How these DC superheroes should really look

Most onscreen versions of Superman and Batman have looked a lot like they do in the original DC Comics, but not all superheroes are created equally. Some of the most iconic superheroes have received major makeovers when they jumped off the printed page. Our design team collaborated with cosplay photographers to illustrate some of the major differences between DCEU characters and their comics counterparts, showing how they'd look if they stayed true to the comics—along with some of the ways they were perfectly on point.

Superman

There are a number of legitimate gripes someone might have about Zack Snyder's version of Superman in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but his costuming probably isn't one of them. Though it's not an exact replica of the comics character's original threads, which have themselves changed over the decades, Henry Cavill's physical appearance for the role isn't one of the DC Extended Universe's problems.

One of the most prominent distinctions of the new Kal-El costume is the fact that, like everything else about the modern take, it's much darker. Whereas the Superman of old donned cobalt blue body tights with bright red symbol trimming and cape, the new suit is somewhere in the deep denim family. The texture of its fabric, too, appears much rougher than the leotards of adaptations past, and that might also be another bit of subliminal paralleling, considering how consistently dogged he's been by society and peers during the DCEU pics so far. Cavill's costume also ditches the thick belt and outer britches featured in the drawings, and his Clark Kent disguise glasses are more modish than they used to be.

Otherwise, though, the shape and musculature of Cavill's Superman suit is incredibly similar to the fictional physique—even his cheekbones are virtually identical. Interestingly enough, Cavill's features most closely match what Superman looked like after his resurrection from the dead while wearing the silver and black suit, so the most faithful Superman yet might still be yet to come.

Hawkman

For Hawkman's Arrow debut, the CW's costuming team pulled out all the design stops. Subbing in for the usual yellow chest straps, Carter Hall's (Falk Hentschel) version of the character sports golden-brown, full-bodice leather armor gear, and his grass green pants were traded in for a huntery hue. Meanwhile, his mask was simplified and shortened, and his red circular chestplate was traded up for an Egyptian-style brooch.

Aquaman

While other superheroes have a long history of onscreen adaptations, Aquaman has been woefully ignored. But that means producers of the upcoming Aquaman were free to completely overhaul his traditional look. Instead of the classic gold suit with scales and pastel pants that Aquaman wears in the comics, actor Jason Momoa is in a sleek, silver suit that highlights his brawn. It's basically Poseidon meets Khal Drogo.

Black Canary

One of Black Canary's strongest weapons has always been her sex appeal, and Katie Cassidy brings plenty to her portrayal of the character on Arrow. But producers made a lot of changes to the character's classic look. They nixed the fishnet stockings and gold shoulder trimmings in favor of a slightly more conservative, black leather bodysuit.

Hawkgirl

Like her boyfriend Hawkman, the TV version of Hawkgirl featured some significant style shifts away from her many comics iterations. Most notably, the character no longer sported her signature shade of yellow throughout her suit and headgear, instead opting for a brassy fabric flair. Ciara Renee's version of Kendra Saunders did, however, wear the same shape of headdress that was known for the character—and incorporated a nod to her love of green body-hugging fabric into her gear.

Wonder Woman

Lynda Carter's version of Wonder Woman from the '70s TV show established a very literal rendition of the iconic DC character. But when Gal Gadot re-introduced Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, she did it in an updated outfit. Instead of the red, yellow, and blue color scheme, she dons metallic body armor that fits in nicely beside the new, grittier versions of Batman and Superman.

The Flash (DCEU)

Even more distinct is the Ezra Miller version of the Flash from the DCEU. His costume is more ornately layered than the TV take, with black fabric featured throughout—including a patch behind the trademark lightning rod at his chest—and an increase in the amount of yellow streaks featured in the arms and legs of the garment.

The inspiration for Miller's movie Flash, it seems, is the character's look in the Injustice: Gods Among Us video game series. Gustin has declared himself a fan of the new Flash aesthetic, calling it "sick" and adding that he's "glad it's really different" and takes a different approach than the TV show's "street, vintage feel."

Batman

From here on out, we're taking a look at characters whose onscreen iterations don't look different enough to warrant the full Photoshop treatment—but they still underwent their share of transitions from page to screen.

For Batman's new debut in Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck's version was most obviously inspired by the Caped Crusader's journey in the 1986 comic miniseries The Dark Knight Returns. In the four-part Frank Miller story, 55-year-old Bruce Wayne returned from retirement to combat rampant violence that had taken over Gotham City and had it out with Superman along the way, during which there was a not-final death (in the comics, it was Batman who was laid to rest but really remained alive).

His costume, too, is inspired by the series. The slate grey bodice and hyper realization of musculature beneath (yes, Batman has only grown bigger in his middle age) is a direct mirror of Miller's vision, and the deadest giveaway for the Batfleck's inspiration — apart from him directly admitting as much, that is — is that the size and shape of his chest emblem is a direct call to the miniseries' depiction.

After the film's release, Miller himself gave Affleck's version his endorsement by telling audiences at a June 2016 fan convention that he "was rooting for Batman" and that he "liked it." Miller added about Affleck's portrayal that "he's a good actor [and] obviously very, very close to this material and plays it with great affection."

