Comic books are known for characters who have powers and abilities that defy the laws of nature and physics. But it isn’t just their powers that defy all known reason: sometimes it is their hairstyles that do as well. Good, bad and in-between, here are ten comic book characters whose hairdos would likely make you stop dead in your tracks and stare if you ever saw them on a real live person.
10. The Wolverine ‘do
Wolverine is a comic book character that is so popular and iconic, he created a hairstyle trend all his own. Although he debuted in The Incredible Hulk #181 in 1974, Wolverine wouldn’t take off his mask and reveal what he really looked like underneath it all until Uncanny X-Men #98 back in 1976. Artist Dave Cockrum decided that for some inexplicable reason, Wolverine’s hair would actually be in the shape of his mask. (and that so had to be a bitch to cram under that tight little cowl.) Over the next several decades, depending on who was drawing him, Wolverine’s hair would go from wild to mild, but always more or less in that distinctive, pointy shape with those massive sideburns.
As the eighties rolled around and Logan got his own mini-series, other comic book characters started to mimic “the Wolverine” hairstyle, kind of like how in the real world, every girl circa 1995 started to emulate Jennifer Aniston’s “the Rachel” cut from Friends. At DC, Justice League member Vixen had a version of Wolverine’s hairdo. As the nineties began, from Marvel Comics there were now characters like Deathcry and Feral who sported the Wolverine ‘do, as well as variations of his hairdo on X-Force villain Wildside. (this being a Rob Liefeld creation, his hair was even more outrageous than what Logan had, but the basic idea was the same.)
While Wolverine still has a variation on his original, signature hairstyle to this day, his imitators have stopped trying to rip his look off for the most part. Only Wolverine himself wears “the Wolverine” these days, which is at is should be. Special mention must be made of Hugh Jackman, who not only wore the Wolverine hairdo with pride, but succeeded in making it not look ridiculous on a real life human being.
Others tried to work the Wolverine look, but it just wasn’t the same.
The eighties was a decade that unleashed a lot of horrible, ghastly things upon an unsuspecting pop culture, but none quite as horrible as the hairstyle known as the mullet. Short on the top, long in the back, or as they used to say “business in the front, party in the back.” Although technically around since the sixties, it was the mullet worn by Bono from U2, which he debuted to millions worldwide at the Live Aid concert in 1985, that popularized the look with guys everywhere. (And I don’t care how much good music Bono has made, or how many starving kids he’s helped, he’ll never balance out making the mullet popular in the great cosmic scheme of things.)
As with all things pop culture, mainstream comics tried to appropriate it. Tony Stark/Iron Man was maybe one of the first super heroes to sport a mullet, and more of them quickly followed, like the X-Men’s Longshot, a character who today is mostly just remembered for his over-the-top mullet, and really, not much else.
Then there were the female mullets, like the Invisible Woman’s from the Fantastic Four (one of the most unattractive mullets ever drawn), and Rachel Summers, the daughter of Jean Grey and Cyclops from an alternate future. If mullets made men look ugly, then they made women look downright hideous, even on the comic book page, where everyone looks pretty. By the early nineties, mullets were kind of already a joke, reserved for cheesy country stars like Billy Ray Cyrus and clueless hicks. But the comic book industry, ever slow to realize when a fad is over, decided to give their #1 hero Superman a mullet in 1994, well past any point in history when people thought mullets still were a look that worked on anyone. Around that same time, Marvel introduced the mutant Bishop into the X-Men, who not only had a mullet…but he had a Jheri Curl mullet, Because two pass? hairstyles are better than one, maybe? There really was no excuse for that one.
8. The Super Long Ponytail Look
I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on the guy all the time on these lists, but once again, something tacky in comics can all be seemingly traced back to artist Rob Liefeld. The first character with mass exposure that I remember from comics sporting that one super ridiculously long ponytail had to be X-Force’s Shatterstar, introduced by Liefeld in the early nineties run of New Mutants as a refugee from the same dimension as Longshot called the Mojoverse, where warriors were bred for televised combat and the citizens were obsessed with Earth’s popular culture and television. Although from the way Shatterstar and Longshot wore their hair, you’d think the only Earth program they watched was MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.
