Composite featuring images by Paul Smith, Jaime Hernandez, Wendy Pini, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Howard Chaykin, and John K. Snyder III.
Composite featuring images by Paul Smith, Jaime Hernandez, Wendy Pini, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Howard Chaykin, and John K. Snyder III.

12 Comic Book Fashion Icons of the 1980s

Composite featuring images by Paul Smith, Jaime Hernandez, Wendy Pini, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Howard Chaykin, and John K. Snyder III.
Composite featuring images by Paul Smith, Jaime Hernandez, Wendy Pini, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Howard Chaykin, and John K. Snyder III.

Back in the 1980s, most comic books (and the artists who drew them) were not usually up on the latest fashion trends. Still, there were a handful that stand out now as being very much keyed into the styles of their times. One of these was a little known comic called Fashion in Action by John K. Snyder III (who would later draw runs on Matt Wagner’s Grendel and DC’s Suicide Squad). Fashion in Action is being reprinted for the first time thanks to a Kickstarter run by editor Hope Nicholson. Hope was kind enough to co-write this list of comic book fashion icons of the 1980s with me. Special thanks to fashion designer Dani Vulnavia who also provided some valuable insights.


Paul Smith // Marvel Comics

In 1983, the X-men’s Storm had one of the most unexpected and talked-about makeovers in comics history. In Uncanny X-men #173, the weather-controlling mutant, who had always worn a flowing cape that matched her long white tresses, suddenly showed up in a black leather vest, studded choker, and a mohawk. Her personality also underwent a shift that matched her new look. The serene young woman who was considered a goddess in her native Kenya was now more direct and aggressive and would soon grow into a strong, decisive leader—characteristics she would retain from that day forward.

Paul Smith // Marvel Comics

Storm’s famous mohawk appalled some of her fellow X-men, who seemed to equate her cutting her hair with irrevocable change (and this is coming from mutants who see their teammates die and come back to life on a regular basis). Artist Paul Smith had actually proposed the “Mr. T” look as a joke, not expecting Marvel editorial to actually go for it. Made popular by punk rockers and non-conformists in the early 1980s, a mohawk was usually visual shorthand in comics for someone who was trouble—not a hero—but this look is what now comes to mind for many readers when they think of Storm. The mohawk will make its big screen debut this year when actress Alexandra Shipp plays Storm in X-men: Apocalypse.


Tony Salmons // Marvel Comics

Dakota North first appeared in a five-issue mini-series in 1986 that wasn't much of a hit, and afterwards she was relegated to sporadic guest appearances in other comics. Nonetheless, comics fans from that era can recall this striking ad above drawn by series artist and Dakota co-creator Tony Salmons. Dakota’s short, sharp bob and motorcycle jacket signaled that this series would be taking fashion very seriously. In fact, the stylish private eye’s first case involved protecting a famous fashion designer.

North’s heavy tapered power suits were similar to those made popular by real-life fashion designer Thierry Mugler.

Tony Salmons // Marvel Comics


Jaime Hernandez // Fantagraphics

Jaime Hernandez’s contributions to the long-running comics anthology series Love & Rockets centered mostly around Maggie Chascarillo and Hopey Glass, two young women who become friends—and occasionally lovers—amidst the post-punk music scene of 1980s Southern California. Feisty and hard-edged Hopey is the true punk whose style rubs off on the more sensitive, feminine Maggie. They both experiment with spikey hairstyles, torn leggings, black leather, and punk band t-shirts. Maggie and Hopey’s fashion sense made them icons for the post-punk, new wave era of the early ‘80s.

Jaime Hernandez // Fantagraphics


John K. Snyder III

Frances Knight was the leader of the stylish, expensive, and incredibly powerful all-girl protection agency called Fashion In Action. Her style was influenced by Annie Lennox and David Bowie, with some shades of "The Man in the Hathaway Shirt" ads thanks to her pressed suits and eye patch. She looked like she was right out of a Theirry Mugler-Helmut Newton collaboration. Her long, ragged coats that gave the appearance of a cape on top of neatly pressed suits reflected her powerful personality and her dark, tortured past.

John K. Snyder III

Fashion in Action ran as a series of eight-page backup stories in Eclipse Comics’ Scout beginning in 1986. Written and illustrated by John K. Snyder III, it was set in the year 2086 where 100-year-old clothing styles were still in vogue. This mostly forgotten series has never been reprinted—until now, thanks to a Kickstarter running this month.


