With the new Sony/Marvel Studios co-produced Spider-Man reboot quickly approaching we are getting dribs and drabs of information about the production. As a director and lead were announced we also heard rumblings of more of a focus on high school life within the film, a John Hughes influence, more comedic elements and the prospect of new Spidey villains never before seen on the big screen.
But in the last couple of days we have be treated to the above; a potentially legitimate piece of concept art for the webslinger’s new costume that may or not have come from an official Twitter account for the Russo Brothers.
The premise of the concept is clearly that director Jon Watts and his creative team wanted to design a costume that a teenager could plausibly have designed and made himself while still remaining recognisable as Marvel’s flagship character.
This was, of course, the thinking in the first Andrew Garfield movie The Amazing Spider-Man which featured a costume adapted by Garfield’s Peter Parker from various pieces of spandex sportswear purchased online. While that costume divided a lot of people and was notably absent for the sequel, I personally neither particularly loved or hated it.
In celebration of this new insight into the appearance of Tom Holland’s wallcrawler, I’d like to take a catwalk down memory lane through Spidey’s 10 best comic book looks (In my ever so humble opinion.)
In the world of comics the person who changes their look the most is definitely Iron Man (and that has certainly extended to the films, with Shellhead proving to be a merchandising cash cow for Marvel Studios, second only to Stark is Spider-Man. Indeed, Spidey has had so many looks that I need to apply some ground rules to narrow them down;
A) No transformations. That includes Spider-Lizards, Spider-Hulks, Man-Spiders or Cosmically Powered Spidey’s.
B) The costume must have a decent reason for being created/worn in the story.
C) It has to be quintessentially Spider-Man in terms of look and feel.
And so without further ado, here are my Top 10:
In 2002 Marvel introduced an alternate Spider-Man that was modelled on the distinct look of Japanese Manga. But the look of the character wasn’t the only thing to get an Eastern makeover.
In this universe Spidey is a member of a ninja clan and has to avenge his slain sensei Uncle Ben. I chose this one primarily because of its similarity to the concept art above including the backpack, Manga-style eyes, exposed skin and so on. It is a unique look and different enough to stand out against previous cinematic Spider-Suits but as Anime/Manga fandom is at its zenith I don’t think it’s a bad idea to capitalise on that fandom and have the look evolve into something more familiar through subsequent films.
9. Secret War
The superlative 2004 graphic novel Secret War by Brian Michael Bendis with sumptuous artwork by Gabrielle Dell’Otto, featured an all-star cast of MU characters including Spidey, Captain America, Wolverine and Daredevil. In the story, Nick Fury gathers a group of superheroes to go on an unsanctioned black ops mission to overthrow a foreign nation that had secretly been funding supervillains.
Though the mission is partially successful its ramifications come back to haunt the team in a big way. All of the heroes on this mission were given a stealth version of their iconic costumes and Spidey was no different. The usual colours are inverted, with tiny eyes and a tiny chest symbol giving the usually garish webslinger a stealthier appearance without losing the recognition value of Spider-Man (not sure about the giant bright blue spider on his back though…) The Webhead has had other stealth suits but the others had an illuminating symbol?!?! So this wins by default.
8. Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly)
The story actually began as a small, concentrated character driven piece; but due to popularity it quickly became a sprawling epic mess. I won’t go into the whole thing… it would take hours, but I’ll try to recap it as simply as possible:
The original Spider-Man and a perfect clone do battle, but one dies in an explosion. The living Wall-Crawler believes himself to be the original and he disposes of the clone’s body. However the clone survives and leaves New York to find a new life for himself. Later returning from obscurity when he learns that the beloved Aunt May could be on her last legs, eventually ‘Ben Reilly’ (a compound of Peter Parker’s uncle’s first name and aunt’s maiden name) takes up his own identity as The Scarlet Spider. This look features a very grungy hoodie (which now seems to be the go-to appendage for lazy illustrators trying to make their characters look badass and contemporary- YEAH, I’M LOOKING AT YOU, “SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE!”) but wasn’t quite the tiresome trope at the time. The suit also features an exposed belt and web-shooters.
The shiny plain latex-like suit and beautifully angular eyes with no black ridge to be seen, as far removed from Spidey’s costume as it was, was still our hero (probably helped that they had the same face.) Yes it screams 90s louder than skinny jeans, skateboarding and Nirvana t-shirts, but I still love it.
7. Future Foundation
During Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four, a member of Marvel’s First Family dies…
Well not really but that’s not the point.
Anyway in the will of the dearly departed (no, I’m not going to spoil it for you, go get the Marvel Unlimited app), Spider-Man is asked to take their place on the team.
In the wake of this death the team undergo a revamp and start running an academy for gifted youngsters (sound familiar?) called The Future Foundation. Now, Spidey is no stranger to being a member of this team (or any other for that matter) or wearing FF inspired togs, but prior to this most of them had just involved slapping a number on his chest.
The Foundation outfits in both variations are very respectful to the FF’s current look and the sci-fi/scientist/astronaut aesthetic that Josh Trank appears to be trying to inject into his recent film.
Even the spider logo is masterfully married to the FF logo and I’m a sucker for monochromatic costumes… as you’ll see later.
6. Spider-Man 2099
In 1992 Marvel launched a new line of comics, taking their characters 100 years, and change, into the future. The most popular of those titles was the cult classic Spider-Man 2099.
Miguel O’Hara, a talented geneticist, is tricked by his corrupt corporate overlords at Alchemax into ingesting an addictive drug called Rapture that bonds with him at a genetic level.
