What’s a superhero without their costume? Audiences may fall in love with characters like Tony Stark, Diana Prince, or Peter Parker, but it’s their alter egos that usually steal the show. A big part of a superhero’s popularity stems from their costume.
Although there have been some downright bad super suits over the years, just about anyone can identify the defining features of legendary heroes like Batman, Superman, Captain America, or the Hulk. That said, the creators of comic book characters often equip their heroes with what “looks cool” rather than follow the standard “form follows function” rule of design. Big budget adaptations have tried to skirt this issue by reinventing classic outfits into something more realistic (Nolan’s Batman, Cap’s outfit in The First Avenger, etc.) with some extremely hit or miss results.
That said, there are so useless elements of our favorite costumes. Some of the entries on this list were simply temporary additions that were gone (for good reason) almost as quickly as they appeared, while others are mainstays of a character that we’ve just kind of gone along with over the years. At the end of the day, however, these are things that probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. Here are the 15 Most Useless Superhero Accessories.
15. Black Bolt’s tuning fork
Okay, so apparently (as per the Marvel Wiki) the tuning fork at the top of Black Bolt’s mask is actually an antenna that is used to focus his energy. It is used to collect and channel energy at a molecular level into the Inhuman’s body in order to amp his physique up to superhuman levels. Or something along those lines.
Let’s be honest here— when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the character back in the ‘60s they just wanted an appropriately themed costume. We can picture it now…”What would look spectacular on a character whose gimmick is a supersonic voice? A musical note? A sound wave symbol? I know! A tuning fork on the top of his head!” Besides, aren’t tuning forks used to find the pitch of an instrument? The antenna has changed over time to look less tacky and has been given an overly-complex function, but it’ll always be a freaking tuning fork on top of the King of the Inhumans’ head!
14. Spider-Man’s Web Wings
If the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer is any indication, then this is one that will eventually deserve to be taken off this list. Our favorite Wall-Crawler debuted in Amazing Fantasy #15 with a costume that has stayed pretty consistent through his history. One of the few elements that comes and goes like the seasons, however, is the under-arm webbing. It was there in his first appearance and is currently being used in the All New, All Different comics; though it is a staple of Spider-Man’s appearance, the underarm webbing has come and gone depending on who’s drawing the character.
But what exactly is its purpose? In the case of Spider-Woman, the webbing act as wings that help her fly. There’s nothing really to Spidey’s underarm webbing other than looking all kinds of awesome. Homecoming looks to change all this; in the first trailer for the 2017 film we got to see a glimpse of an updated webbing in action as it appears to let Spidey glide through the air like a flying squirrel. It only took fifty years for these things to find a use!
13. Superheroine skirts
This may be hard to believe, but comic book readers can generally tell the difference between male and female superheroes. Even so, many of these characters were created in a different time, when artists and authors thought it necessary to distinguish them via “gender appropriate” costumes. Heroines in the Gold and Silver age like Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Scarlet Witch, and countless more were all subject to this phenomenon.
The superheroine skirt is a relic of this time that has endured to this day. And it is just as useless today as it was then. Perhaps the reasoning behind the continued use of the “superskirt” is that (at least in the case of Supergirl) the garment is a staple of the character’s costume. But this again begs the question— why is it present at all? Wouldn’t the loose fabric become a hazard during a fight? Also, wouldn’t a superskirt become an annoyance whenever they were making a landing or standing anywhere with a strong gust of wind? As cute as they may look, skirts on a superhero costume definitely don’t have much function.
12. Batman’s Open Mouthpiece
The Caped Crusader has one of the best outfits to ever grace the page of DC Comics. The symbol, the ears, the utility belt; just about everything Batman wears has some form of practicality. Hell, practicality is kind of Batman’s thing! But then there’s his mouthpiece.
For starters, many incarnations of the character don’t really talk much. Keaton’s Batman barely uttered more than a sentence and Affleck’s version only seems to talk when he’s in the presence of his allies or a major enemy (or Lex Luthor). The Dark Knight’s enemies are some of the most brutal in comic book history and Bruce Wayne goes to great lengths to conceal his identity from the public. Yet, the famous chin (in the case of Affleck) or famous lips (in the case of Christian Bale) that are supposedly plastered on magazine covers, talk shows, and billboards across the world are right out where everyone can see them! Talk about a lack of subtlety.
11. The Original Flash’s helmet
Jay Garrick was the very first person to ever don the guise of the Scarlet Speedster. Although Barry Allen eventually took over as the version of the Flash that everyone knows and loves, Garrick has remained in the mainstream; the character is a major player in the Justice Society of America and has been featured recently as a minor character in the CW’s The Flash. His costume is about as simplistic as you can get, with a red shirt and blue pants each with a streaking yellow lightning bolt. He also has a helmet that appropriately alludes to the Greek god Hermes.
