In mainstream comics, superhero characters get sexy make-overs on a rather regular basis. It's not rocket science, really, as the majority of the target audience for these books is young men, and often young men of the, shall we say, lonelier variety. Some of these looks cross the line of good taste and vanish after a brief while, and yet some of these racy revamps stick around for the long haul. Here are ten of the most notable, for good and ill:
#10. Namor, the Sub-Mariner
Usually when we think of something or someone becoming more sexy, we tend to think "less is always more." And that usually is true...except when it isn't. Case in point: Marvel Comics' Namor the Sub-Mariner, ruler of Atlantis as well as Marvel's first mutant hero. Namor has been sporting a pretty sexy costume in the form of a little green speedo since he was first created way back in 1939. He's been showing his lean, hot body off to everyone and anyone who ever wanted to take a look and either lust after him, or simply be jealous of him.
So what's sexier than almost naked? How about some head-to-toe black leather? (or possibly vinyl; it's not like we readers are privy to just what materials are being used here.) The black costume, with a big opening down the center so he can still show off that chest and those glorious Atlantean abs, has it so Namor is now ready for whatever underwater version of a kinky S&M leather fair Atlantis has to offer. This costume was introduced way back in 1973, a year or so before his comic was cancelled, and was therefore not around too long in its original inception.Nevertheless, in more recent years the black leather-daddy-of-the-seas costume has been making a comeback, and he has been wearing a variation of that look in issues of Uncanny X-Men. While this look may cover his body up more, the black leather has certain connotations in our culture that make this an even sexier costume than his usual pair of little green trunks.
The X-Men sure have a thing for super sexy telepaths. There's Jean Grey, Emma Frost, and of course Betsy Braddock, better known as Psylocke. There is probably no main X-Men character who has had as much of a radical "sexified" transformation as Betsy, and none whose have have lasted as long as her transformation has. Usually when a sexy makeover happens in mainstream comics, before too long the look reverts to its original version. But not this time.
When originally introduced way back in the late '70s, Betsy was the cute model/pilot, with blonde hair and perky attitude. (only in comics, folks.) As Captain Britain's twin sister, she was a major supporting player in his comic, until her creator Chris Claremont transferred her over to the X-Men in the mid '80s. She had purple hair now, but she was still as cute and bubbly as before, and wore a pink costume. She was a typical female hero in the era of Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony.
By 1989 though, comics had begun to take their darker turn, Psylocke was kidnapped by the Japanese ninja cadre known as The Hand, and not only was she turned into a psychic version of Daredevil's Elektra, but her ethnicity was literally changed from Caucasian to Asian. Now, instead of bubbly, she was cold; instead of a flowy pink blouse as a costume, she was in a skin tight ninja outfit, only one that managed to show plenty of skin and all kinds of ass. The former good girl would even try to seduce the then-saintly Scott Summers away from his soon to be wife, Jean Grey. Suddenly the character who never quite fit into the team and was seen as a cheap Jean Grey substitute was more popular than ever. And she's stayed a top-tier character in the X-Men franchise ever since; like it or not, the sexy upgrade had to play a part in that.
You might read this entry and be thinking "isn't Wonder Woman sexy enough in her original look??" True, she's been fighting evil in not much more than a bathing suit for the better part of 70 years. But truth be told, despite the fact that she's never been a character afraid to show a lot of skin, for most of her career she's never been portrayed as showing skin just for titillation's sake. She is simply from a culture where there is no body shame. There are almost no instances where the character's lack of clothes has ever really been played up as overtly sexual in nature. Being in constant bondage during the Golden Age of comics, that was sexual, but her costume...not so much, even when Lynda Carter wore it on television back in the '70s. Somehow, she made being half dressed look almost wholesome.
Except back in 1994, when Diana traded in her Wonder Woman namesake, costume and magic lasso to fellow amazon Artemis. This was the height of the over-played "famous hero goes away or is incapacitated, and new unknown character takes their place" thing that was going in comics at the time, most famously with Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. So Wonder Woman was now simply going by Diana, and for some reason decided that for her new look she should embrace her bad girl side. Who knew she even had one?
Diana now sported a pair of black biker shorts, a leather jacket, and a black leather bra. All the elements that made her Wonder Woman costume famous were pretty much gone, and there really wasn't a story reason as to why she would embrace this biker/stripper/Hell's Angels groupie look. She even lost her traditionally flowing wavy locks, and had a straight, more severe hair cut. This look lasted less than a year, thank Hera, and Diana was back as Wonder Woman in no time, and this particular fashion disaster never appeared again.
The second underwater Atlantean monarch on this list is maybe the most famous; Arthur Curry, better known as Aquaman, who just might be more famous than Namor due to how much he's been ridiculed in popular culture the past thirty odd years due to his cheesy portrayal in the old Super Friends cartoons. For most of his seventy year career, Aquaman has sported an orange shirt with little gills on (or chainmail, in more modern versions) and tight green pants.
Back in the early '90s, though, back when just about everyone was getting their bad-ass makeovers, Aquaman got one that actually stuck around for awhile. He grew his hair long (which, underwater, had to get all over his face as he swam and had to be really annoying), he grew a beard, and he lost the orange top and went shirtless, except for a metal shoulder thingy that extended along his arm. In effect, he now looked like most of the men that appeared on the covers of bad drugstore romance novels looked, holding a woman in their arms with some violent waves crashing against some rocks. Cheesy as it may seem now, remember the '90s was the era when women thought that Fabio was actually attractive. Admittedly, during this era Aquaman lost his hand and had a hook for an arm, which isn't quite so sexy...but ya never know, some people are into that weird amputee stuff. Someone out there thought it was hot.
Aquaman held onto his '90s makeover look much, much longer than any of his contemporaries, as sales on his comic were actually decent during this period. Eventually though, he reverted to his cropped, short hair and his orange shirt,lost the beard, and he miraculously got his hand back about a decade later. The "New 52" look Aquaman's costume, which is currently being featured in his own comic, is even more retro than than ever, although he holds onto a lot of his 90's edge, at least in terms of character. But long gone are the flowing locks, the smoldering stares, and those visible pecs and abs. And while I abhor the notion of a '90s revival in comics, if King Arthur wanted to go back to some of those attributes, I know I won't complain.
#6. Saturn Girl (and other female Legion of Super-Heroes members)
During the 1960s, the Legion of Super-Heroes were the very picture of wholesome, post-war America, only set about a thousand years in the future. The female members of the team all looked like members of the Mickey Mouse Club, and for the most part their costumes were modest, and reflected the country's attitudes of how proper young women were supposed to look. Even as the sixties rolled along and actually got more swinging, the Legion members kept their early outfits. But eventually, the sexual revolution caught up with them, and in the early seventies, artist Dave Cockrum decided to give the ladies of the team a sexed-up makeover. Many of these lovely ladies of the future would soon start learning to fight crime wearing not much more than strings, held together by spit and a promise.
Psychic member and team founder Saturn Girl went from being covered from head to toe to wearing not much more than a pink bikini with thigh high leggings. Team member Shadow Lass started sporting a black bra and black panties as a costume (hey, at least she still had a cape.) And Princess Projectra had half her breasts exposed and a slit in the front exposing her belly button. Artist Dave Cockrum left the Legion after a brief stint as artist, but his costumes remained well into the early 1980's. He eventually designed the All-New X-Men in 1975, and you can see how Storm's classic look is really just a riff on Saturn Girl's bikini.