ByFergus Coyle, writer at
Movie lover, wannabe director and resident DC nerd. Get more from me at:
Fergus Coyle

It's been 78 years since the Caped Crusader made his first appearance- and in that time, we've seen many superhero costumes come and go. Almost everyone has had multiple redesigns, and with all the films coming out, we're seeing a heck of a lot of new takes on the most classic of suits. Because of this, it's important to remind ourselves of what it is that we've always loved about our favourite spandex outfits, and what the makes the best of them so iconic.

A Unique Design

Image: Marvel Comics
Image: Marvel Comics

The mix of Wolverine's unique claws and striking costume has made him easily one of the most memorable characters to come out of a comic book. Naturally, with the X-Men films' preference for realism, we've never gotten an accurate representation of it on screen. If you ask me, that's a real shame, because everything about it is iconic. From the color scheme (which is an inversion of Cyclops), to the shape of the cowl, to the exposed biceps, everything about this costume is different from everything that came before. Standing out from the crowd in comics is a must for a character to endure, and Wolverine nails it.


Image: Warner Bros./DC COmics
Image: Warner Bros./DC COmics

Over-designing suits became a massive problem in the nineties, and is becoming a big problem currently, what with DC's recent love of slapping lines on all their characers (just look at the New 52's Justice League) . But Superman is the ultimate example of why a superhero's tights should be as simple as possible. In the medium of comics, a simple colour scheme and design makes a character easier to look at, and takes less time to process.

Even in film, Superman's costume works perfectly thanks to the simplicity of the design, as you can see above, with Christopher Reeve's version nailing its adaptation simply by copying and pasting. Why mess with perfection?

This iconic outfit also benefits from being easy to remember. Explaining the Man of Steel's costume is easy, but describing, say, Moon Knight's outfit is a lot harder- and thus Superman is more iconic.

Reflecting Character

Image: DC Comics/Rocksteady
Image: DC Comics/Rocksteady

If a costume can reflect what makes its owner interesting, then it can be incredibly powerful. Not only does it strengthen the image of the character, but it means that they are instantly recognizable and understandable. Blending together a superhero's motivation and their physical image creates a captivating blend of mythos and visual style. This element is what separates a good design from a truly iconic one. Take Batman for example, pictured above. Yes, it's obviously a cool look, but if this were what Superman wore, then the contrast between style and substance would be confusing. A true coming together of character and design means that anyone who looks at a given superhero knows what they're about, and can be drawn in.

Arkham Asylum and City nailed this concept by bringing across all of the main elements of the suit faithfully, and adding in a more tech-based feel to convey the way this version of Batman was very gadget-focused and technically skilled.


Image: Marvel Comics
Image: Marvel Comics

Just look at the color in Spider-Man's suit. Seriously, look at it. Think about just how much the color enhances the image above. The web pattern tells you about his power; the contrast between red and blue emphasises his dual lifestyle, as well as his constant struggle to stay morally upright in a world that seems out to wreck him. Even the eyes show a dark/light split, and the waistline breaks up the costume into two sections in order to avoid a subconscious feeling of him being naked. Prominence of certain colors means that Spider-Man sticks in our minds, despite the many alterations to his costume over the long years. You can look at any costume Spider-Man has ever had and instinctively know that you are in fact looking at Peter Parker. This is just further proof that Spidey is one of the greatest heroes out there.

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Wrapping Up...

And there you have it folks, you may go forth and create your own iconic superheroes. Alternatively you can tell us what your favourite superhero costume is, whether it's in comic, animated, or live-action form. Perhaps you even have something to add about what makes a suit iconic? If so, then you'll find the comment section down below, but whatever you do, be sure to enjoy your life.

If you need a little more Spider-Man in your life, check out our video of 10 of his most iconic rescue scenes:

Which superhero costume do you think is the most iconic?


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