Movie Superheroes Wear Black

"Make him more tactical, make him look, uh... let's go with black."
Raymond Sellars, RoboCop (2014)

When superheroes get their chance in the big screen, there's usually someone who ends putting more black and/or leatherish texture in their attires, and often simplifying the design while they're at it. This isn't necessarily to make the characters Darker and Edgier (though it can), but simply because colorful superhero costumes don't always translate well in live action, unless you're not bothered about being serious. The most oft-cited example is Wolverine. Badass in the comics, but his standard yellow costume (or the brown one he wore for a while) would look ridiculous in real life.

Usual justification is to make the suit actually practical or add a sense of realism, since spandex isn't known for stopping bullets. Even heroes stated to be bulletproof might be given something that at least looks as though it serves as protection. Sometimes, though, it's just for the hell of it.

Recently, this trope has started to be played differently; while the costumes often retain the colours and general look of their comic basis, they're overhauled to be more practical - adding straps and coloured panels to suggest the old costume, for example, or having cowls and helmets whose ornamental flourishes contain disguised gadgets where they were previously just ornamental. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is likely responsible for popularising this approach, as noted below; with few exceptions, the suits all wear their classic colours, but now they actually look like what someone might reasonably wear if they were going to go out fighting bad guys.

Sister Trope to Spandex, Latex, or Leather. Related to Civvie Spandex, Not Wearing Tights, and Marquee Alter Ego. For female characters, this can often lead to Adaptational Modesty. An example of Dark Is Not Evil. Related to Comic Book Movies Don't Use Codenames.

Contrast Evil Wears Black (and these tropes are mutually exclusive).


Examples:

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     Comic Books 

  • The Ultimates gives several of the characters altered costumes to make them resemble a more realistic, movie-style version of their classic selves. Most notable examples are:
    • Hawkeye goes from purple and blue suit with mask and loincloth, to a black and red sleeveless outfit that includes sunglasses
    • The Wasp goes from a variety of different outfits that are usually brightly coloured, to a black and yellow two piece leather number, which she alters repeatedly over the course of the sequels
    • Ant-Man/Giant-Man goes from a brightly coloured outifts that usually include red, black, yellow, or blue with a large helmet, to an orange/oxblood red outfit with a simple mask
    • Miles Morales, the second Ultimate Spider-Man, wears a black suit, but this has less to do with resembling a movie costume and more to do with distinguishing him from his predecessor.
  • DC's New 52 and Marvel's Marvel NOW relaunch feature redesigns for most of the characters in both universes, usually along the lines of armored or leather suits designed to resemble film outfits (including Superman, whose outfit looks somewhat like segmented armor). Averted in some cases, such as Daredevil (who retains his usual red outfit due to the popularity of his ongoing series, which is intended to step away from Darker and Edgier territory), the X-Men (with exception of Cyclops' new Uncanny team, they all retain their usual outfits), Hawkeye (who already went through a redesign to be more film like), and a few other examples, usually ones whose outfits wouldn't need much altering to pass into films.
    • Notably, during the second wave of Marvel NOW!, Woverine, who had kept his previous Astonishing era costume during the initial relaunch (largely because, unlike some examples, his suit at the time didn't need updating since it looked reasonable enough as it was), switched to a black and gold armoured suit designed by the Superior Spider-Man in order to compensate for him being Brought Down to Normal.
    • Speaking of such, Superior Spider-Man saw this trope played straight twice. First, he's introduced using a black-and-red suit with claws, defined lenses on the eyes, and a more menacing general appearance; as he was a darker figure, it helped to reflect that he wasn't as heroic or moral as Peter Parker. Later, as he descends further into his villainous tendencies, his suit was altered once more, now becoming almost entirely black, save for a creepy red spider-like chest symbol of sorts and his mask, along with spider leg-like mechanical appendages and generally looking more practical, though also more intimidating; as he was, at this point, an actual Villain Protagonist, this helped to make him look more like a villain, so that when Peter Parker returns, his return to the classic, heroic costume would stand out far more.
  • Jessica Jones, former Spider-Woman Jessica Drew and Luke Cage all wear plain clothes in the Marvel MAX Alias series. For action sequences, they tend to favor overcoats.
    Jessica Jones: Not wearing your costume?
    Jessica Drew: Made my ass look big.
    Jessica Jones: I hear you. Thank god for The Matrix huh?

