The New Supercostume
You know how it is. A photo of a superhero is released, the internet goes mad, and you just can’t stop looking at it. I know I sure can’t. Yesterday’s revealing image of Zack Snyder’s Superman was a stark contrast to the reveal image of Bryan Singer’s Superman, and set a very clear tone for audiences of what to expect from the 2013 blockbuster. While there are a few things I would have done differently with the Superman costume, the whole of it is greater than the sum of the parts. Since we’re all here, let’s take a look at the parts, shall we?
No Spit Curl – Let’s start, where every good Superman image should start – his face. Cavill looks great as Superman in my opinion, but several have complained about his hair. The general styling of it doesn’t bother me, but there is a notable absence of the trademark Superman spit-curl. Given that hair is prone to move about, I wouldn’t take this single image as gospel on the hairstyle. For all we know, Cavill’s hair could even get trimmed down more before the actual shoot starts. In short, if you don’t like the hairstyle, don’t panic… yet.
The S in Question – The Superman emblem is always a hot-button issue when a costume comes together. The S itself has seen dozens of revisions over the years. In the build-up to Superman Returns, there were a great many “modernized” versions of the emblem thrown across concept art tables. Most featured very angular, “edgy” designs that seem to speak clearly to what Warner Brothers wanted from the Boyscout. While the Superman Returns S reflected some of this, it was surprisingly classic in it’s design. Here, in the Man of Steel emblem, we see the shield take an even more classical turn. This new raised S-Shield resembles, if anything a blend of the shield from Earth 2 Superman and the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of yesteryear. It a choice that, frankly, I’m surprised Warner was willing to make. And I find it very refreshing.
Cape Clips – Moving up a bit from the shield, we find something new and interesting added to the costume. For the first time in live-action, Superman’s cape is not simply tucked blindly into his tights. In this particular incarnation, The traditional boat-neck is replaced with a silver lining, the ends of which appear to have clips that hold Superman’s cape on his shoulders. These clips allow for a clean gathering of the cape without the “tucked-in towel” look found in most living room incarnations of the hero. These formalized details could speak to the suit being much more than something created by Martha Kent.
Suit Details – In addition to the new collar details, we see more silvery piping along Superman’s thigh. Lines like this are not unfamiliar to Superman fans, as we’ve seen them appear in many incarnations of the character over the years. Most recently, similar detailing appeared in the Jim Lee redesign of Superman for DC Comics’ upcoming line-wide refresh. As mentioned above, perhaps this indicates a Superman costume that is more deliberate – something given to him as a whole by his father, rather than something his mom put together from remnants or blankets, as we’ve so often seen.
All Those Textures – One of the details that has drawn the most concern from fans is the texture of the suit. Texture, often cited as one of the least-liked features of the Superman Returns suit, is not often found in Superman costumes. Generally speaking, Superman is portrayed with the traditional sleek spandex-like body suit. It’s the sort of standard superhero fare we know across many comics. This particular version of the suit, however, is rich with textures. The blue bodysuit has an almost scaly appearance to it, and the thick layered cape almost appears to be fashioned from a felt-like material. Even the shield brings back the textures we saw in Superman Returns. Back during the production of Superman Returns, rumors floated around about the suit actually being created by the Kryptonian crystals that build the Fortress of Solitude. Given the more “manufactured” approach to this suit and the micro-details we see in the body suit, that idea could have been revived for this film. Again, this gives the suit a much more intentional purpose – a uniform fit for a Kryptonian. Would I go so far out on a limb as to suggest the possibility that Clark Kent of Kansas might receive this Kryptonian uniform from a just-arrived-at-Earth General Zod? You bet I would. We don’t know Zod’s intentions, or that he will be the villain we’ve known him to be in previous films. For all we know, he arrives as a friend – a fellow lost Kryptonian, only to clash ideologically with Clark later in the film. I could see this situation panning out, and I like it. I’d love the suit to carry more of Kal-El’s heritage Kryptonian heritage with it.
Wrinkly Sleeves Gauntlets – After speaking with an old colleague of mine, Daniel Pickett of Action Figure Insider, and taking a closer look at the sleeves, they are in fact not wrinkly sleeves at all. They appear to be gauntlets. An addition to the costume that’s surely inspired by Jim Lee, this continues to add to the feeling of this suit being a predesigned uniform, perhaps even militaristic in it’s origin.
A Conspicuous Absence – There’s not much to see in this shot, and that’s precisely the point. While this introduction to Superman shows us virtually everything we could ever hope to see in a reveal, it goes out of it’s way to hide something very iconic to the costume – the red undies. We see the gold belt clip in there, but hidden below it is a black swath of nothing. Given that the aforementioned redesign of the Superman suit in comics features no red undies, I suspect that they have also been removed from the film version of the suit. Removing the undies is consistently a controversial discussion among comic fans and Superman purists, so I suspect that Warner wanted to remove that discussion from the table for this reveal. Much of the rest of the suit is quite good, so perhaps it was more useful to get fans on board with the new direction before breaking it to them that the undies have been banished to the Phantom Zone.
Form-Fitting Boots – One of the most oddly pleasing things about the new suit for me is the form-fitting boots. Comic book characters have very peculiar bodies from the knees down. Most all of them have very streamlined feet and boots that hug their legs all the way up to the knee. In most real-world cases, this never seems to pan out. Broadening around a muscular calf then contracting again toward the knee never seems to work out. In Superman Returns, this issue was solved by simply cutting the boots off at the calf. For Man of Steel, though, they’ve given us the most form-fitting and comic-like superhero boots that I can ever recall seeing in a film.
The 300 Cape – Billowing dramatically behind Superman in the scene is a cape that instantly reminded me of Snyder’s work on 300. The cape is dramatic, full, and very regal. If anything, I think the cape speaks the most to the tone that Zack Snyder is setting for the film. This cape, combined with the remarkably comic-like boots I mentioned above suggests that Snyder is not taking the “Verisimilitude” approach that Richard Donner took for his Superman, but is instead going to give us a Superman that is every bit as dynamic and theatrical as we would expect from a comic book brought to life. I think, in fact, that when one gets over some of the more obvious changes in suit design, Snyder will deliver us the most comic-book-like version of Superman ever set to film. For those who’ve been seeking more fantasy, more big comic-inspired clashes, you may have just found your man.