Superhero fetish goes way back to the origins of comic books, and these 20 images we curated show just how provocative superhero art and images can be. We took an art history approach to making our brand new gallery. Take a trip with us from the early 20th century through the present, and get ready to sweat under your collar.
George Reeves in The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)
Possibly the first live-action superhero, Reeves' turn as Superman was one of the first television images of a superhero on screen beginning in 1952. Although the costumes may look to us in 2015 as too basic wool (especially evident in Ben Affleck's turn as Reeves in the film Hollywoodland (2006)), Reeves nevertheless shows that real muscle provides the basis for any hero. In Hollywoodland he also portrays the good-natured Boy Scout from the comics and later with the Christopher Reeve films. He’s a far cry from Zack Snyder’s interpretation. The costume may not be the sexiest, but something had to come first and bring our dreams to life.
Adam West and Burt Ward in Batman (1966-1968) (ABC)
These two played the dynamic duo. In hindsight, and as someone who never saw the series or the film that spun off from it until well into my 20s, I’m 28 now, it is difficult to sexualize the images. That said, the images are quite homoerotic and moreover, the bondage level in this series is quite high. It seems like they get tied up every second episode. The muscles may not have been there (both were quite lean) but the bondage is.
Christopher Reeve in the Superman films (1978-1987) (Warner Brothers)
In 1978 the first Superman film came out; thus the superhero film genre began. I wasn't even born when the first three films came out, so in hindsight the costume feels dated, much like George Reeves’s does. That said, like George, Christopher was all muscle under the suit – no padding – and the costume was spandex, or at least looked it. Here we see the fantasy of the comic book superhero costume really coming to life. The tag line for the film was "Believe a man can fly", but I think for guys with a superhero fetish, it was also "Believe in the fantasy" or "Believe in the dream". Superman was real, in color, and in many ways more palpable than George Reeve. Christopher Reeve was real.
Val Kilmer in Batman Forever (1995) (Warner Brothers)
I feel kinda bad snubbing Michael Keaton from this list after he was snubbed by the Academy, but I just saw Batman Forever and its real main star: Val Kilmer’s lips. My friend told me for years to rewatch it just for the lips. As if Batman’s rubber suit weren’t the perfect combination of sexy and cool, it’s also kinky and cool. Nicole Kidman’s character alludes to this in the line “Someone’s got a fetish.” We’ve got to look at these crazy, kissable and hypnotic lips! How no one figured out Bruce Wayne and Batman were the same person with that face I’ll never know. It’s in his kiss; Robin might be fun in the bedroom, but those lips! Gotta kiss ‘em!
Dean Cain in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997) (ABC)
For most men, Christopher Reeves was their Superman, Dean Cain was mine. And he was perfect. A slightly different image from the one portrayed by the Reeves and in the comics, Cain entered the superhero genre in the 90, post-80’s and post-spandex. Thus the suit he wears is shinny, tight and sexy as hell. Those three factors rank very high for those with a spandex, nylon and superhero fetish. Win. Cain was all man under that suit, and it showed every week. Moreover, the focus the series had on Clark's relationship with Lois humanized Superman giving us a glimpse into both side of the sexy hero.
Chris O'Donnell in Batman & Robin (1997) (Warner Brothers)
I remember first seeing this rubberized suit and thinking about how cool it was. In hindsight I think Chris O'Donnell's body also had an effect on me as he's kinda my type, but the suit does something different from what Batman's suit does. The muscles, the colour and the fact we see more of his head and his hair (I loved his hair, still do) – his youth even – all combine to make a super sexy image. Going back to the previous movie, his entrance in Batman Forever (1995) features a giant bulge, which makes it even more pornographic but also more homoerotic.
Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man films (2002-2007) (Columbia/Sony)
As a teenager this image hit me in two ways. First off, it was the physical realization of my childhood; Spider-Man, my favourite character had come to life. Secondly, this was an amazing costume. The Andrew Garfield version from the latest two films does not hold a candle to this suit. This original under the Sam Raimi regime is flawless, perfect, seamless. There is little to nothing wrong with it; the suit looks like it stepped out of the comics or the cartoon series I used to watch. It seemed real and was exactly what all the fans wanted. Plus Maguire fills out the suit very well. Likely the most perfect costume in the genre.
