EDITORIAL: When To Stay True To Comic Book Costumes

EDITORIAL: When To Stay True To Comic Book Costumes

When is it alright to simplify a costume or disregard it completely for a comic book movie adaptation, and when is it a necessity to make a costume comic book accurate? Read on for GiantNerd's take..

Welcome fellow CBMers!
Costumes in comic book movies always spark great debates. There's a fine line between making changes for good and times when change is unwarrented. I wanted to examine how costumes work in comic book movies and when dumbing down a costume is appropriate, compared to when it is necessasry to honor the comic book source. 

Why Costumes Are So Important

In the wacky realm of comic book characters the costumes they wear are very defining for an individual. Batman dresses like a bat to instill his own fear into criminals. Thor has armor that resonates from his people. The X Men wear unique outfits to proudly express themselves for being different. The costumes make a statement for who these people are.

Necessary Changes

Being an advocate of staying true to the source material, there are still times when changes should be made to the way a character looks on film. Some characters are so iconic that any alterations to a costume could potentially trigger mass fan outrage but sometimes their original look just can't work for the big screen anymore. Let's look at Superman, his look has been around longer than any superhero and that's exactly the reason certain things needed to be changed.

Certain characters have large amount of nostalgia around them but as time passes the costumes have to evolve the viewers. For instance, underwear over your clothes just can't be achieved in this day in age. That's partly why the continuation the Reeves' Superman era seemed so out of place with Supeman Returns. It was too out dated to try to introduce a new chapter of the story using the same vibe as the old movies.

Now let's look at the updated costume for the new cinematic Superman.The changes they made to the costume in Man Of Steel were about as good as you could get for the new era of comic book movies. Obviously the underwear was removed, but what really made the costume great was the texture and designs they added to the suit. It was very interesting to look at. They did precisely what you need to do with a superhero costume. They stayed true to the source but also made it practical in the sense that they gave the material a very other worldly asthetic along with the unique markings which worked great considering his costume is literally from another planet.

Another time a change is necessary is when it is important to the plot. The recreation of Bane's look in the Christopher Nolan Batman universe is completely warranted because of how it was infused into the story and the tone he was going for. It played homage to the comic version of Bane by creating a achilles heel for the character. In the comics, the source of his abnormal power is the drug known as Venom and Batman usually cuts off this source before taking him down. In the movie it works in a similar way. The drug Bane inhales in the film is basically a painkiller that is sustaining his life. The movie depicts Bane as being unstoppable until he is weakend by Batman severing his supply of the drug. This works because there is a reason for the altered mask he wears while also being true to a definitive aspect of his character from the comics.

Unnecessary Changes

While you watch a movie about a comic book hero you have to have a lot of suspension of disbelief. The costumes in a movie have a lot to do with this. If you accept a costume you tend to believe in what you're looking at. When you don't, it becomes a distraction and it takes you out of the film. Some costumes are so bad they are all you can concentrate on.

This shouldn't completely scare a film maker away from wanting a faithful and flashy costume though. Most people come to see these movies to watch superheroes doing remarkable things. The fact that they crave this should show that they are willing to accept a certain amount of spectacle in a costume without taking them out of a movie.

Take a look at the X Men franchise. I realize they were probably afraid to take a risk on the costumes when releasing the first movie because superhero films weren't being hailed as they are today but the costumes are so effortless compared to their comic book counterparts that it left anyone with some knowledge of the X Men desperately wanting something remotely close to the actual outfits. Every subsequent movie featuring Wolverine had people asking if we'd see his comic book attire. The costumes in those movies are so bland that they made certain characters just dissapear into a vast abyss of black leather.

Sometimes studios get so caught up in trying to create in depth logical reasons for a costume that they end up with an abomination. When you see a movie like Watchmen you notice they barely spend any time at all explaining why they all wear costumes. The fabric on Rorschach's mask in the movie has no history behind it and it takes absolutely nothing away from the film. It's actually one of the most intriguing things to look at as you watch the movie. The audience accepts it because they enjoy admiring it. That's why we love the outlandish costumes from the comics. If the audience didn't have some sliver of desire to see the fantastical they wouldn't put themselves in front of a comic book movie to begin with.

