Captain America vs. Captain Britain. Who has a better costume?

Rather than focusing on a fight between two factions, this week I want to take a look at costume design. Specifically, what makes a good patriotic super-hero outfit? Our competitors are:

Captain America has had a number of subtle but important costume changes over the last decade or so after remaining essentially static for forty years prior, but the essentials are still there. I chose this specific version because I think it retains all the classic elements while still having a few modern touches to make it relevant.

Similarly, Captain Britain has had a number of incarnations, but this is the one that for me is the most iconic.

So what makes a patriotic super hero uniform work?

First, it has to have the nation’s colors in it. Both meet that criteria with red, white, and blue in abundance.

Second, it ought to have some bit of national iconography on it, which both do, from the big stars and stripes on Captain America to the Union Jack on Captain Britain.

Third, ideally you’ll get some sense of the flag’s design reflected in the costume. Again, the stars and stripes layout works on the one and the x-shaped pattern for the other.

Finally, obviously, it needs to look cool. I think both of these gentlemen have nailed that as well.

So we come down to specifics, namely specific things I don’t like. I have never been a fan of Captain America’s silly head wings, and giant thigh boots on men just look dorky to me. I actually prefer Captain Britain’s headgear to Captain America’s, but the former’s lack of a belt seems weird.

At the end of the day, the deciding factor for me is Captain America’s shield. I think the character design needs to reflect something about how that country sees itself. These are patriotic super heroes, meaning they ought to represent the very best of the idealized version of their nations. And for the United States, that’s the idea that we are the world’s protector, that we act in defense and not in aggression (yes, I know, but this is comic books, people, not reality). The shield is a great way of getting that point across.

Unfortunately Captain Britain doesn’t have anything like that. I don’t know exactly what it would be, but a helmet isn’t it.

So while I think I actually prefer Captain Britain’s overall look, I’m going to say that Captain America better sums up the patriotic version of his country.

What about you, what do you think?

24 Responses to Captain America vs. Captain Britain. Who has a better costume?

  1. Geek logic:

    1. Captain America was designed by Jack Kirby, himself a model of the American Dream.
    2. Captain America has little wings on the side of his head. Malign if you must, but you *know* he doesn’t look right without them.
    3. Captain America has a freakin’ awesome shield with which he can do freakin’ awesome things. So there.
    4. Captain America punched Adolf Hitler in the freakin’ pie hole. Take that, Nazi bastard!

    Verdict. Captain America. Like, duh.

    (Caveat: Captain Britain gets points if he’s drawn by the incomparable Alan Davis. Otherwise, *pfft*.)

  2. Jeff, you forgot to mention Captain Britain’s thigh-high boots. Never a good look on a guy.
    Also, going back to you point about Cap A’s shield/ Cap B’s lack of a defining point, speaking as a Brit, we haven’t really had a definitive national characteristic or symbol that we define ourselves by (unless you count general pessimism, which would translate onto a superhero costume) like you guys across the pond. We never saw ourselves as “Protectors of the World” especially not in the 70’s when Cap B was designed. If he was designed during WWII like Cap A was then maybe it might have been different.

  3. JR19759: Jeff, you forgot to mention Captain Britain’s thigh-high boots. Never a good look on a guy.

    Actually I said “giant thigh boots on men just look dorky to me.” :-)

    Good points on the national identity. But give me something — King Arthur’s sword, anything!

  4. Thing is, we cringe at that sort of thing. We’re weird like that, we re-enact old battles and have people who dress up like people from the great periods of our history, but we absolutely hate foreigners thinking that we all wear bowel hats and talk like the queen. So giving him a legendary sword would probably go down well over there, he was created by a brit for the british market, so no sword I’m afraid.
    Sorry, I didn’t read that section properly, I saw Cap’s head wings and the word ‘boots’ and I thought you were talking about Cap A’s floppy pirate boots. I’m not sure if I like them or not. But dorky is a bit of an understatement if you ask me. You would have to be either mad or blind and dress by very cruel friends to ever go outside in them, no wonder he wore a mask.

  5. Sorry not Bowel hats, Bowler hats. My autocorrect is really messing with me today.

  6. Of the two Picture you have chosen, I Give it to Captain America, however This has always been my favorite Captain Britain costume

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rc_nnuMe3M8/STZ0Dy0voiI/AAAAAAAACno/kB9zuvJukDw/s400/captain+britain+the+lion+%26+the+spider.jpg

    followed by this close second choice:

    http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/050/1/c/Captain_Britain_by_Supajoe.jpg

    If useing either of those two costumes instead I would give it too the Mr Braddock!

  7. I never liked that first outfit, Kaldath. It was too much like a family crest turned embroidered onto a leotard. And those shoulder straps bug me. Overall I’m a much bigger fan of the version I put up, it seems a lot more iconic and impressive.

