Comic books have been around for a long time and they have changed a great deal during their lifespan. So, it stands to reason that the characters in them would change a lot too. Some characters have been changed slightly over the years to keep them fresh, while others have completely changed to the point where they’re unrecognisable.
We thought it would be cool to take a look at some of the most iconic characters that have not only been subjected to these drastic transformations, but also came out the other side better for it…
Here are 15 Comic Book Characters that have Changed the most Since their Debut!
1. Deadpool (Wade Wilson)
In his first appearances, Deadpool was nothing more than a Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) rip off. He was a super-agile mercenary style supervillain with healing abilities and an affinity for blades and guns. Marvel and DC Comics have copied each other a lot over the years, but in this instance, Marvel really had no shame.
Thankfully, over the years we’ve seen Deadpool evolve and become one of the most unique characters comic books have to offer. He went from being a villainous contract killer to a hilarious, self-aware, fourth wall breaking anti-hero with a slew of catchphrases and a slightly worrying obsession with chimichangas. His powers have changed dramatically too. What began as a minor healing factor has now become straight up immortality. He once respawned his entire body from his hand!
2. Penance (Robert “Robbie” Baldwin)
Robbie Baldwin began his existence as Speedball, a light-hearted superhero who had the ability to absorb energy directed at him and use it to ricochet in the other direction unharmed. At some point in his career, he encountered Nitro, a villain with the power to create explosions. The fight ended up near a school, and Nitro detonated incinerating everyone in his blast radius apart from Speedball. This incident went on to cause the Civil War.
Stricken with guilt, it soon became apparent that his powers could only be activated when he felt pain. He also discovered his powers had evolved greatly. So, to use his new powers he ordered a suit filled with 612 spikes facing inward. One for each for life claimed in the attack. 60 of the spikes were longer than the rest, these represented the children. He adopted the new identity of Penance, a dark, masochistic, more powerful hero burdened with guilt.
3. Nightwing (Dick Grayson)
Dick Grayson, the first Robin! In his early years, he was just light-hearted, corny golden age superhero sidekick that served as a stark contrast to the dark and brooding Batman. Eventually, Dick grew up and drifted apart from Batman. This ultimately led to him being cast out by Batman and fired from his position as Robin. So, Dick created a new persona naming himself Nightwing, after a kryptonian hero that was cast out by his family and went on to become a legend.
As Nightwing he’d effectively graduated as a student of Batman. He was now a smarter, stronger, more serious hero who’d mastered his skills and become a force to be reckoned with. He began carrying twin eskrima sticks made from an unbreakable polymer (with built in high voltage tasers), driving the Wingcycle and using Wing Dings (his version of Batarangs). On top of all this, his new costume also had a number of built-in hi-tech capabilities too.
4. Red Hood (Jason Todd)
Continuing the pattern of sidekicks that grew into themselves as heroes, we have Jason Todd, the second Robin. Initially he was a carbon copy of the original Robin. However, this was eventually changed.
His origin was switched to him being a street kid from a broken family who tried to steal the wheels off the Batmobile. Batman then took him in and trained him to replace Dick. Along with these changes, Jason was now reckless and disobedient Robin. Eventually, it was these attitude issues that led Jason to his untimely death at the hands of the Joker.
Years later, he was brought back to life (you know? because comics…). Enraged by his death, Jason adopted the mantle of the Red Hood and vowed to take revenge on the Joker and Batman (for letting him die). Now, as Red Hood, he’s a murderous, gun toting, knife wielding anti-hero that will stop at nothing to get rid of criminals. A far throw from the “butter wouldn’t melt boy wonder 2.0” that he originally debuted as.
5. Calendar Man (Julian Day)
Originally, Calendar Man was just a goofy D-List villain that committed seasonal themed crimes that depending on what time of year it was. For instance, he once dressed as a snowman to steal a diamond in the winter. Another time, he spent a week committing crimes in the theme of each day’s namesake. He was just an incredibly goofy villain that would only be seen as a joke by todays standards.
