Editor's note: beware, spoilers for Loki episode 4 ahead! What looks good on the pages of a comic doesn’t always look good on the big screen, especially with the more outlandish designs from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Superhero movies, the MCU included, always have to grapple with that fact, and typically avoid some of the more ridiculous designs.
But there are times when the classic costumes don’t just work, they actually make sense as part of the story. And Loki is the latest example of that in action.
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Loki’s fourth episode, titled Nexus Event, ends with Loki waking up in a desolate world surrounded by four alternate versions of himself. One of them, played by Richard E Grant (seen below, on the right), is wearing a bizarre yellow and green getup.
That is Loki’s classic costume from the days before the MCU — when Loki was little more than a C-list villain. It pops up in more recent comics from time to time, but it still dates back to Jack Kirby’s original 1962 design.
It’s far too cartoonish for us to have expected it in the MCU, especially now that Tom Hiddleston’s take on the character has grounded the character even further. Except, like so many classic costumes before it, Marvel has found a way to make it work. Or more importantly, it found a way to make it work and still make perfect sense to the story.
The writers, wardrobe department, designers, directors, and everyone else involved in bringing these costumes to the big screen definitely deserve more credit than they’re getting. Because it can’t be easy to look at a wacky 60s-era design and find a way to make it make sense in the 21st century.
WandaVision was the most recent example of this in action, with Wanda, Vision and ‘Quicksilver’ wearing classic versions of their costumes during the show’s Halloween episode. Though the context meant that it had to change, and both Wanda and Vision respectively explained away their costumes as Sokovian fortune teller and Mexican wrestler outfits.
Embracing the classics is a MCU tradition
This development is nothing new, where Marvel Studios is concerned. While movies like the original X-Men trilogy deliberately distanced themselves from the colorful comic costumes, Marvel Studios has always tried to work them into the movies in a natural way.
In fact Tony Stark’s very first Iron Man suit was a dead ringer for the one that appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 in 1963. Albeit slightly more beaten up and clearly built out of scrap metal.
Likewise Captain America’s very first movie costume was a rendition of the classic cloth suit he wore back in the 1940s — head wings and all. While it was quickly replaced with something more practical, its place as a stage costume meant it organically fit into the movie and never felt shoehorned in.
The same is true of Thor’s winged helmet, a version of which appeared during Thor Ragnarok’s colosseum fight scene, and Hulk’s purple pants. The two only appeared in one scene, and faded into obscurity, but it showed Marvel was happy and willing to point back to a character’s classic costume even if it had no place in the rest of the franchise.
More recently we saw Ant-Man's classic helmet in Endgame, when Captain America and Iron Man went back to the 1970s. It was never shown in use, but it was sitting on the desk in Hank Pym’s lab.
Past TV shows did it too
The now-cancelled Netflix shows also made a point of referencing classic costumes as well. Jessica Jones’ original comics costume appeared in one scene, even though she never wore it, as did Iron Fist’s classic yellow mask — though the green leotard remained absent. Luke Cage also wore something reminiscent of his classic costume, complete with the yellow shirt and tiara, as he escaped from prison.
Sadly Daredevil never wore his slightly nuts yellow and black costume, but he did wear the ninja-inspired outfit from Frank Miller’s ‘Man without Fear’ for the entirety of the first season and part of the third.
Balancing fan service in the MCU
Some MCU characters have never even come close to wearing their classic costume. Hawkeye is a prime example, since his MCU costume is almost the exact opposite of the bright purple get-up he wears in the comics.
But at the same time, Scarlet Witch never wore her classic costume in the movies, and Elizabeth Olsen was reportedly told she’d never have to wear it. But the actress later said she fought to wear it as part of WandaVision — and we’ve already seen the result. It’s possible that Clint Barton could get a similar treatment during the Hawkeye TV series later this year — we've already seen set photos of Hailee Steinfeld in a similar purple hue.
Obviously throwing heroes (or villains) into a version of their classic comic costume is fan service in its purest form. It adds nothing for people who haven’t obsessively read comics for years, and basically just makes the hardcore fans point at the screen like, like Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Then again the same is true of every easter egg or obscure reference to the comics, and that’s not a bad thing. And I say that as the only person — in a packed theater — who laughed when Deadpool 2 insulted the character’s co-creator Rob Liefeld.
So long as the classic costumes aren’t forced into a movie for no reason, I definitely want to see it continue. Thankfully Loki’s continuation of that long-standing tradition means it doesn’t look like Marvel has any plans of stopping. And I could not be happier about that.