The 1990s were a time of grunge music, Mountain Dew, and the X-Games. It was the beginning of the over-saturation of the comic book market place, and it was a time when comic book companies would do anything, and I mean anything, to gain new readership. One of those things was to make all your favorite heroes a little bit more extreme by putting them in armor.
It happened a few times, and as you can see below, three of these examples come from Marvel comics: Captain America, Daredevil, and Spider-Man. Why are these guys wearing metal costumes, what purpose does it serve, and was this a good or bad idea?
Much like what the Medieval knights, during the Dark Ages, wore centuries ago, three classic Marvel characters jumped into armor of their own during the Marvel Dark Age. In an attempt to update the character's style for a new generation of XTREME readers, Mavel took a big risk by weighing down some of their big stars in metal costumes.
Take Captain America, for example. Mobility aside, his greatest defense is his shield. When you put old Steve Rogers in armor, it takes the defensive component of the shield away and makes that object just a offensive component. He no longer has to rely on his agility or strategy while wearing armor because he can just charge into battle and not have to worry about being shot. The same goes for Daredevil and Spider-Man, both of these characters rely on agility and strategy, but you put a bunch of metal on them, and the need for both of those is no where near as important as it used to be. Especially with Spider-Man who, at the time, relied heavily on his "spider-sense." Why bother paying attention to that when you can take a bullet to the chest no problem.
At least it looked cool, right? It's a bit of a trick question. Maybe for its time these guys looked really cool, but in hindsight, not so much. It's became more of a gimmick. Many of us wondered, "who's going to show up in metal armor next?" Captain America and Spider-Man look ridiculous now, but weirdly enough, Daredevil still looks pretty darn cool. Out of the tons of people that armored up during the 90s, including the ridiculous Batman costume Jean-Paul Valley dawned in the Knightfall arc, Daredevil's armored costume is the only one that really stood the test of time.
Again, it was a sign of the times. The 80s will always be known for the darker, more brooding stories and characters, and the 90s will be known for muscles, pouches, and armor. It reflected our own American culture. We were prospering and had more than we needed, so super-heroes did the same, and they had a little bit more than they needed, but instead of a new video game system or circular cardboard cut-outs with pictures on them AKA Pogs, super-heroes added over-sized pieces of armor to their arsenal.
It makes you wonder. Were War Machine and Iron Man not enough for the general public? Were they clamoring for more heroes in suits of armor? If memory serves me correctly, they weren't. It isn't all bad though. Yes, the gimmick is pretty lame looking back, but I applaud Marvel for trying something new. It was leaps and bounds cooler than the M2 Universe, but not as cool as the 2099 Universe (sorry, but I'm still a fan). And while I still fail to see the reasoning other than "it looked cool then," Marvel could have done some lamer things to these characters (like make one of them a teenager... I'm looking at you Tony Stark). What do you guys think of armored characters who normally wear spandex? Is it cool? Which characters that I overlooked did you like in armor?
Mat Elfring is a comedian, teacher, writer, and comic store employee.
Follow his antics on twitter: @ inferiorego