The comic book genre has given us innumerable iconic costumes and character designs throughout the years. Just about anyone can recognize Spider-Man, Batman, or Superman just by seeing their logo and costume colors alone. But every now and then, comic book writers/directors want to switch things up a bit by altering the designs of their beloved creations. Some of these changes go on to receive their own iconic status, while others are swept under the rug and forgotten. Similarly, most of the costumes that fans are familiar with were not the first choice of those in charge. Several different pieces of concept art are created and different demographics are questioned in an effort to create the best version of the character possible.
In some cases, the original ideas and concepts are vastly superior to the finished product (we’re looking at you, Bleeding Edge Iron Man suit from Civil War). On the other hand, there was a reason so many of these costumes ended up on the cutting room floor. Whether they didn’t fit the tone of the film, were too far of a departure from the original, or just looked plain ridiculous, here are the 15 worst unused superhero costumes.
15. Love and War Wonder Woman
Speaking of iconic costumes, you can’t get much more iconic than Wonder Woman’s red, white, blue, and gold. The Amazon has had several different costumes, ranging from ridiculously impractical skirts and bras to hardened full-body battle armor. Either way, her look usually stays close enough to the original that it maintains its iconic status. In the Love and War story, Wonder Woman’s origins were to be explored in more detail, similar to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Artist Paul Smith had created some designs on what the character would wear throughout this arc, which were eventually rejected.
This costume (on the far left and far right) isn’t crazy or horrendous, it’s just boring. Wonder Woman should have a more intricate look rather than just a plain red shirt with her logo and a pair of star-spangled shorts. The Wonder Woman film has ditched the flag motif altogether, and Golden Age Diana Prince at least had an eagle and a skirt. The Love and War design just looks completely forgettable (a trait that should never be associated with Wonder Woman).
14. Darren Aronofsky’s Batman
Overall, Darren Aronofsky’s cancelled Batman movie was set up to be an extremely…interesting take on the character. After the massively-panned Batman and Robin, Warner Brothers sat on the rights to the Caped Crusader for years, shooting down idea after idea for a new film until they greenlit Batman Begins. One of these rejected films was Aronofsky’s bizarre take on Batman: Year One.
The Black Swan director’s story would have seen Bruce Wayne as a homeless youth rather than a billionaire playboy. Orphaned after the death of his parents, Wayne would have learned his crimefighting prowess through reading books about martial arts and advice from “Little Al,” an African-American mechanic who took the place of the loyal butler Alfred.
This concept sounds so bizarre that it just might have worked, and the leaked costumes that were to be used in the film were just as strange. Although it would have taken place in modern times, Batman: Year One’s costumes look like they all came straight out of the Victorian-era Batman: Gotham by Gaslight. They all give off a very steampunk vibe, which makes sense considering that Bruce would have been mentored by a mechanic and had no money to purchase a high-tech suit. Even the middle costume, which looks similar to the early Batman design, feels a bit off; the ears, neck, and overly large utility belt make it just a little too far of a departure to be considered a “good” costume.
13. Nicolas Cage Superman
We could write a whole other article on Tim Burton’s Superman Lives (in fact we have). Set to star Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel, this movie would have been loosely based on the infamous Death of Superman storyline, with the villains Braniac, Lex Luthor, and Doomsday all making an appearance. It also would have featured Superman’s Kryptonian guardian K, a robot who acted as Kal-El’s protector on Earth. Having Cage playing the charismatic and inspiring hero would have been weird enough, but then there’s the costume.
Around 2009, pictures began to surface of the failed adaptation’s costume, and it was gloriously bad. Gone was the “S” symbol that has appeared since the 1930. Instead, we got some sort of squished letter that made up the breast plate of the suit. The costume itself looked like it was made of shiny plastic. Even later it came out that Superman Lives would have had a second costume, one that would have appeared after the Man of Steel’s resurrection. Created out of K himself, the second Superman suit was clear and had rainbow-like lighting effects coursing throughout. Thankfully, neither of these costumes came to fruition.
