As Michael Chabon recently noted "In their unitards and tights, all comicbook superheroes, male or female, are fundamentally naked people." Well, not all superheroes are created equal, and some are substantially more naked than others. Let's take a look at them, and give credit to those brave heroes who're willing to bare all in their pursuit of justice.
1. Silver Surfer
He's a perfect, naked, chrome man (and he's on a surf board, just to cap off that ridiculous, surreal visual impact). Obviously he's missing some fundamental physical attributes, which might be one reason that he's so comfortable without a costume. Maybe his skin is his costume? But for all outward appearances, whether he's got all his bits and pieces or not, he's still flying the cosmos without even the flimsiest fabric.
2. Girl One
The tough, funny, synthetic cop in Top 10. Though most of her colleagues didn't know it, she was entirely naked, changing her skin colors and patterns to look like a costume. I do love the concept (so much so that I was inspired to get my first and only tattoo which covers all of my back – and it does indeed make me feel kind of clothed even when I'm not). Realistically, she'd never get away with it, people would notice; if not the folds and crevices, they'd notice the bounce factor when she fought. And would she really want to fight without any support?
3. Swamp Thing
It's our old friend Swamp Thing. Not only is he a considerate and masterful lover (see my last Top Ten list), but the man/plant is entirely naked too. How liberated of him. Now obviously he's a plant, (albeit with the mind of a man inside of him), but he's also undeniably a superhero, so he still qualifies for the naked superhero pantheon. Like so many of these exhibitionists, he has no human sex parts to cover up or support (at least not externally), and so his lack of costume makes a lot of sense.
4. Dr. Manhattan
Once in a while he wear shorts to placate others, but mostly he goes entirely without. He is unique among his naked compatriots, in that he's got genitalia. And why not? Unlike those others, he has almost no connection with his own emotions and is essentially omnipotent. I still believe that it might cause some discomfort to have things moving around in the wind, but maybe his invulnerability combats that.
5. The Thing
Speedo. He's wearing a Speedo. Why? I mean, I read Fantastic Four a lot when I was a kid, and Ben Grimm never seemed like the exhibitionist type. He gets a slight skin change and suddenly runs around almost naked? I don't think so. It's been a while since I read FF regularly, but as far as I can see, his character is uncomfortable with being seen and being different, so surely he would prefer a costume which is similar to his teammates? Poor thing.
Again with the Speedo. But with Namor it makes a lot more sense than the Thing, since he lives underwater and gets a lot more benefit out of that whole streamlined factor. Besides, he's an extremely arrogant guy (well, he is royalty after all), and he looks good naked, so it makes sense that he'd swan about in briefs. He's a bit of a rarity amongst the nearly nude superheroes, in that he's actually human flesh-colored and so his nudity is that much more apparent.
7. The Spectre
This is a very intense, serious character, yet he's essentially wearing underpants and a cape. Luckily he's light grey all over, so he doesn't scan as naked on first glance (though like Girl One, I really have to wonder if he'd look a lot more naked if he existed in real life). Unlike a lot of other caped crusaders, he tends lets his cape hang ominously, skulking in it's shadows, rather than encouraging it to flow and billow in the wind.
What is that anyway? A pair of panties and 2 thin strips to cover her nipples? It's not so much that she's 90% naked, but if she moved at all, the whole thing would come off. And what about super-speed flight while on fire? That would dislodge those little strips of fabric. Unless the whole thing is made of body paint, I'm unclear as to how it'd stay on when she was just standing still, let alone fighting. Her costume is not only nearly naked, but it's completely implausible too.
9. The Hulk
We all know that Bruce Banner's pants become incredibly shredded when he transforms into his incredible alter ego. At any moment they could just fall off him. The fact that he's wearing half a pair of shredded pants would be enough to get him on this list, but add to that the fact that they are only tenuously holding on by a few strained threads, and I'd say that he's pretty close to naked most of the time.
10. Wonder Woman
She's essentially wearing a bustier and boy pants. I suppose at least her wrists are covered. The costume is certainly fun and patriotic, but it clearly isn't built for real-life action – in order for the strapless top to stay up, it'd have to be boned, or stiff in some other way – it would seriously inhibit movement. Then there's the metal belt. Is it on her waist, or her hips? If it truly is stiff metal, that's going to dig into uncomfortable spots no matter where she wears it. While she's not the most scantily clad (hence her meager placement in the number 10 spot), she is definitely one of the most uncomfortably dressed of the nearly-naked superheroes.
1. The Black Canary
Classic Black Canary wore a strapless black one piece, bolero jacket and fishnet tights (nowadays they're sensibly putting her in an outfit with a neck, so that she can wear a bra. At one point in the 80's they had her in a very practical baggy workout suit thing.) With that strapless costume, she faced all the same problems of support that Wonder Woman does, with the added disadvantage of it being a one piece. One piece suits can ride up your crotch like crazy when running around a lot. And I know for a fact that those large holed fishnet tights get caught on everything. You can't tell me that's practical. At least she looks fabulous.
That poor boy has no pants. Why doesn't Robin get trousers, or at least leggings? It's got to be cold, slinging about the rooftops of Gotham. And wouldn't some leg protection be helpful when fighting villains? To top it all off, he doesn't even wear real boots, but elfin little booties. And that shortie cape doesn't help much. I've never understood Robin's costume. Maybe he's just got really weird taste, because look at what happened when he went solo, the Nightwing costume definitely a bit too flashy for me (thought at least he's covered up).
For a big man, that's a very small costume. It's a little belted swim suit thing with cut-out sides, and thigh-high boots – kinky! He's lucky, because unlike the liquid silver skin of the Silver Surfer, his metallic skin is in panels, which (depending who's drawing him) give him a slightly armored look and mitigates how obvious it is that he's basically wearing very skimpy, brightly colored, fetish gear.
Her costume is like the Black Canary's but with the addition of a top hat, white gloves, and a little white bow tie. While all three of these things are unusually dressed up, underneath all that decoration, she's in fishnets and a strapless one-piece (according to some artists – others draw her in a white shirt type of thing). So her level of nudity might not be enough to get her into the top ten, but it's enough to get her an honorable mention for working in the field with minimal clothing protection.
Our brave naked heroes are many, and my knowledge of superheroes is far from encyclopedic, so please forgive me if I've missed a favorite of yours. If there's a barely-there costume missing from this list, please add them below for us all to recognize, (after all, if you hadn't all banged on about how hot Jesse Custer was on my last Top Ten list, I might never have gotten around to finally picking up the Preacher).
Sonia Harris dresses up in fabulous San Francisco (along with all the other people in ridiculous costumes). She often says that the best thing about going to work, is having an excuse to wear really silly office clothes. Please send your fashion observations and other input to email@example.com.