Thanks for checking out the article and as a little bonus I created an image of what we all want to see!

Comment below in the usual place and hook up a red thumb if you enjoyed it!

Posted By:
Member Since 3/23/2012
Filed Under "Comics" 8/27/2014
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GliderMan - 8/27/2014, 8:50 AM
Some people say Captain America's costume in The Avengers was to comic booky, and I can't wrap my head around that at all. His suit was [frick]ing awesome and it's my favorite so far.
Pasto - 8/27/2014, 8:53 AM
Um, where'd my comment go?
PAF - 8/27/2014, 8:54 AM

Yes! That is one my favorite suits. It looked like it jumped right out of a comic book. Plus it was supposed to look like a fan design I guess since Phil was the one who made the inputs.
kinghulk - 8/27/2014, 8:58 AM
gliderman- i liked the avengers suit but i prefered the strike outfit in TWS and the look of his new suit in avengers AOU.
MrBlackJack - 8/27/2014, 8:58 AM
The Green Lantern costume was just terrible. I'm assuming they thought that it was going to be something like a game changer in terms of CGI, but it couldn't be any farther from the truth. And GL is a perfect example as to why a studio should never show anything until they are absolutely ready. GL never fully bounced back from that first trailer, and that's why I'm glad Trank and co. didn't risk it at SDCC and didn't show any footage.
Doopie - 8/27/2014, 9:03 AM
I think Cyclops said it best in the first X film - would you prefer yellow spandex? Some costumes are too hard to translate directly but as you say with subtle changes they can work. The idea of Captain America's uniform on screen seemed ridiculous to me at first (before we ever saw a pic of the suit) but I think they've done a great job with that
Odin - 8/27/2014, 9:12 AM
Some things like X-Men black letter outfits or Burton's black rubber Batsuit were just those states that had to be gone through to get where we are today. All that really matters is that future costumes look good.

Also; Superman's undies are iconic, kinda ridiculous nowadays but it can still be okay to pay some kind of homage to classic-look. Absorb:

MexicanSexyman - 8/27/2014, 9:13 AM
@GliderMan, I didn't like Captain America's Avengers suit because it looked like Halloween costume. The suit looks like it would not protect him. The fabric around his neck trough off the whole suit. If the filmmakers went with their original design of the cowl or the chin strap the suit would have looked much better.

MexicanSexyman - 8/27/2014, 9:19 AM
@Doopie, the key word there is "spandex". Spiderman's suit is spandex and looks great. Some heroes can work with spandex but the more outrageous suits you can't. Make the suit out of material that can protect the user and suit can still look similar to their comic version.
GiantNerd - 8/27/2014, 9:22 AM

My bad I had to reupload the article because I started it last night and it was way far down on the editorial list.
Doopie - 8/27/2014, 9:29 AM

I agree - if Wolverine had a more kind of battle-armour version of his suit then I think that could look okay. Yellow can work and spandex can work but yellow spandex seems like it wouldn't
CherryBomb - 8/27/2014, 10:01 AM
The fuss about the X-Men costumes is so silly to me.
They're not a team of individual heroes coming together like the Avengers, they're a SCHOOL, and so they wear a near-identical uniform.
CherryBomb - 8/27/2014, 10:04 AM
I think the matching outfits (like you would with any sports team so why should a superhero team be any different) but with subtle accents and nods to the comics ... Such as the individual colours, for example, green on Jean Grey, was perfectly fine.

The yellow and blue in First Class looked very good! But it worked more because it was in the 60's.
CherryBomb - 8/27/2014, 10:05 AM
Damn pic didn't post...

