The Defenders saga checks all the boxes of a good comic book adaptation, but it does take some liberties when it comes to superhero costumes.
The Marvel Netflix shows were a great example of how to adapt characters from comic books to the TV format, but when it comes to superhero costumes, the series in The Defenders universe weren’t too comic accurate – except for when it came to Daredevil. The Defenders universe started as an attempt to bring Daredevil back to its origins in a grounded vigilante story, and then grew into a shared universe filled with many heroes and threats of all kinds. Even though a lot changes between Daredevil season 1 and The Defenders, the Marvel Netflix universe never abandoned some of its basic premises.
One of those premises is about the heroes’ costumes. Except for Daredevil, who received a version of the iconic red suit at the end of Daredevil season 1, none of the Defenders in the Netflix series had any sort of superhero costume. For Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, the wardrobe was usually down to jackets, hoodies, and lots of jeans. In the case of the super-human private investigator, it even became a joke how Jessica Jones was always spotting the exact same look in almost every episode of Jessica Jones and The Defenders.
The Defenders universe has always been defined by a strong sense of realism, something that helps explain the absence of superhero costumes. Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron fist were more street-level vigilantes than classical superheroes, and Jessica Jones’ journey was more about dealing with the ghosts of her past and trying to help those close to her than actively acting as a vigilante. Considering the many serious themes those shows dealt with — which made The Defenders universe on Netflix far more violent than anything in the MCU — colorful comic book superhero costumes would have clashed violently with the tone that was set. The only exception to this was of course Daredevil, and that’s perhaps because the red suit was just too iconic to ignore – and that Matt Murdock had more motivation to hide his civilian identity, in order to continue his work as a lawyer.
The other heroes in the Defenders universe don’t exactly have one definitive look in the comics, and that may have helped the Netflix shows get away with their creative liberties. Even in the case of the devil of Hell’s Kitchen’s suit, there is plenty of black added to the red and a more tactical armor feel that helps ground the look. Not only that, in two of the three Daredevil seasons the character wore the all-black ninja suit inspired by Frank Miller’s run, something more on par with the overall aesthetics of those shows.
Luke Cage and Jessica Jones did reference the more classic look of the heroes — Luke Cage with flashbacks and Jessica Jones mocking the Jewel suit. The one that came least close to having a classic costume, and therefore the most frustrating example, was Iron Fist. The scene where a previous Iron Fist is shown protecting the temple with amazing moves while spotting something similar to the classic costume gave a glimpse of what Iron Fist could have done with Danny Rand as a character. While the realism justifies the custom choices for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, the Marvel Netflix shows could have made something a bit more comic-accurate work for Iron Fist, as they did manage to do so for Daredevil.
The Defenders saga as Disney+ is calling it was made of extremely grounded characters and situations that didn’t call for colorful, comic-accurate superhero suits, and that’s why only Daredevil ended up wearing something more similar to the source material. That said, how close something is to the comics is not necessarily a testimony of how good it is. As proved by the opposite examples of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it all depends on the needs of the story and the execution.