The 90s were a rough time for superheroes. Comics were unnecessarily turned gritty and EXTREME without any reason, and the success of Image breaking away from the big publishers sent everyone scurrying to redesign their characters in the currently popular way â€” with shoulder pads, pouches, scars and scowls. Some excellent takes on characters did come from this period: Starman and Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern both jump out. Most characters weren’t so lucky. Here are the 16 most hideous redesigns from this dark decade.
16. Mullet Superman
After Superman had died, was replaced by four mock-Supermen, brought about the destruction of the comic book market, and was resurrected, the bigwigs at DC decided they needed something small, to make him seem hip, cool, and with-it. Something that would strike a chord with the kids, and make Superman fresh! So they gave him a luxurious, flowing mullet. Thanks, DC, for giving him the worst haircut ever. To differentiate his secret identity, Clark Kent wore it as a hideous pony tail thing.
15. Biker Wonder Woman
Mike Deodato Jr. Remember that name, you’ll see it pop up a lot. He was damn hot in the 90s, and a king of impossibly tiny waisted women, and immensely muscled men. Unlike Rob Liefeld, Deodato actually knew perspective too, so he could do the crazy characters, but actually have them interact in almost normal ways. He was the artist behind Wonder Woman dressing up like a biker stripper for a rather extended arc. She lost the title of Wonder Woman to another Amazon, Artemis, who took over her job in the man’s world, and went around kicking ass and taking names. Wonder Woman decided to continue the fight in her own outfit, which is apparently a pair of bike shorts, and a leather bra. Nice. Completely non-iconic, and it lost any elements that tied it to the original.
14. Feral Wolverine
After Wolverine got his adamantium skeleton ripped out by Magneto, his body essentially went crazy. His healing factor kicked into overdrive, and he lost much of his humanity, reverting to a more feral form. Which meant he wore a rag for a mask, had no nose, and grew his fingernails long. From then on, his speech bubbles were made scratchy, and the furry canuck continued being a superhero, just a more stinky one. As a character arc, it made almost no sense, and the outfit was just stupid. One of the many, many outfits on this list which have since been ignored by all respectable writers.
13. Insect Wasp
Another Deodato monstrosity, one which links closely to entry 11 on this list. See, Tony Stark was being manipulated by the evil time traveller Kang/Immortus, and betrayed the Avengers. In the process, he managed to kill a couple of b-listers, including Wasp. Her sometimes husband, sometimes asshole ex, Henry Pym, tried to bring her back. And he did. Except now she looked like a butterfly zergling. Weirdly insectoid, with claws, big hair, and antennae, this horrific look only stuck around for a couple of issues until the universe was given a swift kicking by the Onslaught stupidity.
12. Power armor!
A whole bunch of bad, rolled into one entry. Sometimes, creators were too lazy to even hired a half-assed designer to give someone a 90s reboot, so they just went the easy route: armor. Slap a giant, usually mechanized, suit of armor on a character, call it extreme, and you’re in 90s heaven. Captain America’s body went crazy from residual super solider serum, putting him in a coma. Solution? Armor! Booster Gold got his ass kicked against Doomsday in the lead up to the Death of Superman. Solution? Armor! Daredevil…well, they just wanted to give him a makeover for his 30th anniversary, so they made his identity public, he got a new one, and started wearing spiky shoulder pads.
11. Teenage Tony Stark
Okay, going on from the Wasp post above, Tony Stark had turned traitor, and killed a bunch of Avengers, right? So what did the Avengers do? They plucked an alternate reality teenaged Tony Stark out of the ether, to pit him against our reality’s version. When the two fought, the older saw the error of his ways, and sacrificed himself to defeat the villain, and we were left stuck with the hip, young Tony Stark! Awesome! Or, completely useless, as it turns out. Not as charming, not as smart, not as badass. Bad decision all around. Luckily, reset by Heroes Reborn.
10. Guy Gardner, Warrior
Guy Gardner had a rough run for a very long time. Benchwarmer Green Lantern in case Hal Jordan didn’t cut it, he was constantly written as an annoying pain in the ass. Eventually he got his own ring, which was then taken from him. Then he got a yellow ring, which was also destroyed. So the writers decided to go a different route, and turn him into the last surviving descendant of an alien race, the Vuldarians, which covered his body with tattoos, and meant that he could transform into weapons. Yeah…plus, at one point, he turned into a woman. More recently, he’s gone back to being a Green Lantern, and everyone’s forgotten about the Warrior stuff.
9. Martian Manhunter/Bloodwynd
During the 90s in the JLA, Bloodwynd was a token mysterious character, who everyone was trying to find the origins of. He was also the token black guy, which meant his powers were supposedly to the ghosts of African slaves. Yeah. Anyway, the big reveal? Bloodwynd is actually Martian Manhunter, in the shape of Bloodwynd, possessed by Bloodwynd, who is in turn possessed by the demon Rott. It doesn’t make any sense. You know it, I know, DC doesn’t care.
