Top Five Superhero Costumes

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

This week, when it comes to superheroes, we know a thing or two, and there’s something about the superhero costume that works.


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  1. Argonaut15
    May 14, 2012 at 10:51 am — Reply

    In no particular order:

    Catwoman from Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns.” Shiny and tight fitting (tight fitting is always a plus). Definitely looks like it would be homemade. Those thick white stitches everywhere screams “Watch out. I’m not stable.”

    The Question. He was mentioned briefly in the show by Matthew. I always liked the idea that it is just a simple suit (not the 80s O’Neill run where The Question wears baggy pants and a wife-beater), but the chemical he uses changes the color of the suit. Love that concept as well as just the idea of a mask that removes all facial features. Really stuck with me when I was younger.

    Spiderman Noir. Looks a lot like Catwoman’s costume I just mentioned, but with a trench coat, hat, and goggles. Looks bad ass. Too bad the look didn’t really work with Spiderman’s smart-mouth persona. Think Nolan’s Batman costume design but Batman cracking jokes. Doesn’t work.
    Spiderman Noir’s costume reminds me of The Nightshade from the 1990 series “The Flash” episode “Deadly Nightshade.”

    Connor Kent Superboy. Like Hancock and the Rocketeer, Connor’s “costume” is everyday clothes. Just a shirt and bluejeans, but the shirt has the famed Superman symbol. It let’s you know immediately who he is and what his powers are.

    V from Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta.” Shakespearean outfit that is simple and sleek. A black cloak. A Purtian’s hat. And a “Guy Fawkes” mask that looks like The Joker with thin facial hair. Fits V’s propensity for the dramatics and a flair for theater. Great look.

  2. Nick S.
    May 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm — Reply

    5. Group costume: Dynamo 5. Simple red and blue motif, but you add in the negative-space ‘5’ and the practical variations (Slingshot’s wings, Visionary’s visor etc.) and you got a winner.

    4. Renee Montoya’s Question. It’s basically her faceless mask and whatever punchin’ clothes she has on. And that’s why I like it; it’s different every time out.

    3. Hal Jordan’s Silver Age Green Lantern. It’s sleek and sci-fi looking, perfect for a space cop.

    2. The Vision’s original costume. More green and yellow with a startlingly red face peering out at you, it made Vizh look more like a specter than a robot.

    1. Another group costume: The Fantastic Four’s black and white get-ups from John Byrne’s run. Simple but distinctive and classy, they are the antithesis of every costume designed in the 1990s. Invisible Woman’s mullet, on the other hand….

  3. Xian
    May 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm — Reply

    Have a brief due tomorrow, but wanted to chime in… I think, in broad strokes, that a costume should inspire iteration but simultaneously resist it. That is, the instant you see it you are inspired to change it, but the design itself is so compelling and iconic that you can’t get too far away without totally redesigning the costume. Costumes with this characteristic tend to be very easy to go minimalist on one end or render in increasing detail on the other (whereas more busy costumes have difficulty to convey faithfully with minimal rendering)… a single silhouette or logo may impart the identity all by itself. Finally, I think a great costume is a design and not just a concept (conceptual costumes never quite get drawn the same way twice since it’s more important that Cable have tons of pouches or Hulk Buster armor have bulk or X-Men uniforms have blue and gold than any particular or specific rendering; or Batman’s/Invincible’s which has changed enough that you’d be hard pressed to get his costume exactly right by memory).

    So with those criteria in mind, my list is topped by The Flash and I waited with baited breath for him to make the list. He has a silhouette, a logo, a color scheme, and details so elemental that you can convey The Flash with fingerpaints in seconds or go the other extreme and get your Lee / Van Sciver / Ross / CBS TV show rendering on with raised elements, seams, or what not. People have tried to redesign or iterate Flash time and time again, but the tendency is to come back to the core elements. The costume is so pure superhero. Even the humanity or identity of the man underneath the cowl is diminished by the icon of the costume… under the cowl there could be a shock of red hair or brown or blond, but the tights come first… unlike, say, the GLs (who also have a sleek costume, but the ID of the GL- necessarily- bleeds out and over the costume) or Green Arrow (where his facial hair may, or may not be a distraction to the costume- if not an element itself). Heck, even Superman has to contend with mullet-critique or eyewear issues. Flash’s costume is just THE superhero costume for me. It’s also timeless in the sense that it does not borrow any element of period street clothes (the belt is non-functioning the boots were never fashionable)… so it can never be dated because it was never of a time.

