by Aaron Einhorn
When Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 arrives in September, the new web-slinger of the Ultimate Universe will be sporting some pretty spiffy new duds. (And with any luck, I’ll be sporting them myself this October). With that in mind, we decided to take a look at several costumes worn by Spider-Man (or at least A Spider-Man) throughout the years.
This list isn’t necessarily in order of “the best” or even “the most recognizable.” It is, instead, an entirely arbitrary ranking of how much I dig them.
This is the one that started it all. Essentially unchanged since the Lee/Ditko era, this is Spider-Man. Unmistakable. Iconic. Simple, and yet possibly one of the most complicated costumes out there to draw properly, this costume has been the model that has set the scene for all of the others. No matter how different they are in detail, every costume worn by anyone who has called themselves Spider-Man draws from this one. And it’s easy to see why.
There’s just something about the eyes of the costume, and the blue/red pattern with the overlaid webbing that just feels right. There’s a reason this costume ranked high years ago when Wizard analyzed the most iconic costumes in comics, and why other than the texture, Sam Raimi and company used it for his Spider-Man films. Even with the differences we see in the costume being worn by Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, it is clearly based mostly on this look.
Every artist who has come to work on Spidey has made slight differences to the costume, from the shape of the spider on the chest and back, to the expressiveness of the eyes, to the amount of webbing contained in the armpits. But Ditko’s creation is a classic, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.
2) The Black Suit/Alien Costume
I blame the introduction of this costume for a lot of things I hated about Spider-Man in the nineties. (I hate symbiotes. I really and truly do.) But that doesn’t change anything about the fact that this design is just cool.
It is sleek. It is sexy. And Peter Parker works it.
This costume is one of the first times we had a major costume change for a character in the comics that actually stuck. Costumes evolved through the years, but rarely did they radically change. Or if they did, they normally came with a name change – or a radical shift in the tone of the book. (I’m thinking of the “graduation uniforms” that the X-Men had, or the many identities of Henry Pym). But despite the fact that Spidey went back to the red-and-blues, this is a costume that almost anyone can recognize as Spider-Man, even to this day when the costume is better known for being worn by Venom.
The brilliance of this costume was how it kept the silhouette of Spidey the same, even as it changed things. In the shadows (which is where it was meant to be used), the silhouette of Spidey barely changed. It’s radically different, but still keeps the feel of the classic costume. Absolutely a winner in every sense of the word.
Fun fact: The costume for Spider-Woman II (Julia Carpenter) was not based on Spidey’s costume. Instead, Carpenter’s costume came first and was then translated over to the web-head.
3) The Scarlet Spider
Now, there is a lot to be said against the Clone Saga. From the basic concept, through the execution, not to even contemplate the retcons that were a part of the saga, Marvel really dropped the ball here – and drove away a lot of Spider-Man fans (including me, at the time). Did we know if Peter Parker or Ben Reilly was the “real” Spider-Man? Nope. But we also didn’t care.
None of that, however, takes away from the cool factor of the Scarlet Spider costume. Oh, sure, it’s basically a set of red tights and a hoodie. But it’s a great set of red tights and a hoodie.
The Scarlet Spider costume (and name) did a great job of keeping Peter and Ben around, both active, at the same time. It was clearly evocative of the Spider-Man costume, it showed the more limited resources available to Ben, but it also had a great individual look and feel.
There’s a reason – and a good one – why the Scarlet Spider costume is one of the most common Spider-Man variants you’ll see being done as cosplay. Not only is it comparatively simpler to make than the traditional costume, but it’s just a great look. The biggest regret I’ve always had about the way the clone saga played out is that we don’t have anyone running around in this costume any more. Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d change that.
4) Tony Stark’s Iron-Spider
Technically, this costume never was called that. But the name stuck with the fans, and that’s what I’m going to refer to it as. This was one of the more radical redesigns for Spidey, and it’s one that fans quickly grew to appreciate. With the four additional “limbs”, it gave Spidey a tie back to the arachnid from where he draws his name, and the high-tech elements of the suit give it a strong utility factor that none of the other suits – except the alien costume – have ever approached.
