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The Big NO on Spandex: Why Can’t Our Movie Heroes Look Like the Comics?

The Big NO on Spandex: Why Can’t Our Movie Heroes Look Like the Comics?

In today’s era of modern superhero movies, we’re just barely starting to see a bit of branching out when it comes to costume design. For many years, it seemed like costume designers were afraid of doing anything other than black leather. Or…oh my gosh…COLOR leather. To which we say: really? With all of the images from the comics and all of the source material about our heroes’ suits, the go-to design has been a black leather jumpsuit for too long.

superhero leather 3

Leather isn’t the “traditional” route as far as comic books and earlier filmed iterations of their stories are concerned, so are costume designers shying away because they think the classic Spandex looks aren’t modern enough? Understandably, not everyone can pull off the Spandex look, but the overuse of leather has simply gotten repetitive over the years. Yeah, maybe Bryan Singer’s X-Men looked cool the first time you saw them on screen, but seeing the same black leather outfits over and over again just got us craving the traditional, more colorful looks we were so used to seeing on the pages of our favorite comics.

It’s a testament to the fear of costume designers that in nearly 15 years and 7 movies, we still haven’t seen Hugh Jackman suit up in his classic yellow and blue Wolverine costume (minus a nerd-jerking deleted scene at the end of The Wolverine). Isn’t that what everybody is waiting for at this point? It seems like we, the fans, should finally see our heroes coming to life in the way they were originally introduced. While the Daredevil Netflix series is plenty awesome, couldn’t we have gotten a “prototype” sort of costume that resembled his classic red spandex suit? Even as just a wink and a nod?

superhero leather 1

Taking it back to X-Men for a minute, this is the start of the leather movement. Up until that point, we had the classic Spandex Superman look from the Christopher Reeves movies, and the crazy rubber suits from the Batman series (don’t even get us started), but then everything changed with X-Men. They looked pretty good in those black jumpsuits, but that was because nobody had really seen that done before. They even threw in a reference to the classic costume, when Cyclops asks Wolverine, “What did you expect? Yellow spandex?” But this spawned a number of other leather-based costumes that carried on throughout the industry, not just the superhero genre. Spider-Man somehow managed to survive that movement, but that’s about it.


Are the colorful, classic costumes just not appealing to mass audiences? Maybe the producers thought that by giving the characters these bland, leather looks, they’d somehow be more appealing to all audiences. That’s probably true, but they really need to deliver something for the fans of the comics. They owe us that at least, don’t you think?

Then comes the argument of comfort. Obviously costume designers don’t take that aspect into consideration very often. How could it be more comfortable to fight crime in a leather jumpsuit than a breathable, light, and flexible Spandex suit? That really should be the strongest argument in the whole book, because we’d get so many cool fight scenes if these characters could actually MOVE quicker.

avengers costumes

OK, OK…in spite of our ranting, these leather costumes aren’t the deciding factors in whether we think a superhero movie is a flop or not. In fact, sometimes they look even cooler than the comic versions. (I know!) Ultimately it all comes down to story and acting, but hey, a little more attention to the costumes couldn’t hurt. Hopefully the trend of costume designers, as of late, putting a bit more care and consideration into their work when it comes to capturing that classic comic book vibe. The Avengers have been pretty well-represented so far, but still don’t hit the nail on the head completely. Here’s hoping that maybe X-Men Apocalypse will actually give us a taste of those traditional X-Men costumes they’ve been withholding from us for all these years. Just remember one important tidbit from Edna Mode…


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