Over the decades many characters major and minor have had their costumes or general looks "tweaked," that is, a particular artist or the editorial powers have made a slight change in the way the character is presented visually without making a big deal about it and usually without any in story reason.

For example in the early 90s Todd McFarlane began drawing Spider-Man's costume with far more intricate web patterns (so intricate that when he was drawn from a distance the webbing on the costume was usually left off because it would be too small to render) and made the eyes on the mask HUGE, covering most of his face. As far as I know, it was never explained that Peter Parker changed his costume.

Another even more subtle change was that when John Byrne revamped Superman, He made the "S" insignia much larger on his chest and the blue was made a shade darker. It was a small enough change that the general public probably didn't even notice it.

What made me think of this was looking at some of the art for Captain America: Reborn. Cap had an unannounced, unexplained alteration in his uniform around 9/11 when someone got the bright idea to draw the heretofore subtle chain mail of his shirt as scale mail (a completely different type of mail, by the way).


I hate this look. It looks clunky, uncomfortable as hell and impractical. How would you like to have metal plating in you friggin' armpits while in battle?

Still I do like some of them. I really like the alterations in the Flash costume that mimicked the look of the short lived TV series.

Also, I kinda like bug-eyed Spidey.

Which tweaks work for you? Which don't?

Again, I'm not talking drastic changes or in-story changes like, say, Iron Man upgrading his armor or Thor being reborn with new togs.

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I think the Red Tornado has been the beneficiary of a good costume tweak. I prefer his red and yellow costume to his original red and purple (yech!) but I'll admit that it had an excess of stripes at first. In more recent years, they've kept the coloring, the logo and the arrow on his forehead but have done away with the stripes up and down his limbs.
This kind of tweaking is one of the things that always bugged me 'way back when. It took me a long time to figure out that most of the minor changes resulted from different artists' renditions. A different artist might (1) overlook small details in a character's costume; or (2) deliberately make small adjustments that he felt were more æsthetically appealing. Case in point, after the costumes of the three charter members of the Legion of Super-Heroes settled into their standard versions, John Forte, Jim Mooney, George Papp, and Curt Swan always drew Lightning Lad with a sort of cummerbund under his belt. Yet, other artists, such as Win Mortimer, omitted the extra decoration.

I haven't thought about this topic all the way through, yet, Rich, but there was one example of tweaking that has stuck with me for decades. Besides previous posts of my own, I've only seen one other reference to it. And it fits into a category of what I believe is outside influence---probably the editor's---rather than simple artistic honing and tweaking.

I am in the minority of fans who preferred the original costume worn by the adult Robin of Earth-Two. But almost no-one seems to have noticed that between the two issues of JLA---# 55 and 56 (Aug. and Sep., 1967)---presenting the grown-up "Boy" Wonder's debut, artist Mike Sekowsky was already tinkering with his outfit.

In JLA # 55, the Robin of Earth-Two was presented to DC's Silver-Age fandom wearing this costume:


Note that his chest insignia does not have the red circle underlay. Nor does he wear trunks. Instead, the bottom of his shirt flairs out under his utility belt, reminiscent of the jerkin he wore as the Boy Wonder.

Most curious are the lines drawn around his biceps. These lines were drawn on his costume throughout JLA # 55.

Most peculiar of all, the adult Robin's costume in the story does not match the one he wears on the cover of JLA # 55, as seen here:


This costume, with the red-circle version of his chest emblem, the blue-black Batman-style trunks, and no biceps lines---the one conventionally considered the grown-up Robin's first outfit---did not appear in the story until the second half of the two-parter, in JLA # 56.

There was no in-story reference to the minor changes. They were simply there. But the question has always been---why did artist Mike Sekowsky make the changes?

I don't know. As I said, I've only once come across anyone else noticing these small differences, and I've never seen anyone connected with DC at the time address it. But I have a hunch that the tweaking between issues wasn't Mike Sekowsky's idea.

The inclusion of the Robin of Earth-Two in that JLA/JSA team-up was a way that DC could have its cake and eat it, too. Though it was winding down by this point, the country, and DC, was still caught up in "Batmania", which had led to the Batman hogging most of the action, and all of the covers, for the past several issues of JLA. Yet, die-hard Justice League fans were complaining loudly about the Caped Crusader's monopolisation of the title. Omitting the Batman from that year's JLA/JLA team-up, yet giving an adult Robin a featured place was a not-so-sneaky trick. JLA editor Julius Schwartz could claim to the title's fans that he was responding to their wishes and leaving Batman out of the story. Yet, at the same time, he could play to the Bat-fans, who wanted all-Batman all the time.

