The real reason Marvel changed how the Avengers looked

Sadly, comic books aren't like real life. (They're so much cooler.) Lifting characters from comic books and bringing them to the big screen is a hugely complicated process, and for Marvel, that meant a redesign of some pretty iconic Avengers characters. Longtime fans will know that they did away with things like Captain America's winged hat and Scarlet Witch's ... well, everything, and they did it for very good reason. In short? Realism. The impact of the Avengers is a lot greater if you think they could very easily show up on the evening news, but getting them from all their brightly-colored comic book glory to living, breathing characters wasn't entirely straightforward.

It was, however, totally worth it.

Hawkeye

Right, so here's an easy one: Hawkeye. If Marvel had kept Clint Barton's original look ... just, no. We're not sure which is worse: the purple-on-purple outfit, or that mask. Marvel was going for a serious feel with the Avengers, after all, and this one just had to go in its entirely. We're glad to see that it did, and honestly, we hope they burned it.

To be fair, though, his comic book costume sort of made sense. Comic Hawkeye was an orphan who said nuts to the orphanage and instead joined the circus, performing hither and thither as Hawkeye until his first run-in with Iron Man. So, we get it. You're in a carnival, and they have to see you from a good, long way away. A bright purple getup will do that, but that's also the exact opposite of what you need to do if you're in a super-skilled, secret, crime-fighting unit. You want to be discreet, and not have people asking who that guy in the pointy purple mask was. (Honestly, if that guy showed up to save us, we'd tell him to move along and we'll take our chances.)

Hawk-eyed viewers (see what we did there?) will notice that in Civil War, Jeremy Renner's sporting some gear that pays homage to his original comic look, but without getting all crazy. The purple's definitely there, but the mask, thankfully, is not. When Renner went on stage at Wizard World Chicago's MCU panel, one optimistic young fan asked if he was going to get to wear a mask. He confirmed that the answer was a resounding "no," and we think it's for the best.

Captain America

To be fair, the original Captain America costume did make it to the big screen, but in probably the only appropriate way possible. Remember that bit in The First Avenger, where Cap tours the country with his song-and-dance routine, trying to get the good public to buy war bonds? His costume's a pretty perfect version of what he wears in the comics, and even with the mask on, you can tell what he really thinks about it. Clearly, he hates life, and not just because he had little wings on his head. Though that certainly played a part.

It's played as something of a goof, at least as goofy as you can get when talking about World War II. However, when it came to getting down to non-war-bond business, Marvel was all that. While they kept the iconic red, white, and blue, they opted for something a little more serious. It makes sense, because no one's taking him seriously if he kept his comics look. Chris Evans was well aware of it, too, telling Empire, "Given the fact that his costume is red, white, and blue, and it's tight, it could be kind of flash and over the top ... they've done a really good job of making it look really cool."

We agree. Cap kept his patriotism, but toned it down a bit for the battlefield. Like some of the other Avengers, Cap has what we imagine as a huge, walk-in closet full of different costumes — in case you were wondering, his favorite is the dark "stealth suit" from Cap 2. Evans liked it so much, he campaigned to keep wearing it, and we agree with him on that, too.

Thor

Thor's on-screen costume stays pretty true to his comic book roots and, this time, we can accept that. He's not just some lowly human, after all — he's an ancient being from another dimension, so powerful that we think he's a god. We accept that he makes some ... questionable fashion choices, so much so, it became part of his origin-on-Earth story. It's impossible to tell just how far ahead they were planning, but take a look at the costumes for Thor: Ragnarok, and it's obvious that the Asgardians are all about their crazy headgear.

When you compare Thor's winged helm to the headgear of Loki, Heimdall, and Hela, he suddenly becomes the most low-key (see what we did there, too? We're on fire) of the lot. But, let's face it: no one looks badass when they're wearing a hat with wings, and we honestly can't explain the comic book world's apparent obsession with that particular look. How did an Earthling like Steve Rogers and an Asgardian like Thor both choose "hat wings" as their fashion statement of choice? Telepathy, maybe.

Thankfully, though, Marvel didn't subject Chris Hemsworth to the constant indignity of a winged helm, and we're pretty sure everyone's grateful for that. According to costume designer Alexandra Byrne, there were plenty of difficulties just making Thor look as similar to the comics as he ultimately did. The problem? The cape. Even though capes are awesome and we're all for for everyone adding them to their daily wardrobes, they're not very practical when hopping in and out of a car, much less trying to save the world. It's a case where you can draw things that you can't easily translate into the real world, and we're going to argue that Thor's hat was one of those things that was so bad, it just didn't work.

Ant-Man

Thank Lee, more goofy comic book headgear gone. Ant-Man doesn't need antennae. Look, we get it. He's called Ant-Man. He communicates with ants. But he doesn't need antennae!

