black costume was what she commonly wore for years and seemed to be an enduring look. Then the Arkham Batman games introduced a Harley who ditched her head piece in favor of dyed pigtails, and started wearing skimpier clothing. It was the beginning of a drastic change for the villain, and marked the beginning of her departure from being a sidekick.
Nowadays Harley Quinn is almost unrecognizable from her classic attire. In the comics ,her clothes have gotten more revealing than ever and she’s the star of her own comic series. And thanks to the Suicide Squad movie there are now a whole lot of people whose introduction to Harley is a look that only has a slight connection to her origins as a classic jester.
14. THE FLASH
While each of the men who have been the Flash have not changed the look of their own costume that much, the look of the Flash as a whole has changed remarkably. We started off with Jay Garrick’s Flash who, while influential, also had a costume that left a lot to be desired. In particular the metal mixing bowl used as a helmet stands out, but the shirt and pants also look like something Jay just pulled out of the closet. The better costumes are probably part of the reason Jay’s successors have endured more.
Barry Allen and Wally West don’t have as much of a significant difference in their costumes, but they took the best of what Jay introduced and made it more heroic. The addition of the mask is definitely a more functional improvement on the helmet, and the consistent color scheme is nice too. The change in costume was so good that Barry Allen’s Flash has become the definitive look of the hero now.
While the Ares of the Wonder Woman movie was not a great match for his iconic look of the comics, he did eventually start sharing more of a resemblance. By the time Ares encased himself in armor, he did have the basic look of his comic self. But then the Ares of the comics has also changed a lot over time. The look he’s most known for is his blue armor that only leaves his glowing red eyes showing.
The first look of Ares was nowhere near as intimidating, though. As you can see above, when Ares first showed up he was just a normal human in a Roman Legionnaire’s armor. Admittedly it fit well with his origin as the Roman God of War Mars, but it lacked anything memorable or scary. Ares has had other human guises over the years, but you can’t beat his undead Legionnaire look.
Today Catwoman is one of Batman’s most flirtatious villains. She usually shows up in skin tight and revealing outfits, and makes seduction a regular part of her one-liners. Michelle Pfeiffer is the look many movie-goers associate with the character: the cat ears, the form fitting black costume, and claws that are part of the outfit. But it was a long road for Catwoman to reach her iconic appearance.
When Selina Kyle first debuted in the 1940s, she wasn’t even called Catwoman. At the time, Selina was simply called the Cat, and her look was anything but flirtatious. Fans might enjoy the cat ears on the modern Catwoman, but a furry cat head mask? Selina has had a lot of costume changes over the years, and even her modern look isn’t one that has been pinned down, but it’s safe to say that just about any of them are better than the original.
11. IRON MAN
Time has revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tony Stark is anything but a humble guy. He’s wealthy and powerful and he enjoys the world knowing about it. So his modern armor is not only functional, but also very flamboyant. Nothing plain would do for Tony, so all of the different armors he has broken out on different occasions have been fully decorated in bright and stylish colors. But even a billionaire has to have humble beginnings.
Tony’s very first costume really did live up to his heroic name of Iron Man. The original costume for the hero truly did look like nothing more than a walking suit of iron. Obviously Tony was more concerned with saving his life at the time than being stylish, so the lack of ornamentation is understandable. The closest thing we have to the original Iron Man nowadays is the color scheme for War Machine.
10. NICK FURY
When talking about how Nick Fury has changed over the years, one of the biggest differences is obvious, but it’s not just his race has changed. His original costume was actually quite a bit different than what he wears in his S.H.I.E.L.D. days.
Nick started out in the comic Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, which featured a much more realistic take on Fury being a military member. He even had both of his eyes when he first debuted.
Over time Nick switched over to being the commander of S.H.I.E.L.D. and adopted the classic outfit everyone remembers. But the biggest change came about thanks to the MCU, since comic creators have shown they’re willing to adopt what works from other versions of their characters. Though one version of Fury in the comics had already been based on Samuel L. Jackson prior to Jackson’s casting in Iron Man, his hit role in the MCU led to a wide redesign in the comic books to better reflect the man many fans now knew as Fury.
9. THE HULK
Since the Hulk usually tears through most of whatever clothes Bruce Banner is wearing at the time, you would not think he’d really have much of a look to change. But when we are talking about the Hulk what are the two traits you would use to describe him? Probably that he is green and that he is strong, right?
The Hulk is known as the Jade Giant for a reason. That’s certainly true of the modern version of the Hulk, whose toxic-green body often towers over his opponents. The original version of the character lacked both of those qualities, though.
In the very first appearance of the Hulk, this alternate form of Bruce Banner was supposed to be gray, as seen by the cover of the comic. The artists quickly changed their minds, though, and went with green from that point onwards, though a gray version of the Hulk did eventually reappear.
8. CAPTAIN MAR-VELL
Captain Mar-Vell is one of the rare comic book characters who has actually stayed dead – for the most part – since his infamous demise. Given that, his costume hasn’t had as much chance to update as others on this list what with him not really walking around much anymore. But mention the name Captain Mar-Vell and everyone immediately pictures his blonde hair, and his red and black body suit. Nobody really mentions that it took him a bit of time to develop that costume, though.