Wendy Pini

Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest was a pioneer of the independent comic movement in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Set in a fantasy world similar to Earth but populated by elves, the style of clothing was influenced by late-era hippie fashions of the ‘70s with lots of fringe leather. However, in 1987, Elfquest returned after a two-year hiatus with a new series called Siege at Blue Mountain in which you could see a shift to reflect a more contemporary ‘80s culture. Suddenly, winsome heroine Dewshine traded in the luxurious curly locks inspired by Twiggy for the blown-out metal hair of David Lee Roth. Even her makeup became more ‘80s glam rock with sharper contours and heavier eye-shadow.

Wendy Pini


John Byrne // Marvel Comics

As a successful lawyer, She-Hulk was a Melanie Griffith-style working girl in the late 1980s, starring in her own self-titled series written and drawn by John Byrne. She often wore stylish power suits like those designed by Ralph Lauren and, in her downtime, could be seen wearing oversized comfy sweaters and brightly colored party dresses with an Espirit vibe.

John Byrne // Marvel Comics


Michael Wm. Kaluta

The heroines of the sci-fi series Starstruck—inspired by the off-Broadway stage play of the same name—had an aesthetic influenced by roller derbies and art-house fashion. Series artist Michael Wm. Kaluta was also the designer of the costumes for the show, along with Elaine Lee who wrote and starred in the play and wrote the comic. Kaluta cobbled together the costumes by dumpster-diving and finding discarded clothing on the streets. These days, superhero costumes are often designed with easy cosplaying in mind, but the costumes of Starstruck existed in reality before coming to the page, giving them a realistic, DIY feel.

Elaine Lee

Galatia 9, a captain and freedom fighter, wore an asymmetrical outfit that showed skin yet didn’t feel sexualized. One side of her body suit was all business with thick wrestler's boots and gold armor plating while the other side was mostly bare and featured a star-shaped breastplate where her right breast should be (she is of Amazonian origin, hence the lack of one breast).


John Romita, Jr. // Marvel Comics

When refugee mutant from the future Rachel Summers joined the X-men in their present world of 1984, she took her time before settling on a legitimate superhero name and costume. For a while, she would accompany the team while wearing jazzercise outfits, but she also rocked a lot of stylish gender-neutral attire like suspenders or a jacket and tie. She even offset her close-cropped red hair with a long, single braid.

Alan Davis // Marvel Comics

Eventually, Rachel would take on the name Phoenix and don a series of costumes in homage to her mother, Jean Grey, the original Phoenix. But by the end of the 1980s, she had moved to a punky, spiked battle suit and, in her down time, wore aggressive and sexy red leather outfits much in the style that designer Jean-Claude Jitrois had made popular at the time.


Mitch O’Connell

In the 1986 graphic novel The World of Ginger Fox by Mike Baron and Mitch O’Connell, a single mother and businesswoman tries to resurrect a failing Hollywood film studio and gets caught up in the world of drugs, gangs, and martial arts. This is a mostly forgotten but wonderfully illustrated comic that you can now read in its entirety online. O’Connell drew Fox in big-shouldered corporate attire, but also featured tight party dresses, buttoned-down suit dresses, and high, teased hair. Her sexy, abstract style was very similar to the fashions of Claude Montana, who played a lot with volume, cuts, and color.

Mitch O’Connell


Brett Ewins

Created by Peter Milligan and the late Brett Ewins in 1985, Sindi Shade was a back-up story in Johnny Nemo magazine. It featured a young girl trying to find the truth behind the mysterious Librarians in a dystopian future. Her look featured big purple hair with dark lightning streaks, clunky accessories, a ripped shirt, high-waisted tights, and fishnet pantyhose. Her cyber-punk look might have been influenced by Jean Paul Gaultier's constructivist lines mixed with elements of underground glam fetish.

Brett Ewins


Howard Chaykin

The mid-'80s sci-fi satire American Flagg! envisioned an America in the 2030s that was drowning in mall culture and rampant sexual promiscuity. The look of the series is perhaps best remembered for every female character's penchant for elaborate lingerie (a few years before Victoria’s Secret would begin to make that trend mainstream), but series creator Howard Chaykin was a bit of a fashion maven and incorporated a lot of early 20th century retro-style (with an ‘80s twist) to the design of his characters' wardrobes.

Crystal Gale Marakova personified a fusion of all the styles that Chaikin seemed infatuated with: officer attire, garters and stockings, a 1920s Louise Brooks hairstyle, and a Cold War blend of Soviet and American chic thanks to Crystal’s own cross-cultural heritage.


