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Author Topic: What variations in Superman's look is acceptable?  (Read 16284 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: October 18, 2006, 06:23:59 AM »

Superman's look is classic and iconic; he's a great, great looking character, with the cape and boots and the shield. Wayne Boring used to draw it just the right size: big and chest-covering.

Though I can't help but feel those shorts are holding him back. Strictly speaking, they aren't "underwear." They're what dancers call athletic shorts; male dancers wear them over their tights.

Would it be possible to eliminate the shorts altogether, and have Superman's lower torso be entirely blue?

As long as Superman is demonstratably Superman, a lot of variations in his look could work. The fan art section of this website is full of very interesting designs. The black S-shield in the Fleischer cartoons was an intriguing case, for example.

How about gloves? Would gloves work for Superman? I think they would. Superman didn't leave fingerprints (except when smushing iron). But there are still many reasons to wear gloves even if you are indestructible and have no fingerprints.

As for the shorts, the Superman movie people were off and they ought to have not made them so "European bathing suit" small. If anything, it should have been bigger - perhaps even the size of boxers. Hey, that would certainly have captured the ladies in the audience's interest!  Cheesy

I don't have access to early or Golden Age Captain America comics, but was it Don Heck in the 1960s that first started drawing Captain America's costume as being explicitly a kind of scale mail? That was an interesting variation, and an interesting and practical idea.

During the Satellite League, Aquaman wore a scaled chain costume that let him survive out of water for longer than an hour, which is how he got around his 60 minute weakness. I think this has since been forgotten, since Peter David had Aquaman survive out of water for a longer period of time without the costume.
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Permanus
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2006, 06:59:51 AM »

But there are still many reasons to wear gloves even if you are indestructible and have no fingerprints.
We wouldn't want him getting his handy-pandies cold, now, would we? Why not mittens?

When you think of it, it's amazing how little the costume has changed since its first inception: though the emblem has changed, there always was one on the chest, and the other elements - blue union suit, red boots, trunks and cape, yellow belt - have always been there. The neckline changes quite a lot over the years, oddly, but beyond that, I can't think of any major changes. Personally I always liked the "S" at the back of the cape (it was sometimes drawn as a yellow S against a red background, my favourite), but that one comes and goes and I can take it or leave it.

I can't think of any changes I would like to make, never mind like to see, in Superman's costume. I quite like the trunks; if nothing else, they provide a bit of contrast. I'm no fashion designer, but I imagine that without them, you'd just have a blue bodysuit that would make Clark look like an oversized blue ballet dancer. With red boots. I share your view that the trunks were made too small in the film, presumably to mimic the (surprisingly enduring) fashion for hipsters. They looked stupid, frankly.

Probably my favourite version of the costume is the Iron Age; I always liked the way Kal looks in "The Luthor Nobody Knows" (not coincidentally the first Superman story I ever read), which offers a view of him without his cape. Maybe, for variety's sake, artists could play around with the cape a bit more, tying it toga-like under one armpit and slung over the other shoulder, or something.

Rather than change his original costume, it would be nice to see him wear something else on the odd occasion. He attends a lot of banquets - perhaps there could be a formal wear version of the costume, with epaulettes and buttons, a red stripe up the side of the trousers, a bit like a Prussian uniform?

Oh, and he like totally needs to accessorize. Listen ta me, yappin' about clothes like I'm some kinda twist.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2006, 07:49:12 AM »

Quote from: Permanus
We wouldn't want him getting his handy-pandies cold, now, would we? Why not mittens?

Speaking of superhero fashoin, I always loved how Gil Kane used to draw Hal Jordan and Ray Palmer as wearing gloves when they drive.

Wearing gloves when they drive! Now that's class you can't BUY. I wonder if these two are what Morrissey meant by "last of the famous international playboys?"

Quote from: Permanus
I'm no fashion designer, but I imagine that without them, you'd just have a blue bodysuit that would make Clark look like an oversized blue ballet dancer.

Actually, I think he'd be rather sleek without it, perfect for a flier. It's funny: I don't mind Batman as much wearing athletic shorts, because that's what he is: an athlete.