8. Deodato Thor
Oh hey, it’s Deodato again! This time with a revision to Thor’s costume that literally had no explanation. For the past couple of issues, Thor had been fighting shirtless. Then, during a crossover, for about half the issues he had this new outfit, for half he didn’t. It was never explained. About two months later, he died fighting Onslaught. Good lord, this outfit was ugly. Belly shirt, giant chains, thigh and wrist straps, capsules on the chest, head condom. The whole thing was a mess of 90s era ugly.
7. Angel Punisher
Oh boy, was this one ever a bad decision. The Punisher was always a no-powers guy. He shoots mobsters, that’s his thing. Occasionally he gets involved in crazy world saving shenanigans, but his usual stuff is just street level. Then Marvel decided to let a couple of writers go nuts, and this is what we end up with. Old Franky boy commits suicide out of grief and frustration, at which point he’s brought back to life by angels as a demon hunter. He gets glowing red eyes, a forehead tattoo, and absolutely hilariously bad demon-killing guns. Even veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson couldn’t save this from being crap. Thankfully this is now gone and forgotten.
6. Slutty Invisible Woman
I’m struggling to remember why the Marvel head honchos decided to make the Invisible Woman an outfit that looked like her toddler son had taken scissors to it. If I recall correctly â€” and I could be wrong â€” she absorbed the evil side of herself that was sometimes perverted into a being called Malice, and in doing so slightly embraced her dark (read kinky) side. So, her outfit changed to having a 4 cutout on the cleavage, a belly window, and showing off an immense amount of skin. I’m not quite sure why outfitting a prominent female character (and mother) in stripper attire was seen as a good move, but it was the 90s.
Ah, yes, Az-bats. Batman had his spine snapped, and Azrael took over, slowly converting the Batman costume into a panoply of spikes and angles, with bright colors, and unnecessary pouches. Instantly, the least child-safe batman toy of all time. At least this wasn’t Bruce Wayne behind it, but rather an increasingly violent and unstable associate, but the outfit just screamed EXTREME 90s! Power armor! Pouches! Spikes! You could roll him down the street, and pick up loose garbage. Good thing it wasn’t long before the real Batman kicked him to the curb.
Oh man, this one was truly ugly. Rather than keeping the classic, helmeted magician Dr. Fate, DC wanted to go EXTREME with the character. Dr. Fate was powered by three objects: a mystical ankh, helmet, and cloak. Fate was a grave robber, who gained the artifacts, and was attacked. The ankh exploded, giving him an EXTREME eye tattoo, injury forced him to use the cloak as an arm wrap, and he melted the helmet down into daggers and ankh shaped throwing darts. Damnit, 90s goths, why did you have to embrace the ankh so much, so it ends up being used for something as daft as this? You have all the other hallmarks of 90s revivals here too, unnecessary pouches, shoulder pads, a streak of discolored hair, a single glowing eye, and a permanent grimace.
3. Uncle Sam/Patriot
This one is especially weird. No one really likes Uncle Sam as a character, which I can understand. He’s just, well, Uncle Sam with superpowers. Wears stars and stripes outfit, beard, tophat and all, and goes around punching badguys. He’s The Spirit of America, tapping into the entire country, and is always used to give rousing speeches during crossover events. In other words, he’s Captain America light. His design remained unchanged since the 1940s, until the 90s hit. Oh good lord, did they do a number on him. The Spirit of America joined with 13 people from all walks of life around America, called himself Patriot, and becomes reborn in this monstrosity of an outfit. Sure, the stars and stripes suit was unsubtle, but this thing? A golden flying eagle helmet? Glowing light for a face? Giant shoulderpads? Spiked gauntlets? A giant gold chain as a weapon? What the fuck is any of that?
2. Heroes Reborn Cap
Oh god, fucking Robert Liefeld. Fuck everything about that. Captain America’s new costume is a hideous growth of tumors, that defies all logic and sense of perspective. Poor guy.
1. Electric Superman
Probably the worst decision ever was overhauling Superman’s iconic duds. Not a minor retouch, but completely redoing them, into this weird zappy…thing. Superman started getting energy powers, and had to wear a special containment suit. Eventually he could turn back to a human, but lost all powers in doing so. Then he split into two, with two different personalities, both of which thought they were the original. Cerebral blue and emotional red. Eventually they recombined to face some vague cosmic threat, and got back in the proper Superman body. The whole thing was completely nonsensical, and was only done to try and garner up more book sales, without any regard for the character himself. And if there’s anything more typical of a 90s redesign than that, I don’t know what it is.