In an effort to cure himself he replaces his entire genetic material with that of some unknown loser called Peter Parker.
The rest is history… Well future history… I mean… You get what I mean.
O’Hara’s futuristic Spidey suit was tricked out with neuro-toxin coated talons and an air foil for gliding. The spider/skull emblem (day of the dead inspired, a neat nod to Miguel’s latin roots) was very edgy and followed a trend of characters in the 90s being characterised by danger, violence, the carrying of huge guns incredibly on-the-nose names that began with ‘death’ or ‘blood’.
This costume is definitelya grower and the large tatty underarm webs are reminiscent of early Steve Ditko art, with a little bit of Todd MacFarlane / Spawn influence thrown in for good measure. The Batman-esque arm blades are also nice touch and the mask sported yet another original take on the eye pieces.
Sadly Miguel’s fashion sense disappeared when he was out of costume…
5. Scarlet Spider (Kaine)
Another Scarlet Spider?!?
Kaine was an evil, failed clone of Peter Parker with a degenerative disease, who hated Ben Reilly even more than Peter Parker for being a perfect clone.
After dying and eventually being resurrected and cured he redeemed himself becoming a hero in Texas and took up Reilly’s old nom de guerre.
I love a good red & black combo and this one calls some obvious parallels to the Sensational costume (oh don’t worry, I’ll be talking about that later) especially the fingers. Personally, I think with a lot of superhero costume designs simplicity is key and that is certainly the case here. The menacing red eyes imply rage and a dangerous mindset, which is highlighted in the tagline for the series, “All of the power, none of the responsibility”.
4. Miles Morales / Ultimate Spider-Man
The Ultimate Marvel Universe was a more modern and slightly more realistic version of the regular Marvel universe.
Miles Morales the second man in that Universe to become Spider-Man was a half Hispanic-half Black high school student whose popularity has sky rocketed since his first appearance in 2011.
Such is his popularity that many diversity hungry fans from a range of backgrounds clamoured for Morales to replace Parker in the new films when it emerged that Marvel Studios would be collaborating with Sony to bring Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Morales’ black outfit version also has some Sensational Spider-Man influence with its lower point on the logo as well the fingers.
The costume is uniquely Miles’ own, ushering in a new era for Spidey… But then black never goes out of fashion.
3. Sensational (Ben Reilly)
Towards the end of the aforementioned Clone Saga, it was revealed that Ben was in fact the true Parker and the Parker that everyone knew to be the original was actually the clone.
Dun Dun Duuunnnnnnnnn
The clone quit the superheroing gig to become a father and Ben reclaimed his heroic legacy, redesigning the old cobwebs into the bargain.
Though he kept the web shooters exposed, he kept a lot of the suit blank, much like his Scarlet costume. I really dug the enlarged logo and the point at the bottom that has been adopted by many costumes since. I was at a very impressionable age when I saw this costume, this is the one I matured with and for that reason alone it has earned a very special place in my heart.
What can I (or anyone) say about this costume that’s not been said before?
Created by Steve Ditko after Jack Kirby’s design was said to be too bulky and muscular, Ditko instead opted for drawing gangly, odd looking characters perfectly beautiful in their uniqueness which lent itself well to the awkward and unsure teenager that Stan Lee wanted for the book’s protagonist.
The design itself went off the beaten track when came it to superheroes. Most heroes had strong lines, a large chest symbol, domino mask and underpants over the top of their trousers. Ditko did away with all those conventions by giving him an inhuman full face mask, not unlike a criminal’s balaclava, and spooky big bug eyes. This highlighted the idea that he was to be feared, he couldn’t be trusted and that he could be anybody under that mask.
While the faint web like lines in the red portions of the suit proved to be laborious and time consuming for generations of artists to come, Ditko when full steam ahead with his giant web design and the understated spider logo is the cherry on the cake of this beautifully classic design.
I think the stylish simplicity of this design is one of the reasons Spidey has remained so popular over the years, why he remains the most merchandisable superhero of all time and why incarnations on page and screen always keep coming back to it.
1. Alien Symbiote Costume
I learned this little nugget of truth quite recently, that Marvel offered $250 to any fan who could design the best new alternate spider-man outfit. The result is one of the coolest redesigns in comic book history…
The costume debuted in the 1980s classic Secret Wars where a god-like being called The Beyonder gathered all the heroes & villains and pitted them against each other.
During a battle Spider-Man’s costume becomes torn and the hero finds a machine that gives him a new one. He later finds out that the suit is actually alive, and trying to permanently bond with him.
For all its ignoble parasitic intentions its sleek and elegant design is beautiful to behold and its new white logo is a graphic design masterpiece. It is so far removed from the originals complex webbing pattern and colour scheme, yet looks unmistakably like Spider-Man.
A simple yet game changing outfit.
This is the first costume that actually became a plot point and created its own storylines, eventually giving birth to fan-favourite villains Venom & Carnage.
I, like most, was very disappointed with Spider-Man 3 for various reasons but one was the lack of fidelity to the look of this costume. Hopefully if we see it again in movies it will treated with a lot more respect.
On another note I think that Marvel got a lot of mileage out of that design and should give that fan a little more money…
Honourable Mentions: Iron Spider, Noir, Superior, Bombastic Bag-Man, Last Stand.
I certainly hoped you’ve enjoyed coming out of Spider-Man’s wardrobe. Disagree with me or think I’ve missed your favourite out? Leave any comments below.