When Mar-Vell first showed up his outfit was far more reflective of the fact that he was from another planet, featuring a futuristic fusion of green and gray. Even his original symbol referenced his otherness by emblazoning a planet across his torso. It was only after Mar-Vell gained some new abilities that he made the costume switch which helped humanize him by showing off more of his face.
7. DRAX THE DESTROYER
The Guardians of the Galaxy weren’t the big stars that they are now before they received their live-action movie, so maybe you don’t know what Drax the Destroyer looked like before Bautista took on the role. His modern comic look is pretty close to his movie appearance, complete with blueish green skin and a body covered in tattoos. When he first started out, Drax had a lot more in the way of an actual costume.
In his early days, Drax actually wore a shirt, and he kept everything all purple. As you can see he even violates the rule from The Incredibles and also used to sport a large cape. The old attire doesn’t look terrible, and actually gives Drax kind of a regal look. It’s hard to picture Bautista ever sporting this in any of the movies, but it’s really not such a bad look for a hero.
6. CAROL DANVERS
Any character who has stuck with a new identity could easily qualify for this topic since a new identity also usually comes with a new outfit. Not too many characters have done that, but Carol Danvers is a great example of how much it changes a character’s look.
Her first outfit as Ms. Marvel was her most revealing costume, essentially just a feminized version of Captain Mar-Vell’s iconic look. Carol’s subsequent iterations on the outfit would be a little less revealing, and eventually she’d adopt her signature black version of the Ms. Marvel costume.
The death of Captain Mar-Vell had left his title open for years, and eventually Carol decided it would be fitting to take her old mentor’s title. Carol ditched her mask and adopted a full-body suit in a new color scheme. She even cut her hair for the occasion, making this a drastic reveal for her debut as the new Captain Marvel.
5. THE X-MEN
With how much each of the X-Men have changed, we could have had enough entries to do an article on them alone. Despite the core members of Xavier’s team starting out in their classic matching yellow and black outfits, they’ve each since branched out in drastic ways. The original outfits might have been good for conveying the unity of their teams, but matching outfits are really better suited to sports teams than superheroes.
The one element you’d think more of the members could have kept would be the masks since they worry so much about facing scrutiny due to being mutants. But Wolverine is one of the few who actually stuck with the mask following the X-Men branching out in their outfits.
Overall, the redesigns have been great for diversifying the members. The classic colors are okay for a throwback look, like in X-Men: First Class, but it’s definitely nice to see the individuality of each member.
One thing you can say about the Blade movies is that they popularized the vampire hunter with a memorable look. Wearing sunglasses indoors and pairing it with a leather trench coat might be more associated with The Matrix, but it’s actually become more enduring for Blade. After all The Matrix franchise has pretty much run out of steam for the time being, while Blade’s look has endured in his comics and continues to linger on now. But what did he look like before?
The Blade of the ’70s actually did still have a coat and glasses, but nothing like how we now think of him. His old look had gold glasses that didn’t really have that cool side effect of hiding his eyes. And his coat was just an odd green accessory that doesn’t exactly inspire fear. Finally, because it was the ’70s, Blade naturally had to have an afro too.
Daredevil’s modern outfit has endured for pretty obvious reasons. When going with the theme of being a hero who could be called a devil, the right color scheme matters. Daredevil has had a black variant of the outfit before, but red is the color most associated with fire and demons, so it fits his motif. Paired with the horns on his mask, Daredevil’s modern outfit and color variant instantly conveys what his gimmick is supposed to be. His original outfit, not so much.
Back when Daredevil debuted in the ’60s, his first costume was the yellow, black, and red design that you can see above. The unitard itself, regardless of its colors, already looks pretty dorky when paired with the body suit. But the color is what really makes this outfit an eye sore.
Drax isn’t the only member of the Guardians of the Galaxy to get updated, though Groot may be the most surprising. Groot doesn’t even have a costume to speak of since he’s simply a sentient tree. But as we have seen in the movies, Groot can wind up looking quite different when he’s regrowing, so you could theorize that he has different looks depending on how he grows back. That might explain the difference between his old look and his modern look, at least.
Before Groot developed the lean, sleek body that he has today, he was quite a hulking tree creature. It certainly made Groot look stronger and scarier; a far cry from the friendly guy we see today. But perhaps most remarkable is that Groot used to be able to talk like a normal person back in the day. However, around the same time his body leaned out, his vocabulary also became far more limited.
1. BLACK WIDOW
Black Widow’s classic costume is really extremely simple, be it in the movies or in the comics. Natasha keeps things very basic with a plain black outfit with very little in the way of frills. She wears some accessories on her wrists and on her belt, but otherwise Black Widow keeps things nondescript. The only other signature thing about her is her bright red hair. It certainly works well enough for her background as a Russian spy.
Usually plain-looking characters have to go more extravagant to find their signature look, but Black Widow’s trajectory happened the opposite way. Her original costume was actually much more traditional for a superhero, complete with a mask and cape. Even Natasha’s hair was different to start, with her initial look including black hair. This look proves that flashy clothes don’t always beat functional, though, since the simple look is Black Widow’s classic costume.
Are there any characters whose original look you miss? Tell us your thoughts on the changes in the comments!
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