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The Mask of DR STRANGE!

...and Other Costume Blunders

By Chad Derdowski     March 17, 2010
Source: Mania


Comicscape: The Mask of DR STRANGE! (slideshow)
© Mania

In the world of the costumed crimefighter, the clothes really do make the man. Certain characters, like Superman or Batman, are created with such an iconic look that artists rarely feel the need to alter them throughout the years. And even when they do, they’re usually slight improvements. The yellow oval was added to the Bat-symbol for copyright purposes, but it certainly added a splash of color that broke up the monotony. In more recent years, the yellow dissappeared as Batman became less of a daytime adventurer. This too was an improvement, in our opinion. Green Lantern’s costume was perfect from the word “go”, but since Hal Jordan’s return from the great beyond, tiny alterations have made his outfit look a bit more streamlined and less like a bathing suit. We don’t think we even need to mention the improvements that have been made to Robin’s costume over the years.

But what about when things go the other way? Not every alteration is a good one. Adding that weird shoulder belt thingy to Cyclops’ costume seemed like a good idea in the ‘90s, but it didn’t take long before it just looked outdated and silly. Today’s Comicscape takes a look at those little changes that make all the difference. The bad kind of difference. Trivial? Yes. But we at Comicscape wear our geek badge proudly and with head held high. We embrace the negligible details and run with them, making mountains out of molehills. That’s the fanboy way…

 

Dr. Fate’s Ill-Fated Mask

Debuting in 1940’s More Fun Comics #55, Dr. Fate was a master of arcane magic and a classic hero of the Golden Age. With a mysterious past steeped in Egyptian history and a spectacular look, was it any surprise this popular character was made a member of the Justice Society of America? Less than two years after his debut, the good Doctor unveiled a new look in More Fun Comics #72. The full face helmet was exchanged for a half-mask that exposed his jaw and the stories took a turn away from mysticsm and magic toward the superheroic. You could say that the magic was gone and Dr. Fate’s popularity took a nosedive, proving that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing (or a good look). When the character was revived, along with the rest of the JSA, in the 1960’s, the sweet helmet returned and it’s the one we’ve seen in action ever since.

 

Dr. Strange’s Strange New Look

Marvel Comics happens to have their very own doctor who practices the dark arts: Dr. Stephen Strange. And much like the man known as Fate over at their distinguished competition, Marvel’s arcane physician suffered a similar fate. In an attmpt to boost sales in the late 1960’s, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan put Dr. Strange in a skintight variation of his familiar, billowy blouse and gave him a full-face mask. It looked a bit more heroic, but took away all the charm of the character, making him just a face in the crowd: one of a million spandex-clad adventurers. As with Dr. Fate, the death knell was heard tolling in the distance and the book was soon cancelled. Stephen Strange quickly took off the mask, allowing his white-streaked hair and fancy blouse to blow in the wind and has been attracting the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth and a bevy of beautiful babes since doing so. Way to go, Doc.

 

The Spectre’s ‘Stache

The late Jim Corrigan was a hardboiled cop who has acted as an avenging spirit of the afterworld since the early days of costumed heroes. The character has seen his origins and motivations revamped and revised several times over the years but his understated and iconic look has remained relatively the same. But when Jim Corrigan was relieved of his duties, everything went to seed.

Hal Jordan took over briefly as the Spirit of Vengance (altering his mission to one of redemption) and added a mask to the ensemble. Why would an undead spirit feel the need to wear a mask? Was he worried that Deadman or the Phantom Stranger might figure out his secret identity? And if that wasn’t bad enough, when Jordan was brought back to life and returned to his role as Green Lantern, the Spectre decided it needed a new host… and a goatee.

We may never know if Crispus Allen was chosen as the Spectre’s new host because of his sense of justice or his sense of style, but we do know that he looks like a giant, chalky tool. Really? A goatee? On a ghost?

 

The Thing in Those Pants

We’ve spoken of our love and admiration for Benjamin J. Grimm in the past (just last week, in fact) but we can’t always say the same for his wardrobe. Look, Benji… when you’re a big dude made of orange rocks, you either embrace it or you don’t bother getting up in the morning. You worked hard for those rock-hard abs – flaunt them!

In other words, we think The Thing looks sweet in short-shorts, but pants? Boots? Some artists have even depicted him in a weird sleeveless shirt thing. What’s the point? Why would a man with skin tough enough to repel bullets and take punches from the Hulk ever feel the need to wear a shirt? Is it really offering him that much extra protection from the elements? We understand the need to look good (or at least try), but the real kicker was the era when The Thing briefly wore a mask to cover up the scars left when Wolverine slashed him across the face? Really, Ben? Those three thin lines on your already hideously repugnant face really made you that self-conscious that you felt the need to wear a full-face mask?

 

Grizzly Arthur

We’ve tried to keep this list pared down to subtle changes in costume rather than sweeping revamps, but we just can’t ignore the hook n’ beard era of Aquaman. Like our high school yearbooks, we look back on this era of Aquman’s history and simply shrug our shoulders and say “It was the ‘90s”. Unfortunately, we’ve all been able to overcome our fashion faux pas while Arthur Curry hasn’t.