    On that note, you have to give Superman props because the classic (the standard by which others are measured), the original look created the context for the genre. Briefs over tights means “Superhero” (even for MS ads on the frontpage, and look, Atari Force has that pattern too)… even the Incredibles’ Edna- despite her disdain of capes- conceded briefs over tights make the look. It’s functional in the sense it breaks up the limbs for the sake of rendering the characters and motion easier with minimal information (one of the reasons why Super Mario was designed with suspenders) and it also has that timeless iconic quality now since we’ve left the era of strongmen (unless you’re into pro-wrestling/MMA), the briefs don’t “make sense” EXCEPT to signal “superhero here!” Superman has four costume elements which inform the fundamentals of superhero costume design- a logo, gaudy colors, cape, and tights. Sure, there are departures, but those things provide the groundwork for the genre. None of them are necessary, but they can help… I think costumes like Iron Fist and Phoenix endure, in part, because they have logos- iconography- that a lot of other Marvel designs tend to lack.

  4. Jamba the Hutt
    May 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm — Reply

    Picking a favorite superhero costume is tricky, especially when you realize how awesome villian costumes are. At least half of my initial list were bad guys and thusly not ok to place here. So, I did my best, racked my brain and came up with this list. Maybe you’ll like it:

    5. Hal Jordan, Green Lantern. It was a toss up with Guy Gardner for a bit, but it honestly came down to the Super Friends toys from Kenner. When I was a kid, I loved my Green Lantern figure even though I could give two craps about the comic or whether he was in an episode. I just loved the green on black and the logo and the mask that was unlike all the other masked characters. And as much as I love Guy, the boots and jacket were a bit silly, giving Hal the edge.

    4. Ralph Hinkley (or Hanley, I can’t remember), The Greatest American Hero. Again, it was the color combination this time red on black. But for whatever reason, even at that young age I loved William Katt in that suit and couldn’t wait for the predesignated times for him to don it. Believe it or not, I was walking on air. (Had to…)

    3. Ironically #3 is a three way tie. Supes/Bats/Spidey. The essentials. The ones I dressed up as. Whether it was underroos or halloween, I was one of these guys and luckily a part of me still sees that in the mirror now. Never growing up is a talent. Which brings me to #2…

    2. Choda Boy, Orgazmo. I know it’s ridiculous (note the restraint in not spelling that phonetically), but it is absoluetely awesome. It makes perfect sense in context to his character and Choda Boy AKA Ben Chapleski is a MIT genious that create anything he wants. A plus in the fight against crime…I suppose.

    1. Hunter Rose, Grendel. It’s simple and sleek, but an excellent costume for assassinations and terror. Grendel is more than a spirit and more than a man, it’s a myth and the white eyes in the darkness right before the kill, that is what all criminals….and others….feared most in Matt Wagners tales. Good or bad, Grendel had a killer look and a kick ass spear.

    The best of the rest in no order were: Ghost Rider, symbyote Spider-Man, Punisher, V, Rorschach, NiteWing (current), Daredevil (in either yellow or red, but NOT armor), animated Super-Girl, brown and tan Wolverine, and Hulk( that counts right?).

    • May 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm — Reply

      Ralph was both Hinkley and Hanley. The attempted shooting of the President by a man named Hinckley caused a mid-show rewrite, and no one ever spoke of it again (by order of Mayor Quimby.)

      • Jamba the Hutt
        May 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm — Reply

        Makes sense. I was like 6 or 7 when the series was coming to an end, and the news was that stupid show after all the cartoons and stuff like A-Team was over. I just barely remembered a last name due to one of his students asking a question or something. The cop guy always called him Ralph so I was secure on that one.
        What no Choda Boy comments?

        • JoeM
          May 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm — Reply

          And for a few episodes he was simply “Mr. H.”

  5. May 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm — Reply

    5. Havok – Once he lost the dorky head-gear (and past the 90’s) I really liked the steamlined variation of Alex Summers costumes with the jet black bodysuit and power core-style centerpiece. Needless to say, I’ve always thought the circular nature of his powers seemed a lot more visually appealing than his straight-shooter brother, and his costume definitely evokes that.