When Ant-Man made it to the big screen, they threw away his silly comic costume, giving Mr. Lang an updated, redesigned costume that was made in the best possible way ever — with real, honest-to-goodness science. The movie-making geniuses over at Marvel consulted with a very real-world genius, Dr. Spiros Michalakis from the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech. "Marvel consultant" is a pretty awesome job, and his other job is equally awesome. He's trying to break physics and prove that we're all just hallucinating reality, which honestly sounds like the origins of a supervillain.

The science is all incredibly complicated, but when you look at the problems of shrinking a full-sized human to ant-sized, you're messing with all kinds of laws, like density (if Paul Rudd really was compacted to the size of an ant, he'd about the same density as a white dwarf star), and breathing. See, you're tiny, and you're trying to breathe air that's nowhere near as dense as it needs to be to keep you functioning. (Also, the molecules would be way too big to process.) You're also losing surface area, too. In addition, the more you do, the more heat you generate, and the more heat you need to shed. With a smaller body, you can't do that as efficiently.

Enter the new Ant-Man suit. It was designed with a nod toward the science behind Ant-Man, with some extras that just look cool, even though they're not practical. The design team behind the costume was Sammy Sheldon and Ivo Coveney, who said that, even though the wires coming out of the helmet were what would practically be a massive design flaw, it just looked cooler with it. So, there you have it. Who says that science can't be functional and awesome?

Falcon

Comic Sam Wilson is almost nothing like the movies, and not just because Comic Wilson's origins were more than a little Blacksploitationy.There's also that weird red-and-white spandex he wears, for which no real rationale exists. Maybe it's supposed to make him more aerodynamic?

Falcon's military badassness is another major departure from the comics, and it's right in line with the updated costume Marvel went with. Falcon got kitted out in military garb, frighteningly functional-looking wings, and Redwing became a drone, rather than the feathers-and-blood bird he was in the comics. According to Anthony Mackie, though, he's long been campaigning to bring back the spandex. "I worked so hard to get my body in shape that I wanted to show it off," he said. "But they decided that they wanted Falcon to be more of a military character, which I'm not complaining about, because my gear looks dope and I get to kick a lot of ass. Ever since I got in good shape, though, I'm all about spandex."

So, if you're one of those people that wants to see Falcon in all his tight spandex glory — Mackie's working on it, and he doesn't seem like the type to give up easily.

Quicksilver

Quicksilver — and his sister, Scarlet Witch — presented a whole other set of problems. Property of both Avengers and X-Men, he appears in both franchises, and in very different forms. While X-Men Quicksilver is younger and arguably cooler, Marvel's version is a little more grounded in reality, as it were.

Even before Aaron Taylor-Johnson was officially, completely signed to play Quicksilver, there was some discussion about which parts of the character's signature look would stay, and which would go. According to early conversations, what Quicksilver was going to look like was a part of the negotiations. There had to be a lot of careful stepping around this one, after all, to keep from mentioning or using anything that would get them in trouble with Fox.

Given Marvel's dedication to making the Avengers people who could exist in the real world — at least sort of (we're looking at you, Thor) — it's not surprising they ditched Quicksilver's shock of white hair, settling for a sort of dyed-and-grown-out platinum blond to keep the fanboys as happy as possible. They did keep his general color scheme, as well as the Eastern European accent you'd expect to hear from both him and Scarlet Witch.

Movie Avengers Quicksilver's costuming was, at first, just a mix of civilian clothes you can imagine him scrounging along the way. Taylor-Johnson later said it turned into a mix of compression shirts — in his old-school color palette — to give the idea of speed without going over-the-top obvious with the original lightning bolt. Again, the right choice. Super-speed, we get it — we don't need visual aides.

Scarlet Witch

There's an unspoken rule in comics: virtually no one wears anything that wouldn't get them laughed off the street in real life. That goes doubly for Scarlet Witch, who has, for some inexplicable reason, always been drawn wearing a pointed picture frame around her face. As if that isn't bad enough, she also falls into the category of female superheros who think a magic, strapless, equally pointy bathing suit is absolutely the way to go when you're fighting evil. (Sometimes she adds a pointy thong, too, because ...? We have no idea.)

Luckily for Liz Olsen, Marvel's planned to completely revamp Scarlet Witch from the beginning. According to Olsen herself, Joss Whedon prefaced offering her the role with, "[...] there's this character, Scarlet Witch, that I'm interested in for you to play. When you go home and Google her, just know that you will never, ever have to wear what she wears in the comics." And that's an unbelievably good thing, because there's pretty much no options for Scarlet Witch that they could have lifted from the comics and successfully translated to the screen. For one thing, there's the PG-13 rating, and for another, what Comic Witch wears is completely, scientifically impossible. It's like the original illustrators had never seen an actual woman before.

