While their DC rivals struggle, Marvel’s live-action offerings have gone from strength to strength. But in the course of adapting their comic book properties to film, Marvel have made some pretty big changes to their classic characters. Some were undoubtedly for the best, while others have risked losing the magic that made those characters so beloved in the first place. Either way, it’s interesting to see what was altered in the transition to the silver screen.
After Ryan Reynolds’ first outing as Deadpool, fans had a right to be worried. While Deadpool technically appears in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the fast-talking antihero is practically unrecognizable. Not only is he covered in tattoos, he’s got the powers of other mutants—well-known ones, too, including the X-Men’s leader, Cyclops—and, most egregiously, his mouth is sewn shut, robbing fans of the character’s trademark wisecracks.
Fans didn’t like the changes. Neither did Ryan Reynolds. That’s why, when Deadpool returned to the big screen in 2016 for his own feature film, Reynolds and director Tim Miller played everything by the (comic) book. The result is, quite possibly, the all-time most faithful reproduction of a comics costume in a movie. The team even went so far as to film two versions of each scene—one with Reynolds wearing the mask, and one without—to create Deadpool’s blank white eyes, which, even as part of a mask, change according to his mood.
Aside from a few outliers (we’re looking at you, Hawkeye), Marvel Studios has been pretty good about bringing its biggest characters’ outfits to the screen. Iron Man, which kicked off the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008, gave fans both a faithful version of Iron Man’s power armor and a pitch-perfect Tony Stark in the form of Robert Downey Jr. Captain America may not have wings sticking out of his helmet, but otherwise, his World War II battle get-up is remarkably close to Jack Kirby’s original design. And the Hulk, well, he’s big and green and wears purple pants. What else do you want?
Add Doctor Strange to that list. The costume Benedict Cumberbatch wears feels almost identical to Steve Ditko’s original drawing—and it took a lot of work to make it that way. In a conversation with Slashfilm, Doctor Strange costume designer Alexandra Byrn emphasized the hardships involved in “getting the spirit” of Strange’s costume right, even if some of the small details—the size of Strange’s collar, or the gold accents on his cloak—aren’t quite the same. “You’re picking things and balancing them,” Byrn says. “You’re mixing ideas so that it’s true to the story of the comic as well as the story of the film.”
A departure from the glitzy, planet-saving exploits of the Avengers, Netflix’s Daredevil series kept to gritty, street-level heroics. Naturally, producers were nervous about undermining this realistic approach with red spandex, and Daredevil spent most of the first season fighting crime in cargo pants. A glimpse of his costume at the end of the season revealed some major changes from the comics. Daredevil’s famous double Ds were gone, and the vivid red color scheme had been toned down to maroon. Most notably, the traditional skintight superhero costume was ditched in favor of reinforced leather, giving the character a more armored look than his comics counterpart.
That last change actually ended up causing some problems. While it may look tough, there’s a reason you rarely see Olympic athletes compete in leather pants. Spandex gives the wearer a much wider range of motion, making it easier to backflip off a gargoyle and kick a ninja in the face. As a result, a slightly redesigned costume was introduced in season two, which kept most of the new look while making it easier to move around. As Daredevil actor Charlie Cox told IGN, “there were some things that didn’t work quite as well, just in terms of maneuverability and comfort…So the lower portion of the suit is slightly baggier, and we go back to the old combat boots as well, which make it easier for me and my stunt double to jump and kick and do all the things you need to do as Daredevil.”
Luke Cage never adopted the skintight getup popular with other superheroes, but his traditional outfit was still pretty goofy, featuring a silver headband and a yellow blouse open to the waist. While that look undoubtedly killed at Studio 54, it didn’t outlast the ’70s. By 1992 it was considered so cringeworthy that Luke was depicted tearing it in pieces on the cover of his own comic. However, it does get a fun shout-out in the TV series, which sees Luke grab a yellow shirt to wear while still sporting the metallic headpiece and cuffs from the experiment that gave him superpowers.
While most comics artists simply update Luke’s original costume into a yellow T-shirt, the Netflix series prefers darker clothes. Luke also wears a lot of hoodies, which wasn’t simply an aesthetic choice. Star Mike Colter told MTV News that the dark hoodie was “symbolic because of Trayvon Martin. We talked about that specifically, what that would mean to people and the feelings it would evoke in viewers. Irregardless of the entertainment value, what this show says politically resonates profoundly.”
Although the “Guardians of the Galaxy” name has been around since the ’60s, they were never a major part of the Marvel Universe, and the version of the team that inspired the movie actually only debuted in 2008. Since fans weren’t particularly attached to such an obscure property, director James Gunn was able to make some pretty big changes to the characters. In the comics, Star-Lord (real name Peter Quill) is an established hero who assembles the Guardians as a kind of galactic police force. They even have spiffy uniforms and a base on the giant severed head Knowhere (home to the Collector in the movie).
Of course, the movie version of Star-Lord is more of a criminal than a cop, which required a drastic costume redesign. The uniform and logo were ditched for a roguish leather jacket and T-shirt combo. The classic helmet was scaled back to a faceplate, giving the character a less militaristic look. And the bullet-spraying Kree machine guns were switched for some PG-13 blasters. After the movie became a hit, the new outfit was largely imported to the comics, even though it makes less sense for an experienced soldier like the comic book version of Star-Lord.
Thanos has made a big impact in the MCU, despite standing up for less than 30 seconds so far. This love of sitting ominously is very true to the comics, where the character’s inventively named Space Throne can teleport and travel between dimensions (but doesn’t have cool hovering space armrests). Comics Thanos does seem more active than his movie counterpart, who can be heard whining about having to collect the Infinity Stones himself during his post-credits appearance in Age of Ultron. Compare that to the comic book Thanos, who was once spotted whizzing around New York in a personalized helicopter, pushing over children.
Thanos’s costume has been updated to give him a more armored look, replacing the skintight space spandex beloved by comics artists everywhere. The blue-and-gold color scheme remains, but is somewhat muted, and the helmet is now a separate piece instead of being connected to the neck plate. The character’s traditional purple complexion actually did make an appearance in The Avengers, but was replaced with a milder blue by Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps he just needs to work on his tan.
Perhaps no Marvel character has changed quite so drastically as Groot over the years. While he remains a tree creature from space, the current Groot bears little resemblance to his original characterization as a gigantic monster with a tendency to scream out his evil plans for all to hear. This won him no respect at all—in his first appearance, he was defeated when some random guy doused him with termites. He was eventually retconned as a hero who could only speak the words “I am Groot,” which was a substantial improvement over his original dialogue.
However, the comic version of Groot retained a fairly sinister appearance and an obviously keen intelligence. For the movie, the character was redesigned to emphasize his kindness and innocence. His snarling mouth was abandoned and he was given human-like eyes instead of the glowing orbs he boasted in the comics. As a result, it’s hard to imagine anyone being scared of movie Groot, while his comics counterpart is still sometimes a terrifying space monster.