Since their inception comic books have been adapted in other formats all the way back to Superman’s time on the radio in the 1940s. So it’s not a surprise that there have been quite a few comic books adapted into wearable form. If you didn’t know, 2022 is a big year for comic book film adaptations. With the impeccable cinema we call The Batman having made its HBO Max debut, the intrigue of Disney+ Moon Knight, the Dr. Strange sequel Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder on the horizon, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look back at some of our favorite comic book sneakers of all time.
Marvel x BAPESTA
A BATHING APE BAPESTA X Marvel Comics “Captain America”
Back in 2005, Marvel and A BATHING APE assembled for one of the most fun collaborations in Marvel’s nearly 80-year history. Using a group of Marvel’s most popular superheroes at the time including Spider-Man, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, Human Torch, and Cyclops.
BAPE used the iconic BAPESTA to craft sneakers that take design cues from their characters like the red sole on the Cyclops pair that references his optic blasts and ruby quartz visor or the Thor pair having a mostly golden hue in reference to his golden locks. To make this Xcellent collection even more Amazing, the shoes were even packaged like action figures in a blister pack.
Jimmy Jazz x New Balance x Black Panther
Jimmy Jazz x Marvel x New Balance 574 Sport and 990 v4 “Black Panther”
To celebrate the release of Black Panther, retailer Jimmy Jazz joined forces with both New Balance and Marvel for a double pack of T’Challa-themed sneakers. Using the New Balance 574 Sport and 990V4, they crafted two impeccable pairs inspired by the Wakandan king’s Vibranium suit. The 574 even included tribal designs on the upper and midsole to incorporate more of the Wakandan-style design in the silhouette.
Air Jordan 1 ‘Origin Story’
Air Jordan 1 “Origin Story”
Spider-Man has had more than his fair share of sneaker interpretations but none quite like the Air Jordan 1 ‘Origin Story.’ Crafted to celebrate the release of the eventual Oscar award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, the ‘Origin Story’ 1s not only incorporate Spider-Man’s iconic webbing pattern throughout the shoe but also includes Kirby dots throughout the silhouette as an homage to the old school comic book art style that appears in the film.
Kobe 5 ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Chaos’
Nike Zoom Kobe 5 “Chaos” & “Dark Knight”
The 2008 Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight was a game-changing event for the realm of comic books and paved the way for the gritty film noir take of The Batman. The Caped Crusader didn’t just inspire one of the greatest film adaptations of all time but it also inspired one of the greatest hoopers of all time. The late Kobe Bryant interpolated Batman and his archnemesis The Joker’s color schemes for the ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Chaos’ colorways respectively.
Nike Foamposite Lite ‘Kryptonate’
Nike Air Foamposite Lite “Kryptonate”
‘Kryptonate’ Nike Foamposite Lite is undoubtedly one of the most iconic sneakers in NBA Slam Dunk Contest history. The tonal green kicks Nate Robinson laced up in 2009 aren’t just meant to be a play on the then-New York Knicks guard’s name but also served as a nod to Dwight Howard’s nickname Superman and his similarly-themed dunk the previous year. The Kryptonate Foams are an obvious homage to Kryptonite, the crystalline weakness of the Big Blue Boy Scout. However, unlike most of those that seek to take down Superman, Nate Robinson leaped over Dwight and hoisted the NBA Dunk Contest trophy in 2009 and 2010.
Silver Surfer Dunk Low (2004)
Nike Dunk Low “Silver Surfer” (2004)
If you were to ask the folks at Nike who their favorite superhero is you might get a surprising answer. Norrin Radd a.k.a the Silver Surfer is one of the most commonly referenced superheroes in the history of Nike sneakers having two different Dunk colorways and two pairs of Air Max 90s named after the famed herald of Galactus.
While all of them channel the spirit of the Surfer in an impressive way, none more so than the Silver Surfer Dunks released back in 2004. The mesh panels on the toebox and side panels give the shimmering appearance of the Sentinel of the Spaceways and to top it off, the Surfer’s surprised visage from the iconic Ron Marz and Ron Lim run can be found printed on the shoe’s insole.
