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Superhero movie costume mistakes: part one

Updated on May 22, 2013

When a movie is made out of a book, television series or comic book, we expect that, while they will take some liberties, the director and producers will get the majority of things right. Website after website is dedicated to the changes between books and movies, with die-hard fans going crazy over the smallest difference. But when movie makers make bigger changes to the beloved tales, it can be devastating, leaving fans asking why.

With comic books making the leap to screen, there are a lot of unforgivable sins. One mistake, however, is present in almost every single movie made. The costumes just aren’t quite right. It does not make much sense as to why such a simple thing cannot be done correctly. Sometimes it’s just a minor tweak here and there while other times it is the entire costume that flounders. Here is a look at some of the biggest superhero (or villain) costume blunders in movies.

Small side note: Halle Berry’s portrayal of Catwoman certainly belongs on the list of worst costumes ever created, but does not make it on this list of costume mistakes because in the movie she played Patience Phillips, not Selina Kyle. Therefore, allowances have to be made that the director could make his own costume choices, and since we do not have a comic book character to compare her to, we can’t say that they got it wrong.

Comic vs Movie Nite Owl II

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Nite Owl II (Watchmen)

2009’s Watchmen had a lot of questionable costume choices, to the point that it left viewers with nightmarish visions of big blue genitals (and possibly put some into therapy). Nite Owl, however, was the biggest offender on the lot. The comic book version looks like an owl, with large goggles and a hooded mask to resemble an owl. The movie version shrugged off even the red of the comic book costume. The movie omitted the hood portion of the mask, leaving the character looking like a Batman knock-off. Even the shape of the mask was incorrect, as an oval opening rather than including the points on the chin and cheeks. While the costume overall looked really cool onscreen, it’s only because it appears similar to Batman. It is bad enough to get the costume wrong, but bordering on copyright infringement by making him look like the Caped Crusader is unforgiveable.

Comic vs. Movie Captain America

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Captain America (Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers)

Where to begin? I have to say that I truly did like the costume in Captain America: The First Avenger (not as much in The Avengers). Luckily this Hub is not about what I like, rather what is erroneous.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America’s costume deviates from the comic in just about every way. Starting at the head, the movie version has the wings painted on the side, rather than sticking out of the helmet. The sides and chin of the helmet in the movie appear to be part of an old leather football helmet, rather than a continuation of the mask in the comic book. In the comic, the mask also melds into the costume itself, while the movie shows the helmet as a distinct, separate part of the costume. As a small note, the “A” on the forehead of the helmet is in a different font. Overall the costume appears to be more of a flight suit than a superhero costume. This is contrary to the comic book, which truly looks like a superhero costume. The color is even a muted blue, with muted reds, while the comic is a vibrant blue with dark shades and a nice contrasting red. The white star on the chest is much smaller in the movie than in the comic. The red and white stripes in the movie are not so much stripes as they are red suspenders over white, and the suspenders turn white at the top of the costume. The belt is also wrong: in the movie it is a brown utility belt, while in the comic it is a straight black belt. He also wears a holster in the movie, which is absent from the comic.

The Avengers saw an upgrade to the costume, but still it was largely incorrect. The helmet suffered from the same problems, except they removed the football helmet part and attempted to make a costume under the costume to help the transition of the helmet into the rest of the costume. While they got closer to the comic book with this movie, they still missed the mark, since it is all part of the same costume. Again, the “A” is wrong and the wings are painted on. They made the eyeholes worse, as they looked more like the comic in the first movie than in this revised costume. It makes the helmet look cartoonish instead of worthy of a superhero. Thankfully the costume itself had more blue on it this time, but the star is still incorrect and too small. They also added a white stripe to each shoulder. The first movie saw the red and white stripes in the middle shaped more closely to the comic, while in The Avengers it looks like an oddly shaped opening. They still couldn’t bring themselves to get the stripes right either, with a white zipper in the front of the middle red stripe, creating a small white and red stripe there. He also has white zippers on the fronts of both legs, and diagonally along the rear. Designers should have just made the zippers red and blue accordingly to meld with the rest of the costume – such an easy fix. The belt again is a utility belt, but kudos to the costume department for at least painting it blue to match the rest of the costume.

