How Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman Have Changed Their Looks Through the Years

With new costumes on the horizon for DC's biggest superheroes, let's take a look through the wardrobes at the Hall of Justice.
Paulo Siqueira/DC Entertainment

With the release of the solicitation information for DC Entertainment's June releases, one thing became clear: Some iconic characters are getting a makeover. In fact, all three of the company's "trinity" of big names — Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman — will sport new costumes this summer. To mark this sartorial shift, The Hollywood Reporter takes a brief look back at some of the more famous looks for each hero to date.

Superman

With a couple of exceptions, the Man of Steel has been pretty consistent in his fashion choices through the years — although it did take him almost 75 years before he realized that most people wear underwear as an undergarment.

The Golden Age

What most people think of as "the original" Superman wasn't actually the original — the "S" shield took a while to settle in to what we now recognize as the Superman's iconic logo, and some of the earliest strips featured different designs for Superman's wrist cuffs and boots.

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The Silver Age

This is the look that everyone thinks of as "the" Superman look — everything has fallen into place, including the chest shield. With minor variations, this was the way the character would appear for decades to come.

Back in Black

Following Superman's death (from which he, of course, rose again), he returned to action in this alternate costume – ditching the cape, shorts and boots altogether, and taking a more basic (Read: nonexistent) approach to color.

It Was the '90s

By the time Superman had sufficiently recovered from his death, and got back into his regular work clothes, things were slightly different: His color palette had gone slightly darker, and he had a mullet. One of these changes was a very bad idea.

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Electric Superman

The first dramatic change for Superman, at least in terms of visuals, was this short-lived period where his entire power set changed, which resulted in a new costume created to contain his newly electrified body. Before things got back to normal, he managed to split into two versions of himself — one colored red, one blue.

Kingdom Come

The Superman that appeared in Kingdom Come was an older version of the character who had returned from an alternate future. His look reflected his advanced age, with graying temples and a newly redesigned chest emblem that hinted at a darker, more mournful mindset. (Post 9/11, the yellow background for the "S" shield was replaced with black.)

Five Years Earlier

When DC rebooted its fictional universe in 2011, writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales took the opportunity to reimagine the character's earliest days as a superhero — which featured him working not in a superhero costume, but in a T-shirt and jeans, with a makeshift cape made from the blanket he was sent to Earth in.

The New 52

The rebooted universe allowed a redesign of Superman's "regular" costume as well. Out went the red shorts, replaced by a suit of alien armor that responded to Superman's mental commands. Why the new suit required a mock turtleneck was never quite clear.

The New Look

As of June, Superman has lost his familiar red cape and will return to the T-shirt and jeans look with a redesigned chest emblem that harks back to the hero's earliest days. What's behind the change? We'll have to wait until the summer to find out.

 

Batman

The Dark Knight has also remained faithful to his signature look throughout his career, which only makes sense. After all, when you have a silhouette that works for you as well as his does, why would you want to change it?

The Golden Age

Like Superman, Batman took a while to settle into his first look. For example, it took three months for his gloves to go from purple to blue, and to extend past his wrists. The ears on the cowl also took a while to settle down, but that was a sign of things to come: Ear length is a reliable indicator of different artists drawing the character.

The Silver Age

The biggest change for Batman as he headed into the 1960s was the appearance of the yellow circle around the bat symbol on Batman's chest. Editor Julius Schwartz was behind the change.

The Dark Knight Returns

In Frank Miller's alternate future take on the hero, he cycled Batman back to a variation on the original look, only bolder and more graphic — a style that would be adopted by the regular series following a 2000 relaunch.

The Replacement

As the result of the mid-'90s storyline "Knightfall," Bruce Wayne was forced into long-term recovery from his injuries, and a character called Azrael took over the mantle of Batman for a time. As you can see, he brought his own sense of style to the job. (The costume was designed by Joe Quesada, who'd later go on to become Marvel Entertainment's chief creative officer.)

