Superman Costumes Do And Don’t
Fashion is a very fluid and retrospective thing. As we grow older, our taste in fashion can change due to anything from a great personal epiphany to the rise of an anxious fad. Naturally, with little chance of foresight, eventually, your constantly fluxing tastes are going to lead to some poor choices. A good number of us still cringe and ask ourselves why fanny packs were ever a thing. Some of us will never understand why they thought inside-out jeans were the wiggity wack. A good group of you will be wondering why you thought those cargo pants were work-appropriate three weeks from now. My point is, for every “best costume,” there is always a fashion mistake. Some costumes are praised and some regretted.
Action Comics is releasing its #1000 issue, marking a new milestone for the Man of Steel. Being around for such a long time, Superman has donned many different suits and costumes over his career. We are going to celebrate this huge occasion by looking at some of my personal best and worst costumes in no real order or hierarchy.
The Bad Costumes
To me, it is always easier say what outfits you really hate than ones you really love. To kick this thing off strong, that is where we’re going to start: with the worst. I will state now that a bad costume does not mean bad story or vice versa (though some of these are both).
(-1) Superman: Last Son of Earth
I never like to punish anyone for trying something different. In the case of Superman as a Green Lantern, seeing Supes in a green uniform would have been pretty cool if they’d kept it simple. However, they didn’t. The outfit is mostly white and blue with a green chest area, which doesn’t mix well. The green part of the outfit stands out as odd without any other hint of green in the outfit. The shade of the green is not compatible with the shade of blue either, adding salt to the wound. This outfit is not super terrible all in all, but it could have been better.
(-2) Evil Superman from Injustice: Gods Among Us
This outfit needs some unpacking. I mean this literally because there is no reason why Superman’s package needs to be outlined in red in such a matter. Depending on the angle, it looks like he is wearing a low-dip armored speedo on top of his armor. Also, the dark red cape with shoulder pads on the light red collar looks cluttered and tight somehow. The protruding S symbol feels heavy. The outfit overall is uptight, uncomfortable, and phallic in the strangest way.
To be fair, considering that evil Superman is controlling, restricted, and power-hungry, it does match, and represents the character well. He is not supposed to be a comfortable person to be around and the cringe factor could very well be on purpose. However, being functional does not make it fashionable nor does it mean I have to give its horridness a pass. I am not a huge fan of his Injustice 2 outfit either, but this one wins with the crotch flag.
(-3) Superman Returns
I debated hard on if I wanted to include any film outfits on this list. However, Superman Returns should not be ignored simply for the fact that this should never happen again. Everything seems too small on this one. In contrast to most of Supes’ designs, the iconic S symbol does not completely cover the chest and instead it is drowning in the light blue abyss of Brandon Routh’s torso. Superman’s already-risky undies were replaced with awkward little short shorts. Furthermore, the belt and the S symbol had very plastic texture and goofy/curvy font. The small size and plastic nature made me wonder if they had a deal with Fisher-Price for this one, which says a lot.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Superman Blue/Red
I couldn’t really say too much about them except that they didn’t fit Superman’s style and they felt they could have been new characters to me. I didn’t have good enough excuses, so here they are.
The Good Costumes
Alright, we got through the hard part. We pulled off that band-aid. Let’s now cleanse our palate and quickly move on to some goodies.
(+1) Fleischer Superman
Fleischer’s early Superman cartoons were a great inspiration for many that came after it, and for good reason. He sticks to Superman’s staple red and blue in this costume. It has a simple design made dynamic by Fleischer’s style, which was far beyond its time. The undies here are higher on the waist, which really made his outfit feel more like a wrestler’s costume and more fitting than the “super undies” we see today. The yellow on the S makes the symbol pop in a good way. All around, it is a solid design.
(+2) Superman’s Metropolis (Elseworlds)
I wanted to give a good example of when changing the formula goes right. The classic red, blue and yellow is here, but in a different way. The cut and style of the uniform are similar to the Rocketeer, giving it a lovely taste of art-deco and leather texture. I admit the uneven collar is a hard sell but, in combination with the well-balanced nature of the rest of the outfit, it works.
(+3) Superman Beyond
I am going to admit that I am a bit biased here. While I have always had a love for the Bat-family in comics, I wasn’t into Superman as much. Back then, watching the animated series was what really got me to appreciate him more as a character and piqued my interest in the comics. Thus, in many ways, Timm’s Superman was my first real beloved Superman. Now combine that with the fact that Superman looks pretty dang good in black and white.
Seriously, I have few complaints about any of Superman ’s monochrome outfits. However, Superman Beyond is one of the few that isn’t attached to a horrible mop or seedy facial hair. Everything about this outfit says sleek with the sharp square corners and the tight chest symbol. It’s honestly one of the best examples of what can be done right with Superman in a slightly different color palette.
Honorable Mention: Action Comics 2011 0r So
I have a weak spot for superheroes in civilian clothing. Putting a superhero in street clothes with a couple of modifications can tell you a lot about where that character comes from and how they relate to their people. I love seeing Supes in boot-cut jeans because it reminds us that he is a good farm boy and comes from humble beginnings. Also, having just a t-shirt and jeans makes the design simple with few areas for mistakes. However, it is an honorable mention because I don’t like the cape. There is no reason for Superman to have a cape attached here, which is demonstrated by Superboy on a number of occasions.
So, tell me, what are your favorite Superman costumes? What do you think was the worst? Comment and let me know!