LEEE777 - 8/27/2014, 10:22 AM
The SUPERMAN new costume is not great at all, just copied off all the other latex costumes out there... nothing wrong with the original costume. Cavil was a great Superman but the movie lost all of what Superman is and the magic too, just doom and gloom like any other superhero movie done too many times and Superman deserves more than that, he was the Grandaddy, the first! ;)

Great article, love the Wolverine outfit, pity FOX don't give a sh1T.
Pasto - 8/27/2014, 10:26 AM
Oh, no worries man. Still a nice article.
Dingbat - 8/27/2014, 10:52 AM

I agree Lantern's suit looked bad on screen but I acyually like the design. If they created it practically and then laced it with some CG glow it would've looked really cool.

GliderMan - 8/27/2014, 11:03 AM
"I didn't like Captain America's Avengers suit because it looked like Halloween costume. The suit looks like it would not protect him. The fabric around his neck trough off the whole suit. If the filmmakers went with their original design of the cowl or the chin strap the suit would have looked much better."

Well, I respect your opinion, but I completely disagree. I've never heard anybody but people on this site complain about it. Captain America has got a huge fandom on tumblr and just people in general and they don't really have a problem with it. Tbh I think it looks GREAT. I absolutely love it. Doesn't seem Halloween-y to me, just a superhero being a superhero.
BlackIceJoe - 8/27/2014, 11:04 AM
I agree with you Odin simple nods to the classic look can work.

The New 52 suit gives hints to the old style without making it look out of place.

MJPETTY7 - 8/27/2014, 11:36 AM
Great article!

I disagree about the Superman Returns suit being out-of-place, in fact I think it worked quite well and was glad when the suit returned during Season 10 of Smallville. I was actually hoping they'd use the suit again (or at least something similar) in Man of Steel. However, I really do like the Man of Steel suit and am glad that it's been updated a little bit for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

As for the Green Lantern suit, it could have been better had they put more time into it, but sadly they did not.

The X-Men suits are kinda lame, I'll agree with that for sure, but the way they were re-done for X-Men: Days of Future Past was impressive and pretty neat.

Finally, the suit used in Amazing Spider-Man 2 for Spider-Man came right out of the comics and it looked great on screen and certainly didn't look out of place. The same thing happened with Superman in Superman Returns and even Batman's new suit in Dawn of Justice looks just like the Jim Lee comic book version (seen in Batman: Hush), so I think that if studios stayed truer to superheroes comic book uniforms, I think it would still look alright (look at just about every character in The Avengers minus maybe Hawkeye).

Also, great Wolverine fan art! LOVE IT and wish we could've seen that on the big screen!!!
NightForce - 8/27/2014, 11:45 AM
The X-Men suits are [frick]ing awful and a product of the late 90's all black Matrix craze before superheroes movies were a big deal.
NightForce - 8/27/2014, 11:47 AM
The changes for Superman were 100% necessary. The 2013 suit looks like it came from Krypton. The 1978 suit looks like it came from Party City.
actionmoviefanatix - 8/27/2014, 11:51 AM
@CherryBomb - I'd have not problem with matching outfits if there was actually a nod to their comic book looks and have a practical reason for the change. A tactical team would never wear leather. If we are going to go with something more uniform and practical why not take ideas from what military or SWAT type units use around the world and then add colors, designs and accessories that would give similar looks toward what we see in the comics.

In 2000 leather was chosen likely because of the popularity of movies like The Matrix. The problem is, times changed. Super hero movies could be more fantastic and have a closer look to the comics. The X-Men costumes never made it out of the early 2000s. Even DOFP got stuck in leather or leather looking costumes. That was their chance to go for broke with a huge update and they didn't even make an attempt.
McGee - 8/27/2014, 11:54 AM
captquirk - 8/27/2014, 12:01 PM
The "stage" costume in Capt America was a very silly knock off of the comics. The 80's movie with Matt Salinger was pretty good looking, but sadly, the craftsmanship was lacking... hence the wrinkles that mad it look like a bad wet suit. My biggest issue with some of these movie costumes, is the over use of texturing. Spiderman, Superman, Green Lantern... it just looks hokey. On the other hand, it is still better than the black leather S&M look.
mrHJK - 8/27/2014, 12:03 PM
I've always thought the suits were unnecessary for X-Men (for the movies anyway). They aren't exactly superheroes and don't exist in a world where there are any. The films work as their own science fiction, and are most engrossing when everyone wears normal clothes. Anytime they try to put them in costumes, it comes off as cheesy and distracting. Most other franchises don't have this problem, but something about X-Men and their all leather suits (or even the recently botched attempts at keeping with comic canon) just feels wrong.
Dedpool - 8/27/2014, 12:06 PM
The execution of the GL costume was bad, but the idea was sound, and I actually hope it's continued. I would actually do a suit, but then enhance with CGI post production to get the look that it was created from the ring.