This isn’t to say that the suit was devoid of problems, of course. The costume was introduced during the prelude to Civil War – and just as importantly, leading up to One More Day. The costume also clearly was a symbol for Peter’s alliance to either Tony Stark or to Captain America, and as such, it was never going to be allowed to stick around.
Honestly, I’m unsure whether or not the costume even can be a part of continuity any longer, with the reality re-writing that One More Day used.
But it was a very neat costume, that while clearly different than the standard uniform, reflected the past nicely, even as it showed the influence of its maker – Tony Stark (in the red and gold coloring if nothing else).
I was glad to see it stick around on the clones of Michael Van Patrick in The Initiative, and I still hope to see it come back some day.
5) Ultimate Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
The costume that provide the impetus for this column, Miles’ suit lands right in the middle of the list. This shouldn’t be seen as a criticism of the costume, especially considering the four entries which beat it out. So, let’s take a look at the design.
Miles’ costume keeps the traditional shape of the eyes – something that has persisted in almost every incarnation of Spider-Man’s costume. The web pattern from the classic red-and-blues is mostly there, although drawn in red, rather than black. Conversely, the base of the suit is black, giving a nice call-out to the alien costume, while still giving Miles a nice individual look of his own.
The larger spider-design that comes to a “v” point keeps the silhouette provided by the red/blue contrast on the classic suit, even though it eliminates the secondary coloring.
All in all, it’s a really solid redesign of Spidey’s costume, and it’s one I’m looking forward to seeing more of. We don’t know if it will have any special features beyond being a costume (considering that Miles has the same kind of limited resources that Peter originally had, I’m doubting it), but it’s a good costume.
6) Future Foundation Uniform
When Johnny Storm died and the remaining members of the Fantastic Four formed the Future Foundation, Reed received a video will from Johnny, asking that Peter be given his spot on the team. This happened (putting Spidey in to almost as many books per month as Wolverine), and as a part of joining the new team, Reed gave Spidey a new uniform – one that fit the theme of the other members of the Future Foundation, while keeping Spidey’s distinctive look.
This is a costume that had to grow on me. I like that it has the appearance-altering properties that let Peter have just one costume, regardless of where he is. And I like that it stands in marked contrast to the most iconic of Spidey’s variant costumes, the alien suit.
There’s a nice simultaneous simplicity and complexity to this one that harkens back nicely to the classic costume. The lines are clean, even as it works in the hexagon pattern seen elsewhere in the Future Foundation uniforms.
The only thing that keeps me from being more fond of this costume is, honestly, the fact that I know it will be short-lived. As cool as the Future Foundation idea is, we all know that Johnny Storm will be back and the Fantastic Four will retake their name and traditional look before the next Fantastic Four film hits multiplexes. And as much as I like this costume, unlike the Iron Spider uniform, I can’t see this one moving on to another character once Peter discards it.
7) Spider-Man 2099
One thing that Spider-Man 2099 had going for it was that this Spidey – Miguel O’Hara – had absolutely no connection to Peter Parker, of either the 616 or the Ultimate stripe. Coming from roughly a hundred years down the timestream from Peter, Miguel’s powers and costume had very little to do with the webhead from Queens – even if they theoretically came from trying to recreate Peter Parker’s powers.
And it showed, honestly. Aside from wall-crawling, enhanced speed and agility, Miguel’s Spider-Man didn’t even share that many powers with Peter Parker. And as such, there’s a reason that the Spider-Man 2099 costume is a rather radical departure from the classic costume, right down to lacking the signature eye-lenses and silhouette.
The silhouette of the costume is also significantly different. Other than a few accessories, the other costumes on this list all keep the same basic outline of Ditko’s basic design. With the spines on the forearms and the web-foil “cape”, O’Hara’s costume changes the basic shape of the costume.
