Invisible Woman Costume History
Susan Storm and the rest of the Fantastic Four would make their comic book debut in 1961, with their own title The Fantastic Four #1. Reed Richards took her, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm on a space mission, where they were accidentally bombarded with cosmic rays that gave them all superpowers. Sue Storm was part of a very important moment in Marvel’s comic book history. Not only would the Fantastic Four be the first superhero team created by the the legendary comic book duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but the Invisible Girl would also be the first female superhero added to Marvel’s growing superhero lineup, that was being established during the Silver Age.
After being exposed to cosmic rays, Susan Storm gained the ability to manipulate light waves to turn herself invisible, hence the name Invisible Girl. Not being able to do much beyond hide, she often ended up being used for the part of a damsel in distress. To increase her role in the team, the creators had her discover that she also had the ability to turn other people and things invisible. To give her more of a punch, she gained the ability to project invisible force fields. Just as her powers grew, so did her involvement with the group. The Invisible Girl became the Invisible Woman. This strong character has taken on a leadership role in both combat situations and their family life. She is the glue that helps hold her brother Johnny, husband Reed and good friend Ben Grimm together, so they can save the world again and again.
For almost two decades, the Fantastic Four would stick with their original uniforms. In what is a pretty revolutionary idea, it would be the male superhero, the Thing, who walked around in a uniform resembling underwear, while the Invisible Girl wore a full body jumpsuit matching the rest of her male team members. These full body uniforms were almost entirely blue. The gloves and boots were a darker blue to help add some detail, but the only other color to be found was a white circle with a blue 4 centered inside. The costumes started out rather bulky, like a flight suit, but by the early 70s there was a noticeable difference in their snug fit. This was very apparent with the Invisible Girl’s uniform and her womanly curves. Which is odd, since it should be Mr. Fantastic stretching his clothing to be extremely tight and revealing.
Original Uniform Updated
When the 80s hit, it was time for a slight costume upgrade. It was not as much of an upgrade, but an outline. The dark blue elements of the costume were turned black and the white circle was given a black outline. As you can see, this did not change the uniform's overall design but helped separate the different parts of the costume and thus made body movements more noticeable. Once again we can see Sue Storm’s uniform getting more form fitting as the years go by and it is not because she is putting on weight.
Black to White
Once again the Fantastic Four would go through a drastic costume change. Wait, I mean subtle change. After only a couple years, the recently added black coloring on the costumes were changed to white. Small changes can sometimes make a big difference. By adding the white fabric, the costumes and their movements popped off the page. This uniform would stick around for over a decade, until the team switched back to the black or dark blue highlights (It depended on the inker). However, the Invisible Woman would have a couple drastic costume changes before this transition and this time we can accurately say it was a “drastic” costume change.
It was the 90s and Sue Storm Richards was getting sick of her rather conservative image. Her exact words to Reed in Fantastic Four #371 were, “I was starting to feel like an old frump in that tedious, outdated jumpsuit”. (I quote because of the word “frump”, she is so trendy.) The Invisible Woman decided to join other superheroines in her attempts to wear as little clothing as possible and still pass the the comic code authority censors. This outfit had the typical knee high white boots and matching opera gloves so popular amongst other heroines. This one piece bathing suit, might as well have been a bikini. There was a little bit of fabric that wrapped around the back, but this was used to prove their was gravity. Worried that this costume might still have a little too much fabric, a 4 was cut out of the bust, instead of simply drawing it on. Realizing that there was not a lot of blue to match her teammates, thin bands were put around her thighs and arms.
Oddly enough, at a time when the Invisible Woman was wearing practically nothing, Thing would start wearing a one piece, instead of his blue underwear.
A Little More Modest
It only took about a year before the ridiculousness of the swimsuit costume was realized. She told Namor, in Fantastic Four issue #387, that the costume was too flashy for her tastes. Not wanting to put the Invisible Woman into a “frumpy” jumpsuit, compromises were made. Rather than bikini bottoms, Sue Storm would now have fully legged pants, they would be super tight, but fully cover her lower half. With the addition of pants, she could now wear regular sized boots. The costume was still open in the back but it was fully closed in the front and looked more like a shirt than a bra. She would once again have a painted 4 on her costume, instead of the cut out stripper model. It would not be long before she would completely switch back to the full body team uniforms consisting of blue and black.