    Luke Cage: I'm not about the tights and shit. Never was.
  • Very briefly after his return from the dead, Superman sported an all black spandex suit with a metallic S-shield, and a mullet. He went back to the trademark blue and red tights before the story's end, although the mullet remained for a couple of years. This led to some confusion (on both sides) when a time warp occurred in the mid-1990s and various Batmans from the character's then-55-year history began showing up in Metropolis. The first Batman that Superman comes across is the one from the 1970s, and at first he doesn't realize this isn't the modern Batman.
    Seventies Batman: [looking at Superman's mullet] Not going "hippie" on us, are you?
    Superman: "Hippie"?!
    • Incidentally, there was an in-story explanation for the black suit: it was designed to help him absorb sunlight faster, as he was still recovering from the fight that seemingly killed him at the start of the arc.
  • Bucky Barnes, when he became the new Captain America, donned a modified suit that was largely black, with a shiny blue mask and chest piece, along with covering his ears. It was mentioned that the suit was designed In-Universe by The Wasp, as she had felt like Cap's suit needed an update. For the most part, the suit served to distinguish him from Steve Rogers' Captain America identity, but also helped reflect how Bucky wasn't quite a paragon like Steve was.

     Film 
  • The big-screen Batman is the Trope Maker, ditching the classic blue-and-gray comic/TV suit for the rubber-molded black one, although the final two sequels went with dark blue and silver.
    • Catwoman routinely wears black rubber or leather in all of her film incarnations. That includes Halle Berry, too. Prior to the first Tim Burton Batman movie, and for a while afterwards, comic book Catwoman tended towards purple spandex or dresses.
    • Chris O'Donnell's Robin wears a suit not dissimilar from Bruce's, with a slightly modified bat emblem (actually the Nightwing emblem from the comics) on the front. His first costume was somewhat inspired by the Tim Drake Robin suit, and would ironically be, sans nipples, the New 52 design for the default Robin attire.
    • The Dark Knight Saga Batsuits are also black but take things a step further in that they don't even have a yellow circle around the bat-symbol.note 
  • The Power Rangers movie didn't tone down the heroes' colors, but gave them padded, techier-looking suits. Interestingly, later series like Ninja Storm, SPD and Operation Overdrive would outfit the heroes in black leather when they weren't in full multicolored Ranger form.
  • Daredevil's movie outfit is oxblood red rather than its red comics counterpart. Elektra in the same movie wears an all-black leather ensemble rather than the red leotard from the comics. This even applies to the movie's version of Bullseye; even though Bullseye's costume is mostly black to begin with, here he doesn't have anything you'd call a costume at all. He apparently wants to get into wearing one though.
  • The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk TV movie features Daredevil in a black costume and this was around the time Batman hit the cinemas
  • All the GI Joes in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra were put in black spy catsuits for the movie, rather than each having a distinct, unique, and colorful uniform as they have in other adaptations.
  • Kevin Smith's and later Tim Burton's Superman Lives project from the nineties would've shown Supes in black and silver; early concepts, show it more of a bluish-silver because producer Jon Peters thought the blue-and-red suit was "too faggy". The comic book story on which it was based did have Superman wearing a black and silver outfit at the story's climax. It was the Nineties.
  • Superman Returns changed the suit color to a muted blue, with a burgundy cape. Supposedly, the bright red color would have interfered with the digital effects. Also, when we first see him in his space ship, he's got a silver uniform that looks black.
  • The Man of Steel movie sees Superman in a darker rendition of his classic suit. The trademark red trunks are also removed and some detailing is added to make the suit seem more "alien", though this ties with the current comics, where recently they've been ditched. Also, during an induced hallucination/dream/whatever, Superman wears a black costume with a silver S.
  • This is pretty obvious in the Watchmen movie, where Ozymandias' purple robes are replaced with a form fitting dark purple and gold body armor (that homaged/parodied the Batman nipple-suits). Silk Spectre and Nite Owl's costumes get a similar overhaul as well. However, The Comedian's outfit still has quite a bit of yellow in it.
  • Nick Fury wore a black uniform rather than his traditional blue in the Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD TV movie. His portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe gives him a black leather trenchcoat which comes from his portrayal in The Ultimates where he was Samuel L. Jackson in Comic Book Fantasy Casting.
  • X-Men film franchise:
    • Lampshaded in X-Men when Cyclops quips that Wolverine might prefer "yellow spandex" instead of his black leather. And while it isn't the first recorded instance of this, it's certainly the Trope Codifier and is generally what people immediately think of when this trope comes up. Notably, a short clip is on the first movie DVD in which Hugh Jackman runs around the set in a comic-accurate Wolverine costume, and absolutely nobody is taking it seriously.
    • Averted and played straight in The Wolverine. Harada (Silver Samurai in the comics) wears a practical black outfit for most of the movie, but Yashida dons a suit of silver Powered Armor in the finale.
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • The Bad Future X-Men wear practical black body armor.
      • Young Magneto wears a costume that's a cross between his red comic book outfit and the black suit Ian McKellen wore in the original trilogy.
    • Deadpool straight up lampshades it in the test footage/trailer, where he is very much wearing an exact replica of his classic comic costume. The final costume to appear in the actual film is also a very faithful rendition of his book costume.
      Deadpool: "Oh, hello there. I bet you're wondering why the red suit? Well that's so badguys can't see me bleed. Let's hope these guys brought their brown pants!"
