Superheroes have to fight monsters and demons and giant robots. But often their real enemy is their horrific sense of fashion. Thanks to some artist’s bright idea, a hero with a perfectly serviceable costume can end up wearing a monstrosity. Let’s look at the worst of the worst together. If there’s any bad superhero costume you spit upon that didn’t make the list, talk about it in the comments!
Also, to heal your eyes after seeing all these atrocities, be sure to check out my article on good superhero redesigns.
Belted-Up Biker Wonder Woman
In the 90’s, Wonder Woman briefly lost her title as champion of the Amazons and responded the way anyone would- by donning a black bra, a leather jacket, bike shorts and throwing a couple belts on her bare belly just for the hell of it. Doesn’t “wearing scraps from a biker gang’s garbage bin” just seem like Wonder Woman’s style? Not really? Oh.
The costume’s horribleness was only accentuated by the horrible art that accompanied it, in all its spine-bending, hip-swaying, squinty eyed glory.
The Infamous Super Mullet
The 90’s were a dark time in some ways. Sure, the American economy was better and there were a lot of good cartoons, but there were also a lot of mullets. There’s something about that hair style that gives the impression of a dead raccoon being strapped to someone’s head, but it was all the rage. Even Superman wasn’t safe. After coming back from the dead, he decided to bring some extra hair with him in order to be hip with the kids.
Fortunately when he married Lois Lane, he cut his hair in order not to look like a grungy guy from a garage band as he walked down the aisle. So hey, Superman may save the world, but Lois saved us from his mullet. It’s clear who’s the real hero.
Of course, Superman was not the only one who sported a mullet or rat-tail during the 90's. Nightwing got hit hard too, and got a gross bulky costume to go with it: Yikes. It makes you miss his disco days.
From The New Teen Titans
I mean...at least his hair looked nice.
Robin gets his feathers burned
Honestly, DC’s “New 52” reboot bought with it a lot of horrible costumes. It seemed like DC was convinced more random lines and belts on their heroes would get people to buy more comics. Tim Drake, aka Robin, was hit pretty hard by this. He went from a pretty simple, sleek Robin costume to a mess of belts and pouches wothy of Rob Liefeld. He also had feathers hanging off him, making it look like he was auditioning for Black Swan.
Huntress goes belly-up
Huntress had a dark, functional costume that reflected her personality as a cynical, pragmatic hero. But it didn’t show a lot of skin and that was unacceptable. It’s pretty silly to show a street-level hero with no powers baring her legs and belly- but it’s even stupider when it’s a character who was recently shot in the stomach. People would respond to something like that by putting MORE armor in the belly area, not none. (Also she should have scars.)
Aside from being ridiculous and having no regard for the character and her history, it’s just a pretty ugly costume. The belly window is shaped like a panel, making it look like we’re supposed to pop her stomach open and insert batteries. Also capes and sleeveless outfits don’t look good together.
Starfire's Purple Scraps
Saying Starfire’s original costume showed a lot of skin is a bit of an understatement. But apparently having a character running around in was basically amounted to a pair of suspenders and some panties wasn’t enough for DC- in the new 52 reboot, Starfire lost an additional bolt of cloth and most of her personality.
Supergirl's Red Diaper
Supergirl’s red-skirted original outfit isn’t terribly creative, but it was less riddled with problems than the costumes that followed it. In the early 2000’s, the new Supergirl was given a belly shirt, a look that quickly became outdated. It wouldn’t have been that bad though, if it weren’t for the creepy, sexualized art of a 16 year old that accompanied it.
Then, with the New 52, Supergirl got the worst leotard ever. It’s hard to know where to start- the weird red panel on her crotch? The odd cutout in the knees of her boots? The sloppy “S” symbol? The outfit’s all over the place.
Thor joins a chain gang
Mike Deodato redesigned Thor in the 90’s to look more like a garage band reject than a Norse god. It’s hard to even parse this costume-there’s the weird leather diaper, the endless leather straps and the random chain hanging off Mjilnor- but why? And what’s with the messy Rapunzel hair? At least it’s not only the ladies who get stuck with midriff-baring monstrosities.
Harley Quinn's unfunny outifit
Harley Quinn’s classic jester outfit immediately screams that this character is fun and silly- it even alludes to her name. But DC decided she needed a skimpy outfit to be sexy, so they just slapped on a red-and-black corset and panties. Nothing says “harlequin” like that!
The problem’s been a little mitigated by her solo title, where she goes through a ton of costumes instead of sticking to the corset, which fits the zaniness of the character a little better- and Amanda Conner’s art makes anything look cute.