    All right, cards on the table — mostly it’s about the helmet. I love that thing. The chin piece is perfect for Britain.

    And John’s right, I grew up with the Alan Davis version, it’s the gold standard for me.

  8. Uh, well, considering that original Excalibur was the one and only comic I ever subscribed to, it will probably surprise nobody that I like Captain Britain’s outfit better. I also actually like that they got rid of his…was it a mace that he had when he showed up in Spider-Man? I mean, Braddock got the job by rejecting the Sword of Might and choosing the Amulet of Right; putting a weapon in his hand (especially a sword) would be slightly ridiculous.

  9. You have to hand it to the artist who drew Capt Brit, If you gave me the Brit Flag and said make a hero, I DON’T think I could do it!
    The US Flag has more to play with then the Queen’s, which is three crosses shown together.

  10. I am an American citizen, but I still prefer Captain Britain. It’s just simple, streamlined and subtle. With Captain America’s single star, is he representing Puerto Rico? Texas? And I cannot get over the “A” on his forehead. He just looks too much like the dozen other Golden-Age American flag-wearers, some of whom preceded him. On the other hand, CB’s Union Jack is just unambiguous.

  11. I went with Captain Britain out of feeling sorry for the guy, but seriously – we all know that only one of these costumes is actually iconic.

    Steve has essentially stayed the same, while Brian’s gone through several costume/power alterations. Then while Steve is a product of science, his power coming from him – Brian uses the magical armour

    …and since now his powers only work if he’s confident, all this critique can’t be doing wonders for his self-estem

  12. I gotta go with Captain America. They both have great costumes overall, but Captain Britain’s mask is just too busy. Too much color in such a small space. The rest I can work with, but that’s a little much.

  13. Gotta vote patriotic…go UK! :D

  14. I’m going with Captain America. Captain Britain’s costume is good, I like the helmet, and I definitely get the idea of what he’s about by looking at him. But while I’ve never found anything wrong with it, I’ve also never found anything special about it either.
    Captain America’s costume seems to better capture the symbolism of what he stands for, silly little wings on his head, and all.

  15. “AMERICA! FU*K YEAH!”

  16. I have to agree with your first choice.

    Kaldath:
    Of the two Picture you have chosen, I Give it to Captain America, however This has always been my favorite Captain Britain costume

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_rc_nnuMe3M8/STZ0Dy0voiI/AAAAAAAACno/kB9zuvJukDw/s400/captain+britain+the+lion+%26+the+spider.jpg

    followed by this close second choice:

    http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/050/1/c/Captain_Britain_by_Supajoe.jpg

    If useing either of those two costumes instead I would give it too the Mr Braddock!

  17. I would say C. A. hands down, although if C.B. had on one of his other uniforms then it maybe a different story. C.A. has always been one of my favorites because of his shield but his uniform has never been one of my favorites.

  18. The Atomic Punk

    Every time I see Captain Britain, The Kinks’ Living on a Thin Line plays through my head.

  19. I say Captain America. I don’t exactly know, but his costume just seems to “flow” better if that makes any sense. The individual parts seem to work together better than Captain Britain’s costume.

  20. I favor Captain Britain. It isn’t a very good costume – and I’m not british – but it is least bad. Captain America’s costume is just something that doesn’t look well to me, thanks to three appalling features. First is those awful little wings on his head, only thing worse with wings would be to put them in the ankles. Second, I don’t like five-pointed stars. I’m more of an even number of points kind of guy. Third is that blue chainmail shirt he has. That’s doesn’t work either. Notice that I don’t think Captain Britain’s costume is good, it just lacks any of these awful details.

  21. Capt. A’s shield is great, cinematic, etc. The suit itself I’ve never liked. The modern touches don’t seem to help. I’ve tended toward practicality in my likes. Covering the nose and chin seems to make more sense as a way to keep your identity a secret. . . like the red face cover in Kaldath’s favorite.

  22. Jeff Hebert:
    All right, cards on the table — mostly it’s about the helmet. I love that thing. The chin piece is perfect for Britain.

    Oh no! Pleas NO Jeff! That helmet is the very worst of many dreadful things about the crumpled up awefulness which is that Captain Britain.
    The whole outfit makes him look like a Japanese traffic cop (white jodphurs and gauntlets, rising sun on the helmet chin-guard) crossed between a top fopp (blue blouson cravat thing) and a big blue whale.
    The eyes on that helmet are miles to far appart and, well, the whole thing makes me want to vote for indepence for Scotland, just so we can get rid of him!

  23. Captain Brittan should have an oversized tweed cap, bracers, and fight using a black pudding.

    See:

  24. I think the problem with Captian B is that the British are too cool to wear spandex, I would give Cap B the edge if he wore a James Bond type suit done in aUnion Jack pattern would be way more representitve of what makes Britton Cool!