      • Negasonic Teenage Warhead plays this straight and averts it. As a goth, her civilian gear consists of black leather, but she also wears a yellow X-Men uniform that looks like it came straight out of a comic book. It's probably the most comic-accurate X-Men costume since the ones seen in X-Men: First Class.
    • Apocalypse plays both sides. In some cases it averts it altogether, particularly in the case of Psylocke: Betsy's costume is practically a right-off-the-page recreation of the 90s Jim Lee Thongkini. Early set photos of Jubilee show her wearing her bright yellow coat, jeans, big hoop earrings, and pink sunglasses, while Apocalypse is blue and draws inspiration from his classic look including tubes running along his head. However it also gets played straight in images of Mystique and Quicksilver, who are shown wearing something not too different from the black leather suits of the classic trilogy.
  • Frank Miller's adaptation of The Spirit saw the titular hero swap his blue Coat, Hat, Mask from the comics for a black variation of the same ensemble. Then again, the entire world seemed to have made a swap of a black variation of their ensemble.
  • In the third film of the Spider-Man Trilogy, Harry Osborn as "the New Goblin" is in all black, no green to be seen.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man has Spidey wear a suit with darker shades of red and blue and made of a rougher material, as part of the film taking more cues from the Ultimate continuity. In its sequel, though, the colors become brighter and the eyes become larger.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Electro wears a black and blue outfit rather than his colorful green tights from the comics.
  • War Machine's armor is black and gray in Iron Man 2, but the updated model he sports in Iron Man 3 is given a red, white and blue color scheme and rechristened Iron Patriot. The new color scheme is ditched in Avengers: Age of Ultron, with War Machine going back to black and gray.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger:
    • The HYDRA troops wear green and yellow uniforms in the comics, but had black body armor in the movie.
    • And of course, Bucky wears military gear instead of the colorful red-and-blue uniform and Domino Mask he wore in the Golden Age comics. Notably, though, its still coloured blue rather than look like traditional military colours, so it still looks, for the most part, like the Bucky costume.
  • The Avengers movie is pretty faithful to the comics with the exception of Hawkeye who wears a dark leather suit with no mask as opposed to his purple Super Hero costume, though this is basically Ultimate Hawkeye's costume anyway. 616 Hawkeye started wearing something like the movie costume shortly before the movie's premiere, although it's still pretty purple. Also, while Thor wears a battle suit, it's still much darker than his comic costume and has the appearance of leather in some places.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
    • Cap ditches his colorful costume from The Avengers in favor of a darker suit reminiscent of his Commander Rogers outfit from Secret Avengers. This eventually turns out to be subverted; the dark outfit was just for the nighttime stealth mission at the start of the movie and a later chase. For the climactic battle he steals a replica of his World War II outfit from a museum.
    • The Falcon wears a black and gray outfit similar to his Ultimate look, rather than his classic red and white costume (which Anthony Mackie who played Sam Wilson in the film was reportedly actually disappointed by. In a rare change, he was looking forward to wearing the red and white spandex). The Winter Soldier himself has a more practical face mask and goggles rather than his Domino Mask from the comics.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron: Hawkeye once more doesn't wear his classic purple duds, but does wear a Badass Longcoat that greatly resembles his Ronin costume from the comics, and incorporates some details from his classic suit. It also comes with giving him more purple, despite being largely black. Similarly, both Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver ditch their costumes from the comics, and instead wear Civvie Spandex that evokes their usual costume aesthetics. However, Scarlet Witch dons a full superhero costume of red leather reminiscent of her Ultimate look at the end of film after joining the Avengers.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy changes Ronan's robes from green to black.
  • Captain America: Civil War is a mixed bag. Captain America once again wears red, white and blue while Iron Man is in red and gold, but the other characters vary. Falcon is in an outfit that is black but mixed with red and silver, while Scarlet Witch is in red as well. Black Panther and Black Widow wear black as well, but this makes sense since that's what they wear in the comics.
  • The Gatchaman movie retained the basic elements of the costumes, but with very muted color schemes. Jun's pink skirt was also replaced with a more practical-looking set of dark purple armor.
  • In Kamen Rider: The Next, Kamen Rider V3's outfit goes from green to black, and gains a more leathery texture.
  • The Judge Dredd comic strip had the character in a fairly bright blue bodyglove accessorized with oversized yellow shoulder decorations and badge, along with lurid green boots, knee and elbow pads, gloves and utility belt (complete with a red, white and blue American Eagle buckle). Both movies keep the basic outfit (in a rather darker blue or black) but the accouterments are in silver metal or black leather.
  • The Meteor Man features its hero wearing a black, grey and green suit (made by his mother).
  • Justified with Ghost Rider and Blade, both of whom were wearing black leather in the comics around the time the movies came out. Though, Blade's original costume was a hideous red and green ensemble, and Johnny Blaze's biker jacket was arguably blue.
  • The 90's live-action Cats Eye movie had the sisters wearing black vinyl outfits (influenced by Catwoman from Batman Returns) rather than their colorful leotards from the anime.
  • RoboCop (2014) has the title cyborg go through a redesign, from chrome color similar to the design from the first film to a black coloration.
  • None of the characters wear their video game outfits in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Big Bad M. Bison even wears a black business suit instead of his red costume and cape from the games.
  • The Live-Action Adaptation of Speed Racer had Racer X wear a black leather suit in lieu of the white and red one he wore in the anime; in a move highly similar to the X-Men movies.