Despite this, it’s still a very cool costume, and one that is instantly recognizable as being “A Spider-Man,” even to casual fans – although they may not be able to identify where it comes from. Spider-Man 2099 has recently taken a new prominence as a featured part of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and the upcoming Spider-Man: Edge of Time . Spider-Man 2099 is fairly well represented at conventions as a costume, and one that usually draws great fan reaction.
8) Spider-Man Noir
Another costume that has recently regained prominence thanks to Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, the Noir costume is one of the more radical departures on this list, all the more so because it belongs to Peter Parker – sort of.
Ok, more precisely, it belongs to Peter Parker, but not our Peter Parker. And where the Peter Parquah of the 1602 continuity still ended up in a red-and-blue outfit, as did the Mangaverse and Indian Spider-Men, the Spider-Man of the Noir world kept that basic theme.
He isn’t wearing a costume so much as he’s wearing a disguise. The trench-coat and hat are ubiquitous in the world of Noir. The jacket and goggles are easily modified versions of what anyone in that world can find, and the mask is a roughly-sewn project, with the “webs” coming from rough stitching on the part of Peter.
It’s a striking suit, and a great departure from the traditional. It is also another Spidey variant that is becoming increasingly popular as a costume option at conventions – probably because it doesn’t require extensive spandex-sewing skills, or the expense of a custom dye-sub suit with specially made lenses. With the recent popularity surge this costume experienced thanks to Shattered Dimensions, expect to see more of this costume from Marvel.
9) Ben Reilly’s Spider-Man
Despite being way closer to the classic suit, you’ll notice that I rank this costume way below the other costume Ben Reilly wore. Why is that? Well, partially because of that very fact.
The Scarlet Spider costume was a great alternate costume to the Spider-Man identity. It allowed both Ben Reilly and Peter Parker to exist simultaneously. And that was awesome. It really showed us a difference between the two characters, and didn’t force Spider-Man fans to have to choose Peter over Ben.
When Ben took over the Spider-Man name, fans felt… betrayed. Twenty years of continuity and we’ve been following a clone? Not so much.
Beyond that, the costume simply wasn’t that different. It’s not just reflective of the classic design, its derivative. It doesn’t give us the impression of another character wearing the uniform, or appearing as a costume that Peter wore for a reason. It’s a redesign for the sake of a redesign. If they wanted to have Ben take over, then let him take back the original costume as well.
That said, it’s not a bad costume. And it worked really well when they put it on May “Mayday” Parker as Spider-Girl. But it didn’t work for me, just because it was different, but not different enough to matter.
10) The Bombastic Bag-Man
There are a number of costumes that vied for this slot, ranging from the “basketball” suit that Andrew Garfield will be wearing in The Amazing Spider-Man, to the home-made wrestling costume Toby Maguire wore in Spider-Man, to the original armored suit created by Peter Parker, to the six-armed Spidey and Man-Spider incarnations Peter suffered through, to all of the outfits worn by the Slingers, to the costume from the short-lived Spider-Man Unlimited, to the green and black “Stealth” suit. So why did I go with this one?
Simple. It was the one of the first alternate costumes for Peter, and it’s just plain fun.
This “alternate costume” originated when Peter found himself without anything to wear after ridding himself of the symbiote. Johnny Storm, ever there for his pal, gave Peter an old Fantastic Four uniform, sans boots, and with a bag to wear over Peter’s head. It also had a “kick me” sign attached to the bag.
Funny enough, Marvel seems to have a fondness for this outfit as well, as it has returned several times for brief appearances, and was featured as an alternate costume in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions.
So, there you have. Ten outfits suitable for a web-slinger to wear. Each one had a lot going for it, in its own way. Which one is the best? That’s for you to decide, although my ranking is right here.
Spidey’s had a lot of costumes over the years. Which ones are your favorites? Which versions of the costume deserved to be singled out here? Sound off in the comments!