On the other hand, we’ve got the Suicide Squad director claiming to a Margot Robbie uncomfortable in booty shorts that they’re part of the “iconography” of the character when they’ve only been around a few years. Don't believe him, Robbie, booty shorts are clearly not essential to HQ’s character since she didn't have them in the beginning.
The Boob-tastic Invisible Woman
At one point, it was deemed unacceptable that Sue Storm was given the same kind of costume as her male peers. She ended up sporting an 4-shaped boob window, a belly window to match, and a pair of hotpants to differentiate her from the fellas. Whew! Now we can tell who’s “the girl”.
Raven's feathered monstrosity
It’s hard to look at the new 52’s version of Raven and understand it…as all. What’s the weird scalloped helmet? They’re supposed to be feathers, I think, but it looks like she’s got seashell for a head. Also she’s got a gray bodysuit…but there are blue feathers on top…it just looks tacky and overly complicated.
Solstice loses her clothes and her light
Solstice was a hero introduced shortly before DC’s New 52 reboot. Her costume was gorgeous, composed of warm colors and pretty patterns. You looked at this hero and got the impression she was full of hope and light and she was. It was a refreshing change and a great design. But hope and light were apparently not allowed in the reboot, because they ditched the cute togs entirely and she became a generic looking naked black cloud lady. Hurray.
The Red Hood's Phallic Helmet
The design for the Red Hood was pretty simple, just a red helmet and a leather jacket, but it worked for the character, who was very street-level and driven. Then Grant Morrison featured himin Batman and Robin, where he got an ugly gray body suit and helmet that…that…well, there’s no other way to put it. It looks like a sex toy. A very phallic one.
Black Canary's headband of doom
Around the time she joined Justice League International, Black Canary switched from her classic costume to a bizarre jumpsuit with a gaudy big bird symbol on her chest that stuck out every which way. She also wore a sweatband. The artists eventually became aware how silly this looked, and when she went back to her old costume, she was shown as burning the other one.
From Action Comics Weekly
Star Sapphire's Barely There Leotard
The Star Sapphires are a Lantern Corps whose rings run on the power of love. They’re all women, because as we all know, only women are capable of feeling love. And what’s the point of having an all-woman Corps if they all don’t wear as little as possible? Like…I dunno, some sort weird pink scrap that just clings to the side of her boobs and has a star on the crotch. That’s subtle.
Naturally, the Star Sapphire’s are often villians, since we know there’s nothing more horrifying and threatening than female sexuality.
Emma Frost's pasties
Emma Frost basically walked around in a corset and panties- Marvel deemed this super puritanical and decided she needed to show some more skin. So she was given some boob pasties and…what often looked basically like a diaper, especially when drawn by Frank Quietly. But I guess some people are into that.
Captain America goes Nomad
In the wake of Watergate, Cap decided to give up his title for a while and become “Nomad”- and presumably he fought crime in between disco competions or something, because that’s all I can get from his outfit.
Zatanna's thong ensemble
Zatanna’s costume is pretty sexy, fishnets and all, but also managed to spell out that she’s a magician. DC’s decision to put her in some bizarre thong-and-bra ensemble, however? Not very magical looking.
There was a period in Marvel where Wolverine was going “feral” which basically meant becoming ridiculous looking- suddenly he’s an even hairier steroid addict with his strawlike hair springing out of his mask.
Azrael as Batman
During the Knightfall storyline, Bruce Wayne broke his back and a guy named Jean Paul took his place. And his costume managed to feature most of the worst excesses of 90’s superhero art at once. Random belts? Yep, and they’re hanging off his arms for some reason. Weird spikes? Those are all over the place. Super hardcore guantlets and random robotic parts? You betcha! We’re unsure of how he even moves? We really are! All we need is a few pouched and this would be the most 90’s costume ever.
Catwoman's decades-long fashion nightmare
Catwoman has had a really unfortunate history when it comes to costumes. Her classic long dress look was pretty impractical, but it did a good job of giving off the “classy cat burglar” vibe. The costume she got after it, not so much- it was green, so she looked more like she was lizard-themed. The leotard look that followed it was a little better, but still generic and didn’t really scream “cat”.
Then she got this weird sometimes-purple, sometimes-gray cat suit that looked like footie pajamas and also included whiskers. Yes, huge gaudy whiskers sticking off her mask. After this she got a purple latex-looking costume with thigh high boots. It wouldn’t have been terrible, but it was primarily drawn by Jim Balent, who went with a “boobsock and bodypaint” look.
Catwoman was basically stuck in fashion hell for years- thank god Darwyn Cooke finally came along.