Mystique: Character, Costume History, and Cosplay
Raven Darkhölme has been a central villain and helped shaped the X-Men storyline. Her first appearance was not in an X title but in the 1978 issue of Ms. Marvel #16. Mystique is a mutant with the power to shape-shift. With her ability to transform into any person, she is a master assassin.
Along with her shape-shifting, Mystique also possesses super agility, healing, and slow aging. This blue-skinned, yellow-eyed, and red-haired beauty is over 100 years old. Despite her advanced age, she still looks great and makes it onto many lists of the most beautiful women in comics.
A Complex Villain
Mystique is an extremely complex and interesting villain. Raven wants the best for mutants but is willing to wipe out humanity to achieve her goals. In 1981, she reformed the terrorist organization known as the Brotherhood of Mutants to fight anti-mutant supporters and then later was part of the government-sponsored Freedom Force.
One of the First Bisexual Characters
She is also one of the first bisexual characters to appear in mainstream comics. She had a long-term relationship with Destiny. Mystique’s creator, Chris Claremont, wanted to have Mystique form into a man so that she and Destiny could have Nighcrawler as a biological child. However, the Comic Code Authority did not allow the explicit portrayal of gay or bisexual characters when this storyline was being developed. Since this rule was also part of Marvel’s policy, Claremont’s idea was rejected.
Mystique was the mother of several characters who would become vital in the X-Men storyline. She and a fellow shape shifting mutant, Azazel, had a son named Nightcrawler. She abandoned Nightcrawler when escaping a mob that was trying to kill them for being demons. Years later, she finds a runaway named Rogue. Mystique and Destiny would raise Rogue as their adopted daughter.
While both Nightcrawler and Rogue would go on to become active members of the X-Men, Mystique’s first child, Graydon Creed, would turn into a deadly enemy. Graydon was the result of a love affair between Mystique and Sabertooth. After the affair, Mystique gave birth to the non-mutant Graydon and put him up for adoption. Despite Mystique secretly keeping tabs on Graydon, he felt abandoned by his mutant parents and formed the Friends of Humanity, whose goal was to destroy mutants.
Mystique’s first costume would have some slight modifications over the years, but it continually comes back into her rotation. This long white dress would be form fitting at the top and then flow down starting at the waist. The skirt section of the dress was slit all the way to her hips, showing of her long legs, but always managed to cover the important parts despite gravity and wind factors.
At first, the sides were held together with laces, but it was later switched to a solid piece of fabric and finally left completely open. Mystique also started to wear a black bodysuit underneath the dress, clearly showing that she did have clothing covering her. No longer being bare underneath, she could wear a dress that was a little shorter and bit narrower. Mystique completed this ensemble with short white gloves and boots that would be cut at the ends in different patterns.
The ominous gold skull belt was not holding any clothes in place, but it did act much like Batman’s utility belt. Mystique was able to store small weapons and gadgets inside the skulls. She could then take these objects out and change them to their proper shape. This ensemble shows off the seductive and mysterious femme fatale image that Mystique so often portrays.
The first major costume makeover for Mystique was more militant in appearance. The flowing sexy dress was gone and was replaced with this new outfit, more appropriate for her forced service with X-Factor. At first, her new wardrobe was made of black leather, but she soon switched to her preferred white coloring. She had on the combo bodice/one-piece bathing suit, because pants and a shirt are too difficult to draw in the comic book world.
Mystique had matching thigh high boots, gloves and a short sleeve jacket to add to her intimidating look. The boots were held on with red leather straps that matched her belt and gun holster. The skulls on her belt were gone and replaced with more conventional military pouches.
After escaping her indentured service to X-Factor, Mystique would rotate through several of her old clothing styles. She would eventually settle on a shiny full body suit. This tight outfit would cover her entire body, leaving only her hands and head exposed. While most of the suit was black there was a white section covering her neck and shoulders and then went down her torso in the shape of a triangle, ending at her belly button.
To accessorize, Mystique wore gold bracelets and incorporated her skull motif into the choker. The high heels gave this costume a business suit appearance.
While working with X-Factor, Mystique would change her uniform to a simple black and white bodysuit. This form fitting outfit left out the skulls and utility belt features she had worn for so long. She would rely on her mutant ability to shapeshift more often than weaponry and no longer required a large supply of gadgets. Not sure why someone who shapeshifts all the time would wear a skintight bodysuit perfectly tailored to every curve of her body. Perhaps the thin fabric allowed her to slip into other people's clothing without having to remove her own.
Influenced by the hugely successful X-Men film in 2000, the comic book series changed Mystiques appearance to match the film in the X-Men Forever miniseries. She was irradiated by Prosh’s machine while saving Toad and the exposure resulted in making her appear more reptilian. Her skin was now scaly and she wore her long hair slicked back. With scales covering her body it was not longer necessary to wear pesky clothing. As a shapeshifter, it came in handy not having to change clothes. As a lady, it lacked a lot of class.
Dark X-Men and the Aftermath
While posing as Jean Grey, Mystique wore more stylized versions of her old outfits. There would be simple upgrades such as a light blue strip running down the front of her white dress, a unique belt, or different pattern of white running over the black bodysuit. Since she was part of the “Dark” X-Men she had a black X on her belt buckle and red Xs on her gloves and boots. Once the “Dark” X-Men were disbanded Mystique continued to wear her stylized costumes she wore while impersonating Jean Grey but took out the Xs.
Mystique wore a very simple all white wardrobe when she broke out of prison. For her lower half she had on leather pants and matching boots. The only other piece of clothing was a sleeveless crop top revealing her perfectly sculpted abs and arms. Of course when you are a shapeshifter you don’t have to work out and eat right to get a “perfect” body.
The adult version of Mystique in the X-Men trilogy was played by model turned actress Rebecca Romijn (Stamos). Rebecca was able to bring a sexiness to the scaly skinned version of Raven Darkhölme while still maintaining her dangerous demeanor. For the X-Men: First Class movie Rebecca put in a cameo appearance when her younger version morphs into an older woman while attempting to seduce Magneto. For the younger version of Raven the role went to Jennifer Lawrence. This Academy Award nominated actress knows all about playing strong characters as she not only portrayed Mystique but also Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
While working with the X-Men Mystique donned many variations of her classic look. She also added a brand new outfit. This ensemble was also very simple but now that she was working with the good guys she went from pure white to a dark black. I am sure this makes sense somehow. All her clothes were made of leather. She had large combat boots that were distinctly separated from her tight leather pants. The gloves were bulky but worked well with the dark coloring. Her halter top still left her stomach and arms exposed. A weapons belt would be worn as needed but was not always present.
During her time with the X-Men, Mystique mentions that the clothes she wears are created by her body. Does this mean she is always naked? She must save a fortune on new clothes and dry cleaning.
Models and Cosplayers
Although Mystique is a pivotal character in the Marvel Comic Universe, outside of the comic book world most people think of her as the reptilian movie version. It takes fans and their costuming skills to bring Raven Darkhölme to life.
Google Images (Images appeared on several sites and was unsure of original)