My hunch is this: when Sekowsky got the script for the first half, JLA # 55, he designed a costume for the adult Robin to be far more evocative of the young Boy Wonder's outfit. Hence, the jerkin-like cut of his shirt and the simple "R" laid over the batwings for his insignia. And those peculiar lines around the costume's biceps? I suspect that Sekowsky was channelling the boy Robin's costume even more by intending that the adult Robin's costume was also short-sleeved. The lines on the biceps demarked where the shirt's sleeves stopped, and his arms should have been bare down to the gloves.

However---more suspicions here---when the art for JLA # 55 got to Schwartz's desk, he was unhappy with Sekowsky's design. It was probably too late to alter Sekowsky's art for issue # 55, but for the second half, issue # 56, Julie ordered Sekowsky to make the adult Robin costume more "Batman-like"---thus, the addition of the red circle around the chest insignia, removing the jerkin resemblence from the shirt, and adding the blue-black trunks. One thing that Julie could do was instruct the colourist to ignore the idea of short sleeves and colour the adult Robin's arms grey, making the shirt appear long-sleeved. (Sid Greene had already inked the lines around the biceps, indicating short sleeves, so Schwartz couldn't do anything about that.)

Now, if my supposition is anywhere near accurate, the one thing I cannot explain with any kind of facility is how Schwartz's version of the adult Robin costume wound up on the first cover. As I understand it, usually the covers were drawn first. I can only guess that there was time for Sekowsky to go back and make Schwartz's design changes to the cover of # 55. That would be enough, Julie probably figured, to draw the Bat-fans to the comic.
If it's a coloring issue -- and those sleeves are pretty compelling evidence -- how do we know for sure that the jerkin was even supposed to be gray in the first place? The jerkin over tights design would look a lot more appealing (and distinct) if they were two different colors. As it is, the places where the tunic meets the tights run the risk of looking like unfortunate fatty deposits. Contrasting colors would make the design much more clear.
Rob Staeger said:
If it's a coloring issue -- and those sleeves are pretty compelling evidence -- how do we know for sure that the jerkin was even supposed to be gray in the first place? The jerkin over tights design would look a lot more appealing (and distinct) if they were two different colors. As it is, the places where the tunic meets the tights run the risk of looking like unfortunate fatty deposits. Contrasting colors would make the design much more clear.

I agree. The jerkin should have colored, per the limitations of coloring in the day, the same dark blue that Batman's trunks were.

Also, I would definitely say he was originally to have short sleeves as well.
Rich Lane said:
Rob Staeger said:
If it's a coloring issue -- and those sleeves are pretty compelling evidence -- how do we know for sure that the jerkin was even supposed to be gray in the first place? The jerkin over tights design would look a lot more appealing (and distinct) if they were two different colors. As it is, the places where the tunic meets the tights run the risk of looking like unfortunate fatty deposits. Contrasting colors would make the design much more clear.

I agree. The jerkin should have colored, per the limitations of coloring in the day, the same dark blue that Batman's trunks were.

Also, I would definitely say he was originally to have short sleeves as well.

I THINK THAT both you and Rob are on to something about the intended colouration of the adult Robin's tunic. That had never occurred to me before, but it makes heap big sense.

Now that I have had a chance to think upon it, I don't think it's even too wild to advance the notion that Sekowsky's vision for the costume included colouring the adult Robin's jerkin crimson. It would offset the simple yellow "R" in his original design for Robin's insignia, and it wouldn't look all that bad against grey tights.

The problem there, though, is that it would have been 'way too much of a clash with the Batman parts of the costume. The modified one---for simplicity's sake, I'll call it the "Schwartz version"---with the blue-black trunks comes across as a Batman costume with some minor modifications to reflect Robin.

But, if one presupposes that the pre-modified version was supposed to have a red jerkin with short-sleeves, it's too jarring. It would have looked like there had been a power failure in the Batcave when Dick Grayson was getting dressed for his first JSA meeting, and he accidentally put on parts of both his and Batman's costume in the dark.

As long as we're doing all this supposing, I imagine it's possible that Sekowsky's notion of the costume had a lot more Robin in it than Batman. Perhaps he also intended for the tights to be yellow and the boots and gauntlets to be green. Essentially, an adult version of the Boy Wonder's costume, with some minor modifications---the scalloped cape and gloves, the bat-silhouette domino mask, the bat-wings added to the insignia, and the pointed-top boots---in homage to his senior partner.

