Several of my recent discussions (including an upcoming podcast discussion that was a great deal of fun) have circled around the issue of “modernizing” old-school superhero costumes.  Books like ‘The Ultimates’ have made much hay of creating a uniform template upon which all the heroes designs are set, leaving us with a group of characters who look snazzy together but can be seen as bland and uninspired individually.  When Jim Lee’s tweaked New 52 Justice League was revealed, much comment was made on the fact that they all shared similar collars and detail work, with some liking the team’s new, more consistent look, while others complained.  As a fan of Super Sentai/Power Rangers, it’s often fascinating to see how the creators will personalize helmet-design, costume detail and color to make each team member unique, while still clearly belonging together as part of the year’s team.  This, in turn, begs a query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) grudgingly accepts the return of Barry Allen, so long as he keeps his plumbing-handle earpieces and thick-tread, winged boots, asking: Are you happier with costumes look “uniform” (i.e. the 90’s-era Legion of Super-Heroes) or costumes that are individually attractive but don’t always look consistent together (i.e. the 70’s-era Avengers)?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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6 Comments

  1. January 16, 2014 at 11:34 am — Reply

    I tend to prefer the sort of “uniform template” costuming that you mentioned with the 90s Legion. That color-blocked template allowed each character to have a unique look while still being structured in such a way that it was clear they were teammates thanks to the common set-up. Even a lot of the later designs in the DnA era kept elements of that color-blocking to keep that effect. (In non-comics examples, you see this with the Pretty Cure uniforms, where they’ll have common design elements but also unique ones mixed in – i.e. the Go-Go! team all wear vests with butterfly clips but each has very different shoes, sleeves, & color schemes).

    That said, when everyone is in basically the same outfit (like the first half the New Mutants) can get a little monotonous. I’d rather have template uniforms or a jumbled group of individual designs than everyone in the exact same outfit except for shoes.

  2. January 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm — Reply

    I like both ideas, to be honest, but I will admit I like seeing how a uniform can be similar yet different.

    In things like Green Lantern, I’ve always liked how sometimes a character does away with the standard uniform and makes something unique while still staying true to the basic idea of the uniform. Things like Guy Gardner’s jacket, Arisia’s dress and Laira’s one-piece swimsuit-style costumes still keep the basic idea of the uniform, yet are something completely unique to the individuals.

    Then in things like Super Sentai, I always like seeing how they can differentiate a team uniform in ways aside from simply being different colors. Sometimes it is as simple as a different sort of helmet (such as the Zyurangers helmets in the shapes of creature heads or the shape-based visors of the Ohrangers), sometimes it is a slight change in uniform (the numbers on the Dekarangers uniforms) and sometimes it is a very noticeable difference (the very different uniforms of Battle Fever J).

  3. JoeM
    January 16, 2014 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    It kind of depends. I like the Legion’s costumes. It makes sense that they would be a group that got together and someone designed related costumes for them. Didn’t they even have a “style consultant” in the 90’s? I seem to remember a bunch of gremlins with measuring tapes and fabric samples following them around for a while.
    I also like a bunch of unrelated costumes.
    The New-52 Justice League bothered me a bit. Why would 5 people who never met each other show up variations of the same costume (or at least all happen to pick the same elements?) It strains belief and starts to detract from the story. But not enough to make me stop reading. And I do like the Justice League costumes more or less. Not what I think of as their iconic costumes, but not something that is off in the wrong direction or ugly.

  4. Kirby
    January 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm — Reply

    If the characters were created as part of the team ala X-Men or Doom Patrol, I like the idea of a uniform. However, if the characters were created individually, but became a team later on such as the Justice League I prefer them to all be individual.

  5. January 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm — Reply

    Being an old school Legion fan, I prefer the individualized costume taste. It is something that just adds another layer of character rather than making a template background character that may never shine because they blend in too much and eventually become cannon fodder.

  6. January 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm — Reply

    I just got this idea. Everyone in the JLA gets a Trenchcoat. When they do JLA stuff they throw it on with some sunglasses like they were all Matrix rejects. Xmen already did the bomber jacket thing so it would have to be trenchcoats.

    I think the fact that some characters are not always on a team makes it difficult to have uniforms. I wouldn’t mind seeing costumes change every so often though. Noone really minds if Ironman or Batman change’s how they look every few months. I don’t see why Wonder Woman or Superman couldn”t do the same thing.

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