(Cage was also photographed sporting a slightly more traditional take on the iconic suit, which you can check out here.)
12. Jet Falcon (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Longtime Captain America sidekick The Falcon made his debut in 2014’s critically-acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Although he took a back seat to the two titular characters, Sam Wilson quickly became a fan favorite of the MCU, appearing in three separate Marvel movies within a span of two years. The Falcon’s powers stem from a set of prototypical mechanical wings that he uses to fly around combat zones. As the name suggests, these wings appear similar to those of a bird.
In the original design, however, the character’s name would have been more appropriate as “The Jet.” Perhaps they were trying to go with a more practical and grounded design for Wilson, but this version of the Falcon looks like something straight out of one of the G.I. Joe films. In the final design, there are at least some little subtle details that add to the character’s name. In this rejected design, there is absolutely nothing that screams “Falcon.”
11. Angst-Ridden Colossus (Deadpool)
Deadpool has arguably been the biggest sleeper hit of 2016 so far. Pushed to a February realease date (where most studios put films to die) and extremely underfunded, Deadpool’s very first film outing (yes, his very first) went on to receive high praise and make over $760 million at the worldwide box office. One of the movie’s standouts was the always straight-faced and preachy Colossus acting as a foil to the unhinged and vulgar Wade Wilson. Similar to Deadpool himself, fans were ecstatic about the comic-accurate design of the Russian X-Man.
But the creators of Deadpool had something else in mind for Colossus in the beginning. Back in X-Men 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand, he had made extended cameos as a lesser member of the superhero team. In these films, Colossus had a much smaller and sleeker appearance than he did in the comics. This original design was supposed to be continued in Deadpool, with an added hood for maximum coolness effect. When you take a look at this, you might realize that you’ve seen it before — this makes Colossus look an awful lot like the angsty teenage Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. And we all know how awesome that character was…
10. Alex Ross Spider-Man (2002) Costume
Alex Ross is one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. When Sam Raimi was in the pre-production phase of his first Spider-Man movie, it’s only natural that he approached Ross to design the we-slinger’s costume. At first, Raimi considered using this as the final design for the character. However, at some point during the film’s production, it was decided that Spidey would look better in his classic red and blue duds. Alex Ross’s design was not forgotten; it was loosely adapted into the primary costume for the Superior Spider-Man comic arc.
But is it really that good of a Spider-Man costume? Of course the drawing looks amazing (it’s Alex Ross for crying out loud), but it seems like it’d be something more fitting to be used in one of Marvel’s alternate universes. The colors are too dark, and those eyes…those horrible, bulbous eyes! Having been Spider-Man’s first movie outing, this probably wouldn’t have been the ideal costume used to introduce moviegoers to ol’ web-head.
9. X-Men (2000) Wolverine Spandex
Perhaps Cyclops was right when he sarcastically asked Wolverine, “What would you prefer, yellow spandex?” Apparently, this was more than just a nod to the comics, as X-Men director Bryan Singer had originally intended for his mutant team to rock their original costumes. Cyclops would have had his signature blue suit with a visor, Wolverine would have had his yellow spandex, and Jean Grey would have sported her signature headpiece. In the end, Singer felt that the costumes were too cartoonish, and opted to go with the all black leather outfits for the team.
Although the leather jumpsuits have been the subject of fan ridicule for the last decade and a half, a little context is necessary. The first X-Men movie is often seen as the start of the “superhero boom” in the film industry. Sure, Batman and Superman had been franchises for years prior, but it was after the financial success of X-Men and Spider-Man in the early 2000s that everybody wanted a piece of the superhero pie. Nowadays, these relatively faithful takes on iconic costumes would be clamored for and beloved by the general public. But back in 2000? Probably not.
Not to mention that Wolverine costume — it’s kind of awful. The hair is more glam rocker than deadly assassin, and the spandex themselves have an off-putting, muted color sequence to them. The unused X-Men costume looks like a list of Wolverine’s worst hits, hitting every single fashion misstep in the character’s history (with a bit of feral Logan thrown in for good measure).
