We’re always excited to hear that our favorite characters from comic books are going to get adapted to the big screen. It’s intriguing to speculate how a character will translate to live action, or what storylines and villains would work best to draw in the biggest audience. Another inevitable aspect is finding out what parts of the comics are just too over the top to work on screen and need to be changed. If there is going to be a change, we might dread that it will be worse, but there’s also excitement: it could be better.
With so many comic book movies out there, we’ve seen plenty of the good and the bad already. Big franchises have made changes to character’s appearances that have ranged from surprisingly effective, or misguided yet understandable, or just leaving fans everywhere wondering what the filmmakers were thinking. These are 12 Movie Characters Who Look Nothing Like Their Comic Book Inspirations.
12 WOLVERINE IN THE X-MEN FRANCHISE
With one more Wolverine movie coming next year, Hugh Jackman will soon have a legacy of at least seventeen years of playing the iconic X-Men character. To a movie going audience, Jackman is probably what a lot of people picture when they now think of Wolverine. The thing is, Jackman really doesn’t look that much like what Wolverine actually looks like in the comics.
Even at the time of his casting, many fans quickly pointed out that Jackman was a lot bigger than Logan, who has always been known for being on the shorter side. A strong acting performance allowed us to get over the size differential, but even today the one thing that sticks out about the cinematic version of Logan is we never get to see him wearing his iconic mask. The masks are often the most instantly recognizable parts of comic book characters. It would be like a movie made about Batman or Spider-Man where they just decided they didn’t need their costumes. Jackman has been able to make it work, but if he really is done playing Wolverine, then one easy way to differentiate his inevitable successor would be to finally show off the yellow outfit we all remember.
11 RHINO IN THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Admittedly, Rhino didn’t have a big part in the Amazing Spider-Man 2. In fact, he was basically just there as a big moment to close the film. But we saw him so many times in the trailer leading up to the movie that it was easy to believe he’d have a bigger part and that he was someone worth speculating about. From what we saw, he actually looked pretty cool. Going with a giant mechanized rhino suit certainly made the character appear more intimidating. He really looked like he could do some damage in that thing.
The Rhino of the comics is big and strong, sure, but he’s also a guy in a rhinoceros costume. That’s just not very scary, honestly. Especially since the costume left his human face revealed. If he had the Lizard treatment so that he was actually mutated into a basically anthropomorphic rhino, that could look pretty good. But in this case, the movie redesign was an improvement that worked to help viewers take the character more seriously.
10 DEADPOOL IN X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
Not every entry on this list will be a change for the worse, but some absolutely were. While Ryan Reynolds was as well cast as Wade Wilson in Origins as he was in the Deadpool movie, when it became time for him to adopt his super powered persona in the former movie, the interpretation was downright baffling. To start off, the powers he was given didn’t align at all with what he can do in the comics, and he was instead given a mish-mash of abilities that seemed to be borrowed from Wolverine, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler.
But what really drew the ire of fans was Deadpool’s appearance. It he had been any other mutant, his look might have been kind of cool. But to call this pale, silent, serious mutant Deadpool? Deadpool’s defining characteristic is his humor - he's the "merc with a mouth" - but once he was transformed, they fused his mouth shut! Origins is commonly thought of as the worst X-Men film, and what they did to Deadpool in the climactic battle of the film no doubt played a large role in that. Fortunately, Reynolds was eventually given a do-over in Deadpool’s classic red suit that hides the blood stains, and his mouth remained open to irritate enemies and allies alike.
9 HAWKEYE IN THE AVENGERS
Some of the comic book characters on this list differ from their original counterparts in small ways, but others are so different that you wouldn’t even recognize them as the same character if their name wasn’t said on screen. Taking Hawkeye’s costume off him definitely places him in the latter category. Now usually we have to give it up for the classic design being the superior version, but this is one of the rare instances where the deviation is understandable. Just look at all that purple. That probably wouldn’t have translated as well as fellow archer Green Arrow’s outfit.