For someone from a supposedly warrior culture, Shatterstar’s ginormous ponytail had to just be a huge liability in battle, because whoever it is that you’re fighting can just start yanking your hair like it’s a catfight on the school yard. Okay, the same thing applies with capes, but at least capes aren’t attached to your body like your hair is. It should be noted that when Shatterstar came out of the closet as gay, he lost the ponytail and got a far more respectable hairdo, because no self-respecting modern gay man would be caught dead with that crap on his head. Well, unless she were a drag queen.
After Shatterstar, all these other ponytailed guys started popping up, like Gideon (again, from X-Force) and Thunderstrike, Thor’s temporary replacement. Superstar artist Jim Lee designed his own pony-tailed character in the form of Russian X-foe Omega Red, taking a cue from his buddy Liefeld with the one ridiculously long length of hair thing. Lee draws better than Liefeld, but it still looked dumb.
While the look was mostly a Marvel (and later Image Comics) thing, DC characters weren’t immune to ponytail madness either; Nightwing continued his bad hair choices as he went from mullets to sporting a ponytail himself, before settling on the short hairstyle he still has today. I’ve often wondered if the stereotypical ponytailed comic book geek got the idea that these things were cool from this era of comics, because I still see that greasy ponytail look at comic book stores and conventions to this day. Newsflash, fellas…that look didn’t work for anyone in the comics, and it works even less on you. Chop it off.
7. The Mohawk
The mohawk was the sign of punk rock rebelliousness in the late seventies and early eighties, and several comic book characters started to work that particular look at the time. Of course these days, something like a mohawk is a lot less scandalous, especially when you consider that nowadays you see little babies wearing them in strollers, not to mention characters on Glee. But back in the day, it symbolized one’s bad-assness. On the DC Comics side of things, Infinity Inc member Nuklon had a short red mowhawk, similar to ’80’s TV star Mr.T, as did She-Hulk knock-off character Rampage. Short-lived Batman villainess Magpie sported a rather extreme mohawk herself. And over at Marvel, there was Gladiator, member of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, and frequent ally of the X-Men.
But no mainstream comics character has ever rocked a mohawk quite like the X-Men’s Storm. Once known for her flowing white hair, in 1984, after losing her powers, Storm had a mini mutant identity crisis, decided to dress like a leather biker babe, possibly hooked up with an Asian chick, and chopped off most of her hair and started wearing a fierce mohawk. This was a drastic change from her African Goddess of the Serengeti look, but it quickly became one of her most iconic hairstyles. So iconic, in fact, that she recently started working a new version of it in the new all female X-Men title, as well as in Uncanny X-Force.
6. No Hair At All
Of course, no hair at all is also a hairstyle of a sort. And just like the color black goes with everything and is never out of style, shaving your head on a regular basis means you’ll never have humiliating photos of bad hairdo choices to haunt you in later years. Sporting the classic bald headed look are of course two of the comic book medium’s biggest icons, Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor, and Professor Charles Xavier of the X-Men. While Xavier was always bald (in the comics, even as a young man) Luthor was originally portrayed as a red head. A few appearances later, he showed up with no hair, which suggests to me the baldness was a personal choice and he shaved his head just to look more bad ass. If that was the case, it was retconned several years later as we find out that Superboy caused Luthor’s hair to fall out accidentally when blowing out a fire in his lab. This caused Lex to hate Superman forever and vow eternal vengeance (bitch, you’re rich…just buy a damn hair transplant and get over it.) Luthor seemed to start a fad of evil guys being bald; he was followed by 007’s Blofeld, Spidey villain the Vulture and Voldemort from the Harry Potter books.