8. Tim Burton’s Robin
After two entries in the Batman series, director Tim Burton was ready to jump right into the next installment with Batman Forever. Warner Brothers unfortunately had other plans. After the franchise’s darker turn in Batman Returns, the company decided that it needed to keep the next movie family friendly and more marketable (something that still seems to be a problem today). Burton was removed during the pre-production phase and replaced with Joel Schumacher. Something that had been planned from the beginning of the film’s creation process, regardless of who was steering the ship, was the inclusion of the Dark Knight’s sidekick, Robin.
Burton’s take on the Boy Wonder looked way different than the design that eventually made it into the film. Inspired by what seems to be riot gear, Tim Burton’s Robin had a more practical suit and was set to be played by Marlon Wayans. Honestly, the suit itself doesn’t look that bad. What ruins the entire look is that god-awful ugly mask. This is Robin, not Scarlet Witch! Also, what is that hair? A mixture of the Wolverine style mixed with a cutoff? Say what you will about Batman Forever, but at least it had a decent take on Robin’s costume (sans Bat-nipples, of course).
7. Amazing Spider-Man 2 Tech Costume
The Amazing Spider-Man served as a reboot of the web-slinger after the highly divisive Spider-Man 3. It updated the story of Peter Parker, making him more of a modern loner/hipster rather than the straight up nerd he was in the original films. Along with a new take on the story came a new costume. The Spidey suit in the first film wasn’t perfect, but it was received pretty well by fans. In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 they changed it once again, giving us what may have been the best Spider-Man costume ever seen on screen.
But oh, how different things could have been. When coming up with ideas for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there were several variations on the costume. Some offered mild changes to the first suit, but others were radical departures from the comics. The worst offender is what we’ll call the “tech” suit. We call it this because its sleek and futuristic design makes it look like something that the Spider-Man of 2099 would wear. The over-use of blue and pencil-thin spider design pair don’t really work, and the eyes remind us of Ultron for some reason. Oh, and the abs. Didn’t we got past this kind of costume back in the ’90s?
6. Original Jack Kirby Black Panther
Having made his first cinematic appearance in Captain America: Civil War, which helped set up a movie of his own, Black Panther is finally getting his due in the world of pop culture. T’Challa has always had the luxury of possessing one of the most simplistically awesome costumes in all of comics; the plain black suit mixed with the panther mask, tribal necklace, and razor sharp claws screams power and royalty! Throughout the years, Black Panther’s suit hasn’t undergone any radical changes. Sometimes he is depicted with a cape or gold trim, but the base costume is always the same.
The original design for Black Panther (when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were calling him “The Coal Tiger”) is something to behold. There’s no mask. There are bright yellows and reds. There’s a giant “T” (for T’Challa?) on his midriff. Yes, this unused design definitely evokes the feelings of a Silver Age hero. Knowing what we know now, it’s crazy to think that a character as stoic and powerful as Black Panther could have looked like every other happy-go-lucky superhero out there.
5. Alien TMNT
Say what you will about 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel TMNT: Out of the Shadows, but always keep in the back of your mind that they could have been worse. The look of the turtles in the new franchise is a subject of much debate; they bear little resemblance to their comic and TV counterparts, as they now have human-like features that makes you feel like you stepped into the uncanny valley. When the idea for the reboot was getting kicked around, fans were outraged over rumors that the turtles were going to be aliens rather than mutants. Producer Michael Bay dismissed these reports, claiming that his comments were about the ooze of the TMNT’s creation rather than the main characters themselves.
Just between you and us, we think it’s a bunch of bull. Look at the designs originally slated for the 2014 release and tell us that they don’t look straight out of Star Trek or Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind. Their freakily-slender legs are over half of their body structure and their bodies themselves look like little green men. And the face. THE FACES! That’s definitely not what we think of when we hear “Ninja Turtles.” So next time you want to talk about how awful the designs of the new TMNT are, take a step back and remember what could have been.
