Web of Spider-Man #100 Marvel Comics, 1993
You know what's stupid? When super-heroes get high-tech, armored versions of their regular costumes. Even if it's only for a short time, it's still doopid. That's right, it's doopid. I'm making up words here.
Where was I? Right; stupid armor. One of the lamer trends in comics, stupid armor was a spasm of collective uncoolness that really took hold in the mid-nineties, the modern dark age of comics. For some reason, in the nineties heroes were upgrading to more "extreme" and "radical" versions of their regular costumes.
As near as I can tell, this cliche manifests itself in three ways:
1) POWERING UP The hero is "powering up" to face a certain threat or compensate for a certain weakness. Check out Spidey's gnarly armored costume above, or Captain America's hardcore battle armor, below for examples.
Captain America #440 Marvel Comics, 1995
2) DESPERATION The hero is getting a costume overhaul because sales are lagging or the character is inherently goofy and needs help badly. The new armor lasts for as long as the creative team that made it lasts, and then the next guys come in and change the hero back again. One advanatge of this approach is that it makes readers appreciate how cool, say, Classic Booster Gold was in comparison to the new Radically Rad Armored Booster Gold. Then when you switch back to the old Booster Gold, everybody's happy again.
"I gotta hand it to you, Ted, this new version of my armor looks pretty cool!"
Booster Gold is high. That armor is anti-cool - if it came into contact with real cool it would explode. He looks like one of those big inflatable superhero/lumberjack/gorilla ballons you see in front of car dealerships. I was around in 1994, and I remember most of it, so I can say with some certainty that Booster's armor wasn't pretty cool then, nor has it ever been pretty cool.
3) SPECIAL 50TH OR 100TH ISSUE! For some reason, big landmark issues seem to be really good times to bust out the radical new armor. The Spidey Armor above was from the 100th issue, and the Cat Armor below is from the special 50th issue of Catwoman. You can't tell from the scan, but the cover is all shiny and metallic. Can you see? Can you see why the nineties nearly killed us all? Did we need a special shiny 50th issue of Catwoman with extreme new armor?
The Az-Bat Armor is also a good example of celebrating a publishing landmark in the history of an enduring, iconic character by totally burying everything enduring and iconic about the character under three feet of crap. The Az-Bat thing is worthy of it's own post, so perhaps I'll refrain from any fanboy histrionics just yet.
I think I've made my point: armor for superheroes is never cool.*
*Unless you're Iron Man or somebody like that, in which case, go nuts.