     Literature 
  • This is discussed in the novel New Avengers: Breakout, which is partially inspired by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Spider-Woman all wear colorful outfits, while Black Widow, Luke Cage, and Hawkeye all either wear black leather or S.H.I.E.L.D. gear. When Black Widow sings the praises of black Spy Catsuits and wonders aloud why superheroes even bother with colorful costumes that make stealth impossible, Iron Man retorts by saying that the colors help with "branding"; the heroes want the bad guys to know exactly who is coming to kick their asses.

     Live Action TV 
  • Smallville:
    • Superman wears a black Badass Longcoat for a year or so, along with black pants & shirt with silver logo. He switches to a red jacket the next season (also the last season), as a way of showing Clark is both getting closer to becoming Superman, and also to show he's moving past the anger that prompted him to briefly abandon his identity of Clark Kent that lead to the black coat in the first place.
    • Green Arrow wears a jade-colored vinyl hoodie and sunglasses instead of the usual tunic. It goes without saying that he wields a military-grade composite bow.
  • Arrow
    • The show plays with this concerning Deathstroke. When he first appears, his trademark blue and orange costume has been changed to black body armor, though his mask remains half-orange. However, it turns out that this isn't Deathstroke, but rather his former partner, Billy Wintergreen. The real Deathstroke, Slade Wilson, at first wears gray and black fatigues, but when he becomes Deathstroke later, he switches to dark blue armor with orange markings and a more metallic mask, similar to his costume from the comics.
    • Huntress also wears a black catsuit rather than her purple and white costume from the comic books. The purple is kept, and she is shown asking for it specifically when Ollie designs it.
    • Oliver himself still wears his iconic green outfit, but it's a very dark shade of green. Later, Roy Harper's costume when he becomes Arsenal is basically a red version of Oliver's, though with a bit more black rather than incorporating any yellow like he did in the original.
    • Black Canary wears black leather, just like in the comics, but she notably wears more, as she wears leather pants instead of fishnet stockings.
    • The Atom has a more muted colour scheme than his comic counterpart, but it's still more colourful than the other heroes on the show. It even retains the atom logo and the Brought to You by the Letter "S" Chest Insignia.
  • The short-lived Birds of Prey TV series had Huntress wearing a black leather trenchcoat rather than an actual costume and mask.
  • Played with heavily in The Gerosha Chronicles:
    • The series Blood Over Water inverts this. The videos have Sleet Mountain employees wearing some awfully civilian-like clothes. They are given more-standardized business-casual uniforms for the Cataclysmic Gerosha book adaptations, consisting of black tops and khaki pants with black shoes. Keep in mind...Sleet Mountain workers are the villains.
    • Ciem in Cataclysmic Horizons keeps the orange outfit, though orange hues are dimmed a bit from previous adaptations and the accent colors are given a little more emphasis.
    • Emeraldon's suit between adaptations goes from a near-all-green traditional Flying Brick suit to a tougher material that is black - with a sort of green "Matrix" pattern accenting it.
    • The Earwig is justified in this, as her outfit has always been black with red trims.
    • Mukade averts this, keeping her Japanese flag red-on-white scheme. (Even though she's moved to Toklisana from Japan, and has never been a Captain Patriotic.)
    • Jackrabbit normally hops around in civilian form. But his Cataclysmic Gerosha form has been shown to occasionally wear a black hat and sunglasses on more-dangerous missions.
  • The 60's Batman series had Catwoman in a black leather catsuit. In the comics at the time (and indeed for decades afterwards), the character usually favored purple outfits. It wasn't until the 21st century that she adopted black as her primary color scheme in the comics.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
