You don't see many superheroes in their ungainly teenage years. With a few exceptions, the demigods on the page, on the screen and emblazoned across your underwear never really had awkward phases. But just because Spider-Man never had a sweet bowl cut doesn't mean superheroes don't have awkward phases -- it just comes later, often in the form of ill-fitting costume changes that sounded good at the time. We've compiled a list of the most ridiculous costume redesigns from comics' heaviest hitters. For the benefit of your self-esteem, almost all of these are worse than that school photo that you took with your clarinet.
Like Thor, Batman's always stayed with the tried-and-true. The cape, the cowl and the bat-insignia have shifted here and there, but for the most part not much has changed in 75 years. Leave it to author/necromancer Grant Morrison and his cohort Tony Daniel to dig up an insane clown suit that makes it appear as if Bruce Wayne was the one to fall into that vat of Joker acid.
This jazzy chap is officially known as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. See, in the story, Batman has a psychotic break and loses his memory. He later stitches together a new patchwork costume, built with random scraps and garbage and a little bit of love. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is so fruit-loopy that he finds himself talking to imaginary characters like the mischievous Bat-Mite and even the gargoyles that he was once so fond of perching upon. If you think Batman thought of a contingency plan for when he lost his mind and started dressing like a juggalo version of himself, well, you're right. Zur-En-Arrh is basically an ultra-violent back-up personality Bruce Wayne came up with in case he lost his proverbial shit. Those hallucinations are actually the only thing keeping Batman from flipping out and jacking dudes up with a knife. Batman plans for everything, especially for times when he can no longer plan things.
Of course, this isn't the first time Batman found an excuse to get gussied-up:
Batman's mid-20th century was all about finding new and interesting ways of looking like a complete jackass while punching himself some creeps. There was the magnetic Zebra Batman, the time Bruce Wayne's skin turned green and thought Mummy Batman was the best solution and yep, that Rainbow Batman. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh actually dates back to 1958, though at the time he wasn't a dormant persona but instead a Batman-loving alien that lived on a planet where reds and purples were really in that season.
All things considered, Batman on an off-day still beats the pants off of having to be a woman in superhero comic books. Case in point...
Many attempts have been made to sex-up the Invisible Woman, but pretty much all of them have failed miserably. Maybe it's because Sue Storm has been a mom for over 40 years -- she seems more likely to tell you to take out the trash than flirt with you after a few appletinis. That didn't stop people from constantly trying to make her a sex symbol, as evidenced by the Power Girl-inspired boobtacular failure from (where else but) the 90s.
When asked why she folded up her suit and cut it like she was trying to make a paper snowflake, Sue explains that she was tired of her old frumpy outfit. Now, nobody could blame her for wanting out of that dated onesie -- fabric made from unstable molecules isn't known for letting armpits breathe -- nothing ever calls for cleavage in the shape of a symbol for family. And while her showy mom-boobs and bellybuttonless stomach are certainly points of concern, it completely contradicts Sue's unwillingness to roll down those gloves and show us her elbows. What a prude.
Let's face it: If we didn't grow up watching Superman fly around in his underwear, we might scoff at this goofy-ass Quailman knockoff today. It's a classic look, but at the same time incredibly silly. Many have realized this and tried to change Superman's look for the better, but none of them stuck. If you were to choose his most bizarre temporary costume, you'd probably go with the baffling Electric Superman. But let's put out another one for your consideration: After he was "dead" for six months, Superman was brought back wearing an interpretive dance leotard with a dash of chrome. It's a terrible idea on its own, but it's the details that take this to the next level.
Let's start from the top and work our way down. Though he was always up-front about being a business kind of guy, Kal-El's time as a corpse led to his hair forming a party in the back. Without a cape, we're left with some unflattering neck cleavage under Earth's Mightiest Mullet. Moving down to the arms, we can see some chrome wristbands, but what we really want to focus on is the bottom of that picture on the right -- that's definitely some hardcore toe-armor. Does Superman really need shiny pieces of metal guarding small parts of his hands and feet? Obviously not, but imagine if he took them off -- the designers knew that those wristbands and toeshields were the only things stopping this suit from becoming the world's most elaborate set of footie pajamas.
Laugh at Superman's old tights all you want, but at least they allow you to tell where his torso ends and his legs begin.
When Thor changes up his look, he likes to keep it simple; maybe he grows a beard, tweaks his helmet or adjusts those little circles on his shirt. It's a tad unusual for him to say, show up looking like he just finished a day as an extra on the set of a Warrant music video. Though the four-foot hair extensions are formidable and the copious armstraps/legbelts are most bodacious, maybe more impressive is the care he took in lining up his naked abs with his arms. You don't get that kind of midriff-elbow synergy in thunder gods these days.
Sadly, the costume only really appeared in a single issue, in which the title character just sort of stands around and gets ready for a huge world-ending battle. As it happens, that issue was actually the last one before Thor was rebooted with his familiar costume. So basically, right before this big fight, Thor borrowed some clothes from a medieval Spawn and walked around as if nothing happened. Nobody else mentioned it, either -- when someone's anxiety takes the form of a massive codpiece, you tend to leave well enough alone.
The costume only really appeared in one other place -- in Thor's battle with Captain Marvel:
You know your outfit is a smidge extreme when you look overdressed compared to the dude in firetruck red longjohns. How long does it take Thor to disassemble that getup at night before he goes to bed? Maybe there's some sort of mechanism and he just presses that big red button on his chest and he magically disrobes. Then again, a dedicated Naked Button might be a liability in battle.
Clint Barton has always had it rough. From the very beginning, he's been the Avengers' Aquaman. Not only did they slap him with a costume that would get him kicked out of a Renaissance fair, they made it purple. The color might be the roughest part, because no matter what you put a guy in, he's still wearing something the same hue as Ronald McDonald's best friend. Poor guy has never been able to shake that hue -- it's how you know it's Hawkeye, whether he's dressed like a court jester or Ben-Hur.
Artists and production teams have tried a lot of different things with Clint over the years. They gave him a Cyclops hair-over-mask situation, but that didn't work out. They made his mask a mix of swimming goggles and 50s-era cat glasses, and that crashed and burned. The worst might have been in Avengers: United They Stand (a short-lived cartoon which also got a comic), in which Hawkeye appeared as though he was a Greek god trying out for the lacrosse team. At some point everyone gave up and just put him in a sporty vest and sunglasses, and now Hawkeye's best costume is simply "clothes." Writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja took it one step further in their critically-acclaimed run, in which Clint is often seen in just a plain white t-shirt and purple sweatpants. Coincidentally, that's also the uniform for sad schmucks who sit at home and complain about bad superhero costumes all day.