If that was what Sekowsky had in mind, then, fundamentally, his version of the costume wouldn't have looked all that much different from the version that was given to the Robin of Earth-Two later on. And I can also, easily, envision Julius Schwartz nixing the whole thing, ordering design changes and issuing instructions to the colourist to make the adult Robin look a whole lot more like His Nibs, the Batman.
No mention yet of Iron Man? Between in-story improvements to the armor, along with various artistic interpretations, the Golden Avenger's suit may have had more tweaks than any other. Check out Tales of Suspense and The Avengers from 1964-65 following the switch to the red and gold armor for a whole lot of variations depending if Heck, Kirby, Ditko or Ayers was drawing him. I always liked the version depicting the face plate as being seperate from the helmet. And the rivets running vertically up the face was always a nice, industrial looking touch. Then there was that pesky antenna that would come and go.
doc photo said:
No mention yet of Iron Man? Between in-story improvements to the armor, along with various artistic interpretations, the Golden Avenger's suit may have had more tweaks than any other. Check out Tales of Suspense and The Avengers from 1964-65 following the switch to the red and gold armor for a whole lot of variations depending if Heck, Kirby, Ditko or Ayers was drawing him. I always liked the version depicting the face plate as being seperate from the helmet. And the rivets running vertically up the face was always a nice, industrial looking touch. Then there was that pesky antenna that would come and go.

And then the nose that appeared for an issue or two...

I love the clean classic 70's red and gold look, but skin-tight isn't so practical in a metal suit and if it was real, he wouldn't be able to move his arms around the shoulders much.

The modern look epitomised in the movie is more like a 'real' iron suit.

But with a relentless 'futurist' like Tony Stark, its great that his costume is always evolving. Constant improvement is part of his whole schtick
"And then the nose that appeared for an issue or two . . . ."


ACTUALLY, THE NOSE had a decent run. Tony Stark added it to his armour in Iron Man # 68 (Jun., 1974)---and it stayed until Iron Man # 85 (Apr., 1976).
Commander Benson said:
"And then the nose that appeared for an issue or two . . . ."


ACTUALLY, THE NOSE had a decent run. Tony Stark added it to his armour in Iron Man # 68 (Jun., 1974)---and it stayed until Iron Man # 85 (Apr., 1976).

That long? This is where I'd photobucket the dropped jaw picture, if I knew how to do such things. You can have too much of a good thing! Looks like I haven't read too many mid-seventies Iron Man comics then. I think I've only seen it in a handful of Avengers stories.
Power Girl has had some interesting tweaks to her look in recent years - mostly initiated by Amanda Conner, I think.

Adding "ribbing" to her costume both looks good and (according to a full-figured female blogger who commented on this) like something that would be practical and comfortable for a full-figured superhero to wear.

Conner added a few tweaks in the new PG series that don't quite work for me. Her boots now have these curious side-buckles and platform heels, and there's a visible zipper on her gloves. Also, the gold cape-epaulette thing on her shoulder is bigger and now attached by what looks like a metal band instead of a rope.

Though I dunno, now that I look closer, the tweaks all have something in common* - they're designed to look like something a real person could plausibly wear, with an obvious way to put them on or take them off.


* - Except for the cape bits, but capes in general, and PG's cape in particular, are hard to justify on any sort of practical level.
By the way, what is 'ribbing'?

Mark

I'm not sure that's exactly the right term, but you can see it here:


Her costume has "ribs" as distinguished from being a plain leotard-type outfit.
Mark S. Ogilvie said:
Does add some definition to the outfit. As I recall in the recent JSA stories where Karen crossover to the new Earth-2 her counterpart was wearing a slightly different costume.
Mark

Yeah, I believe she was basically wearing her original "Earth-2" costume, or a variant thereof. There were a couple variants of THAT costume, incidentally, primarily when the "chest window" was eliminated due to then-new publisher Jenette Kahn's disapproval. It's not a great look for her.

In All-Star Comics #69, she gets injured and hospitalized (an injury which rips her costume, too). It's not explicitly stated, but she apparently changes into a new or spare costume with a "scoop neck" instead of the "chest window."

Incidentally, there's a funny bit in #68... oh, heck, I'll scan it....

Here it is, the only time Power Girl has ever been drawn flat-chested:

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