MOS costume is great! A great update and the suit for the sequel looks even better.

Cap's costume in Avengers was a great homage to the comic version, with a bit of the Ulitmates thrown in. That said, the color scheme was too bright. The Suit from the first film was perfect, and The suit in Winter Soldier was a great step up from the Avengers suit. The current Age of Ultron takes all 3 suits and mixes them to get the best Cap costume yet.

X-Men Costumes were okay, but definitely a product of the times. First Class showed you could get something closer to the comic and still have it look good. Days of Future Past improved on the 90's look, and made them sleeker. And of course the deleted scene from the Wolverine showed a badass version of the classic Black and yellow mask. "SuperPower Beatdown" actually had great Wolverine costumes, as well as decent versions of Cap's current look, and an amazing Deadpool.

Spider-Man in ASM suit was great! I loved it. Because it was very different but still said 100% Spider-Man. It was actually almost harneing back to the original more sinister look for the character. The change to the suit in ASM2 was welcomed though, as Spidey truly felt like Spidey in look and tone.

KillerTomato - 8/27/2014, 12:10 PM
Bane's mask in TDKR was completely ridiculous, in fact Bane was a colossal waste of the namesake character. Never once did I see him onscreen and think, "man that sure looks like Bane."
Superheromoviefan - 8/27/2014, 12:13 PM
I want Wolverine with the MASK!!! I don't care the color or the fibre, just have the [frick]ing mask alreadey!
l0rdleg0las - 8/27/2014, 12:15 PM
With Green Lantern I did like the idea behind what they were trying to accomplish. With the source material being extraterrestrial in nature it is a reasonable assumption that the suit would resemble that. However, going the full CGI route instead of mixing practical suit design with touches if CG to make the suit look otherworldly was a mistake.
Nomis - 8/27/2014, 12:20 PM

parascythe - 8/27/2014, 12:48 PM
the BAT in the Sun's Wolverine costume is one of the most acceptable interpretation of his costume, IMHO.
FOOM - 8/27/2014, 12:59 PM
Good read. As audience continue to soak up CBMs there is no reason why more costumes can't be more the just a homage to the source material. And yes, I'm talking to you Bryan Singer. Wolverine needs his mask and suit.
cipher - 8/27/2014, 1:03 PM
Good writeup.

I'm just not.. well, I guess you can say I've never really been militant about this kinda thing.

I'm just not.

If they can be creative about it, but still find a way to maintain the signature look, then I'm happy. Having said that, there are more than a few costumes I think are total shit, even in the comics, so yeah..

It's a case by case thing for me.

Thumbs up.
cipher - 8/27/2014, 1:03 PM
Ha, just noticed this was on main.

Good job, dude.
HachibiTheMC - 8/27/2014, 1:05 PM
just because something looks dope while on the rack doesn't mean it'll look good when you try it on.

the wolvie mock up proves this.
Gusto - 8/27/2014, 1:10 PM

Marqy - 8/27/2014, 1:17 PM
I just want to see the goddamn Wolverine costume ...
FerFogs - 8/27/2014, 1:19 PM
The problem with GL is the domino mask IMO.

I can't get over live action domino masks.
Xrs13 - 8/27/2014, 1:22 PM
I guess I was one of a few that actually liked the costumes in the early x-films. They were uniform because they were an established team in x1 and they each had their own colour to each character. I swear people wouldnt complain if the accented colours were an inch or two thicker. oh wait, its the internet... the costumes would have been called stupid.
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