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The Avengers: Evolution of the Costume

This May’s Captain America: Civil War won’t technically be an Avengers film, but it sure looks like it’s going to feature the majority of superheroes related to the Avengers saga. Thor and Hulk will reportedly be absent, but most of the rest are on board. And as usual, most of the characters will be showcasing at least somewhat-altered uniforms.

This is something Marvel Studios likes to do, both to stay fresh and to appeal to comic book lovers. The truth is the major Avengers characters have gone through so many different costumes and images in decades’ worth of comics that it’s pretty easy for the studio to slightly reimagine the visuals from one film to the next. For instance, more than a full year before the new film’s release, Screencrush posted an early glimpse at Iron Man’s “new armor” with some debate about whether it might be Mark XLVI, XLVII, or CCVII. Basically, there are a ton of options.

With that in mind, I wanted to take some time before the release of Civil War to look back at the more popular characters in the Avengers universe and identify their best looks.

Captain America


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Captain America has an interesting outfit in that a lot of fans view it as equal parts cheesy and iconic. Some versions of the outfit over the years featuring brighter colors, actual little wings on the helmet, and more of a spandex look, and these tend to stray into the cheesy category despite their emphasis on the stars and stripes. The more appealing Cap looks have always been the more rugged ones that make him look more soldier than symbol. There’s actually a pretty clear difference between those two, to the point that the Kabam app Marvel: Contest of Champions even offers a regular Captain America and a WWII version, with the latter being more rugged and soldier-like. The films have played with different looks for Cap, though they’ve largely strayed more toward the soldier look. They frequently dirty up the costume and give it leather straps and the like, as we’ve seen in comics like Aston
ishing Captain America or 2011’s Captain America: First Vengeance.

Iron Man


As stated, there are ton of variations of the Iron Man armor, and the longer you try to analyze the differences between them, the more they seem to blend together. There’s actually quite a bit of variation from one suit to the next. Some are more red than gold, some more gold than red; some are bulkier, and others lighter; and the display of the suit’s (and Tony Stark’s) power source is often slightly different. Frankly, choosing a best Iron Man suit is purely a method of personal preference. I’m actually partial to a model that was never worn in the comics: Model 34 (originally identified as 35 and actually used in Playdom’s Marvel: Avengers Alliance game). It’s just a nice, metallic look that’s not over-embellished and strikes a nice red/gold balance. That said, the Mark XLVI suit being used for Civil War is pretty tough to beat as well, and appears to be one of the sleekest Iron Man looks yet.

War Machine


For anyone who likes heavy arms, the War Machine suit—essentially a variation on Iron Man’s armor, but worn frequently by Tony Stark’s sidekick hero—is the coolest outfit in Marvel. Typically depicted in silver, grey, or charcoal, it’s like an Iron Man suit with guns mounted all over it, and occasionally red lights coming from the eye slits or even the tips of the guns. It’s hard to pin down specific versions of the War Machine armor from the comics that have translated exactly to film, but perhaps the most consistent look is that of the JRXL-1000 armor, first built by Stark to thwart the Masters of Silence in the comics. A version similar to this was used in Iron Man 2, and it actually appears on the homepage of Gala Bingo. The site uses imagery from various pieces of popular fiction to enhance various gaming experiences for players, and it opts for the JRXL-1000 image from the film for its War Machine in an Iron Man 2 game. Ulti
mately, it’s the prevailing War Machine look for a reason: this suit is an awesome black-and-silver mini-tank.



Falcon is an emerging character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he’s been pretty dramatically reimagined for the sake of film. Basically just a really good soldier, he’s actually given wings by Black Panther in the comics, ultimately leading to subsequent redesigns and upgrades. In the films, he’s sort of just abruptly armored with mechanical wings that act more like a jet pack than anything else. Frankly the film version is actually easier to buy, and the straightforward, expandable dark metal wings work well alongside the dirtier, more war-like Captain America image. Among comic versions, however, it’s hard not to appreciate the translucent quality of the “Hard Light Harness” version of the wings created by Black Panther. In this version of the suit, Falcon has equipment that captures light and fashions it into holographic but functional wings. It’s a cool concept, plus they actually look like a falcon’s wings catching the sunlight.



Comic fans can debate Spider-Man costumes for days on end, which is probably why there was such a sensation recently over our first glimpse of the costume for the MCU’s first take on Spider-Man. As with Iron Man though, most of the variations blend together the more you look at them, despite real differences. Suffice it to say the classic blue-and-red Spidey suit that first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 is a winner.

That does it for most of the major Avengers we’ll be seeing in Civil War who have been presented with significant costume variation over the years. There are a lot of great images to look back on, though for the most part the modern films’ twists on these images have been among the best versions.


All Images Courtesy of