With the final Fox X-Men film upon us, we’ve been thinking about the history of the beloved team and their most iconic looks. Dark Phoenix shakes up the all-black military uniforms of the past movies whilst also rejecting the classic ’90s costumes teased at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse. Instead, they took a look that comes directly from one of their most iconic contemporary iterations in New X-Men from artist Frank Quitely. In case you have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about and want to know more, or do and still want to know more, we’ve compiled a brief history of the evolution of X-Looks from your fave X-Books.
1963 – The X-Men #1 – The Original Five – Iconic Blue and Gold
When the X-Men debuted in Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s The X-Men #1 there were only five members: Beast, Cyclops, Marvel Girl A.K.A. Jean Grey, Iceman, and Angel. The characters were each different enough that putting them in unifying costumes made a lot of sense, and the iconic blue and gold look was born. These simple, striking costumes defined the X-Men at their introduction but weren’t long for the world.
1967 – X-Men #39 – Individualized Costumes and Unique Colors
This costume change introduced the concept of individual costumes that established core color combos for the iconic characters. Scott Summers kept the blue and gold with a red accent; Jean took on the recognizable green that would follow her for the majority of her career; Hank took on a red and blue paneled bodysuit; Warren got the biggest shift here with his yellow, red, and light blue-accented suspenders costume; and Bobby was just ice, though you can see his X-Belt (which the whole crew wore from here on out). One of the funniest parts of this costume change is the narrative explanation: Professor Charles “Controlling” Xavier allowed the characters to have their own unique costumes as a reward for good behavior.
1975 – Giant-Size X-Men #1 – A New Cast and New Costumes
X-Men are now one of the most famed superhero teams of all-time, but their original run ended with issue #66 in 1970 before becoming a reprint-only title from issues #67-#93. In 1975, something happened that would change X-History and comics forever as Len Wein and Dave Cockrum rebooted the series as an “international title” featuring a mix of old and new characters from around the world. This is especially notable as the first appearance of Storm, who starred alongside established heroes Wolverine, Cyclops, Sunfire, and Banshee. Other new additions included Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Thunderbird.
This era of costuming took from both the classic look (Wolverine’s blue and gold) and the idea of individualized costuming from X-Men #39. There’s a lot of primary colors here with Colossus’ red and yellow suit echoing both Angel and Beast. Interestingly, Cyclops’ uniform stayed mostly the same, and Storm got her own completely unique black and yellow costume which would become just as iconic as her team members’. It’s also a vital period as a year later in 1976, Marvel Girl became Phoenix with a brand new green and gold look, marking the beginning of one of the most beloved arcs in comic book history.
1980s – Evolving Looks
By the 1980s, Uncanny X-Men was the biggest selling title in comics. Throughout the decade, writer Chris Claremont and artists and editors like John Byrne, John Romita Jr., Terry Austin, Paul Smith, Mark Silvestri, Glynis Oliver, Tom Orz, Louise Simonson, and Annie Nocenti created a world that fans could fall into, and as the ever growing narrative evolved so did the cast of characters and their famed costumes too.
The biggest changes in this era were likely the inclusion of Wolverine’s new brown and tan color scheme–which still causes many a disagreement between die-hard X-Fans–and most importantly the addition of Punk Storm! Designed and drawn by Paul Smith, the brilliant redesign was a huge moment for Ororo Monroe. She took ownership and agency over her own body and most controversially… her hair. It also saw the introduction of Rogue and her instantly recognizable green and white costume.
1989 – Uncanny #275 – The Return of the Blue and Gold
As the ’80s came to an end, there was a new name in the X-Office and it was one who would change the franchise forever… *drum roll* JIM LEE, BABY! Though the way, the new creative team took over the title left much to be desired, at this point Lee was working alongside Claremont et al and oversaw the return of the iconic blue and gold uniform. The costume change came as the X-Men headed into space on a mission alongside the Starjammers to battle the nefarious villain Deathbird.
1991/2 – X-Men #1 / X-Men: The Animated Series – Neon ’90s, Baby!
With the transition between the old X-Office and the new in full swing, this is widely seen as a massive moment in X-History. Though the rebooted X-Men #1 was written by Claremont, it signified a change to a more extreme and youth-focused angle on X-Men. Helmed by Jim Lee, the first issue of adjectiveless X-Men introduced the costumes that would be reimagined for X-Men: The Animated Series, which would for many of us become the most recognizable X-Men costumes.
Wolverine’s brown and tan would soon become blue and gold by X-Men #4. In the popular kids’ TV series, Jubilee’s yellow jacket and pink sunglasses were peak mallrat while Gambit cemented his trenchcoat and head sock look. Rogue got her yellow and green bodysuit and cropped jacket that would become her defining look for years to come.
2000/01 – X-Men movie / New X-Men
The first X-Men movie reimagined the classic characters and started the (depressing) trend of militarized, leather superhero costumes. It was not a look that took much comics influence, but it did influence one of the most popular X-Men comics of the time, Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. The comic took inspiration from the fitted, slick costumes of the film and crafted something entirely new with some great moments (the big yellow X’s on the chest) and some not so great (Jean Grey’s butt X). This moment seems like a fitting place to wrap up this history as those costumes were the ones that clearly inspired the ones in Dark Phoenix. Time is a flat circle etc, etc.
Basically, there have been many brilliant X-Men costumes and we’ve touched on the major milestones, but if you want to keep exploring there are plenty more to enjoy in the pages of your fave X-Comics.
Images: Fox, Marvel