Superhero Costumes: 5 of the Biggest Changes From Comic to Film

When it comes to superheroes, what works in the comic books may not always work on the big screen. Superhero costumes have come to identify a character just as much, if not more, as their actions and abilities. They’re loud, they’re bright, they’re cool, and sometimes, they’re downright obnoxious.  Despite the iconic look a character might have, a studio may go a different route when transitioning from comic to film. The following are five classic examples of superhero costumes that have experienced the transition from comic book to film in a variety of different ways.

1. X-Men

Jubilee - X-Men, FOX

X-Men | FOX

The iconic look of the X-Men was drastically underplayed when the movie series first debuted in 2000. The classic yellow suit and blue shoulder pads were absent on Wolverine as was the bright blue jumpsuits standard for the rest of the X-Men team. This was a deliberate sacrifice made by director Bryan Singer, and X-Men (along with Blade in 1998) is often credited as kick-starting the comic book movie craze that we know today.

Magneto prior to painting his helmet magenta.

X-Men: First Class | 20th Century Fox

It did this by using the themes of racism and hate indicative in the X-Men universe to make a comic book movie that was much more serious than previous super hero titles. As a result, Singer discarded the fantastical colorful costumes in favor of a “cooler” tactical-leather look. This change was one of the few critiques Singer got for an otherwise incredibly well-received adaption. But to his credit, as the series progressed over the last decade and a half, Singer implemented the more classic comic book look in X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past in the form of the yellow and blue team jumpsuits and Magneto’s iconic magenta suit and helmet.

2. Spider-Man

Spider-Man

Spider-Man | Marvel

While X-Men toned down the costumes of its heroes, Spider-Man went in a different direction despite coming out only two years later. Part of that is due to the difference in tone (Spider-Man is much more lighthearted) while the main reason is that Spider-Man’s costume is just so iconic. Yes, there have been variations of the suit over the years but the basis of it – primarily red and blue with web patterns- is a staple to the hero.

Thanks to the sheer number of movies (and reboots) in the franchise, there were plenty of chances to tweak the webslinger’s look. However, creators found out the hard way that deviating just slightly in the wrong direction could draw ire from fans. The Amazing Spider-Man reboot with Andrew Garfield went with a more “home made” costume to go along with the idea of Peter Parker making it himself. It was a cool concept that made a lot of sense logically but it didn’t go over well and was one of the more heavily critiqued things in the movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man, Big Eyes

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 | Sony

What was so wrong with their slight deviation of the costume? Simple — it was all in the eyes. In an interview with MTV, lead costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott, revealed that the size of the character’s eyes was incredibly important to his image and how the slightest tweak could completely change the super hero’s outward emotions – making him look unintentionally sad or angry. The attention to detail in regards to the spider-suit in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is often regarded as one of the best things to come from the movie.

3. Batman

Batman, Dark Knight Returns, Graphic Novel, Frank Miller

The Dark Knight Returns | DC Comics

The latest version of Batman in DC’s lineup appears in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Considering Bryan Singer’s difficulty in introducing an accurate rendition of comic book heroes in his movies, it’s hard to believe how easily accepted a man in a bat suit has become to the general public. Batman has such a widely accepted appearance that movie makers are able to go into extreme detail and cherry pick comic books for inspiration.

Tim Burton debuted a Batman that was very different than what people were used to in 1989. Instead of a skin tight suit like so many other superheroes, he went with a more armored look, a trend that became extremely popular and continued for years. Zack Snyder looks to be breaking that trend in favor of a representation that stays truer to the depiction seen in the comic books.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman, Dark Knight Returns, Batfleck

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice | Warner Bros.

The batsuit in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a far jump from the Nolan body armor suits we’re used to and has a more traditional comic book look. Not only is the material a callback to the skin-tight spandex grey from the comics in general, but the short ears of the mask are a specific reference to Frank Miller’s famous comic The Dark Knight Returns, which the movie is heavily based off.

[Update, 9/15/16: Zack Snyder apparently isn’t done revising the appearance of Batman for the movies in the DC Extended Universe. The director recently shared an image of Batman wearing a “Tactical Batsuit” in the upcoming ‘Justice League’ movie (see below).]

Justice League - Tactical Batsuit

Batman wearing “Tactical Batsuit” in Justice League | Warner Bros. via Zack Snyder’s Twitter

4. Daredevil

Daredevil, Man without Fear, black suit

Daredevil | Marvel

The recent Netflix original, Daredevil series has improved upon the 2003 film in almost every conceivable way, including costume design. There was nothing overtly wrong with the suit Affleck wore in 2003, it’s just that the current series has taken a different approach. Borrowing from the DIY approach to the super suit mentioned above in The Amazing Spider-Man, Matt Murdoch spent most of the series in his own home made costume. But rather than using the red suit that is synonymous with the character, they went with a more believable home made look of all black athletic wear and plain black cloth covering his face. Dedicated fans of Daredevil will note that not only is this costume realistic, but also reminiscent of the 1993 comic “The Man Without Fear.”

Daredevil

Daredevil | Netflix

5. Deadpool

Deadpool, marvel, comics, superhero suit

Deadpool | Marvel

Even with the mainstream popularity of super hero movies, the knee jerk reaction for creators is to tone down the ridiculous nature of their characters in favor for something a little more serious and (somehow) believable. It’s hard to say why so many movies went this route, but perhaps this was just a necessary step to be taken in the evolution of comic book movies. Maybe we, as an audience, had to get used to the idea of superheroes in a more serious medium before we could truly appreciate them at their most ridiculous.

Deadpool soaring majestically through the air

Deadpool soaring majestically through the air | 20th Century Fox

It’s safe to say that Deadpool represents that ridiculousness completely. The recently released movie (starring Ryan Reynolds) shows a Deadpool straight out of the comics. The costume is a perfect combination of hyper realism and cartoon playfulness that the character has become so well known for. The hardcore mercenary look of the costume combined with the animated eyes create a contradicting look for the character that acts as a constant comic relief for the generally violent tone the movie takes.

The dedicated fanbase of Deadpool has previously made this movie a risky venture. But as superhero portrayals in film has progressed over the past decade and a half, now it seems like the world is finally ready for a character like Deadpool.

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