The Superman Family makeover – pants!

And here we have, thanks to borrowed images from Bleeding Cool (cheers!), the new looks for Superman, Supergirl and Superboy. And one thing they’re not is super.

I don’t object to little costume tweaks over time, the likes of which took Superman’s outfit from the 1938 original to the classic look we know. Or wholesale changes for storylines, a la in the Electric Superman and New Krypton serials. And we’ve had several different regular looks for Supergirl and Superboy over the years, whoever they happened to be at the time.

I’m not happy, though, about Superman getting a clunkily reworked version of his traditional sleek costume at what we’re told is a new beginning for the character. That sends out a message that the new look is indefinite, that there’s something wrong with the old look.

And there isn’t. DC seems to have listened to all those unimaginative comedians who harp on about Superman wearing his underpants on the outside as if they’re the first to make the observation. But why shouldn’t he? His outfit is a costume, based on circus strongmen at the beginning of the last century. Yes, kids today might not get the visual reference, but they don’t need to. They recognise Superman. We’ve had 70+ years to get used to the look and I don’t believe anyone seriously finds it weird. We know who Superman is before we can vocalise an opinion on him.

The new look won’t stick. It’ll generate some publicity, perhaps sell a few comics, but it says that the classic Superman costume isn’t good enough. The Superman known to our parents and grandparernts, one of the most recognisable figures in popular fiction.

For now, though, we have a Superman with no shorts, an angular red belt, high collar, metallic cuffs-cum-bracers, metallic boots – possibly a homage to a very early Joe Shuster sketch of the character – and kneepads. Kneepads. Unless this version of the character isn’t invulnerable he doesn’t need padded clothing. On the one hand, good on DC for keeping to the general shapes of the classic costume. On the other, why not, then, just keep the classic? It’s what people expect to see and it works, it’s balanced – without the shorts, it just looks wrong.

But I’d love to hear from anyone who likes this new look.

See the Maid of Steel. See her made to look hideous, in a cape with another of Jim Lee’s trademark choker collars, shorts that redefine the term ‘panty shield’ and the most ridiculous boots you ever did see – maybe Superman could pass on the knee pads? The bare legs put paid to the rumour that all DC ladies will henceforth be completely covered down below, but those pants are far too short. Especially given that this Kara is likely to be a few years younger than the current version (though the face and body say she’s about 20). The most recent Supergirl costume, with the belly shirt extended, would have been perfect – see this post at the essential Supergirl’s Comic Box Commentary blog – whereas this look screams ‘change for the sake of change’.

It’s hard to know if this black outfit with Tron-style lines on it is Superboy’s new costume; perhaps in the post-Flashpoint DCU Conner Kent is born as a robot rather than grown as a clone, and this is just how he looked in the beginning. In which case he might be donning some other outfit subsequently. If he’s going to be sporting the above look, I’m not keen. His current image would do just fine, perhaps with the black tee altered to blue to make him look more like a Superman Family team player.

He does model a different look in the new Teen Titans, but it’s not much better. More contemporary dancer than hero, with a distinct lack of the enjoyable frippery a superhero costume should sport. I’m intrigued to see how the costume situation shakes out, but not terribly optimistic.

DC bigwig Dan DiDio has often said that the company’s characters should be seen in their most iconic representations. With these costumes the Superman family members don’t look so much iconic as moronic.

7 thoughts on “The Superman Family makeover – pants!

  1. Great article, nailing my concerns, and I've no doubt a considerable number of folk's worries, about Mr Lee's contribution to this brave and twiddly belt-some world.

    If one of the main selling points for the New DC is these costume re-designs …. well, it REALLY doesn't bode well, does it?


  2. Hate these new 'old' designs but not to worry…Supes iconic costume WILL return. Just a pity that Wonder Womans costume has had two complete changes now in two years yet Supes costume is still recognizably 'his'.
    Like Cassies new look' wonder [!] if shes still Wonder Girl…


  3. My problem with the new Superman costume is that it still looks so close to the classic costume that it makes the tweaks look totally pointless and arbitrary. If they really wanted to change his look then either go much further from the model, or just tweak it slightly (like giving his costume more details on the boots and such, like in the earth 1 title) Also, the red belt washes out the costume in red/blue, he needs that splash of yellow to not over saturate him,if they'd just make the belt yellow (the change to red is again, totally arbitrary), I'd be much happier with it.


  4. The Superman costume is curiously already dating badly before my very eyes…

    I think one key problem with ever accepting it is that it really isn't saying Superman. It's just another one of his imitators such as The Eradicator, Ultraman, Overman, or some other alternate earth iteration..

    It doesn't necessarily affect my optimism on the relaunch but it does increase my concerns over how long it lasts and how badly DC will fail with this company wide relaunch, this isn't the same market as 1986 and this doesn't carry the same weight as that original reboot either. It's simply impossible to recapture that post-crisis spark as we have now seen this done all too many times now… it's just hollow publicity mongering.

    As one sharp commentator on Bleeding cool noted – If even George Perez can't make this look work, you know somethings gone wrong.


  5. How do you put a tattoo on an invulnerable body?

    Answer: get yourself into a high position at DC and give yourself sole redesign rights over every iconic character they own.

    (Or maybe this version of Superboy isn't invulnerable. In which case I will excuse them. But nothing will excuse the hideous new look for Kara.)


  6. Hi Colin, did you read the article at the source by Jim Lee. Turns out the costumes were designed by committee. It shows. (Only just realised, my Uncle Colin is also Colin Smith!)

    Karl, you're right, and the sooner the better.

    Erikson, yup, if DC are throwing out the costume, toss it out completely, don't just tinker the original into a piece of nonsense.

    Darn, Baron, that's your Chistmas present wrecked

    Aye, I was thinking Ultraman after writing the piece, Dave. Superman is now his own evil duplicate. As for George, remember his one-legged Wasp costume … Tambourine Wanda … Triathlon … Jericho …

    David, I've heard somewhere that the tattoo is a (Cadmus substitute) barcode. Tragic.


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