But when you stop and think about it, the original Flash’s helmet is pretty counterproductive. How on earth could anyone think that thing is aerodynamic? Look at that rim! Anyone who has ever stood outside on a blustery day wearing a baseball cap can tell you how hard it is to keep on their head. Now take that hat, extend the rim so that it encircles your entire head, and run out into some hurricane-level weather. That is the practical equivalent of Jay Garrick’s helmet.
10. Wolverine’s Horns
Sadly, this is one we’ll probably never get to see on screen. Apparently there was an alternate ending to 2013’s The Wolverine in which Mariko gives Logan his iconic costume, but it never saw the light of day. A more subtle approach to the outfit appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past, with a muted yellow and blue under a black suit. With Logan being touted as Hugh Jackman’s final outing, and the famous yellow spandex nowhere in sight, longtime X-Men fans may have missed their chance to see the costume on screen. Maybe X-23 will be the one to finally don the suit?
Let’s hope that, no matter who is the first to wear it, a cinematic interpretation of Logan’s suit will tone down those ears. At least Batman can say that his “ears” resemble those of the animal he’s based on or that they act as antenna for his communications with Alfred. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a real wolverine, their ears are tiny; the costume Logan wore in his first appearance would have been more appropriate. Some say that the ears serve to hide the character’s signature hairstyle. We call BS on that. Isn’t the purpose of a mask to hide your secret identity and not broadcast your unique hairstyle to the entire world?
Eat your heart out, Rob Liefeld! The 1990s saw the (gag-worthy) trend of cargo pants make its way to the pages of our favorite comics. It seemed like every single character who was militaristic in the slightest wore pouches all over their body. We’re not talking the standard utility belt, either: Liefeld’s characters were infamous for having pouch-belts strapped around their waist, arms, legs, and even across their chests! It became such a ridiculous fad that the writers of Knightfall turned the new Batman into a parody of these types of characters.
Don’t get us wrong; pouches are useful. Being a superhero, you’d need a place to store all your gadgets and ammo. But good God, unless you’re the Punisher, there’s no way you’d need that many pouches. Not to mention that having so many of these things, all filled to the brim with heavy objects, would slow you down like no tomorrow. Thank goodness this was a trend that died and stayed dead.
8. High Heels/Platform Heels
There are very few other entries on this list that make us shake our head and ask “why” like high heels on a superhero costume. The most recent offender of this is the Power Rangers reboot; concept art shows that both the female Rangers are going to have platform boots instead of the standard combat ones their male teammates weaer. Catwoman has had high heels, Wonder Woman has had high heels, Black Canary has had high heels… Just about every major female character has had them at some point.
Why? These are literally the opposite of practical. There are women who struggle to walk a straight line in high heels and we are expected to believe that these characters can fight crime and perform acrobatics in them? Let’s not even get started on how badly these types of shoes have to be messing up their wearer’s feet; the human foot is definitely not meant to sit at that angle, and the amount of time spent in these shoes has to be taking its toll on their ankles. Whoever thought this was a good idea has clearly never had to wear this type of garment before.
7. Gambit’s headgear
We can see it now…The X-Men are all dressed up in their new costumes, ready to take on Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and then Gambit steps in. The rest of the team stare at him blankly before whispering among themselves, asking who’s going to tell him that his mask is on backwards. Seriously, WTF is that?! Ever since his intro in The Uncanny X-Men #266, Gambit has worn this… headgear (?) thing.
Is it a ski mask missing the face parts? Did Gambit’s chiropractor diagnose him with some sort of neck disfigurement? We’d say that this could be Gambit’s “mask” but it is literally the opposite; it completely exposes his face, hair, and ears. Maybe it’s just a part of his armor? Then again, what kind of armor doesn’t protect your most vulnerable parts?
6. Underwear on the outside
This has been a staple of just about every major superhero at some point in time. While DC was a much stronger offender than Marvel, they both indulged in the ‘ol “underwear over the spandex” design. We could stand here and list off every hero and heroine to have sported this fashion faux-pas but then we’d be here all day.
There was a good reason for this phenomenon, though. Back in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, comic book writers wanted to show that their heroes could perform amazing acrobatic feats while fighting crime, much like a circus acrobat. The acrobats of the time wore tight underwear-like garments over their pants, and thus the comic book characters followed suit.
But that still doesn’t make them useful! Back in the day they were used to make a performer’s body more streamlined. Today, when our heroes wear costumes made out of steel, spandex, and Kevlar, there is little need for the undergarment. Even so, it took DC until their New 52 reboot to remove them from their flagship heroes of Batman and Superman. The time-honored tradition doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon, as evidenced by the DC Rebirth Aquaman, who still has the underoos (although a much more subtle version).
