6 Silly Armored Superhero Costumes

The one constant in the world of superheroes is the colorful costume. Tights, spandex, latex, long johns, leather, pajamas; all superheroes play dress up when it comes to fighting crime. It’s just more fun that way. But in the real world, everybody knows that a big, muscular guy in spandex just looks silly. If a real world Batman was just wearing a pair of gray tights, he’d be no more threatening than a ballerina. Why do you think the movies put Batman in a specialized suit of black armor, or the X-Men wear black leather?

Tights and spandex costumes just aren’t cool, no matter how good they might look when drawn.

Paper, though, always looks good

Which is why, throughout the history of comics, creators have often tried to upgrade a superhero’s costume to make it look more badass. For some reason, this meant changing from spandex to armor, with heavy layers of complicated plating and protection. Yet no matter how good the creators’ intentions, somehow these upgrades looked even worse!  These armor costumes were running rampant in the 90s, and in hindsight, everybody agrees that they looked ridiculous. Superheroes have gone back to tight spandex ever since.

I thought I’d share with everybody some of the more ridiculous armored costume changes in comic book history.

6. Spider-Man

Because Spider-Man needs to be bulkier and heavier

If red and blue tights don’t scream ‘spider’ to you, then how about bulky, shiny silver armor? Lest we forget, Peter Parker is a super scientist. This guy is constantly building fancy new costumes and equipment to combat his foes. Like insulated webbing to stop Electro, or a sonic-proof suit to combat the Hobgoblin. So what dastardly foe did Spider-Man need this bright silver armor for? Bullets! Marvel thought it would be a great idea to celebrate 100 issues of Web of Spider-Man in 1993 by giving Spidey this silly, bulky suit of armor to deflect bullets from the high-powered rifles of the New Enforcers. Of course, such a costume cut down significantly on his spider agility, which was his old method of bullets. Unfortunately for armored Spidey fans, the silver armor lasted only a few issues before it was melted down in acid. Because of course it was.


5. Daredevil

When anti-heroes ruled the world

If any armored costume screamed “Let’s make him look more badass!” it has to be Daredevil’s dark armor from the 90s. I’ll admit that the all-red traditional Daredevil costume seems a little goofy, but it surprisingly works! That apparently wasn’t good enough for Marvel in the 90s, and they wanted more black and more badassery. The story was that Daredevil was injured, so he needed a new costume with more padding and protection. But then he went overboard and added all manner of bells and whistles, adding overly complicated plating on his shoulders and legs just because it looked cool. And ‘looking cool’ was the entire point of the 90s, amiright? This costume also reveled in the odd superhero design of having arrows on the torso that point down to the crotch. This costume lasted for several stories in the 90s before Daredevil switched back to his normal look.


4. Booster Gold

One of actually several massive, cumbersome Booster Gold armors

Let’s face it, folks, the 90s were just a bad time for comic books. And I don’t mean the over-saturation of the collector market or the bankruptcy problems. The 90s were all about extreme characters with big muscles and big guns. But they were also, clearly, about crazy armored costumes. The bulkier the better. When Booster Gold starred in a short live Justice League spin-off called Extreme Justice (the most blatant 90s title of all time), he wore several different variations on this power armor. Granted, Booster Gold is just a regular guy who wears a super suit that gives him powers. But in the past, his super suit looked like a normal, skintight superhero costume. In the 90s, however, Booster bulked up with massive, silly-looking power armors. And when one got destroyed, he’d just have another one built. This guy went through giant suits of armor the way I got through clean white shirts at the Spaghetti Kettle restaurant.


3. The Avengers: United They Stand

The Avengers movie people would like to forget this ever happened

The 90s may have been a bad time for superhero comics, but we can all agree they were a great time for superhero animation. Batman: The Animated Series and the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons were revolutionary on Saturday mornings! Solid stories, great characters and episodes that still resonate today. But who could have predicated that those amazing shows would eventually lead to the animated brain fart that was The Avengers: United They Stand. Why even bother with such a lame subtitle? Rather than star the most popular Avengers like Captain America, Iron Man, Thor or the Hulk, this cartoon starred the likes of Ant-Man, Falcon, Vision and Tigra. Because kids love obscure nobodies, I guess? But more than that, some genius somewhere decided that all of these B and C-list Avengers would get new armored costumes!

The whole opening theme song is about the team donning their silly armor! Don’t be surprised if you non-comics fans don’t recognize any of those characters. This cartoon had ‘misstep’ written all over it. Thankfully, The Avengers: United They Stand only lasted a handful of episodes before it was dropped from TV. And it should be no surprise that The Avengers movie this summer is going to feature completely different characters. Except for Hawkeye, who was in the cartoon. Hopefully the other good Avengers won’t pick on him too badly.


2. Captain America

Patriotism at its puffiest

You will never feel more patriotic than when you gaze upon the majesty that is this armored Avenger. Let freedom ring. It’s like somebody said, “Let’s take Captain America’s normal costume and make it bulkier!” They even kept the general shape of his mask in place, complete with eye holes and the exposed mouth. They just made it awkwardly thicker. His peripheral vision must have been terrible. Storywise, Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum was backfiring, making him weaker. So he asked Tony Stark, the king of armors, to build him some new duds. And this is the best that Iron Man could come up with? Was he playing a prank on Cap? As with most cases, Captain America simply got better and this armor went bye-bye after only 6 issues. And while you may be saying “at least he kept the iconic shield,” don’t be so sure. During this armor period, Cap’s shield was remote-controlled!


1. Batman

The costume that is synonymous with the 90s comic book bust

The only good thing this massive pile of spikes, bright yellow and 90s attitude has going for it is that Bruce Wayne can safely say it wasn’t his idea. Behold Azrael, a tragically insane attempt to make Batman more badass and modern in the 90s! This was Batman for a new generation. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Azrael very quickly crashed and burned. Heck, there are some people out there convinced that this was all an elaborate parody by DC comics, mocking the other heroes of the 90s with this extreme version of Batman. But as noted Batmanologist Chris Sims tells us, there was an air of legitimacy around this project, and Azrael seemed like DC wanted to “give the fans what the fans thought they wanted.”

Fans never know what they want

In the comics, Bruce Wayne had his back broken, so he was out of business for awhile. He hand picked Azrael to take his place, but John Paul Valley was a little touched in the head. It wasn’t long before he was adding claws and deadlier weapons to Batman’s arsenal, eventually building the monstrosity you see before you. According to Sims, this was all in an effort to make Batman more like Wolverine or the Punisher, anti-heroes who were willing to kill the bad guys and were really popular in the 90s. And even though Azrael was never meant to be a permanent replacement to Bruce Wayne, he went on to star in his own comic book series that lasted for 100+ issues!

So let this be a lesson: if you’re going to fight crime, the less protection you give your body the better!

About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on April 4, 2012, in Avengers, Batman, Cartoons, Comics, DC, Lists of Six!, Marvel, Spider-Man and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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