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Alternative Attire: Marvel's Ever-Evolving Wardrobe

By Jim Beard

Captain America #34
cover by Alex Ross

Costumes are a hot topic these days. Besides Halloween, you've got Marvel's First Annual Costume Contest and the unveiling of Captain America's new Alex Ross-designed suit outfit, which got us thinking about all the awesome costume changes that've come through the House of Ideas. In fact, every one of Marvel's biggest and most popular champions has at one time taken a walk on the wild side with a new look. Sometimes the change comes from a gift, other times to mark a turning point in their lives or out of dire necessity. And, well, sometimes it's for absolutely no reason at all.

This armored
costume saved
Cap's life

The new Captain America duds are said to be worn by someone other than Steve Rogers-him being dead and all-but Steve had a few fashion shows of his own in his day. The first was quite a departure from the classic red, white and blue, and made its debut in CAPTAIN AMERICA #180. As Nomad, Cap tried to set aside his career as the Sentinel of Liberty with a completely different look, but the stars-and-stripes proved his ultimate destiny. Steve gave black a try as a fashion statement in CAPTAIN AMERICA #337 as the Captain straying only slightly sartorially from his classic look. About the only other radical departure Cap made before he expired was the life-preserving armor he sported beginning in CAPTAIN AMERICA #438, but, as they say, he got better and no longer needed to be wrapped in a patriotic tin can to stay alive. With only a few shield changes to add to the mix, Steve Rogers played things fairly conservatively with his fighting togs.

The Spider Armor:
not Spidey's
finest hour

Our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has seen his fair share of costume tweaks, but really clocks in with only a few major switch-ups. After favoring the famous webbed red-and-blue for decades, Spidey had his own brush with black when, fresh from SECRET WARS, he inaugurated his new ebony skintights in all three of his May 1984 titles. But that didn't go well for him, as the costume turned out to be, you know, an alien symbiote, and Peter dug out his regular uniform once again. There's the funky, short-lived "Spider Armor" of WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #100. That proved an early precursor to Spider-Man's most radical change, the red and gold cyber-suit designed by Tony Stark that Peter wore from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #529 through much of the recent "Civil War." Ditching the Stark-suit, Spidey had another brief fling with the old black costume, but now he's back in his classic uniform. Oh, and if we cheat a bit here, we could also mention Spidey's clone, Ben Reilly, and his wondrous Scarlet Spider outfit (swinging in with WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #118). And yeah, there are many Scarlet Spider haters out there, but we stand behind that costume and all its hokey 90's glory.

Being gray
makes Hulk
no less cranky

Bruce Banner's alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk? Well, a pair of torn purple pants has served him pretty well since 1962, you must admit. Oh sure, ol' Greenskin has switched to purple non-ragged trunks on occasion but the biggest diversion from his classic look was a new skin hue rather than a mere change of clothes. You can check it out in INCREDIBLE HULK #324. Rumor has it that our Incredible pal may yet change color again. Stay tuned, True Believer.

An injured Thor
dons armor fit
for a god

Asgard's favorite son, the Mighty Thor has also been fairly choosy in how he appears to us mere mortals, sporting his classic look until THOR #378. Then he started rocking a full beard and heavy-duty suit of armor (what is it with these guys and armor?). All-in-all, the winged helmet and dashing cape look has served him well and the God of Thunder has managed to retain those design elements no matter how much he fusses with the other details (like when Eric Masterson took over in THOR #433). Be sure to check out the newest iteration of Asgardian attire that Thor began showing off in the all-new and very recent THOR #1.

Iron Man has
worn numerous
armors over
the years

Then we come to the Golden Avenger, Iron Man. Ahh, Tony Stark-where to begin? His first major costume change came very early in his career, in TALES TO ASTONISH #48, which was only Iron Man's tenth appearance! Ditching the clunky armor he was saddled with at first, Stark debuted a sleeker, two-tone number that would be his standard for the next 30+ years (with only minor, superficial alterations). When his next big armor switcheroo came about, in IRON MAN #200, it also came with a new color scheme: goodbye red and gold, hello red and silver! Tony eventually returned to red and gold, but his armor would never quite be the same, practically changing with the wind, and its master's whims. There are far too many different suits of armor to list here (over a dozen since IM #200), making Iron Man one of the most fickle of all Marvel heroes-at least when it comes to what to wear. At least he seems to be settling in with his latest look...for now.

Sue Storm leads
the FF into
the 90's

Marvel's First Family of Super Heroes, the Fantastic Four, get the award for consistency. After unveiling their swanky uniforms way back in FANTASTIC FOUR #3, they've been remarkably content with what they have. Oh, sure, they've moved their little "4" emblem around a bit on their blue leotards, and had a fun digression with white trim instead of black (FANTASTIC FOUR #256) but basically their look has remained decidedly the same for over four decades. The only real burp came in FF #132 when famous hothead Johnny Storm decided he needed a red FF jumpsuit. Sue's little brother finally wisened up and rejoined the family in blue and barring his big sister's dalliances with a bare midriff, all has been calm at the Baxter Building when it comes to clothing. Do we even need to go into the X-Men? We all know that way lies...madness. Suffice to say that Marvel's Merry Mutants are the crowned Kings and Queens of crazy and confusing costume changes. 'Nuff said! So, there you are: Marvels on the catwalk! The latest new look for Captain America is one more in a long line of musical dressing rooms...and certainly won't be the last! So what's your favorite alternate costume? Sound off in the forums!
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