4. Original Deadpool Concept
Deadpool’s movie costume is without a doubt the most comics-accurate superhero costume ever. Even the ones that come close have something that still feels a little off. For example, Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 suit doesn’t have expressive eyes. Likewise, Captain America’s costume does not have the protruding head wings. Deadpool, on the other hand, has the costume down to a tee: his eyes show emotion, he has his signature belt buckle, and he even has his little “man-bun” (for lack of a better word). With a suit this perfect, it’s a wonder how the creative team could have floated around anything else.
Enter the original Deadpool concepts. How can the same person who approved the suit we got have even these alternate looks? Let’s start with the mask for the image on the right, which makes Deadpool looks like a third-rate Jason Vorhees. There is nothing about that mask that even remotely resembles the Merc with a Mouth. As far as the costume itself goes, why is it being held together by straps and harnesses like it’s a skydiving uniform? And why does the costume itself look like something out of the Devil May Cry series? Ugh. There is so much wrong with this outfit that it’s impossible to cover it all.
3. Original “Batman” costume
What more needs to be said? Batman is one of the most, if not the most, iconic superheroes ever created. The cape and cowl. The bat symbol. The dark color scheme. Anyone can take one look at the Caped Crusader and instantly know who it is. No matter if its black and grey, blue and grey, or black on black, Batman’s design has stayed pretty consistent in his 77 years of existence. But much like the earlier Black Panther entry, Batman almost had a completely different look when he made his debut.
Early on in the design process, Bob Kane presented his partner Bill Finger with his interpretation of “The Bat-Man,” and it was hideous. Instead of a cape, Bat-Man was supposed to be fitted with two large bat wings which enabled him to glide. Rather than having a darker, noir-like aesthetic, he wore a bright red leotard and a common “domino” mask. It’s an eye sore to behold. Luckily for everyone involved, Finger vetoed the design, opting instead for the classic incarnation of the character we all know and love.
2. CW’s The Flash Concept Art
The CW’s The Flash has quickly overtaken shows like Gotham, Arrow, and Supergirl to become the best (non-Netflix-based) superhero show on TV. Staring Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, the show tackles the goofier subjects of comics that other shows won’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Seriously, they’ve done enemies like Rainbow Raider and Gorilla Grodd! The show carries a more lighthearted and fun tone and refuses to get bogged down by romantic subplots or get taken over by side characters (looking at you, Arrow). Gustin’s costume captures the spirit of the show; it’s nothing like the power armor featured in the DCEU. Rather, it is just a synthetic suit and mask that emulates the comic design.
But it almost wasn’t. A few months ago, there was a leak of what the titular hero could have looked like based on early concept designs. This looks terrible. First off, the Flash is not a Tron character. Second, what is up with that helmet? Visors haven’t been taken seriously in the superhero genre for a very long time. And the lightning bolts on the sides of the helmet…do we even need to address those? We can’t even put our fingers specifically on what’s wrong with this design, but to us, it’s not the Scarlet Speedster.
1. Creepy ’70s Bellbottom Rorschach
As a character in Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Rorschach is a legend among characters of the universe and fans alike. This raging psychopath of an anti-hero is the definition of brooding badass. He murders villains in cold blood, has a knack for solving mysteries, and has a strict “never compromise” code when it comes to justice. So much so that he possibly could have made the entire events of Watchmen in vein. Rorschach’s aura is helped by his design. With a fedora, trench coat, jackboots, and a mask of shape-shifting ink, he strikes fear into the heart of any criminal.
Which begs the question, how did Alan Moore ever consider THIS? Just…there are no words for this. Rorschach is wearing what appear to be bell-bottom leg warmers. These are words we thought would never need to be uttered. Why is he standing in a pose like he’s flashing someone? Was that originally intended to be one of his powers!? Rorschach is supposed to be the premier badass in the Watchmen universe, and something like this would have made him more like the laughing stock of it.
Did we miss any of the crazier bits of concept art? Are some of these not as bad as we claim? Let us know in the comments section!