One of the best ways to get a strong sense of how tastes within the comic book industry have changed over the years is to simply look at the costumes that heroes and villains have worn over the years. Fashion, like all forms of art, is a living reflection of the times.
For instance, the X-Men started off wearing frumpy, drab, and tame standard uniforms that spoke to the comparatively conservative time when they were first introduced. But as time went on, and those same characters came into more fully fleshed-out identities and positions of cultural prominence, their costumes similarly evolved to better represent who the X-Men were. Even more specifically, take a look at Psylocke, who was first introduced in the late ‘70s sporting a body suit with billowy arms. By the late ‘90s, she’d been reinvented as a sexy ninja with a fondness for skin-tight black latex, accented with a flowing sash.
But as much as comic book costumes have changed over the years, when you look at most of them now, you can’t deny that there’s been a kind of widespread stagnation—an agreement that pretty much everyone who decides to become a cape should only step out of the house wearing dark leather.
During the third annual Flamecon this past weekend, a panel of well known artists, including Kris Anka (Star-Lord) and Max Wittert (Scott & Jean), gathered to discuss the current state of comics costumes. As part of the discussion, the artists tried their hands at redesigning members of the X-Men and pushing the creative envelope to literally illustrate what we’re missing out on. Of particular note were artist Kevin Wada’s takes on Polaris, Sunfire, and Psylocke; all managed to embody the characters’ historic looks while updating them with a fresh, decidedly high-fashion aesthetic:
While there’s definitely something to be said for paying homage to how characters have looked for decades, there are also lots of ways that old characters can suddenly feel new and innovative just by giving them a change of clothing and a bold, different hair style.
A hero’s costume is a outward manifestation of his or her personality, powers, and growth over time. In the same way that you probably don’t dress and style your hair the same way you did a decade ago, it stands to reason that most comic book characters wouldn’t either. Everybody needs a stellar makeover every so often. Even superheroes.