    4. Valkyrie – If listening to the Top 5 has taught me anything, it’s that we’re all allowed a few guilty pleasures (or more in Matthew’s case). I got into comics when my uncle gave me a couple long-boxes from the early 80’s, and one of my early favorites was “The Defenders”. For some reason, Bruunhilde’s costume really works for me. It’s simply a black one-piece, stylish blue cape, with an armor breast-plate and pony tail. To this day, this is what I picture whenever I hear the name “Valkyrie”, and to this day, I still can’t spell Valkyrie to save my life.

    3. Snake-Eyes (with visor) – The concept of ninjas require little alteration – short of adding glowing green ooze, there’s not many ways you can make a ninja awesome. Except by adding a knight visor – at which point you are verging on Chuck Norris-level awesome. Snake-Eyes stands out some prominently from the GI Joe line because he looks so different, but the addition of a knight visor in later designs adds to the mystique surrounding the silent ninja. The filmmakers of the last two movies were quick to pick up on this character – and I’m especially glad in “Retaliation” they got rid of the useless mouthpiece from the last movie which made Snake-Eyes look like he’s perpetually one of Roadblock’s farts.

    2. The Confessor – This is a very simple one from the “Confessions” arc of “Astro City”. While at a glance, it might look like Batman with a religious twist, if you look closely you can actually see Brent Anderson and company built the vigilante costume over priest robes, which adds to the coolness of the character. I have “Confessions” sitting by my night stand, and I probably read it at least once every three months, and half the time I’m just marveling how cool this character looks!

    1. Jay Garrick – People always ask if I’m a Barry guy or a Wally guy, and I always through them for the loop when I answer “Jay Garrick”. I grew up watching the Silver Age Flash, whether on the Super Friends or the 90’s live-action. Once I saw Jay Garrick though, I fell in love with the design. The helmet was cool combination of the World War I doughboy with a touch of Hermes himself, and rest of the costume looked casual way before Jack Knight had entered the scene. So while I still cringe at how Jay looks on “Earth 2”, I still get shivers whenever I see the Silver Age cover of Jay Garrick and Barry Allen running side by side.

  6. May 16, 2012 at 7:54 am — Reply

    1 – Spider-man: simple yet complex, the gloves come off so he can actually hide the costume under his clothes and still wear a tee shirt.

    2 – Atomic Robo – Not really a costume as an overall design scheme, and the cargo pants are just the right touch.

    3 – The Question – no face with a sharp dressed BLUE suit, Steve Ditko was amazing.

    4 – Thor – the new costume once JMS took over the book. It looks like armor a God would were without feeling like magic holding it together or keeping it from falling off.

    5 – Wonder Woman with pants – I’m sorry, but she just looks better with the pants on then off. There is no reason for a warrior woman to go out into combat in a swimsuit.

  7. Allen
    May 16, 2012 at 9:07 am — Reply

    I was always a big fan of Wildfire’s costume from Legion of Superheroes. The full faceplate combined with the colors of the costume and the emblem made that one of my favorite costumes.

  8. chrisblue77
    May 19, 2012 at 2:17 am — Reply

    1 Batgirl AKA Cassandra Cain, shes a ninja gimp, and was hoter when she coundnt talk.
    2 Robin AKA Stephanie Brown, Robin never looked so good, then they killed her, or they raped her then killed her. Eatherway it was cheep wrigthing.
    3 Raven and the Spoiler, its the same costume with a drifernt belt but what makes it look so good? It’s the simplisty of a hood and cape.
    4 Skywise, how meney guys could pull off a giant hair clip? One and he a elf, and for a guy who people say is gay he gets alot of tail.
    5 Nigthtrasher, from the original New Warriors, he rids a skaite board thats a sheild and a knife. Nat to meanshion the cool armor.

  9. superman1930
    May 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm — Reply

    I think the red and blue really looks really good on me plus the ladies say that the blue it brings out my eyes and that they love the whole tall, dark haired and handsome part too.Oh wait…we’re talking about best costume then I vote for me then Batman,Spider-man,Black Bolt and last but not least Daredevil.

    • Damascus
      May 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm — Reply

      Which Daredevil costume is your favorite? I personally like his Yellow and red costume. I also kinda like the armor costume, it’s what he was wearing when I first started reading him.

  10. Damascus
    May 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm — Reply

    I really like Nova’s costume, the green and yellow Phoenix costume and Siryn’s costume especially during X-Factor. Siryn’s costume was pretty simple in that iteration but really worked with the red hair, without it the suit may have been too dark without the addition of all the yellow stripes that her previous costume had.

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