*...from, for instance, the fine folks at Project:Rooftop (including Your Humble Editor his own damn self). Watch me say mean things about Deadshot and a turtle!
You would think - given all the high-hattin' haberdashery hubbub and sneering sartorial sideswipes - that DC Comics had never undertaken some unpopular redesigns of their characters before, BUT OH HOW WRONG YOU'D BE! It wasn't so long ago - you know, a couple of decades really, but in the geological terms taking into account the overall age of the Earth, more like "mere seconds" - that DC updated its characters for the tumultuous Nineties. Strap down your mullets, let's take a quick look at Who's Horribly Dressed in the DC Universe...
I'm not even sure where this costume appeared, if it appeared anywhere, but thank goodness they got rid of Black Lightning's ridiculous afro ... in favor of a hightop fade. "Whew", you suspect the editorial team was saying to themselves, "At least THIS hairstyle won't seem catastrophically out of date in a few years!" And then to make it extra-relevant to the youngsters, they've got Lightning throwing the horns. "OZZZZYYY! *bzzzzt!*"
THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN
I don't know anything about Tim Sale as a person or whether he's a decent guy or gives blood to orphans (sometimes they come collecting it door-to-door, all in mason jars stacked in a little red wagon), but I do really want to sit down with some fans of his some day and ask what the heck the big deal's supposed to be? This guy keeps getting big, fancy graphic novels and high-profile color-themed prestige format series (and THAT'S not getting old!), and ... why? It looks like he inks with a sausage. Did you see that cover he drew for the debut issue of the otherwise excellent Solo series? Pencils got erasers, Tim.
Anyway, the Challengers were given a new look to get themselves into the updated, edgy and more serious Nineties, and I think we're all on the same page these days that when we say a comic is "more serious", we mean it's "exceptionally more ridiculous than it's ever been before." Big guns, a sort of haunted "produces porn movies in the basement" look for Prof, a buzzcut and at least one character started off the series dead. Maybe. I recall about zero percent of this, so let's pretend they all opened an ice cream stand and this is a joke card they sent out for Christmas...
ELEMENT WOMAN (Girl, whatever)
Element Woman gets her own giant-sized Who's Who page and THIS is the image they choose? Poor girl, this must have been like getting your senior yearbook photo on the first day of your period and also you had a pube between your front teeth.
Allegedly, the Element Woman story from Sandman was written because several other DC authors had "misused" Neil Gaiman's character Death in some of their comics. Rather than considering the possibility that he had opened himself to misinterpretation by neglecting to craft any coherent sense of the character's motivation, her personality (beyond "babbling nitwit") and the scope of her powers and authority, Gaiman decided to pen this single issue vignette to set the record straight - and then used Death in a vague throwaway which didn't answer any questions at all and trod less ground than they'd trod with the character earlier.
Besides, Neil Gaiman had used Element Woman as the focus of the story only because it was a character he could off without anyone's panties getting in a bunch. Somehow, when other authors line up Z-List cannon fodder, they get pilloried. When Gaiman does it? Oh the magic of storytelling and the stories of dreams and dreams are the greatest stories ... blech. I liked her better when she was up on Metamorpho's jock, because Bob Haney is GOLDEN.
FIRESTORM, THE NUKULAR MAN
Honestly, when considering the unsightly carnival of spilled condiments and a grease fire which constituted Firestorm's original costume, this is hardly worse. However, the part of Firestorm's costume that everyone hates on ... okay, excepting the puffy sleeves ... is the fiery head. How does the fiery head work? Where's his brain? Does it crackle and pop while it burns? Why is it dumb? Who is the dumb guy who made it? So many questions.
So Firestorm 2.0 not only gets a BIGGER fiery head ... like, the Jim Henson Studio and a fly-gang of sixteen and every spandexed metal band of the Eighties amount of fiery head ... but he also gets colorful little accents on his wrists and his feet. Just above his TOES on his feet. And a collar. His wallet is probably on fire too, and his car keys. I bet he comes home and the DVD player and his family photo albums are all made of fire. This guy cannot get ENOUGH of the FIRE!
THE WANDERERS (They wander 'round 'round 'round 'round ...)
The Wanderers were some sort of ancillary super-team which operated in the 30th century alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes, and were given a makeover because before this they were all just wearing clothes and we all know how stupid wearing clothes is. It doesn't help that they've posed them like an intergalactic frat party, but then again I'm not sure what would help. Maybe amnesia, so I don't have to remember having ever seen these outfits.
Okay, look past the Adam Hughes art for a moment - I know it's difficult, inasmuch as there as two pretty significant impediments in your path - but look at this and answer a question for me: From what country does Beatriz "Fire" DaCosta originate? That's right: Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation. She's the Secretary of the Interior, as a matter of fact!
Probably what sticks out for me most in this costume (think clean thoughts, chums) is that belt. I had three girlfriends in high school who wore that belt, and one who had that hair. None of them burst into flames, but I could nominate at least two of them I'd like to see that happen to oh ho, ho ho ...
AH HOLY JESUS WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
MY CHANGELING, MY CHANGELING, WON'T YOU PLAY WITH MY CHANGELING?
Nice animullet, champ.
BRAINIAC ON THE FLOOR
In the late Eighties, they went out of their way to revamp Superman and all of his Rogues Gallery, backstory, etc etc and so on. I think they even changed the combination on his bike lock.
One of the things they did with Superman was to address the issue of his power level - deciding that a Superman who could juggle mountains, eat fire and shit ice from the git-go* was a turn-off for new, modern-day readers (and then deciding a couple years later that new, modern-day readers would prefer it if Superman could smash planets flat between his toes), they dropped Superman's power level down to an admirable near-nil.
Then, for some reason, they also dropped his enemies' power levels down to near nil. And made them fat. And balding. Also Luthor had cancer. And I suspect Brainiac never had anything approaching a formal education, and he dressed in what appears to be the kind of pajamas they give out in the terminal ward of a childrens hospital.
IF YOU'RE GOING TO WEAKEN SUPERMAN, WHY WEAKEN HIS ENEMIES TOO? I'm pretty sure I could have taken out Brainiac with a box full of donuts and patience enough for high cholesterol to claim his life.
Possibly the funniest part of Brainiac's new costume is how it has the silhouette of a skinnier man on it. Way to rub it in, comics guys!
*I will send you a copy of Youngblood #1 if you can place this reference as it applies to Superman. Hell, I'll draw the cast of Youngblood for you on the inside cover ...
It's hard to argue that DC - and superhero comics in general - don't have some real anger issues towards women, but usually the argument focuses on how Power Girl's costume is too revealing and reduces the character to a sex object and not about how DC's 90's-era answer to this criticism was to put Power Girl in a gathered turtleneck and give her a pet cat. Next up: Power Girl starts a blog about her knitting projects and gets real defensive whenever anyone in her comments section claims that it's dumb to be thirty and still a virgin. And she has to wax her mustache. (Notice that it still accentuates her tits, though - no dummies, the comic book guys!)
THORN TO BE WILD
The 1970's (Rose and ) Thorn wasn't winning any fashion awards with her original costume, which included a miniskirt trimmed with green briars, but then she comes back in the modern Nineties tricked out like a hooker and shoving poison needles into dudes' faces. Hey, do you know what turn of phrase I end up using a lot when talking about character design in the Nineties? "Turned out like a hooker." Now guess why.
It's amazing to imagine that Spider-Dick here was an improvement on an existing costume, but you know what?