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.