Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Published 1 year ago by

The Amazing Spider Man Trailer Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Patience (and a Level Head) Save Us All Frustration

It’s easy to get tied to a certain idea about how a character should look (or even act) on screen – based on specific versions of a beloved character (keeping in mind that comics often reinvent their heroes over and over again). It’s understandable, we remember fondly the comic book panels as well as animated series that defined our childhoods and, in some cases, helped shape the people we are now – making it difficult to accept dramatic changes that come with big screen adaptations. Although, for every Catwoman, there are a few instances where we, as longtime fans, just couldn’t look past our own preferences to appreciate budding potential.

When images of Optimus Prime initially appeared online, prior to the first trailer for Michael Bay’s Transformers, a significant portion of fans decried the complicated alien robotic design, orange flames, and lips – wishing for a traditional G1 version (a Freightliner Cab-over-engine Class 8 truck) of the Autobot hero. Fortunately, in spite of any cosmetic alterations, the Transformers films managed to capture the spirit of the Cybertronian leader while also showcasing exceptionally cool, believable, and fast-paced transformations.

transformers optimus prime Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Without question, amateur humor and a heavy reliance on human drama are still fair points of contention for the series but Bay’s choice to go with complicated robotics, instead of classic (and stiff) designs, succeeded in making the characters more versatile (and subsequently exciting) for big screen spectacle. Fans may still cringe at those infamous flames, but it’s hard to argue that small screen Optimus Prime is any more engaging than his big screen counterpart.

Rebooting Superman was no easy task, given that it took nearly twenty years for a filmmaker to even get a Man of Steel movie off the ground (Superman Returns) – and another six for a second reboot to find widespread commercial (and a decent amount of critical) success (Man of Steel). Yet, long before Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot hit theaters, fans were complaining about the updated costume – which removed key elements of the character’s design, most notably the yellow belt, red underwear, and S-shaped hair curl. Instead, Snyder’s team created a Man of Steel supersuit that not only looked great in action and was respectful to the classic costume (without simply copying and pasting), it also made sense within narrative context (as a Kryptonian hand me down). Early on, commenters criticized Snyder for not taking the character seriously; however, it’s clear the director was actually operating on an entirely different level – relaunching the Man of Steel in a way that everyone, not just comic book enthusiasts, could take seriously.

Hanry Cavill Superman Man of Steel Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

Honorable Mentions: The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America: The First Avenger


While fans have a right to advocate for their favorite characters, it’s important that we also try to keep a level head. When we report official (and unofficial) images, toys, and other merchandise, it’s to help get an idea of what filmmakers might have in mind – but there’s a big difference between how images come across on a website and whether or not the actual costumes succeed on the big (or small) screen.

As with any other physical element in a film production, costumes need to be properly lit and require certain details to be explained within the context of the story. In the case of X-Men: Days of Future Past, a lot of commenters have been nitpicking the Quicksilver’s goggles and primitive tech belt; yet, as we discussed in a recent video analysis, it’s possible those particular elements are essential to making the character’s super speed believable. The goggles likely protect his eyes from high-speed debris and the headphones, paired with the rudimentary tech on his waste, could be a way for the character to either hear his surroundings, or communicate with others, while running. In context, some of those sillier elements might not seem so silly, and actually make for a more grounded and credible narrative arc, even if they’re still a departure from “classic” Quicksilver.

X Men Days of Future Past Quicksilver Magneto Proffesor Xavier and Wolverine 570x379 Can You Judge a Comic Book Movie By Its Superhero Costumes?

The bottom line: we love picking over early images of superhero costumes but it’s also important to avoid jumping to snap conclusions. Without a doubt, there will be numerous times in the future where crummy concept art or terrible kid costumes are an early predictor that a film is headed in the wrong direction. However, a little restraint and patience may save us all a little frustration, given that further information helps paint a clearer picture of what to expect – for better or for worse.

Ultimately, even in the cases of epic director fails, fans can take comfort in one notable truth: Hollywood will happily reboot any property that is capable of making studios money. Many of these characters will likely be revisited and reimagined multiple times in the coming decades – meaning that even if one adaptation outright ruins our childhood, there’s always a chance that the reboot (or re-reboot) will get it right.


More: ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Character Analysis [Video]


Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future editorials as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

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  1. Yes

  2. Im still waiting on Wolverine to suit up in his Yellow/blue or Orange/brown costume…WITH the mask.

  3. Quicksilver looks ridiculous. They need to change his hair & make it more like the comic book, which is kinda wolverine-ish. Get rid of that ugly silver jacket, goggles and headphones and give him a new suit.

  4. Umm, I may be crazy, and possibly the only one, but I’ve always loved the bad guy outfits in Batman and Robin. Yes, the Batsuits were horrid, but at the time, being a kid watching the cartoons every Saturday morning, seeing THAT Bane, Ivy and Freeze made me giddy (same goes for Riddler/Two-face), haha. They obviously wouldn’t work today, seeing as comic/cartoon inspired movies try to be more serious and “realistic”, but I loved them back in the day. It’s why I love the Kick Ass movies, the keep the fun and fantastical elements that comes with superhero flicks, and still stay “real”(ish).

