Wardrobe Malfunction

15 cases of really bad film and TV superhero costumes

Thor in The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988)

The sap in the suit: Eric Kramer

Joss Whedon’s The Avengers won’t be the first time Thor and The Hulk have shared live-action screen time together. Marvel’s Scandinavian hammer-tosser (strangely he’s never represented Norway at the Olympics) turned up in this Hulk TV movie, though he wasn’t looking his best. The costume designer seems to have got the concept of “Norse God” mixed up with “camp viking”. At times it looks like he’s permed his armpit hair.

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Daredevil in The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk (1989)

The sap in the suit: Rex Smith

Not satisfied with cocking up Thor, the Hulk TV movie team next gave us a Daredevil who was a shadow of his comics counterpart. Almost literally. Instead of the iconic red costume, this Daredevil is given a black leotard, and a cowl that screamed, “I’m blind! I’m blind!” just in case we didn’t get it… Must be the cheapest costume in this list, more what you'd expect from a cash-strapped ninja assassin.

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Hawkman in Smallville (2010)

The sap in the suit: Michael Shanks

30 years on from Flash Gordon and one of Vultan’s boot boys finally finds another job. Stargate SG-1 ’s Michael Shanks bravely tries to carry off the stiff, clunky wings, but he still looks barely one step up from an angel in a nativity play. Note to TV producers – you need a lot of CG to make winged superheroes look convincing, so best avoid, eh?

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The Green Lantern (and others) in Justice League Of America (1997)

The saps in the suits: Matthew Settle (Green Lantern), Kenny Johnston (The Flash), Michelle Hurd (Fire) and other offenders

Misconceived would be a kind way to describe this TV effort. Dross would be a more accurate way. About the only good thing you can say about this pilot was that it failed, sparing us the full series. It appeared to be an attempt to turn DC’s premier superteam into a comedy drama. At least we think it was supposed to be funny, because there was little to laugh at, except the costumes (which, to be honest, were one of its lesser crimes). The Green Lantern becomes the Turquoise Lantern, the female characters get the "buy my new high impact work-out DVD" look, while The Flash and The Atom’s costumes appeared to have been designed using a Fuzzy Felt set.

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The Karkus in Doctor Who, “The Mind Robber” (1968)

The sap in the suit: Christopher Robbie

The Doctor encounters The Karkus in a land of fiction, where fictional caharcters come to life, so somewhere in the Whoniverse there’s presumably a comic hero called The Karkus. You have to admit, that’s a pretty odd name for a superhero, especially in the ’60s – was he bitten by a radioactive dead cow? The costume design, however, was way ahead of its time – it brings to mind the sculptured “muscle” look favoured by Joel Schumacher in his Batman movies. So kudos to Doctor Who for not going for the clichéd leotard look. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing the costume has going for it. The poor actor looks like he’s wearing a fancy dress Mr Universe suit and a gimp mask.

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The Phantom in The Phantom (1996)

The sap in the suit: Billy Zane

Sorry, but he looks like he should be performing outside The Louvre, pretending to be walking against an imaginary gale or escaping from a non-existent glass cell.

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Batman in Batman (1943)

The sap in the suit: Lewis Wilson

Okay, we should take into account when this was made, but honestly, screen’s first Batman must have disappointed even the kids going to watch him at the Saturday morning serials in the ’40s. Saggy pants, a Simon Cowell waistline, wobbly ears and a cape that looks like it's been used to line the dog basket. Not that the years necessarily improved Bat-clobber, as the next example proves…

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Batman & Robin in Batman And Robin (1997)

The saps in the suits: George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell

Bat nipples. Need we say more?