5. Daredevil’s Eyeholes
Want to talk about useless? Then let’s talk about a blind superhero’s eye holes. To be fair, you could say that Daredevil includes eye holes in his mask in order to throw people off the trail of his secret identity. From a practicality standpoint, why would someone who was blind need eye holes in their mask? While this may be a clever form of trickery on Matt Murdock’s part, there’s no denying that they serve no purpose on the costume, other than look intimidating.
But this isn’t a list of “cool looking elements,” this is a list of useless ones! The Netflix series Marvel’s Daredevil helped fix this predicament by having the character’s first costume be a simplistic headband that covered the entire upper half of his head (based on Frank Miller’s Daredevil run). It was still implied to other characters that Daredevil could see through this somewhat translucent fabric. It also made the character more mysterious to his enemies, who fretted over how the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen could perform all these stunts without his vision. But of course, the eye holes came back when Murdock updated his costume. We may understand this one, but that doesn’t make it any less pointless.
4. Breast Windows
Remember how we talked about how comic book writers in the ‘50s and ‘60s wanted to make sure we could tell male and female superheroes apart? Well in the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s, they tried a slightly different approach. Instead of simply putting skirts on their female protagonists, they exaggerated their feminine features; they narrowed their waists and enlarged their chests to ridiculously unrealistic proportions. Male heroes suffered the same redesigns, with oversized muscles and pectorals that were not even (super)humanly possible. It was a strange time. But perhaps the most ridiculous, useless thing to come out of this era was the breast window.
Aside from the obvious attempt to draw in more young male readers, what purpose could these possibly serve? Sue Storm got a horribly sexist new costume that exposed her midriff, cut off her pants, and gave her a large cut out “4” that you could see her cleavage through. Power Girl (though introduced in the ‘70s) has a similar feature on her costume. Besides the obvious goofiness, why would you leave any part of your body exposed during combat? The only viable reason we think these “breast windows” could exist is to distract villains. Maybe? Nah, we all know why these were created, and we’re glad they’re now in the past.
3. Bright Insignias
This is it. The most iconic of the iconic. The superhero insignia. They all have them, and publishers brandish them all over the place in an effort to strengthen their brand. Some of these insignias have become so legendary that they’ve overtaken the characters that they’re associated with. Someone who has never picked up a comic book can identify the Superman or Batman logos. However, let’s take a step back and look at just how counterproductive they are within the world of comics.
Having a bright, flashy insignia works well for Green Lantern or Nova or the Fantastic Four, as they are all part of a larger organization with standardized uniforms. Superman, Superboy, and Supergirl all get a pass because the giant “S” is actually the seal of their house. But heroes like Batman, Daredevil, Deadpool, and Spider-Man? What do they need a logo for? Do they plan to start their own chain of hero outfitter chains?
This entry would make Edna Mode proud. Capes have been a cornerstone of superhero costumes for almost a century, and with good reason! How awesome is it to see Superman’s cape flowing behind him as he flies through the air or Batman’s cape draping around him like a cloak as he approaches his enemies? But when you get down to it, capes are more of a nuisance than an asset.
Before you scream angrily at us in the comments, there are some notable exceptions to this entry. Nolan’s Batman had a cape that helped him glide across the Gotham skyline. Dr. Strange’s Cloak of Levitation helps him fly and fends off attackers. Todd MacFarlane gave Spawn a cape that can shape-shift. For every one of these, however, is a useless or downright deadly garment that has little to no use. Let’s not forget that Incredibles villain Syndrome died when his cape was sucked into a jet engine, or how Watchmen character Dollar Bill was killed after his cape got stuck in a revolving door. And how many times has a hero been tossed around by his cape by a stronger adversary. Too many times to count! If you ever want to take up being a vigilante, abide by Mode’s rule: “No capes!”
1. Bat Nipples
Do we really have to talk about the bat nipples? You want the most worthless, impractical, downright laughable element of a superhero costume? Here it is! All of the costumes from the original Batman film series ranged from “decent” to “hilariously bad.” It wasn’t until The Dark Knight that we saw the Caped Crusader get some seriously awesome duds. Say what you will about the movie itself, but the costume in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice looked as though it had been ripped straight off the page. But before we even sniffed the perfection of the BvS costume, we had to endure the bat nipples.
They first appeared in 1995’s Batman Forever, but nobody really remembers them being a prominent feature of the costume (perhaps because the movie itself was passable). Then, after the train wreck that was Batman & Robin, the bat nipples were an image that we could never get out of our head. Why? Why?!
Director Joel Schumacher claims that he included them in the costume due to inspiration from ancient Greek armor, but that doesn’t make them any less weird or impractical. Might we also mention that Batgirl had them too! What purpose do they have? To show off how super-sculpted Batman and his sidekicks are? That still doesn’t explain why they have nipples! This is one that absolutely must go down in the “what were they thinking?!” category.
So, what do you think? Did we do a good job at calling out the most useless of the useless? We’re sure we missed a couple, so sound off in the comments to let us know!