These days, however, that’s no longer a concern. Indeed, the reveal of new costumes has become an event in and of itself, with fans excitedly reporting toy details or leaked set photos for clues as to what to expect. Because it’s now expected that superheroes — at least on the Marvel side, although it’s a tradition that arguably got started with Warner Bros.’ Batman movies — will have a new look every movie, it’s impossible for characters to have comic-accurate costumes every single time. But that’s OK … because the comic book incarnations of the characters don’t, either.
That’s obviously a contradiction in terms; whatever costumes a superhero wears in the comics is inherently comic-accurate. Over the past decade or so, however, superhero costumes in comic books have stopped being static things, with every major character getting significant new looks, some for the first time in more than half a century. (Superman, I’m looking at you; his classic look was revised into armor with no red pants in 2011, allowing for their high profile return earlier this year.)
In some cases, the changes are minor — Captain America’s shifts have, for the most part, revolved around his footwear and how realistically the armor is drawn, or whether his hood gets to keep the wings he started with or not; Batman goes back and forth about his look constantly, but the all-important silhouette stays the same. (That’s not the case for all heroes; the comic book X-Men shifted to their own version of the movie outfits from 2001 through 2004, for example.) The characters’ looks change slightly, but not too much, for the most part; each hero or villain still manages to look essentially like themselves, despite everything.
That’s true for the cinematic incarnations, as well. Holland’s new Spider-Man outfit follows the same model as redesigns for Iron Man, Thor or Captain America; it’s different, but only a little. In the cases of both movies and comics, it’s as if there’s an essential truth about the way each character looks that the multiple designs are circling around, trying to find — a platonic ideal visual that’s just constantly out of reach.
That ideal is, in most cases, almost certainly each individual fan’s initial interaction with a character — whether it’s Ditko’s Spider-Man, or John Romita’s, or Todd McFarlane’s, or even the Spider-Man of cartoons (or even Maguire’s first movie, for all we know). It’s a different thing for every reader and viewer. As long as the movies and the comics can continue to nod in that direction with each new, toyetic variation, however, things are probably going to continue to work out and excite fans every single time.