Other characters to successfully showcase their chrome domes in comics are the Silver Surfer (quite literally a chrome dome in his case); Moondragon, the rare bald female hero who was once an Avenger; and Drax the Destroyer. Even Luke Cage has in recent years been taking to the shaved head look over the classic afro. Still, it would be nice if comics had one or two more follically challenged high profile heroes; even Star Trek has Captains Picard and Sisko representing the bald men of the world. Well, William Shatner too, but those two were the ones who actually admitted to it.
5. The Sexy Lady Afro
There were a lot of characters in comics who started to work an afro, starting in the early seventies and lasting well into the eighties. You had Luke Cage and Blade over at Marvel, and at DC there was Black Lightning. But the truly extreme afro do’s were reserved for the women, it seems, in particular two ladies in the Marvel Universe with some extreme funky ‘fro’s.
The first one is Misty Knight, a private detective in the Pam Grier tradition, except with a cybernetic arm provided by a certain Tony Stark. Created in 1975, she was one of the few African-American characters actually created by (or in this case, co-created by) an African-American person, in this instance artist Arvell Jones. Misty has been a regular player in the Marvel Universe for thirty five years now, dating Iron First, being Jean Grey’s roommate, you name it, but always while working her signature sexy afro. She currently appears in the series The Fearless Defenders, legendary afro intact. If any Marvel editor suggests she get rid of it for something more modern that some pop star has currently, I hope they get fired.
And then there was Monica Rambeau, the second Marvel hero to use the name Captain Marvel. An ex cargo ship Captain who had energy based powers, she had a brief but high profile run in the Marvel Universe in the early eighties as a member of the Avengers, even serving briefly as their leader. By the time that decade had ended, Marvel had more or less shuffled her away, and she’s only made sporadic appearances ever since, usually with a lame new super heroic name, like Photon or Pulsar.
Her last high profile Marvel U appearance was as a part of the all female Sex and the City inspired Marvel Divas mini-series; I mostly just remember her for her perfectly coiffed afro, which was super fierce. Sadly, unlike Misty Knight, in modern appearances her hairdo has changed; she had cornrows for awhile, which are totally not as cool. She was last seen with some ’90s Lauryn Hill style dreadlocks, which are also not as cool. But to me, she will always be remembered for having the fiercest ‘fro in comics.
4. The Starfire ‘Do
Originally introduced in the pages of The New Teen Titans in 1980, Starfire was alien princess Koriand’r of the planet Tamaran, stranded on Earth and becoming a member of DC Comics’ newest hit super-team of the moment. Co-created and designed by artist George Perez, Starfire was the notion of eighties style “big hair” taken to its very extreme conclusion. Starfire had such big, luscious locks, the words “giant mane of hair” weren’t metaphorical, it really was akin to a lion’s mane (they would later explain that Starfire’s alien race were descended from cats as opposed to apes. So there ya go).
The best and most ridiculous part about Starfire’s hairdo was that when she flew, her hair trailed behind her in a seemingly endless amount of follicle growth. This was probably meant to just be a visual representation of how fast she was flying, but on the page it just looked like her hair was not only super, super long, but had a power all of its own. Still, as ridiculous as it was, when George Perez drew it, it looked cool. When other people drew it…not so much.
When Starfire made her transition to animation in the Teen Titans animated series a decade or so back, she lost her giant hairdo, and looked more like a standard anime character (it should be noted, she also lost her signature giant breasts). A version of Starfire exists in DC’s New 52 as part of Red Hood and the Outlaws, but the artists on that series chose not to even try the Perez effect when having her fly, instead making it seem like her hair is literally on fire as she flies through the air. I’m not entirely sure if this makes more or less sense than how it used to be; all I know is I liked the old Starfire hair effect better. But then, I also like the old Starfire better, period; she was less of a blow-up doll and more of an actual character, but that is an argument for another time. No other comics character has ever quite emulated the Starfire ‘do, although you see traces of it in some drawings of Marvel’s Firestar (no relation) and DC’s own Brazilian super heroine Fire. But no one can touch the original.