Hawkeye’s more basic costume that he’s appeared in going forth from The Avengers doesn’t leave as much of a visual impression, but it’s far more practical. Going without the mask runs no risk of impeding his peripheral vision while setting his sights on his target, and his more neutral colors make him stand out less as a target when he’s trying to take down an enemy from afar. We could get into the practicality of a lot of hero’s costumes, especially those who wear capes, but people have been known to get upset for alterations to classics like Superman or Wonder Woman. Being a bit less well-known, Hawkeye can afford to try out some more functional looks.
8 MYSTIQUE IN THE X-MEN FRANCHISE
The X-Men films have shown no hesitation about deviating from the appearances of the characters from the comics. There were the bad decisions like their first crack at Deadpool in Origins, and the ones we came to accept over time like Wolverine losing his mask, but Mystique’s movie appearance is the one that a lot of people seemed to regard as an improvement. In the first X-Men film in particular, Mystique’s overt mutant appearance was a strong contrast between the toned down outfits of many of the other characters, and it made her stand out as one of the more distinct villains.
As seen in X-Men: First Class, there’s no reason Mystique can’t make clothes a part of her normal appearance, but the movie did a fair job of explaining why at the end she was tired of hiding the real her. Her essentially being nude also eliminated any questions of why her clothes would be different when she morphs into different people since it tells us her transformation can also allow her to wear whatever she likes. The addition of the conveniently placed scales on her body also conjures images of creatures like chameleons, which is very fitting since she is a shapeshifter.
7 BARON ZEMO IN CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Surprise villains are hard to pull off in these days of full cast listings being available months in advance of a movie, but to an extent, Baron Zemo’s appearance in Civil War managed to catch a number of people off guard. Part of that is no doubt that this is a super hero movie, so we’re all so busy paying attention to all the over the top costumes that we often miss the more mundane details. A character like Baron Zemo was hidden in plain sight precisely because he was one of the characters who wasn’t drawing attention to himself with a memorable outfit.
Zemo’s classic outfit with the purple mask is no doubt cool looking, but if he had worn it right away in Civil War, you know it would have shown up in the trailer somewhere and a lot of people would have recognized him. This way, except for people who were closely following news about the development of the movie, a lot of people got to be surprised. Now that we know Baron Zemo is a part of the MCU, though, it’d be nice to see the mask get worn be worn regularly.
6 BULLSEYE IN DAREDEVIL
This is another case where a change in costume was never going to save the film, and it definitely didn’t help. Wanting to do a more realistic version of the villain Bullseye for the Daredevil movie was an understandable decision to make. Some costumes just look silly when translated to screen, and as we’ve seen already, sometimes change can result in something that looks better. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those cases.
The most glaring problem is the bullseye mark right in the middle of his forehead. If you’re trying to go realistic, that’s a quick way to ruin it. Who’s going to take a guy seriously walking around with that on his head? The classic Daredevil costume has been shown to work with a few tweaks for the TV show, so in the future hopefully they either find a way to make Bullseye’s costume work as well, or at the very least, leave the brand off his head. His prowess with weapons can convey the name well enough.
5 THE ANCIENT ONE IN DOCTOR STRANGE
The Doctor Strange movie has yet to come out, but even based on what we know of it so far, we know it will be changing a few things around. The most obvious difference so far is that the Ancient One will be getting a pretty distinct look compared to his comics appearance - namely that he will be a she. We had been hearing for a while that Tilda Swinton might be in line for a role, and it’s now official that she will be introducing movie goers to a female Ancient One.
With the movie yet to be released, we can’t say one way or the other whether Swinton’s portrayal will wind up being a good one. Even based on first impressions, it’s hard to think of a reason that the Ancient One shouldn’t be able to be a woman. There has been some talk about a white actress taking over an Asian character, but gender is something that shouldn’t really be an issue. We have a female Thor and the world didn’t explode, so Doctor Strange definitely shouldn’t suffer just because a woman took over one of the characters.
