Marvel made its bones by giving readers superheroes like they’ve never experienced before. Their heroes were instantly different from those of their distinguished competition, with personalities closer to real life. However, that wasn’t the only place they were different. From the beginning, the designs of Marvel’s superheroes set them apart as well. They eschewed tradition and were as striking as can be.
While not every design was perfect right away, Marvel has created looks for their heroes that were not only visually distinct but often told a story themselves. In a visual medium like comics, Marvel’s designs stuck out and became legendary.
10/10 Cyclops’s Second Costume Set The Standard For Every One That Came After
Cyclops has always been a reliable member of the X-Men. However, he’s also been reliable when it comes to great costumes. While his original costume, the blue and yellow standard X-Men uniform, was pretty basic. The one he received in X-Men (Vol. 1) #39, drawn by artist Don Heck, was a marked improvement and precursor of great costumes to come.
While it kept the blue and yellow coloration, it changed how the colors were positioned, with the blue dominating the costume, with yellow trunks, gloves, and boots. It also had the full skullcap mask, which would be standard for the character until the late-’80s. It’s a simple costume, but it looks amazing, and he’d wear it until he left the team in Uncanny X-Men #201.
9/10 Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel Costume Mixed Old And New
Carol Danvers becoming Captain Marvel was a big deal, and she needed a costume that fit the occasion. The original Captain Marvel costume is a classic, a red and blue masterpiece. Monica Rambeau’s was different but still outstanding, and Genis-Vell’s costumes were nice, with the second one introduced in Avengers Forever (Vol. 1) standing out. The Captains Marvel were dressed well, and Carol had to keep that going.
Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick got artist Jamie McKelvie to design Carol’s costume, saying if Marvel didn’t pay him for it, she would. McKelvie’s design was straight-up brilliant, taking everything that came before and tweaking it into something special. It’s an iconic look and instantly recognizable.
8/10 Ghost Rider Is A Striking Visual
A huge part of Ghost Rider’s success is the character’s look. First appearing in Marvel Spotlight #5, drawn by Mike Ploog, in 1972, Ghost Rider was basically a demonic Evel Knievel. The motorcycle daredevil was all the rage, and Marvel played into that, as well as giving Ghost Rider the flaming skull head that made him an icon. The biker look paid dividends for the character.
Ghost Rider’s design was the main reason behind his popularity at first. His entire design screams cool, and it worked for multiple generations. That look was tweaked when Ghost Rider came back to prominence in the ’90s by artist Mark Texeira, but it still played off the same design elements and motif.
7/10 Thor Took The Traditional Superhero Costume Formula And Made It His Own
One superhero design element that early Marvel heroes stayed away from was capes. This felt like a shot across the bow, a way of saying that the old order had changed. Only one hero had a cape, but it made perfect sense. Thor is Marvel’s greatest warrior, and artist Jack Kirby wanted to capture the character’s grandeur for his first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #83.
Thor’s red cape gave him an old-fashioned look, something that was perfect for the character. His tunic’s triangle with its sleeveless shape was unique, with the silver circles giving it an armored look. It’s all topped off by his helmet, a winged beauty that is timeless. Thor’s design used a traditional aesthetic but still made it modern and different.
6/10 Silver Surfer’s Design Plays Up The Purity Of The Character
Marvel cosmic heroes are the best in comics, with one standing above the rest. The Silver Surfer, introduced in Fantastic Four #48 and designed by Jack Kirby, is an example of a simple design that tells its own story. Kirby was a master of this sort of design, and he did it here by having no costume.
The Silver Surfer is just a silver man. Silver is bright and shiny, and has a look of purity to it. This was how Lee and Kirby were able to show readers that Silver Surfer would turn out to be a friend. His lack of a costume showed that he was open with nothing to hide. It’s a design that says everything about the character, as well as an exercise in perfection that’s never needed to change.
5/10 Iron Man’s More Streamlined Red And Yellow Armor Started A Revolution
Iron Man is an amazing hero, but his original costume left something to be desired. It was big and clunky, with a matte gray finish. Soon, it would change to gold, but it still wasn’t perfect. Tales Of Suspense #48, drawn by Steve Ditko, would be the armor’s first steps into the modern age. It was streamlined, modern, and its red and yellow color was striking.
While it’s definitely not the best Iron Man armor, it’s the most important because it began the evolution of the suit. Iron Man tweaking his armor radically started here, and it became a hallmark of the character. Things definitely got better in the future, but they never would have without this departure from tradition.
4/10 Jean Grey’s Phoenix Costume Was Regal
The X-Men have great costumes, but few of them are as great as Jean Grey’s initial Phoenix costume. It takes the green and gold coloration of her Marvel Girl costume, giving readers the recognizable colors they’re used to, but puts them onto a bodysuit instead. The phoenix symbol on her chest is a more traditional superhero element, but then the sash adds something that breaks the mold.
First appearing in Uncanny X-Men #101 and drawn by Dave Cockrum, it’s an instantly iconic design. There are so many smart design choices in the costume. It’s certainly Jean’s most memorable look, and the only one that is unequivocally better is the Dark Phoenix version, which swaps the green for gold.
3/10 Wolverine’s Current Costume Is His Best Ever
Wolverine’s design has always been important to the character. He’s had some iconic costumes, with the blue and yellow and brown and orange standing out. Some people like the latter. Some like the former. The yellow and blue got a modern-day re-imagining thanks to John Cassaday in Astonishing X-Men, and his brown and orange would get a similar redesign in House Of X #1, drawn by Pepe Larraz.
The brown and orange looks more animalistic, which fits Wolverine better, and giving it a more modern cut makes all the difference. It feels more functional, especially with the heavier gloves and boots. It’s an all-around improvement over the yellow and blue.
Captain America is Marvel’s most inspiring hero, and his costume is a big part of that. Designed by Jack Kirby for Captain America Comics #1, its red, white, and blue coloration, lack of a cape, buccaneer boots, and winged mask are wonderful little design elements that would become a staple of the design and help make the character a legend.
Kirby would redesign the costume for Cap’s return in Avengers (Vol. 1) #4, modernizing it and perfecting it. The great thing about it is that it’s never needed to change. Even when they give Steve Rogers a new costume, he always comes back to this one because it’s perfect.
1/10 Spider-Man’s Costume Is Amazing And Spectacular
Spider-Man is Marvel’s big gun. The company was popular before he debuted, but Spider-Man brought it to the next level. Peter Parker was the ultimate Marvel hero, always striving to do the right thing and often failing in some way.
The origin of his costume is lost to time, as some say Kirby designed it, and others say Amazing Fantasy #15 artist Steve Ditko did. Regardless, it’s an amazing design. It’s basically perfect, as the only things that ever changed over the years were slight. It’s stood the test of time like few other comics.
NEXT: 17 Most Underrated Marvel Heroes, Ranked