 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 11
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MrGinseng 3/17/2010 6:13:05 AM

Images?  I've not seen some of these "costume blunders," it would be cool to have a visual reference in the article.

thecheckeredman 3/17/2010 6:25:10 AM

I do like Aquaman with a beard though.  Not the grungy long hair and beard and that horrible hook-hand/shoulder armor...err...costume...

I dig the Arthur with the classic o&g, short hair, and the shorter, trimmed up beard.  Very noble, regal...king-like, classic.

 

Butchman 3/17/2010 6:36:11 AM

i would add the addition of a "nose" to Iron Man's helmet as a blunder.

Ozymandas 3/17/2010 9:16:20 AM

Agreed on most points except Aquaman. I think his old look is stuck in the Silver Age.

I don't mind seeing the Thing in boots or pants once in a while but he should always default to the shorts.

Very agreed upon goateed Spectre. I could almost deal with him not being Jim Corrigan if not for that.

__________

Some others:

Superman in anything aside from his traditional pre- & post-Crisis looks.

Kung Fu Wonder Woman's "new look".

Green Lantern's greying temples.

Wally West's new/old Flash costume.

Spider-Man in anything besides the tradiotional red/blue or black outfit.

Thor's current look (the helmet & sleeves really irk me).

Iron Man's old helmet with the nose.

Captain America's "The Captain" look.

Daredevil's armored and red & gray looks.

Invisible Woman's "4" cleavage.

Current Inhumans.

Magneto's robed look & the old outfit with the big "M" on the tunic.

Small artistic change, but Dr. Doom looked like he had a beak when Hitch drew him in FF somewhat recently.

________________________________________________________

Some temporary costume improvements I miss:

Neal Adams' original X-Men costumes.

Dave Cockrum's LSH costumes (mostly; Cosmic Boy, not so much).

Human Torch's red FF costume (maybe not an "improvement" but a nice change of pace).

John Byrne's FF (darker hues).

The old, but still blue & furry, Beast.

Original Nightcrawler.

The Angel's 80's look (red is better but blue works, too).

lister 3/17/2010 9:17:41 AM

Ron Lim and Jim Lee each gave the good Doc the most awsome Porn 'Stache. My fave doc looks! Well, right up there with Ditko, anyway.

Ozymandas 3/17/2010 9:33:33 AM

BTW, I just mentioned this on another thread & I'd be remiss not to mention it here:

mania.com has been scant on articles like this one lately and they are appreciated. Keep 'em coming!

gauleyboy420 3/17/2010 12:04:18 PM

Nice article, fun read, BUT I'd be remiss if I didn't ask why there is no coverage of the first big Comic-Con of the year on Mania? Comics are becoming the re headed step child of this site more and more...

The Emerald City Comic-Con is a great con, the first big con of the year, garnering guest from EIC Didio/Quesada

To legends, Stan Lee

Current superstars, Johns,Brubaker, Rucka, Bendis, Waid...

So why not a mention of the ECCC on mania?

DrNobody2 3/17/2010 12:30:15 PM

I felt the 90's Aquaman was nice since it set him apart from the other founding members of the JLA's look. He was then no longer clean cut and shaven. No other male hero of the big 7 had long hair or a beard at that point, and they all had both hands!! I figure that at least set him apart in look. I also enjoyed his angry "take no crap" attitude which differed from his "happy go-lucky" silver age days. The changes of the 90's just helped to make the character stand out and get attention for a change instead of being "that water guy that's lame" (to most, that is... I still liked his silver age self, but not as much as the newer version). Only thing I didn't like about the look, was the arm enhancement armor thing he had. I enjoyed the new look with his classic green and orange. I think the perfect Aquaman has to at least have the beard and the classic green & orange. The water hand was a nice touch too, since that gets rid of the stigma of "he just talks to fish."

As a side note, where was the electro-Superman's outfit which I did enjoy for the Superman red/blue story line, but was kind of ridiculous in a way, although it did look great on Strange Visitor!!

FerretJohn 3/17/2010 1:46:30 PM

If I remember correctly they retconned the reason behind Fates mask change.  The helmet holds the conciousness of Nabu, a renegade Lord of Order and the source of Fates full power.  Kent Nelson wore the half-helm because he wanted to do the superhero thing without having Nabu take over his body, even though it cut his powers way down.  Eventually though circumstances forced him to embrace the full helm and its powers as well as the baggage that came with it.

I have no problem with Spectres looks.  The Spectre takes on an aspect of what his host looked like while alive.  Hal Jordan was a Lantern, the mask was a significant part of his life, Crispus was a suave black detective with a Sam Jackson goatee, so there you go.

Now if you want fashion fopahs look at the majority of Steve Ditkos work.  The man may have been a legend of comic-book art but let's face it, his costume designs could make a blind man flinch.

cdale78 3/18/2010 11:45:47 AM

If I could pick one costume for a comeback, it'd be Havok from the X-Men's original all black number.  Love that costume.  They always make the toys and statues with that costume too, and they refuse to use it in the comics

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