Ben Affleck in Daredevil (2003) (20th Century Fox)
Until Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice comes out, this is Ben Affleck’s addition to the cannon. I could have added new images of the Netflix series or Ben as George Reeves but Daredevil, while a flawed film, made an important contribution in superhero fetish: Leather. For better or worse, this is when we saw the advent of leather as the substitute for spandex. Yes, it took spandex out of the mix for heroes and now they wear the implausible leather suit. But for me, seeing Ben (my sister is a Matt Damon girl, I’m a Ben Affleck boy) in head-to-toe leather, was eye-opening to me. And it was really hot. Many fans complained about the look of the suit but to me, it gets my engine running!
Chris Evans in Fantastic Four films (2005-2007) (20th Century Fox)
I could do a whole post here because this is possibly my favorite suit on the list. Maguire's Spidey was perfect, but this, THIS… Chris Evans was probably twenty-three when he made this movie; twenty-four when it came out. He’s aged greatly (if you call thirty four old) but he was just a baby when he did Fantastic Four. Young and fit, Evans was the epitome of the perfect, young male jock. Pour that into a spandex bodysuit and you’ve got the sexiest thing ever. And I can’t get over his hair either. His body, junk and ass are on full display and the movie makes no qualms about hiding it: Evans is on full display and looks amazing in every shot. This isn't the best picture but it is my favourite image from both films; he looks so relaxed and comfortable but also cocky and slutty as the same time. The boots, his legs, the fact his legs are spread... yum!
Alan Ritchson in Smallville (2001-2011) (WB Network)
I’m saying it right off the bat: this is my Aquaman. For me the fact a network television show stuck a man in such bright green tights and made it cool, makes it a giant highlight for me. Ritchson rocked those tights, he wore them when they easily could have worn him. He make spandex cool. In another episode he even wore a wetsuit (another fetish of mine). This is what Aquaman should be. Furthermore, the shoes are sick; I’m looking to get a pair for myself with both cosplay and just general wear. I think those bad boys would look great in the summer. Plus Ritchson is smokin’ hot!
Brandon Routh in Superman Returns (2007) (Warner Brothers)
The costume harkens back to the days of Christopher Reeves; the designers just modernized it. But the image shown here is why it means so much to those with a superhero fetish. Tricked into coming to an island made of krypton, Superman is weakened and unable to fight off Luther or his men. Seeing out hero completely submissive is a huge, HUGE turn on. They drag him through the dirt, beat him in his suit… this is possibly the first time we see the fetish, in its essence, come alive on the big screen in all its savage glory.
Robert Downey Jr. in the IRON MAN films (2008- ) (Paramount/Marvel Films)
The suits are not the reason he’s on the list. It is what is under the suit. And I don’t mean Tony. I mean what Tony puts on before putting on his Iron Man suit. We get brief glimpses in the first film; it caught my interest. It was either spandex or neoprene and both were materials I was familiar with. By the third film he was wearing compression shirts and although we don’t see it I assume compression tights under. Maybe not the hottest on the list, but hot to know that under all that armour, Tony wears spandex.
I know, I know this is a musical, not a film. Yet the image is burned into my mind. An army of hot, unmasked Spider-Men ready for action. There are many out there, and all of them are hot. Each man looks different beneath the mask and they all look a little different in their respected suit, but as a unified whole, delicious.
Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern (2011) (Warner Brothers)
Ryan makes it on the list twice from the same film, but for different reasons. People hated Green Lantern, but I actually don’t mind it. For one major reason: Ryan Reynolds seems like an awesome guy. Yes I want to go for beers with him and I know he’d have my back in a fight but he also would be fun to take home to bed. For the first entry we have an image that is pretty much porn, and for me at least, the fantasy I’ve had for as long as I can remember. A guy in his underwear is on a table (in this case he’s floating) waiting to become the hero. The immobilized male is a huge fantasy and here it is on the big screen. We don’t see the immobilized hero enough in cinema, to see this strong, active male so passive, completely unable to move, takes all his power and give it to us, the viewer. But the main reason this image is sexy? Ryan is in his tighty whities!
Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern (2011) (Warner Brothers)
Okay, okay, the suit isn’t great. The mask is awful. The choice to make a fully digital suit just backfired. It looks fake, does not look as cool as it should, and it’s just plainly tacky. A lot of the fan art was way better. Filming Ryan in a motion capture suit – that works! Therefore, the idea that a man could awake to have a second skin… a sexy one at that, is so hot. That kind of image is like candy to those with a superhero fetish. The scene featured here is also a great one: funny, but also a turn on that he’s transforming in front of his friend (why can’t I have a friend like Hal?) and frankly once he’s in the suit he’s totally showing off his amazing body, putting it all on display, but also the absolut joy he expels after the transformation is intoxicating. Can’t wait till the Green Lantern corp calls me up and give me a suit of my own. The fantasy of having a spandex second skin has always been a dream. To awake in a Green Lantern suit… can’t wait!
Chris Evans in The Avengers (2012) (Marvel Films)
Yeah. I’ve got a crush. Like a big one. It’s a little much but I don’t care. He’s perfect. It is a hard choice to limit myself to one of the three modern Cap suits. The Winter Soldier suit and the new Avengers suit each bring their own to the table. Yet the classic Avengers suit is not only the closest we’ll get to seeing Captain America in spandex, but even though it isn’t it looks perfect! The colour, the boots, the chest, the hood that he so casually takes off, the shirt he wears under the whole thing, the fact that his body is a perfect upside down triangle and each costume shows off his big chest, slim waist and beautiful ass. Many fans have written and spoken about how Coulson was to be our position within the Avengers team, an outsider and a fan. Coulson is such a fanboy to Cap, he totally has a crush on him. Coulson even helped design the suit. Well done agent, well done.
Man of Steel (2013) Behind the Scenes DVD Featurettes (Warner Brothers)
I could post a lot of pics of Henry Cavill as Superman because I honestly prefer his suit over the classic one. I could also post a lot of images of Michael Shannon from Man of Steel, because for a man not known for being a heartthrob, he looks great in this movie. I could also post a lot of images from the movie featuring the two of them because again, going against the norm, I liked the look of the film. Yet you want some real porn? Look up the behind the scenes photos of these two. The fact they are just in bodysuits without capes helps, and the view of Superman’s foot is a turn on for me. Sure this isn’t a screenshot from a superhero porn flick? These two need to get a room.
Michael Fassbender in X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox)
The X-Men films have always used leather (instead of the traditional spandex from the original comics), and it worked. Several films into the franchise, we finally saw some spandex in Days of Future Past. And damn, Fassbender’s got some arms. Look at those biceps! The thirst is real, because not only is he a great actor, but he has arms. Arms in spandex.
Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014- ) (The CW)
People really hated on the super suit from TV’s The Flash when it came out. For me it was the leather design. You can’t run in leather. The Flash’s team explained why the suit has that look in the series. The suit grew on me over time, partly because Grant Gustin is so charismatic. Yet it also helps that The Flash seems to get beaten down by the villain of the week every week. The suit may not get destroyed, but he is in peril and looks awesome doing it. And if you’re into superhero fetish, you know that a hero in peril is hot as fuck.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as in Age of Ultron (2015) (Marvel Films)
I know Age of Ultron isn’t out yet, so I’m just using an photo from the set; Honestly, I hope they do something with the shoes because they are awful in my shoe fetish opinion; I need something slick, something that mixes material, colour and cut in the perfect combination that I get hard the moment I see them. That said, to draw from activewear, sportswear, both areas where there is a large fetish following (myself included) I’m really impressed with the costume designers for Quicksilver's look in AOU. The pants could be tights; really wish they were, but the top is perfection.