The Comeback

When Bruce Wayne returned to the role of Batman, he changed the look of the Bat-suit by eliminating all color from it with the exception of the yellow chest emblem. Clad entirely in gray and black, he apparently really wanted to live up to that "Dark Knight" thing.

The Other Replacement

By 2008, Bruce Wayne was dead — or so everyone believed at the time. (He was actually trapped in the past.) Former sidekick Dick Grayson took over the role of Batman for a time, marking a more upbeat and colorful take on the character for a short period.

Batman, Incorporated

Upon returning to the present, Bruce Wayne resumed the Batman guise one more time, with a revision of the outfit that featured more ornate detail than most Bat-suits. It didn't last long, however, because the New 52 reboot was right around the corner.

The New 52

In many ways, the New 52 look was merely a return to Bat-basics, close in many ways to the previous costume, but simplified to a monochromatic palette. It's hard to go wrong in basic black, after all.

The New Look

And when I say "staying simple," obviously I mean "turning Batman into a giant robot." Exactly what's behind this transformation isn't immediately clear, but that's likely the point. Who doesn't want to buy the comic to find out why Batman has gone all Pacific Rim?

 

Wonder Woman

One of the few superheroes whose theme song actually makes reference to her dress code ("In her satin tights/Fighting for our rights"), Diana Prince has gone through a couple of major redesigns in the past, leading up to her new look. Whether this one will stick around any longer than the earlier makeovers remains to be seen? Fashion is fickle; even superheroes need to evolve.

The Golden Age

Perhaps appropriately for a storyline so often cited as having bondage undertones, the initial look for Wonder Woman was very restrained, with her tiara holding her hair in place. Her tame, prim mane of hair would be one of the first things to change.

The Silver Age

Soon enough, her hair was flowing freely, and the shorts had been reduced to something more revealing. Was this really the look that an Amazon warrior would embrace as feminism was going mainstream?

It Was the '60s

When writer-artist Mike Sekowsky took over the monthly Wonder Woman comic, he instituted major changes to the character, including depowering her entirely and setting her on a path that would see her become much more attuned to the social problems of the day. With this revamp came a brand-new wardrobe, inspired by the fashions of the day.

Back to Basics

With her powers restored, Wonder Woman underwent a minor costume overhaul in 1982, with the traditional eagle on her costume replaced by a stylized WW logo designed by artist Gene Colan. The reason? The "WW" logo could be trademarked by DC Entertainment, like Superman's "S" shield and Batman's Bat-logo. This costume lasted for decades after its introduction, with the logo surviving to this day.

Wonder Woman No More

While Superman died and Batman retired from injury, the 1990s saw Diana fired from the role of Wonder Woman by her Amazonian sisters and adopting a new crime-fighting guise in order to continue her good works. Because it was the 1990s, the new persona came with a jacket.

The New Frontier

What made the alternate world version of Wonder Woman that appeared in The New Frontier so vital wasn't an altered costume, which basically followed the lead of the original, but the character's proportions, which moved away from the stick-thin model and instead allowed her a figure fit for a warrior. Fans approved, although the change didn't make it through to the regular version of the character.

Pants Worth an Odyssey

As part of a high-profile storyline written by Academy Award nominee J. Michael Straczynski, Wonder Woman was given a makeover that called back to her 1990s look by adding a jacket and pants to her wardrobe. But the 2011 New 52 makeover would lead to yet another new look.

The New 52

The 2011 reboot of DC's universe brought Diana back to something close to her traditional look, albeit in a less colorful manner and with the addition of a choker featuring the "WW" logo. Was this progress? It's not entirely clear, although the storyline, which saw Diana inherit the mantle of the God of War, seemed pretty progressive.

The New Look

Moving forward, Wonder Woman gets her most covered-up look yet, complete with… shoulder pads? OK, that's somewhat unexpected, but I'm more concerned with the wrist blades. How is she going to freely throw her magic lasso with those attached? The answer awaits us in June.

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