Vision

It's tough to really appreciate the monumental task Marvel's Avengers design team had in front of them, taking these over-the-top characters and toning them down until they're at least somewhat believable. We can only imagine that whoever got the assignment to real-life Vision drew the short straw.

Vision first showed up in the comics in 1968, and over the years he's had a couple different variations to his look. Most of them were, for some reason, variations on a bright yellow-and-green outfit, cape, and bright red face. Shades changed, and Vision went from a sort of "lemonade-and-cucumbers" look to a "I spilled pea soup on myself" look, and he even spent a brief period of time as a ghost. Presumably, he took on every rejected idea for every other hero's look.

According to Vision himself, Paul Bettany, part of the problem Marvel faced was in making him look exotic against an already out-there cast of characters. More than six months of back-and-forth went into finding the right colors for Vision, who thankfully lost all the bright colors that made him look like he'd been drawn by an 8-year-old who's had too much sugar. We have no idea how close a call this was, either, but early rumors describe a yellow and green costume for Vision that we can only imagine would have been horrible. (And concept art seems to support the rumor that yes, the yellow-and-green was at least considered at one point. Yikes.)

His skin changed, too, going from bright red to what makeup department designer Jeremy Woodhead described as "purple-pinky red". Bettany, who's wearing a full-body muscle suit along with prosthetics on his forehead and the back of his head, went along with keeping the whole thing a secret, until Marvel was ready to unveil what Vision had become ... and on the whole, we love it. All of it.

The Wasp

Of all the classic Avengers from the comics, the Wasp had perhaps the longest and most tangled road to the big screen. After Joss Whedon almost gave her a lead role in the first Avengers film — according to Cinema Blend, Whedon loved the character so much that he described one of his early Avengers drafts as "way too Wasp-y" — it took another six years for the shrinking Avenger to finally get off the sidelines and star as the principal hero of Ant-Man & The Wasp.

The comic book Wasp was actually a professional fashion designer, so she has swapped out her original Jack Kirby outfit so many times that it's become something of a running gag, according to SyFy Wire. None of her comic book ensembles, though, have much in common with the more functional uniform Evangeline Lilly wears in Ant-Man & the Wasp. While the comic book Wasp is all about style, her movie equivalent keeps things utilitarian: for example, wearing a face-shielding helmet instead of a bare face, as well as a protective bodysuit that seems way more suited for someone with a flying mechanism strapped to her back. As opposed to the primarily red tones often worn by the comics Wasp, costume designer Louise Frogley said she used a silver background with gold-tinged leather pieces cut into a honeycomb pattern to better reflect, you know, an actual wasp.

Bucky Barnes

The everlasting relationship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes is the warm, beating heart of all three Captain America movies, the comics that inspired them, and the #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend fanbase. However, adapting these stories to the big screen meant changing the nature of Cap and Bucky's friendship in some major ways.

See, back when Captain America first punched his way through swarms of Nazi scum in 1941, Bucky was created to be his teenage sidekick, a la Batman's Robin, and as you can see above, the future brainwashed assassin wore an outfit almost as ridiculous as DC's Boy Wonder. Why did he even bother with the domino mask when his "codename" was the same nickname his friends called him? C'mon, Buck. When it came time to bring this duo to the big screen, Marvel wisely decided to depict Bucky as a regular soldier instead of a costumed vigilante. When he finally became the Winter Soldier, he got to pull on a much cooler outfit.

Valkyrie

This hard-drinking Asgardian warrior from Thor: Ragnarok managed to survive the wrath of Thanos, according to actress Tessa Thompson, but she hasn't yet joined the movie Avengers. If she follows the path of the comics character who inspired her, though, a membership card should be in the mail soon.

Thor: Ragnarok's costume designers played pretty fast and loose with adapting Valkyrie's original look. Definitely a good decision, considering the comics character pretty much wears a metal bathing suit with slippers. The blue cape stayed, which is a cool callback, while the rest was replaced with a battle armor worthy of this Pegasus-riding badass. Costume designer Andy Park later revealed that the team considered taking her outfit even farther from the original look with features like a black hooded mask, but they ended up with a version that subtly references the comics costume without mimicking it. Either way, considering that the cinematic character has now vastly overshadowed the comic book one — as Entertainment Weekly points out, the comics have since introduced a new version of Valkyrie who is explicitly based on Thompson's portrayal — it looks like everybody involved made the right choice.

Mantis

In all honesty, the Mantis portrayed by Pom Klementieff in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies has very little in common with the comic book Avenger who inspired her. While the cinematic Mantis is an innocent, wide-eyed alien empath who worked for Ego the Living Planet, the comics version is an Earthling martial artist, raised by the Kree and worshiped as the so-called "Celestial Madonna." The similarities pretty much stop at the antennas.

