PSA: It's Time to Stop Redesigning Superhero Costumes for Every Movie Already

Shouldn't superheroes be busier saving the day than remaking their costumes with each new appearance?
Courtesy of Photofest; @ZackSnyder/Twitter

The reveal of Batman's new costume from next year's Justice League highlights one of the stranger things about contemporary superhero movies. Namely, the inexplicable need to change superhero costumes between installments.

On a cynical marketing level, the tweaking to costumes for each new installment in a series makes terrifying sense, allowing for brand-new merchandise — action figures, T-shirts, and anything in between — to be sold featuring characters that have already appeared in numerous movies and on countless merchandise to date. But that real-world business reason aside, the in-story rationale for redesigning heroes between movies feels somewhat … thin.

Take Marvel's Captain America, for example. In 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, we are shown that the colorful costume exists as a propaganda tool, which explains why the hero — who appears to be anything but the kind of man to give a second thought about what he's wearing — sports a different costume in each of his subsequent appearances, from the colorful Avengers look through the more sober Captain America: The Winter Soldier look, the back-to-being-colorful-but-with-sensible-boots Avengers: Age of Ultron costume and finally the cargo-pant-and-shoulder-strap ensemble of Captain America: Civil War. It's … all about branding … maybe?


Chris Hemsworth as Thor in 'Thor' (2011), 'Avengers' (2012), 'Thor: Dark World' (2013) and 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' (2015)

Similarly, Thor's costume changes between his first solo movie, Avengers, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron, as do the outfits of Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Falcon between their various appearances. Do any of these characters seem like they'd be concerned with their appearance to the degree that they'd tweak costumes in their downtime? Really? Tony Stark and the Iron Man armor, sure; that kind of evolution and redesign makes sense, because it's totally within his nature to be unable to stop himself for making changes. But Thor?

Of course, it's not just Marvel that foists redesigns on its characters that make little sense: Superman was actually wearing a different costume in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, although the changes were perhaps unnoticeable to the casual viewer. Perhaps he got bored and made some alterations at super-speed between failing to file stories as Clark Kent and being worshipped as a false god. And Batman apparently loves to have a new look for every occasion — he has three different costumes in BvS alone, so the new look for Justice League shouldn't come as any kind of surprise.

(It does, however, conjure up images of Bruce Wayne spending hours alone in the Batcave, convinced that maybe this time, he can crack that Bat-motif once and for all. But I digress.)

Perhaps I'm simply spoiled by reading comics in which superhero costumes stayed static for decades at a time; Superman's costume only received cosmetic changes — mostly to the length of his cape and how people drew the "S" — for more than three quarters of a century, while Captain America's was essentially static for roughly the same amount of time. Or maybe it really is the incongruity of imagining a distracted Ant-Man thinking, "What if I had different gloves?" when he changed size each time.

Either way, it seems as if there should be a little less turnover when it comes to superhero couture … until the movie universes introduce their own version of professional super-costumier Paul Gambi, at least.

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