4 THE GREEN GOBLIN IN SAM RAIMI’S SPIDER-MAN
The first Spider-Man movie is one that we have to cut some slack for helping to launch the superhero movie genre, but it did have some corny elements to it. The Spidey suit was slightly altered to have the webbing pattern on it have a more metallic look, and that worked pretty well. But then we got a pretty radical new look for the Green Goblin, and Spider-Man himself was quick to ponder whether his new opponent was supposed to be the “Emerald Elf.”
Gone were the Goblin’s signature purple gloves and hat and all was replaced with shiny lime armor and huge bug eyes. Defensively, Norman Osbourne covering himself in armor made sense. But aesthetically, it was quite a departure from the character we knew. It’s a wonder that the movie makers didn’t simply portray the Goblin as a mutated monster as he’s sometimes been depicted in the comics to achieve a similar, more organic look. The original Spider-Man has been one of the few good films featuring the web slinger we’ve had, so we can’t complain about the costume too much. Maybe in the upcoming reboot we could see the Goblin ditch the armor, and go for his classic look.
3 BLACKHEART IN GHOST RIDER
Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered what the villain of Ghost Rider looked like; there was no salvaging the movie. They had a cool looking character with Ghost Rider, so why not give him a cool looking villain as well? Blackheart was fine for an antagonist, but not when they basically turned him into an extra from the Twilight movies. He didn’t look cool or intimidating, he looked like a teenager who just came out of Hot Topic and was trying out his goth phase.
The Blackheart of the comics would have been a spectacle to see on screen. The hulking black demon with claws, a tail, and huge quills looks like something out of a kid’s nightmare. Admittedly, he would have had to be mostly CGI, but that didn’t deter them from creating Ghost Rider in the same fashion for the movie. They even used CGI to give Nicholas Cage abs. Pretty sure most people would have rather had the demon form of Blackheart over Cage admiring his fake body in the mirror, but it’s a little late to try and fix that movie franchise.
2 BANE IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy went for a more realistic approach all around, but the Dark Knight Detective nevertheless retained most of his classic look, albeit with the addition of more armor and less spandex. Each character the films introduced who could have been outlandish became grounded in reality by Nolan providing plausible explanations for their appearances and abilities. As the trilogy unfolded, it provided fun for the fans to imagine Nolan’s realistic take on other villains in future films.
When Bane was announced for third and final film, people were quick to accept no actor could possibly portray the muscle mass of the Bane from the comics. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime would look small compared to the Bane we knew. And Nolan completely threw out Bane’s Hispanic background and culture which helped inspire the comic book version’s luchador style mask. Instead, we got Tom Hardy in a mask that looked more like something Hannibal Lecter might wear, and the plotline focusing on the Venom was omitted as well. Honestly, Batman and Robin’s Bane is closer to the comics, but maybe that laughable movie just proves that having the look down is far from the most important thing.
1 HALLE BERRY'S CATWOMAN
There was really nothing to be salvaged from the Catwoman solo movie, but a huge indicator of the disaster the movie would turn out to be came just from looking at Catwoman’s costume design. Seduction is a strong part of Selina Kyle’s alter ego, so anyone would expect her character to be portrayed by making use of her sex appeal to lull people into a false sense of security, or just for her own amusement. But Halle Berry’s Catwoman outfit was so ridiculous that it looked like she was trying to make her enemies laugh by fighting them in some dominatrix outfit.
Catwoman’s outfit has varied heavily across the comic books, so the creators of the movie had so many choices to pick from to create something memorable. They could have used something memorable like her purple outfit with the tail from The Long Halloween, or something more practical like her costume with the goggles that she had in Hush. Even Batman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises went with original outfits that no one complained about since they conveyed the spirit of the character. But Halle Berry’s outfit told fans right out of the gate that this would be a turn for the worse, and even Berry came to openly mock the movie and regret taking the role.
Were there any costume changes on this list that you wound up preferring? Tell us about it in the comments, and let us know about any other costumes that were drastically different than the comics!