3. The Long, Wild Hair (on Men)
For some reason, there are certain women out there who just think the idea of a big buff dude with really long, untamed luxurious hair is simply the epitome of sexiness. How else does one explain the men on the cover of all those romance novels, the success of Thunder from Down Under, or the once-inexplicable popularity of Fabio? Maybe in an effort to tap into that market of lonely women, probably in vain, comics have tried to have characters who have the wild man hair and aren’t afraid to just let it flow. Of course, Marvel’s Thor has always had long hair, but in the nineties he apparently just stopped going to the Asgardian Supercuts completely and just let his hair grow down to his ass. It should be noted, this was also the time he wore a bare midriff, so he wasn’t making really good choices overall during this period.
Then there were the savages, Conan the Barbarian and Ka-Zar, who, if they weren’t on the covers of comic books could have easily been holding a woman on the deck of a pirate ship on one of those cheap drug store romance novel covers. You don’t see the wild, untamed mane of hair as much in comics these days; even Thor keeps it at a more realistic length than he did in the early sixties. It is also possible the reason we don’t see it as much is because no wants their action heroes to look like douchey hipsters.
2. The Bowl Cut
When you think of bowl cuts, you probably think of one of three things; being forced to have one as a little kid and having a million old women pinch your cheeks, Moe from the Three Stooges**, and probably the kid from this meme:
But comics have had their share of bowl cuts as well, usually used to signify that a character was kind of a tool. This is because the bowl cut is a really dumb hairstyle that looks good on pretty much no one over the age of four. Spidey arch foe Doctor Octopus has had a bowl cut from very early on, and more or less has been working that hairstyle for the better part of fifty years. At DC, Green Lantern Guy Gardner had this hairdo for years. Although he wasn’t originally drawn with one, in the late eighties it was decided that Guy would suffer brain damage to make him an insufferable asshole, probably as a way of differentiating him from squeaky clean Green Lanterns like Hal Jordan and John Stewart. Once they decided to go this route with Guy, they gave him the bowl cut, and it wasn’t until his brain damage was fixed and he was less of a joke character that he was given a flattering hair cut again. Again, bowl cut = jerk.
Even the Incredible Hulk had a bowl cut for a while, which is appropriate really, since what is the Hulk if not the dumb side of Banner? Who is a bigger insufferable brat than the Hulk? Maybe the strangest example of a bowl cut I could find in mainstream super hero comics was the X-Men’s Storm, who had one for a brief period in the early nineties. But that was after her hair had been all shaved off, so it was just growing back. So she gets a pass. In any event, you don’t see a lot of “cool” heroes with that particular look, and I wouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon.
**You might also think of Jim Carrey in Dumb & Dumber, Mr. Spock, or even the early Beatles, but technically none of those are true bowl cuts; your hair has to be shaved at the sides or very, very short at the sides and above the ears for it to be truly a bowl cut. The previous are just really dorky hair cuts
1. The “Every Character in Manga and Anime Ever” Look.
Because why not.
Ok, maybe not every character. But damn near close to it. From Astro Boy to Macross, from Dragonball to Naruto, manga and anime characters have always showcased some incredibly wild and impractical hairstyles over the decades. I’m not entirely sure where this trend started; I have heard that the reasons that manga and anime characters have the wacky-ass hair is that since manga faces all tend to be drawn alike, the different hairstyles help to differentiate the characters from each other. Another reason I heard many years ago was that it was to make the characters appear to be Caucasian, making their anime and manga more easily translatable and sold in Western markets. I’m not sure how Caucasian = long purple hair, but nevertheless, once this convention stuck, it really stuck.
Even as a kid I often wondered how Robotech characters Rick Hunter and Max Sterling could pilot their Veritech fighters without their hair getting in half of their faces. Personally, I kind of like that everyone having crazy hair is just a given in manga, with no explanation given. It just simply is. Nevertheless, one cannot deny that in the world of comic book storytelling, pretty much every character ever to appear in most manga has either the best of the worst hair of all time, depending on who you ask, thus making them a shoo-in for the #1 slot on this list.