The Invisible Woman would start wearing a slight variation of the team uniform that soon caught on with her Husband, Reed Richards. Sue would wear a short sleeve costume that was almost identical to the team uniform. Wanting to show off her well developed arms, from fighting supervillains for decades, her sleeves stopped just above her biceps. (Women can show off their guns, just like men.) Mr. Fantastic was a little more modest and only exposed his forearms. The short sleeve costume would be switched out with the long sleeve version, because it is important not to wear one style for too long. A mistake she learned from keeping her first costume for a couple decades.
A New 4
The number 4 in the middle of a circle has been the emblem of the Fantastic Four since their beginnings. The color pattern might change or it could be a cut out, but the shape was always there. For a short time the white on the neck of the uniform was expanded and the 4 became part of the white design that went over the left side of the chest. For some reason, the Invisible Woman became well endowed at this time and the 4 started to pop out as if it were in 3D. This new 4 logo was artistic, stylish, and modern. However, it was not the symbol everybody had come to know and would quickly revert back to the original design.
Black and White
The biggest change to the Fantastic Four uniform would come in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy. The Human Torch is killed and the Fantastic Four must deal with this loss. Not only do they bring Spider-Man into their team, but they switch to white and black uniforms. Their classic look was part of a team with Johnny Storm and now they must move on. These white form fitting uniforms had black lines and bands that made them look like stylish spacesuits. This fits with their strong presence in galactic affairs. The costume originally had three hexagons on the chest but it was soon switched to the classic 4 in the middle of a circle.
Malice: Mistress of Hate
The Invisible Girl would be influenced by Psycho-Man to become Malice: Mistress of Hate. Through the use of mental torture, Psycho-Man was able to feed Sue’s negative emotions until they completely overwhelmed her. He then set her against the Fantastic Four. With total control of her powers and no inhibition, Malice was able to easily defeat She-Hulk, the Human Torch, and Mr. Fantastic in physical combat. However, Reed was able to trigger true anger through controversial means (he slapped her) and acting the part of the arrogant, chauvinistic man she was perceiving him to be through Psycho-Man’s influence. When this all got sorted out the Invisible Girl had complete control of her powers and could now form shapes with her force fields. With the discovery of how much power she truly wields and a new sense of confidence, Susan Richards changer her codename to the Invisible Woman.
Perhaps the artists were trying to find a way to help readers visualize Malice’s lack of inhibition in using her powers when they designed this costume. Because, the Malice: Mistress of Hate costume would probably make Emma Frost blush. (Okay, maybe not Emma Frost, but she would be the only one not blushing.) This black dominatrix like costume pretty much covered the opposite of what normal clothing would She had thigh high boots and opera gloves covering her arms and legs, a spiked collar around her neck, and a full mask with large spikes.. Other than that, it was basically a bra and a piece of fabric pretending to be a dress.
This is more of a commentary, than information on Sue Storm’s costume history. My research for these articles begin with looking at the covers of old comic books. With the Fantastic Four being comprised of three men and one woman, (not including She-Hulk, Medusa, and other temporary members) I noticed an interesting phenomenon around year 30. Despite multiple covers with our heroes banged up and defeated, the Invisible Woman was the only one who ever had her costume actually tear. (Ben Grimm would be shirtless to represent not being the Thing, but that was the only exception.)
Rebecca Staab: The first woman to play Susan Storm would never have her performance officially released. In 1994 a Fantastic Four movie was made for the sole purpose of allowing Constantine Films to keep the movie rights. Although the movie was never release, thanks to the internet and comic conventions people can still experience the very first live action Fantastic Four film.
Jessica Alba: In 2005 Fantastic Four was officially released in theatres. For this fully funded blockbuster movie, the role of Sue Storm went to Jessica Alba. Oddly enough this hollywood beauty kept finding herself turning visible in her underwear. She would reprise her role as the Invisible woman in the 2007 sequel, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Although not available in most stores, there is still a large selection of Invisible Woman costumes available at your larger costume shops.
Fans of the Fantastic Four create their own costumes to more closely resemble their favorite Invisible Woman outfits.
Google Images (Images appeared on several sites and was unsure of original)