When it came to adapting Mantis' comic look, though? Probably a good choice to keep the green theme and otherwise start from scratch. The bizarre, flowing getup Mantis wore in the comics was the sort of thing that only could've been dreamed up in the 1970s. The comics character is sometimes depicted with emerald-toned skin, but James Gunn and co. wanted to differentiate her from Gamora and Drax, so according to Screen Rant they just leaned hard into her insect-like name and traits.

Whizzer

If you watched the second season of Jessica Jones and thought the silly, paranoid speedster with a pet mongoose was a made-for-TV joke character, you'd be forgiven. After all, how ridiculous can a superhero possibly get?

Actually, a lot more ridiculous. As it happens, the Whizzer is one of those superheroes that comic book creators wish you'd forget. This fast-running goofball has been haunting the vaults of Marvel Comics since 1941, according to IGN, eventually fighting alongside the Avengers in the 1970s. The comics version got his powers via a mongoose blood transfusion (yes, really), which somehow inspired him to don one of the dumbest costumes in comics history. Bizarre as the Whizzer might be, Jessica Jones costume designer Elisabeth Vastola says she was actually pretty excited to bring the character to a wider audience for the first time, and it shows. There's no lemon-colored jumpsuit anywhere in sight, but actor Jay Klaitz wears a bright yellow hoodie, and between his sleeves and backpack there's even a touch of blue! No bobbing head-wings anywhere to be seen, however.

Wolverine

Everybody knows Logan as the world's most ill-tempered X-Man, but in the comics, he also punches in at Avengers HQ sometimes. Only time will tell how the MCU eventually adapts the character, but when Hugh Jackman first brought him to life in 2000 (just a few years after Batman & Robin nearly nuked the whole superhero genre), it was pretty clear that the classic yellow jumpsuit had to go. Badass as Wolverine's adamantium claws might be, a live-action version of that outfit would've made him look like a total schmuck. Seriously, between the puffy shoulder pads, the blue underpants, the flared boots, and a mask perfectly shaped to fit around his signature hairstyle, it's no wonder that even Cyclops made fun of his yellow spandex.

That said, those early X-Men movies came from a different era, and Marvel Studios has since proven that even the silliest comic book costumes can be adapted a bit more accurately. Though Logan director James Mangold once explained to Screen Rant that he didn't think the classic suit really fit Wolverine's character — he's not a show-offy kinda guy, so why wear a show-offy suit? — it does seem likely that if Wolverine ever gets tangled up with the Avengers, he'll probably wear something more colorful. Who knows, it might even be yellow! Then again, the tan and brown costume has always been a fan-favorite, so maybe that'd be a better starting point.

Giant Man

Some of Ant-Man's best cinematic moments to date have been when he suddenly transforms into a colossal giant a la King Kong, and this use of Hank Pym's technology is ripped right from the comics. According to the Hollywood Reporter, what the movies have changed (other than replacing Pym with his mentee, Scott Lang) is that in the comics, Ant-Man's bigger half is actually a totally different vigilante identity: Giant Man, who wears a different costume, and ... what, are you laughing? Yes, his codename was Giant Man! Because he was, quite literally, a giant man. See?

Bah. Anyhow, since the second Ant-Man flick wasn't titled "Giant Man & the Wasp," it seems like the films have probably ditched this moniker, as well as the costume that accompanied it. Looking at the picture above, that was probably a good choice because Giant Man's comics look is pure cheese. Having Ant-Man go big, on the other hand, has been such a major crowd-pleaser that Ant-Man director Peyton Reed admitted to being bummed that he lost the big guy's premiere to Captain America: Civil War, according to CBR.

Starhawk

When Sylvester Stallone first waltzed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, most casual fans were probably too psyched about seeing Sly in space to wonder who this guy was in the original stories. As Screen Rant explains, his name is Stakar Ogord, better known as Starhawk, and in the comics he was a member of the 31st-century incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. This futuristic crew did at one point participate in a time-traveling crossover with the Avengers, meriting Starhawk and his squad honorary badges on the classic superhero team. The comic book Starhawk has a way more complicated backstory, too, involving him literally merging forms with another character named Aleta Ogord ... but that's a whole other can of worms. 

It's hard to imagine Stallone agreeing to suit up in Stakar's comic book getup, so some pretty major changes were made for the big screen, to the point where SlashFilm says early set reports compared his uniform to Judge Dredd's. The blue/black base color was left intact, but Starhawk's fanciful headgear was left behind on the printed page, and his oddly shaped golden wings were turned into glowing rings around Stallone's shoulders. Maybe he'll put the helmet on in a sequel — after all, Yondu eventually got the same fin he had in the comics, as ScreenCrush points out — but don't count on it.