All of this changed drastically during the Batman: The Long Halloween storyline. In this story, Calendar Man was reimagined as a psychotic serial killer imprisoned within Arkham Asylum. Just like his previous rendition he has been said to have committed a slew of calendar-based crimes. Only these crimes were a far cry from the goofy shenanigans of the old Calendar Man. He was now a cold, calculated, intelligent villain that posed a clear and genuine threat to Batman.
6. Deadshot (Floyd Lawton)
Deadshot is one of DC Comics’ most popular villains and it’s really not hard to see why either. But the original Deadshot is almost unidentifiable compared to who he is now. Instead of the red jumpsuit and the red-eye scope, he wore a top hat, a suit, and a domino mask. Not only this, but instead of his signature twin wrist-mounted guns, he wielded two revolvers.
His current design first debuted in Detective Comics #474 (1977). This story sees him break free from prison and change his costume to the one we know and love today. Deadshot claimed that he was no longer “playing fancy games”, and with his new equipment he would be the man to kill Batman! Who knows, maybe he will someday?
7. Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor is a billionaire industrialist supervillain with no actual superpowers or magnificent abilities, other than his genius level intellect. Characterised by his bald head and his ruthless cunning, Lex Luthor wasn’t always like this. In his early days he was a mad scientist with red hair and he lived in a flying city that was held up by an enormous blimp.
He was still the arch-nemesis of Superman but he was a far throw from the fleshed-out character he is now. We didn’t even know his first name at this point!
His bald head first came about due to a mistake made by an artist but it wasn’t until Adventure Comics #271 (1960) that he was given an origin story. Since then, we’ve seen countless changes and additions to his character that have slowly transformed him into the extremely complex, warsuit wearing, CEO of LexCorp we know and love today.
8. Hulk (Robert Bruce Banner)|
The Hulk is one of the most complex characters comics have to offer. His powers are a superhuman manifestation of his dissociative identity disorder (DID). His alters are usually brought out by intense bouts of rage. This was not always the case with the Jade Giant. In fact, in his first appearance, the Jade Giant wasn’t even Jade!
Originally, the Hulk was actually grey. His transformations also weren’t triggered by anger, instead, Bruce Banner would turn into Hulk whenever the sun went down. He would then turn back whenever the sunrose. He also wasn’t the mindless childlike monster he would later become either. He spoke like a normal person.
The first change happened super early on in The Incredible Hulk #2 (1962). In this issue his colour was changed due to the fact that green was much easier to keep at a consistent shade than grey. Although, the grey skin was eventually brought back through one of his alters Joe Fixit but this wasn’t until much later on.
9. Hellcat (Patricia “Patsy” Walker)
Patricia Walker is probably my favourite addition to this list in terms of how much she’s changed. One of Marvel’s oldest characters, Patsy made her first appearance during the golden age. Only back then she wasn’t Hellcat and she wasn’t really anything to do with the superhero world at all.
On the contrary, Patricia was the star of teenage romantic-comedy comic series, Patsy Walker, published by Atlas Comics (the precursor to Marvel Comics). At the time she was an innocent baby-faced teen tackling issues you’d expect only a baby-faced teen in a 1940s rom-com to tackle.
Her first official appearance in the Marvel Universe came in Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965). However, it wasn’t until much later on in The Avengers #144 (1976) that she first became Hellcat. The Patsy Walker stories were later retconned in Defenders Vol.1 #89 (1980) as works of fiction created by her mother Dorothy Walker.
10. Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff)
If you saw Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) in her debut you wouldn’t have a clue who she was. She lacked every character trait that make her who she is. Apart from her past as a Russian spy (which she still was at the time) and her name being Black Widow she was a completely different character. She didn’t have her red hair and black jumpsuit; she wasn’t a deadly assassin and she certainly wasn’t an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Her first steps towards becoming a hero came in Tales of Suspense #64 (1959) when she begins to resist against her communist handlers. Although, it wasn’t until 4 years after that in Amazing Spider-Man #86 (1970) that she would adopt her now iconic look and really begin turning into the badass character she is today.