Green Arrow

Green Arrow's costume on Arrow has gone through some tweaks, but none have quite lined up with the comics. While the original is a not-so-subtle homage to Robin Hood, Stephen Amell looks far darker and more leathery in the new suit. Both versions show off Green Arrow's muscles while concealing the hero's true identity, but Arrow modernized his hooded look for the show's urban setting.

The Flash (TV)

Conceptually, there are quite a few differences between Grant Gustin's Barry Allen, as seen on the CW's The Flash, and his comics origin story. For one thing, TV Flash has a whole team of talent at his disposal, many of whom didn't even exist in the comics, whereas the illustrated version is more of a solo crimefighter prior to co-founding the Justice League. There's also the fact that his super-speed on the small screen is derived from a particle accelerator explosion during a thunderstorm, which threw him into a chemicals cabinet—an exaggeration of the original, in which Allen was simply stricken by lightning and covered in chemicals in his lab.

As for the look of the character, the costume is mostly faithful to the original but is is a deeper shade of red and has some unique stylistic properties, like the lightning bolt seams in the headpiece, the fact that his boots are red instead of the signature yellow, and the the lightning trimmings from the drawn version's waist and forearms have been reduced and removed, respectively.

The Atom

For his return to the superhero realm (after his attempt at becoming the Man of Tomorrow in Superman Returns failed to take flight), Brandon Routh became Ray Palmer, a.k.a. the Atom, for TV's Arrow. The character's screen adaptation included a full-on molecular transformation of his original appearance.

While there are some nods to the old comics rendition, like the character's chemistry-centric headpiece symbol, the rest of the suit seems to incorporate pieces of Atom's upgrade in DC's The New 52 series, like the fact that he sports an exosuit and an armor helmet in place of the mask. Andy Poon, the concept artist who created the new costume, wrote that decision to nix the signature spandex suit for the character was for practical reasons, but he still "tried to emulate the feel of the traditional blue and red pattern as much as possible while keeping it still more on the grounded sci-fi armor."

Martian Manhunter

J'onn J'onzz has been through a lot of changes over his many eras of fictional existence, and his live-action adaptation in The CW's Supergirl adds yet another unique installment to the character's evolutionary history. On the show, David Harewood's makeup-enhanced look for the Martian Manhunter draws from bits and pieces of his comic past—the shape of his head mirrors the New 52 style, while his cross-shaped red chest design is more of a nod to the DC Rebirth generation. Meanwhile, the shape of his eyes and the spherical orbs on his costume are callbacks to the Martian's 2006 standalone miniseries, while the costume itself seems like a militarized version of what the character was drawn with in the cartoon Justice League: Doom. Even so, the Martian's TV version stands on its own.

Constantine

The short-lived TV adaptation of Constantine was, stylistically, much more faithful to its comics origins than the 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves. In the show, actor Matt Ryan's outfit as the Hellblazer was a direct representation of the loosened business dress of the original, even down to the undoing of the top button of his dress shirt, his thin (albeit reddened) tie, and khaki-colored jacket. Reeves' version, meanwhile, sported a black coat and wasn't blonde but did incorporate the slackened tie. Both versions adopted the character's most signature accessory, of course: a cigarette in hand.

Huntress

On Arrow, Jessica De Gouw's appearance as Helena "Huntress" Bertinelli involved a significant departure from her comics counterpart. Unlike the illustrated versions of the character, there's barely a shred of purple to be seen, save for her shade of lipstick and the lining of her leather coat. Occasionally, the character does don a violet item or two, but her suit is funeral-ready black with few elements of the trimmings that gave the vigilante vixen a colorful identity on the printed page.

Jenet Klyburn

Jena Malone's secretive, edited-out character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was reportedly revealed the film's credits to be Jenet Klyburn, a minor member of the DCEU who serves as a leader to the team of scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs. Before, many suspected Malone would portray Barbara Gordon (later Batgirl) or Carrie Kelley (the lady rendition of Robin) but, alas, not so much.

Part of the difficulty fans had in figuring out her character was the fact that she really didn't look like any of these ladies. Jenet, whose brief appearances revealed her to be a glasses-free redhead, was a far cry from Malone's bright blonde-with-bangs image. Barbara Gordon, too, was a redhead—although she did sport some glasses in her everyday identity—as was Carrie Kelley, whose specs more closely matched Malone's.

Arsenal

One of the most literal live-action adaptations of a DC property character came by way of Arrow's Roy "Arsenal" Harper (played by Colton Haynes). In the show, which has been known to alter even its titular hero's look into near-unrecognizability, Arsenal's maroon threads have been replicated almost exactly. The criss-cross designs of his jacket are slightly more literal, the shoulders of his coat are more embellished, and his eyes are hazel instead of their usual sky blue, but other than those minor deviations, the character's physical representation is about as close as it can get. Even the jawline set and buckling shape of his backpack are the same.

Kid Flash

Just like Barry Allen before him, Kid Flash's costume got a few significant alterations in The Flash TV series. The costume worn by Wally West (portrayed by Keiynan Lonsdale in the show) has a mustardy hue and sewn-in gloves, as opposed to the separate pieces in the comics, while his belt is thicker and distinct, the red is a deeper shade, and the mask bears a chin guard which was not featured before. Most noticeably, his hair is not the auburn Edward Cullen-esque bouffant of the original.