    • Mike Peterson, the only vaguely "superhero-ish" character from Season One , wears a black SHIELD-issued bodysuit before switching it.
    • Blackout's "costume" is basically a black shirt with a black duster.
  • Daredevil: in the first season, the title character wears various black outfits, usually including civilian clothing and a black hood. This is based a black outfit designed by John Romita Jr during his and Frank Miller's influential Daredevil run. He's frequently referred to as "the man in black." At the end of the season, he gains his trademark suit and name, though his suit has noticeably more black in it than his comic version.
  • Tokumei Sentai Go Busters was the first Super Sentai series to feature the heroes in leather outfits instead of the traditional spandex, though the costumes do still contain a lot of color in addition to the black. Allegedly, this was done to appeal to American audiences when the show was inevitably adapted into a Power Rangers installment, though in a twist of Irony, it turns out that Go-Busters was passed over, due to low toy sales in Japan.
  • While not black, the Flash's costume in the 2014 series is noticeably darker than the comic book version, mainly because of difficulty with filming bright red colors in Real Life, and has reduced yellow elements and a red Chest Insignia. When the Reverse-Flash shows up, his costume is partially yellow, but actually does have black for its bottom half and gloves.
    • Outright averted with the future version of the Flash seen in the 2024 newspaper article and very briefly in a flashback/forward (depending on which character you mean); he has a brighter red costume and a white insignia rather than a red one, darn near identical to the comic book costume. When Cisco sees this, he is enthusiastic about the changes.
    • Similarly, the metahumans in the show have primarily worn casual clothes or black tactical gear. The actual costumed villains Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Pied Piper have at least worn costumes of sorts, albeit Civvie Spandex that resemble their comic book attire, with the latter switching from green and black to just black.

    Video Games 
  • In keeping with the game's grungier style and the protagonist's rougher origin and personality, DMC Devil May Cry replaces Dante's long white hair and bright red longcoat with punkish shaven black and battered black leather with red lower sleeves, lining and collar, respectively. His old color-scheme returns super-saturated when he's in Devil Trigger form, and at the end of the game his hair has turned white.
  • Batman: Arkham Series goes the way of the Dark Knight movies. No yellow anywhere...

    Web Original 
  • The DVD-only Strong Bad Email "comic book movie" refers to this as "Leatherquest 2000."
    "People may buy that our character has radioactive powers, or is from another planet, but a colorful spandex costume?! Are you crazy?! No audience will accept that! Nope, it's one color, head-to-toe leather for our hero!"

    Western Animation 
  • The Beware the Batman cartoon has taken a nod from the films and given Batman an armored black costume. Katana as well (though she has since adopted a black costume in the New 52 continuity. At the time the show began production however, she still had her old red and yellow color scheme).
  • Dick Grayson's Robin suit in Young Justice has all of the green parts colored black instead. This goes for Tim Drake as well, though he at least does have several red and black costumes in the comics.
  • Avengers Assemble has Hawkeye wearing his black leather outfit from the movie, rather than his traditional purple costume.
  • X-Men: Evolution had most of the cast in black or dark-blue uniforms. Justified though in that the X-Men usually go back and forth between dark uniforms and colorful costumes. Wolverine is notable for starting off in his classic orange costume and then transitioning to a black, maskless outfit in the later seasons. Magneto notably also sports a darker outfit. Instead of his traditional red and purple, he now has a mostly black outfit with red plates over the torso.


Alternative Title(s):

Darker And Edgier Costume