    As for the question, No, you can’t judge a movie on a few bad costumes, to be perfectly honest, I don’t particularly like the uniforms in the X-men series. But again, the bad guys are all designed almost perfect. But that doesn’t take away from them being great adaptations and overall good movies. Hell, I’ll come out and say it, I thought Last Stand was a great movie (many, MANY continuity errors) but as an ending to the Trilogy and opening the door for an expanded universe, it did it’s job. Hey, if Last Stand DIDN’T make so many errors, we may have never gotten Days of Future Past this soon, or at all.

    • Man…I was beginning to feel like John on the isle of Patmos with the X-Men: Last Stand thing!! Thank you, doc. And the one became two.

    • Me too! Loved Mr. Freeze, and except for the way they used him, Bane looked pretty spot-on. Maybe could have used more muscle tone but whatever.

      I’m also one of the very few who seems to like Green Lantern’s outfit. I love the fact that the CGI is literally light, just like the comics. Just need to have a more physical mask and give him actual contacts.

  5. Quicksilver’s costume looks lazy and stupid.

  6. With all the funny comments ripping on Quicksilver, I just wanted to put in a positive word about some of the “future” costumes. I especially like Magneto’s and Wolverine’s costumes. And Rogue’s absolutely.

  7. Spawn film bad costume? mind your manners!

    • Spawn’s costume was B.A.

  8. Is it too much to ask for the X-Men to look like… I don’t know… the X-Men??

  9. Side track: Great article. This is what I like most about SR. It’s not just reporting on quotes, rumors, and official announcements but also the opinions of the writer or its team of writers. It’s opinions and insights that makes an article interesting, never mind whether you agree to it or not.

  10. Quicksilver’s outfit may not be canon and it does look kinda silly; however, it may work within the context of the film. The late 60s and the entirety of the 70s was filled with clothing that looks absurd by the standard of today.

    • I think they went with an Andy Warhol look for Quicksilver. I won’t be shocked if he turns out to be involved with the Pop art and club scene in NY.

  11. The whole costume thing is a tricky proposition when converting a two-dimensional comic book character to a live action format. While certain characters like Spider-Man, Batman and to an an extent Superman are connected to their costumes as part of their origin, odds are they will also have some variation on the same theme. Spider-Man and Superman still get away with the tight costume because it was established in live action mediums decades ago, and the way both were depicted as wearing their costume under their clothes played into the whole “spandex” motif to fit under their clothes. That became the excepted norm in print form, but now that they are moving to motion pictures (where more of the money is realistically) they have to design something that looks better on a giant screen as opposed to a comic page. Whether or not they always hit on something good is another matter.

  12. Lots of times these magazine promo covers really make the costumes look worse then they are. Too crisp, clean, static, and out of context. I’d say that the worst part about this quicksilver photo isn’t the costume, but the actor’s dopey and bored expression on his face.

  13. I would have to say no. It’s the script above all else. Now, having said that, I still believe it was wrong not to include Yukio giving Logan the Wolverine outfit. The setting, Japan, the storyline, samurais, all perfect in my opinion. To film it, not use it and then make it a bluray bonus feature was rubbing it in fans faces, intentional or not, and was the height of stupidity.

  14. The costume itself isn’t the problem, but it is a good indicator of the way the studio is treating the property.

    Let me put it this way: Name one superhero movie that had terrible costumes, but the movie was amazing.

    • Batman: The Movie. It is terribly amazing or amazingly terrible, hmm.

      Seriously though, I’d say the first two X-Men movies are good examples as the article mentioned. Those costumes were not the X-Men I grew up with, but the movies were good and even had some great moments. Third one was garbage, but two outta three aint bad.

      • The X-Men costumes were a bit off, yes, but they weren’t actually that bad. I’m not opposed to a little re-invention. Besides, I cut them a little slack for trying something new. Superhero movies were not big back then, so they were trying a different angle.

        But by now, they know better. Or, they should anyway.

      • Batman the Movie WAS terrible. And Batman’s rubber suit made him look like a big black gummi bear.

  15. Okay, so… I do think some times the design of a costume can make a difference in a film or a show. Not always, but sometimes. In this case… the costume pictured on the magazine cover doesn’t bother me. I say that for multiple reasons.

    1. I’m going to put it out there immediately that I know next to nothing about quicksilver, so for me, I’m not bothered by the costume. I do, however, completely understand the rage by fans who do know the character as how he looks from the comics, and how changing said look can be potentially awful.
    2. Perhaps this is an origin story of some sort for Quicksilver, and this is the costume he is portrayed in until he becomes the Quicksilver of the comics?
    3. Is a costume change “really” so bad? We have yet to witness Wolverine in yellow spandex (or have we? my mind can be fuzzy sometimes), and I for one, am grateful for that. It’s classic wolverine, yes, I’m aware. But I hate it.

  16. I can’t believe you liked “Man of Steel”! As silly as Superman’s trunks may have been, all Zack Snyder had to do was take them away and reveal that uncomfortable-looking bulge to make us all miss the trunks terribly. Oh, and the rest of the movie was also terrible.

  17. Good ole Ben… always championing the cause of fanboy self-restraint. Keep fighting the good fight Ben:)