Carmine Infantino // DC Comics

DC Comic super heroines in the 1980s were awash in headbands, from Black Canary to Fire, but the original headband wearer was Supergirl. The look was derived from the 1984 Supergirl movie starring Helen Slater, or, at least what DC thought was going to be the look in the film. When test footage of Slater wearing the headband was revealed in 1983, the studio encouraged DC to have the comic book character begin wearing the accessory to create a visual continuity with the film. She debuted it in Supergirl #17 in November 1983, but then a funny thing happened: The studio changed their mind about the headband and Slater never wore it in the film.

The headband look would die with Supergirl and the entire multiverse about a year later in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #7.

Warner Brothers
Welcome Productions, YouTube
8 Things You Might Not Know About Ziggy
Welcome Productions, YouTube
Welcome Productions, YouTube

Devoid of pants or much of a personality, cartoonist Tom Wilson’s Ziggy has been prompting pleasant chuckles out of readers since he first appeared in newspapers in 1971. The bulbous-nosed little unfortunate has, against the odds, become a highly recognizable character, extensively merchandised on everything from greeting cards to pencil erasers. Before the inevitable big-budget CGI reboot happens, check out some facts about Ziggy's history, why fans were upset when he once spoke, and the bittersweet origin of his distinctive name.


Ziggy had a circuitous route to the comics pages. The character was first created by American Greetings executive Tom Wilson in the 1960s. (Wilson would later have a hand in creating the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.) Doodling an elevator operator who commented on the mundane events inside his small world, when Wilson first tried to sell it as a comic strip, there were no takers. When he resurrected the character for a 1969 American Greetings humor book, When You’re Not Around, the odd little man intrigued the wife of a Universal Press Syndicate executive. By 1971, Wilson and Ziggy were in 15 newspapers, a number that would eventually reach over 500. 


Ziggy is often depicted as beleaguered and exasperated at the various obstacles life puts in front of him, from faulty ATMs to soured relationships. (He prefers to socialize with animals.) Wilson gave him the name “Ziggy” because the letter “Z” comes last in the alphabet and Wilson thought that was a proper position for his character, who often came last in life. (Another story has Wilson hearing the name from a colleague’s barber and remembering it.) In one strip, Ziggy is seen waiting for a rescue after a flood—but the responders are going in alphabetical order. In 1974, Wilson told a reporter that his full name is “Zigfried.”


When Wilson died in 2011, his heir apparent was already selected. His son, Tom Wilson Jr., had been drawing the strip since 1987. Long before that, the elder Wilson would sit with his son at a table, draw Ziggy in a precarious position—a safe plummeting toward him from above, for example—and then instruct his son to draw a way out of the jam. Ziggy, Tom Jr. later said, was like his “successful little brother.”


Despite his general haplessness, Ziggy often draws sympathy and affection from readers. Wilson felt his large, circular nose and rotund body engendered feelings of warmth and told his son to go easy on his line drawing work. “Let’s keep Ziggy round and lovable,” the artist said. Ziggy also breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to readers, a technique Wilson felt further strengthened the feeling of companionship.


For years, locals in Strongsville, Ohio have craned their necks to take in a curious sight: Ziggy appears on the side of one of their water towers. Wilson was from Cleveland, and when he heard a local sports team had painted the character up there in 1975, he offered to render a better portrait. Firefighters lifted him on a crane and allowed him to paint Ziggy next to the school’s mustang mascot. When the Cleveland Water Department threatened to cover him as part of a new paint job, residents signed a petition to prevent them from going through with the plan.


There was no limit to the kind of Ziggy product tie-ins hitting stores, including shirts, calendars, and mugs. But 1977’s A Day with Ziggy might be the most memorable. Players assumed the role of the put-upon blob, trying to avoid landing on a space that would worsen Ziggy’s day.


Ziggy first popped up in cartoon form in 1981, when he “appeared” in a segment with Today film critic Gene Shalit. Strangely, readers wrote in expressing disapproval of the spot, noting that Ziggy's voice didn’t mesh with what they had imagined he might sound like.


Ziggy made the jump to animation in 1982 with the ABC primetime special Ziggy’s Gift. Written by Wilson, it afforded Ziggy fans a closer look at the character’s daily life, including his sparsely-furnished apartment and a gig dressing as Santa for the holidays. At Wilson’s insistence, the character didn’t speak to avoid another Shalit situation. The special won an Emmy in 1983. Ziggy still wasn’t wearing any pants.