A final note on the costume. In the comic, the chest had chain mail made of duralumin (which eventually evolved into scale mail in later years) underneath the costume, while both movies omitted this essential part to his costume. While it adds a nice textured look to his costume in the comic, it also protects our all-American superhero from knife attacks.

Comic vs Movie Steel

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Steel (Steel)

You may be scratching your head and wondering what movie this one is. Well, it’s the one you didn’t see. The 1997 release starting Shaq was based on DC’s comic book version of Iron Man. Steel (John Henry Irons) had his beginnings alongside Superman in The Adventures of Superman #500. He tried to save Superman in the epic battle with Doomsday, but was buried in wreckage during the chaos. The character himself is pretty awesome, covered completely in steel (hence the name). His character is inspired by both African American folk hero John Henry and Superman. Steel has a Superman-esque “S” on the chest and also wears a red cape.

We’ve all seen the cosplay at a con that originated out of someone’s garage. They are fun through and through. But when a movie displays such a costume on their main superhero and expect viewers to pay upwards of $10 a ticket, it’s insulting. If your movie budget only allows $5 for the costume, then don’t bother making the movie. Steel in the movie makes a joke out of the comic book, and one that isn’t very funny. The costume is amateurish at best, even down to the weapon of choice, a sledgehammer that is oddly hammered out on top instead of the cool, anvil-looking one in the comic. Glaringly absent from the costume are both the “S” emblem on the chest and the red cape. We won’t go into much discussion about what’s going on below the waist with those tights and knee guards.

Comic vs Movie Dark Phoenix

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Dark Phoenix (X-Men: The Last Stand)

With wavy red-orange hair and her red and gold costume (green and gold as just plain Phoenix), Dark Phoenix is a force to be reckoned with. In X-Men: The Last Stand, Dark Phoenix dons an entirely maroon costume, foregoing the signature gold that is always in Phoenix’s costume (whether Dark Phoenix or regular Phoenix). The top is more like a dress with tattered ends. Something that looks like a back support worn by the UPS driver is wrapped around her as a makeshift bustier. Maroon pants finish off the confused costume. Her hair is even maroon, as if this helps the look come together to create a unified Dark Phoenix. Instead it baffles the viewer as to why the costume was so altered when Phoenix has one of the coolest costumes in the superhero realm. The other notable difference is that in the comics, Dark Phoenix’s eyes are pure white. In the movie, the eyes are completely black.

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    • profile image

      Jayfort 4 years ago

      This is one of my pet peeves with comic book movies. The studios/directors/costumes feel they have to put their vision of a more "real world" look to the costumes. The costume for the upcoming "Man of Steel" film looks ghastly. People keep writing about the iconic costume in the film but that suit is NOT the iconic costume. As I have posted previously Warner Bros./DC Comics new approach to Superman has left me cold and I have ZERO intent to ever see that movie. I feel that on they have crapped on the fans of the character on multiple levels with their new approach.

      As far as Captain America's costumes in his two recent film appearances, they are supposed to be based on the Ultimates version of the character, which many older fans and the general population may not be familiar with.

    • Angie Martin profile image
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      Angie Martin 4 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      Thank you so much for pointing that out about Captain America. I was not aware of that. Looking at that costume the two costumes combined do resemble it more, but there are still major differences that are significant enough that he makes the list.

      I agree on Superman's new costume as well. Besides that we have Zod again as the villain. It is a new movie; get a new villain! I think if they really want to reboot the series, make one on the death of Superman and make it follow the comic. That would get everyone's attention!

    • profile image

      Jayfort 4 years ago

      I'm a purist when it comes to adaptations of other media into films. It drives me crazy when the studios/producers/directors/costumers have such a wealth of material to draw from but have to put THEIR stamp/vision on the characters. I don't go to a film to see THEIR version of a character, I go to see the character! Whatever happened to just telling a good story?

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 4 years ago

      Great comparisons of comic book vs movie costumes. These details or lack of can be a great conversation amongst fans.

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