Note: The mid-90s crossover epic Age of Apocalypse was a unique highpoint in a rough couple of years for Marvel heroes, and amongst those redesigns was one for the classic X-Man Sunfire. Teased months before, this design (reportedly by Chris Bachalo) showed the hero burning up his original outfit in favor of a whit-hot, grungy rendition of the Human Torch. This illustration, by Salvador Larroca, really shows off the unique nature of the costume and the fun it could be for artists to illustrate him. – Chris A.
Note: For being the namesake of the House of Ideas, the the classic Mahr Vehl — Captain Marvel — never quite had a costume that lived up to his potential. In 2005, artist Steve McNiven re-envisioned the costume for the miniseries Ultimate Secret that played up his militaristic Kree roots with the green of Vehl’s original costume along with some more Power Cosmic-esque touches. Although this Ultimate version of the character never quite got his chance to shine (yet), the design is something memorable and unique.. – Chris A.
Note: Did you know that before Frank Quitely re-envisioned the X-Men for his run on New X-Men with Grant Morrison another artist got a chance but was turned down? That’s right, Alex Ross was asked by Marvel to come up with his take on the X-Men in 2000. Although Ross’ designs where never used, Wizard Magazine published them soon after. We’re spotlighting that magazine spread and a few additional pieces from the project to remind people what could have been. Quitely’s designs were perfect for the time, but imagine an alternate world where Ross’ designs took the center stage. – Chris A.
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Note: Alternate realities have proven to be a welcome sight in comic book history, and in the late 90s Marvel Comics went alt-reality crazy with a number of jaunts to slightly twisted worlds in various one-shots, miniseries and even ongoing. Today we wanted to focus on Marvel’s Timeslip, a series of pin-ups in Marvel Vision that allowed creators to re-imagine one of the publishers classic characters. Some of the results were forgettable and some even atrocious, but these three below stand the test of time: John Paul Leon’s Doctor Doom, Tommy Lee Edwards’ Black Panther and Matthew Dow Smith’s Captain Britain. – Chris A.
Doctor Doom by John Paul Leon
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Note: Comics companies are always re-inventing their character’s looks to keep with the ever-changing times, but back in 1998 DC Comics took that to the nth degree by re-imagining their entire universe into the 853rd Century. Titled DC One Million, it was a crossover storyline dreamt up by Grant Morrison and Val Semeiks (with a host of other creators involved) that reinterpreted the classic costumes of the core heroes in the Justice League all the way to characters like the Legionnaires, Lobo, Hitman and even Resurrection Man. While not all of the designs were home runs (or even base hits), flipping through this imaginative arc shows you just how creative comics can be while still staying true to the superheroes we love. Take a look at this great pin-up by Phil Jimenez, and go looking for more in back issue bins, bookstore shelves and online! - Chris A.
Note: Yesterday’s jaunt back to the Days of Future Past reminded me of a more recent alt-reality adventure, Marvel’s Age of X. Artist Clay Mann really made a name for himself with these designs, getting the rare opportunity to redesign virtually every major X-Men (and even a few minor ones). Check out these pin-ups below, then head over to CBR for their exclusive art showing Mann’s character designs. Personally, I think his Thunderbird and Dazzler are my favorites. – Chris A.
Design & Art by Mann
Character designs by Mann, art by Olivier Coipel
Character designs by Mann, art by Leinil Yu
Note: Some of the best designs in comics were one-off creations for an alternate reality story, and one of the best (in my own opinion) was the X-Force seen in the 1992 X-Force Annual #1. The designs for Shatterstar, a merged Power Pack heroine called Powerpax and a mature Magik by Greg Capullo were inspired. The other X-Force redesigns aren’t anything to talk about, but these three still stick in my mind. See my thoughts below. – Chris A.
When he was introduced, Shatterstar was little more than a teen version of Longshot and his costume by Rob Liefeld had a lot to complain about. This redesign by Capullo reconciles Liefeld’s ideas into a more cohesive design, and adds a more swashbuckling aspect to it. I like the loose top with the tight pants, and the armored headgear, shoulderpad and gauntlets work better than the previous leather ones.
Going by the name Darkchild in this continuity, Illyana Rasputin seems more level-headed and mature than her 616-counterpart, and this design brings in her armored elements with a nod to her brother’s metal visage is a good thing. The buccaneer gloves and boots might need to be reigned in a bit, but overall it’s memorable and functional.
SCarrying the mantle of Power Pack, this heroine Powerpax is a hereto-unknown new character called Francine Powers carrying the powers of the entire Power Pack team. The story’s too short to get into this unique amalgamation, but the design is solid.
Note: While most fans point to Batman: The Animated Series as the high point of the Dark Knight’s cartoon adventures, I’d put my money on the sequel series The New Batman Adventures which came out two years later. Connected in both continuity and in the principal creators involved, The New Batman Adventures showed Gotham’s finest growing up and expanding its scope. Original character designer and producer Bruce Timm joined forces with art director Glen Murakami to revise the characters for this sequel series, and improved on the already excellent formula . – Chris A.
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Note: Although he’s gone on to define himself for non-superheroics in the Marvel Oz books, artist Skottie Young is still a powerhouse costume designer and his early work on the Spider-Man: Legend of the Spider-Clan series proves that. Take a look at these three covers sporting his redesigns of Spider-Man, Daredevil and the Black Cat. – Chris A.
Edited To Add: P:R Regular Kris Anka points out that Kaare Andrews had a hand in this, which is true. Although Kaare only wrote this below series, he did a one-shot previously which defined the manga Spider-Man design. For the Legend of the Spider-Clan series he revised Andrews’ design and reworked classic Spidey castmembers into the mold as well. – Chris A.