Columbia Pictures
12 Burning Facts About Hellboy
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Two decades before he would become a two-time Oscar-winner for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro set out to make a movie about his favorite superhero: a big red demon with a big gun and a heart of gold. It took years to finally get the film off the ground, but in 2004 Hellboy finally made it to theaters, adding another piece to the beloved supernatural filmography that’s made del Toro a favorite among genre fans for a quarter of a century.

Though it never rose to the box office heights of The Avengers, and it never reached the end of its planned trilogy, Hellboy remains one of the most imaginative, thrilling superhero films of the 21st century. From early script changes to an accidentally deleted scene, here are 12 facts about how it was made.


Guillermo del Toro grew up with comic books, noting that he was flipping through them before he even knew how to read the words. That childhood fondness for the medium stayed with him into adulthood, and by the time he’d reached his early 30s he’d not only discovered the work of Mike Mignola, but began to consider the Hellboy creator one of his great comic book visual influences alongside legends like Will Eisner, Bernie Wrightson, and Richard Corben.

“Mignola, in my later years, already as a young adult, fascinated me with his use of light and shadow, with his amazing bold line work, but also with the way he gave birth to my favorite superhero in my adult years, which is Hellboy,” del Toro said during the recording of the Hellboy Director’s Cut commentary track.

When del Toro and Mignola finally met during the making of Hellboy, they bonded over a mutual love of folklore and pulp fiction, becoming fast friends and collaborators. 


In the world of the film, Hellboy is viewed as an urban legend and tabloid story, not unlike Bigfoot. The film’s opening credits underline this with blurry photos, grainy videos, and newspaper headlines meant to depict widespread eyewitness accounts of the creature. Agent Myers (Rupert Evans) further emphasizes this point when he exclaims “He’s real!” upon meeting Hellboy for the first time. 

According to del Toro, this idea was initially supposed to play out in a much more overt way through the film’s screenplay. In early drafts, parts of the film’s story were told through eyewitness interviews with characters claiming to have seen Hellboy.

“So people would be saying ‘I saw Hellboy over here. I saw him jump,’ and a kid saying, ‘I saw him on the rooftop.’ Now everybody does it, but back then it was 1997, '98, and I thought that was a great idea,” del Toro said. “That was the first thing we cut out of the shooting schedule because [the studio executives] didn’t understand it.”


Though Hellboy’s live-action debut occurred relatively early in the 21st century’s superhero movie boom, he could have been more of a comic book trailblazer than he turned out to be. According to del Toro, if it weren't for reluctant studio executives, the film could have come out as early as 1998, making it a contemporary of Blade rather than Spider-Man 2.

“The one thing that particularly infuriates me is that this movie could have been made in 1998,” del Toro said, noting that the film would have then pre-dated X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002), and even The Matrix (1999). At the time, though, many studio executives considered the comic book movie label “almost an insult,” and so Hellboy kept getting pushed back. In between the time it could have been made and the time it was actually released, del Toro made his comic book movie debut with another dark superhero film, Blade II, in 2002.


By the time Hellboy hit theaters, creator Mike Mignola had already been building his own mythology and supporting cast around the character for a full decade. While the film is a loose adaptation of the first major story arc of the comic, “Seed of Destruction,” del Toro couldn’t help adding his own touches to everyone’s backstory. Even before he began work on the script, del Toro wrote out detailed character biographies for each major player in the Hellboy story, which were then included on the eventual Director’s Cut DVD release.

A particularly amusing example from these backstories: The fictionalized version of historical figure Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) is said to have disliked “greasy food,” and while he really did die in 1916, he was resurrected in 1936 when Nazi occultists mixed his stolen ashes with the blood of the innocent.


Long before his fantasy romance The Shape of Water earned him two Academy Awards, del Toro was imagining tales of unusual creatures falling in love with human women, and Hellboy was one of them. The romance between the title character (Ron Perlman) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) didn’t exist in Mignola’s original comics, where Sherman’s stronger connection was (ironically, given The Shape of Water’s subject matter) with the aquatic creature Abe Sapien (who is played by The Shape of Water's Amphibian Man, Doug Jones). Latching onto a particular moment in the comics in which Hellboy is enraged by the thought of Liz’s death, del Toro envisioned a story in which his demonic hero could fall in love with a pyrokinetic woman, and was particularly enticed by the image of that woman engulfed in flames kissing a fireproof creature. That particular storytelling decision made del Toro’s Hellboy significantly different from Mignola’s, who modeled the character after his father, but the creator ultimately allowed the departure in the final film.