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Nearly Everyone* in Legends Of The Superheroes (1979)

*But not Batman and Robin

The saps in the suits: Garret Craig (Captain Marvel), Howard Murphy (Green Lantern), Barbara Joyce (The Huntress), Bill Nuckols (Hawkman), Rod Haase (The Flash), Danuta Rylko Soderman (Black Canary)

Produced by cheapo ’toon creators extraordinaire Hanna-Barbera, Legends Of The Superheroes were two TV specials… using the word “special” in the loosest possible sense. They were variety/comedy shows complete with laugh tracks, which took the spirit of the ’60s TV Batman (and its two stars, Burt Ward and Adam West) and pushed it to light entertainment extremes. So maybe we should give the ghastly collection of Dayglo costumes some leeway, but honestly, to say the group publicity photo looks like the a bunch of hopefuls at a sci-fi convention Cosplay competition is an insult to Cosplayers everywhere. Even really rubbish cosplayers.

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Captain America in Captain America (1979)

The sap in the suit: Reb Brown

Welcome to Captain America reimagined as Evel Kneivel. Even that thing that looks like a see-through version of his shield in the picture on the right is, in fact, the windshield on his bike. Admittedly, things do get better (costume-wise) through this dire TV movie. At first Cap is dressed in red, white and blue bike leathers. He does eventually don a more recognisable Cap suit, but it’s still rubbish. It looks like his nan made it for him.

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Nearly Everyone in Generation X (1996)

The saps in the suits: Heather McComb (Jubilee), Agustin Rodriguez (Skin), Bumper Robinson (Mondo), Suzanne Davis (Buff)

It’s difficult to believe that this failed TV movies was made in the mid ’90s when the hair and the costumes seem to reflect the height of ’80s power dressing. In fact, the superteens only actually get into their over-the-top fighting togs at the very end of the pilot, at which point they look they’re ready to enter a team at the local roller-derby or preform I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper at karaoke. Once again, you’re thankful it never went to a series, but not as thankful as the actors who had to wear this gear.

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Steel in Steel (1997)

The sap in the suit: Shaquille O’Neal

Advertising standards should have been called in. At no point does ex-basketball player O’Neal look like he’s encased in steel. If the show had been called Silver-Painted Plastic And Foam Rubber , that would have been okay.

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The Adjuster in Sanctuary (2009/10)

The sap in the suit: Chris Gauthier

Hmmm… The Adjuster in Sanctuary is supposed to be a crap superhero, so you might think it’s pointless to pick holes in the costume. On the other hand, the costume is actually a sentient skin, which bonds with its wearer, has a psychic link to them and gives them superpowers. When it bonds with Sanctuary team member Kate, it gives her a dead sexy costume. So why, when it bonds with Walter, does it make him look like a complete knob? Surely, as a comics fan, he would create a costume that made him look cool? Not like a hang man on a cycling holiday.

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Exo-Man in Exo-Man (1977)

The sap in the suit: David Ackroyd

Another failed pilot. Maybe if these shows got better costume designers they'd actually make it to a series. Exo-Man was actually made in the ’70s, despite the fact he looks exactly like a robot from a ’30s or ’40s Buck Rogers cinema serial. And we’d like to see where the guy hides that suit when he’s in his civvies…

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Magneto in X-Men, X2, X-Men The Last Stand

The bonce in the bucket: Ian McKellen

Okay, this will probably be an unpopular choice (which is why we’ve kept it till last) but honestly, as much as you may love the Bryan Singer X -Movies, didn’t you think that Magneto in his helmet looked like a bloke with an ill-fitting plastic bucket on his head? The films certainly did a lot to revolutionise screen superhero costumes, and bring to an end the tyranny of latex and leotards, but couldn’t someone have convinced the costume designers come up with some more bad-ass-looking head wear? The one in X-Men: First Class is much more like it!

Oh and on the next page, added by request (thanks CaroleGordon on our Twitter feed )…

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Pants Man In The Apprentice (2010)

The sap in the suit: Noorul Choudhury

When the teams on UK’s The Apprentice had to try to create a sell a breakfast cereal, one team decided that their answer to Tony Tiger was Pants Man, under the impression that a superhero who literally did wear his Y-fronts on the outside was somehow cool. Nope. Just pants. No wonder we had a global economic meltdown if that’s the best the current crop of young business types can come up with.

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