Iron Man SB Dunk High
Nike SB Dunk High Iron Man
In 2008, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to life with the initial offering of Iron Man. Until his appearance on the silver screen, Tony Stark was seen as one of Marvel’s secondary characters in comparison to Spider-Man and the X-Men and as such had not seen many sneakers inspired by the Iron Avenger.
In 2010, however, that all changed as the Nike SB Dunk High drew inspiration from the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” with the red and yellow colorway inspired by the Ol’ Shell Head’s iconic armor.
Air Jordan 6 ‘Slam Dunk’
Nike Air Jordan 6 “Slam Dunk”
Takehiko Inoue’s seminal 90s basketball manga ‘Slam Dunk’ always held reverence for sneakers with a multitude of different Air Jordan silhouettes appearing during its run. Main character Hanamichi Sakuragi regularly laces up the Air Jordan 6 throughout the series which resulted in the famed series receiving a special Air Jordan 6 in 2014. Dressed in red upper with Sakuragi’s #10 on the heel, the Air Jordan 6 ‘Slam Dunk’ is exactly that.
Vans x Marvel Collection
Vans x Marvel Collection
Fresh off the heels of the record-breaking film Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel released a collection with the iconic skateboard brand Vans. The collection featured an array of different silhouettes and superheroes all with a unique flair. The Incredible Hulk slip-on shows his green foot bursting out of the legendary checkerboard print in a nod to Bruce Banner’s transformation, the Black Panther SK8 Hi features regal gold detailing and fang-shaped eyelets inspired by T’Challa’s necklace.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Doernbecher’
Air Jordan 4 “Doernbecher”
As a part of the Doernbecher initiative, each year Nike partners with a patient being treated at the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Oregon. In 2011, Isaiah Scott took on the Air Jordan 4 and created one of the most vaunted comic book inspired sneakers ever. The silhouette features Superman’s ‘S-shaped chest shield on the tongue inspired by Isaiah’s mother calling him Superman during his treatment.
The sneaker also features accents of green which are also a nod to another comic book-inspired hooper, the aforementioned Nate ‘Kryptonate’ Robinson. The ice blue outsole features comic-book style bubbles and Isaiah’s face appears on the back panel a la Mars Blackmon.
TMNT x FILA FX-100 and FILA Cage
FILA FX-100 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
Since their inception in 1984, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been pop culture forces with a myriad of television and film adaptations of the franchise. Of all the iterations, the 1987 cartoon may be the most important version being responsible for giving the turtles their individually colored bandanas so it’s no surprise that it was this incarnation of the Heroes in the Half Shell to get the sneaker treatment in 2013.
FILA Cage “Shredder”
The FILA FX-100 and its strapped build made for the perfect canvas to adapt the Turtles. The FILA FX-100 came with 4 interchangeable straps that matched the colors of the Ninja Turtles to allow the wearer to celebrate their favorite Turtle (as long as it isn’t Raphael). The collection isn’t complete without the Turtles’ ultimate nemesis Oroku Saki aka Shredder played by the great James Avery in the 1987 series. The FILA Cage adapted Shredder’s grey, purple and silver color scheme to perfection with the metallic pull tab representing his iconic mask and helmet.
Nike x Fantastic Four Collection
Marvel’s Fantastic Four became popular not only because of their sensational abilities but especially because of their unique personalities and interpersonal dynamics between the members leading them to be called Marvel’s First Family. So for the Nike Fantastic Four Pack in 2006, it only made sense for each member of the group to have their own silhouette rather than using the same sneaker with different patterns.
For Mr. Fantastic, the group’s leader and one of the smartest men in the world of comics, they crafted a monochromatic blue Air Max 90 with hints of white reflective of their memorable 90s costumes. Sue Richards the Invisible Woman one of the most powerful characters in Marvel comics and the wife of Mr. Fantastic received inarguably one of the most memorable sneakers in not just comic book history but sneaker history in general with the legendary see-through Air Force One with the light blue patent leather on the heel, swoosh, and eyelets.
Benjamin Grimm, The Thing, received a Nike Dunk High with a textured material meant to mimic the rocky skin Yancy Streets finest. Completing the collection was an Air Max 95 inspired by the youngest member of the Fantastic Four and literal hothead, Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch with the AM 95’s striated upper being representative of Torch’s intense flames.