In several sequences throughout the film, the character of Rasputin wears a pair of small sunglasses, even in scenes set at night. This was not done simply to make him look cooler (del Toro recalls comparisons made to The Matrix), but because del Toro originally planned to take away the character’s eyes. In the film’s opening sequence, Rasputin is sucked into the very portal that baby Hellboy is drawn out of, causing him to vanish from Earth for decades until he’s resurrected in the present day. Del Toro wanted the portal to create a “cosmic eye-gouging” effect that would rip the character’s eyes out of his head, but it simply didn’t work in a PG-13 film.

“I thought the eye-gouging, the cosmic eye-gouging, was not graphic enough for people to get the point,” del Toro said.

So, the shot of Rasputin losing his eyes was cut from the theatrical release, but restored for the director’s cut, along with a deleted scene in which the character is given a set of glass eyes.


Del Toro is a director known for his keen attention to detail. As a result, various recurring visual themes appear in all of his films. For Hellboy, he focused on the idea that “a man is made a man by the choices he makes,” and while the film’s story conveys that as Hellboy must choose between the ideologies of Rasputin and Professor Broom, he also sought to convey it through visual metaphor. To do this, del Toro settled on the recurring motif of the labyrinth. It first appears as part of the opening credits sequence, when the entire logo becomes a kind of maze, then reappears as Ilsa (Bridget Hodson) and Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) weave through mountainous terrain to find Rasputin’s resurrection site. To bookend the metaphor, Rasputin’s mausoleum in Moscow also functions as a kind of labyrinth. Even the metal gates leading to the BPRD’s headquarters resemble the lines of a maze.


While several scenes from del Toro’s Director’s Cut were left out of the theatrical release, even the version of Hellboy shown in theaters wasn’t always complete. As del Toro later recalled, some “careless” projectionists in “dozens” of theaters accidentally removed one key sequence from the film’s final act as they were assembling the reels. At the end of the scene in which Liz activates her fire powers to burn the Sammael creatures away, a rock flies directly at the camera lens, creating a brief blackout. That scene is supposed to be followed by a shot of an unconscious Myers waking up on the ground to find Ilsa and Rasputin standing over him. The blackout confused some projectionists into skipping over the scene of Myers waking up, so some theatrical audiences were taken directly to the scene that followed, in which Myers has already been captured and chained up. According to del Toro, he set up an email contact form for moviegoers to report this misstep and got numerous replies, though the studio was not able to correct all of the errors.


Beginning with Cronos (1993), del Toro has built a large and diverse company of frequent collaborators, many of whom continue to work with him to this day. Several of these collaborators contributed to Hellboy, both in front of and behind the camera, including actors Ron Perlman (Cronos, Pacific Rim, Blade II) and Doug Jones (Mimic, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, and more), composer Marco Beltrami (Mimic, Blade II), and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim and more).


During the Director’s Cut commentary for Hellboy, del Toro praised the film’s marketing team for finding ways to sell the film to the public, noting that it wasn’t always easy to attract audiences to a film called Hellboy. Some theaters refused to show the movie, while others retitled it Helloboy in an effort to calm potentially offended patrons. The problem was exacerbated by the presence of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which opened a few weeks earlier and remained a big box office draw during the Easter holiday.

“Especially on Easter, some theaters mysteriously dropped the movie when it was still making money,” del Toro recalled.


Hellboy opened on April 2, 2004 to strong reviews and a box office return good enough to merit a sequel. Just weeks after the first film hit theaters, Hellboy II was a go, with del Toro, Perlman, Blair, and Jones returning. With the knowledge that he would get to continue the story, del Toro envisioned a superhero fantasy trilogy, which moved closer to becoming a reality when Hellboy II: The Golden Army opened in 2008 to more critical acclaim. As time passed, though, a third film began to seem increasingly unlikely, with Perlman in particular noting that the epic scope of del Toro’s plans could be too taxing on the budget as well as Perlman’s own physical health. After years of holding out hope that the trilogy could be completed, del Toro finally announced in 2017 that all plans for Hellboy 3 had been scrapped.


Del Toro might not get to finish his version of the Hellboy story, but that doesn’t mean Big Red won’t hit the big screen again. In May 2017, just months after del Toro announced an end to his version of the tale, Mignola revealed that the character would be rebooted as part of a new film franchise. Directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent) and starring David Harbour (Stranger Things) in the title role, the new Hellboy film is set to hit theaters on January 11, 2019.

Additional Sources:
Hellboy: The Director’s Cut special features (2004)
Guillermo del Toro: Cabinet of Curiosities (2013)


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