Batman & Robin (1997)
The Batman suit is a design classic: black, shiny, threatening. But you know what automatically makes something less threatening? Nipples. Nonetheless, there they are, all embossed and tweakable, like the dials on a Bang & Olufsen hi-fi. Amazingly, George Clooney managed to walk away from this with his dignity intact. His equally perky sidekick Chris O’Donnell wasn’t so lucky.
Captain America (1990)
Captain America was a dubious creation from the get-go – originally designed as a symbol of resistance to Nazi tyranny, his blond hair, bulging manliness and unashamedly patriotic worldview ironically make him a fascist’s wet dream. It doesn’t help that his costume – whether in the original comics, the shonky 1990 movie version or the shiny 2011 reboot – is basically just a big American flag. Suffice it to say, the Captain isn’t hugely popular outside the 50 states.
Before the days of ‘proper’ superhero movies, genre fans had two choices: Christopher Reeve’s peerless Superman, or rubber-faced pratfall merchant Michael Crawford dressed as one of those plastic-and-polythene gliders you used to get in the newsagents for 10p. ‘Condorman’ was Britain’s first stab at superheroism (unless you count James Bond), and seems to have scared us off the idea permanently.
The Phantom (1996)
How best to convince ordinary folks that the mysterious Phantom – a crimefighting crusader whose identity is passed down from father to son – is both unstoppable and immortal? Why, dress him like the bastard lovechild of a panda and an aubergine, of course! We’re not sure if it’s the purple lycra, the punch-in-the-face eye mask or simply the fact that beefcake nearly-man Billy Zane is wearing it, but there’s something horribly amiss here.
The Green Lantern (2010)
We need a really striking visual, something nobody’s seen before. I know, how about we take the costume Billy Zane wore in ‘The Phantom’ (see previous entry), and… I dunno… turn it green! Yeah, that’ll do! So instead of a giant aubergine, Ryan Reynolds parades through the galaxy dressed as, well, a giant courgette – albeit one with creepy external musculature and a sideways TIE-fighter emblazoned on his chest.
Bring out the gimp! Yes, the dividing line between superhero costumes and bondage gear has always been a fine one, but Ben Affleck pushed it to the limit with this plum-coloured figure-hugger with optional horny-devil head gear. Still, he must have been doing something right, because similarly leathered-up co-star Jennifer Garner became Mrs Affleck shortly afterwards. Wonder if they kept the costumes?
Superzan (1971)/Superman (1987)
One of the hallmarks of a great character is that he’s exportable, hence these loopy foreign-language takes on the Man of Steel. Superzan is of course Clark Kent’s non-union Mexican equivalent, and his gold lame ensemble is quite natty – we’re just not sure why he feels the need to top it off with a black felt tie. Meanwhile Shekhar – the Indian Superman – gets the kiss-curl hairstyle spot-on, but even though his cotton long-sleever looks kinda comfy, we’re not sure it’s all that heroic.
The Crow (1994)
It’s every teenage goth’s fantasy: to stroll into a room full of burly, villainous thugs (just like the ones at high school!) and have them quaking in their boots. Sadly, it takes more than a spot of slap, some black lip gloss and a pair of skin-tight leather kecks to trouble the criminal fraternity in this day and age.
Japanese madman Takashi Miike’s take on the manga superhero genre is one of the most brain-scramblingly berserk films ever made, so it’s not surprising that the costumes are similarly unusual. It’s hard to believe that wearing a giant floppy cap would really aid much in the fighting of crime, but as we’ve never driven a friendly robot dog, battled a giant squid or crawled out of a villain’s brain, we’ll defer to Takashi on this one.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Is Mario a superhero? It’s right there in the title, surely! Okay, so there are a few marks against him – he’s a plumber, he’s bald, he’s got a ’70s porn ’tache, he dresses in a giant romper suit and a bright red flat cap that screams ‘Yorkshire disco chic’. But we’re willing to overlook all that because hey, he’s Bob bloody ’Oskins.
The snappy seersucker super-suit worn by Henry Cavill in ‘Man of Steel’ got us thinking about hero costumes. Sure, some of them are truly iconic, from Spidey’s eye-scorching primary colours to Batman’s shut-up-I’m-brooding black leather ensemble. But other masked avengers just don’t have the same instinctive feel for fashion. Here are the ten daftest, cheapest, most deeply embarrassing superhero outfits.
Read our review of 'Man of Steel'
It’s no surprise that ‘Man of Steel’ feels both modern and traditional – a halfway house between the broodier Nolan way of shaking things up and the louder, bone-crunching style that director Zack Snyder established with films such as ‘300’ and ‘Sucker Punch’. This is a film that is punchy, engaging and fun, even if it slips into a final 45 minutes of explosions and fights during which reason starts to vanish and the science gets muddy.