Quote
Probably my favourite version of the costume is the Iron Age; I always liked the way Kal looks in "The Luthor Nobody Knows" (not coincidentally the first Superman story I ever read), which offers a view of him without his cape. Maybe, for variety's sake, artists could play around with the cape a bit more, tying it toga-like under one armpit and slung over the other shoulder, or something.

Hehe! All good ideas. I should give these to some Superman artists sometime.

I did like how Batman in the Animated Series made use of that big black cloak of his, used it to highlight certain actions, stiffening when he jumps, or getting wider when he swings. I did like how his in the Animated Series came to rest over the chest and cover his bat-symbol like a vest; what a cool look that was and it would be interesting if the same were done for Superman with his red cloak.

Quote
Rather than change his original costume, it would be nice to see him wear something else on the odd occasion. He attends a lot of banquets - perhaps there could be a formal wear version of the costume, with epaulettes and buttons, a red stripe up the side of the trousers, a bit like a Prussian uniform?

I must say, there is something non-formal and everyday about his costume.

How about something not unlike the uniform that Miracleman wore in the Gaiman years, with a Superman seal on the chest broken in twain by a zipper?
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Permanus
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2006, 08:20:19 AM »

How about something not unlike the uniform that Miracleman wore in the Gaiman years, with a Superman seal on the chest broken in twain by a zipper?
Yes! That's the sort of thing I had in mind. Sort of like a brass band leader, except lose the silly hat. Maybe the seal could be small and worn on the left breast, where the medals go.

As for driving with gloves, my father used to do that, in those stringy gloves with holes in the knuckles. It's beyond cool. Another cool thing to do is to wear leather gloves with the cuffs turned up, like The Spirit.

Do you know, I got the idea for messing around with the cape more while watching a production of King Lear. The costumier (or whatever they call it) had Lear's cloak knotted in a different way in every scene, presumably to signify that some time had passed since the last.
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Aldous
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2006, 08:22:30 AM »

No variation in Superman's look is acceptable. He should look as he does in the Silver and Bronze ages. Examples would be Wayne Boring's and Curt Swan's.

Gloves are a terrible idea. Actually, I always liked the fact that Superman had bare hands, unlike the other big guns who wore gloves or gauntlets. This is also in keeping with his lack of head covering or mask.
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davidelliott
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2006, 08:43:55 AM »

I agree with Aldous... no changes!  I can't even really accept the monor changes in Superman Returns... Even the rectangular belt buckle in Lois & Clark bothered me (as well as no spit curl)
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2006, 11:45:40 AM »

Yes, nearly all other superheroes wear gloves.  The open-ness and unique nature of Supes costume are iconic and should be immutable.

I could give or take the shield on the back of the cape (it would tend to wrinkle anyway).  I like to see variations on the chest shield but no zippers (?!?) but am also content with the staus quo.

Formal attire maybe for Capt. Marvel, who costume is more of a uniform and comes and goes magically anyway.

The 40s Captain America was occasionally drawn with mesh, as I recall.

As someone who doesn't usually go in for Alex Ross comics, I like the way he sometimes reimagines classic costumes like on the new JSA covers (Green Lantern and Sandman being two of my faves).  I'm sure these may be designs that have been tweaked by other artists but his semi-realistic representations tend to highlight the absurdities of most costumes.  I've been thinking about costumes myself lately.  Superman's is often said to be based on a circus strongman's.  I like the GA Flash's pants/belt.  The shirt collar, belt buckle, and cape (but not the crazy "intentional" color scheme) of Alan Scott, and the practical/unimaginative yet menacing realism of Sandman.  My top 3 fave All-Stars costume-wise.  These are 60-year old properties that would not really be missed by the masses if changed but us fans are a conservative bunch, I think.  We only accept minor changes on dubious aesthetic grounds.

The stylized ring of the Hal Jordan GL is an improvement on the drawing of a lantern on Alan Scott's chest.

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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2006, 01:17:58 PM »

I'm going to agree with what seems to be the consensus here (and worldwide); Superman's outfit should be left alone.  It works perfectly as is.  The lack of gloves, like the lack of a mask, reinforces the notion that Superman has nothing to hide.  More than that, it suggests that he's the guy to handle your heavy lifting jobs...he's a hands-on, physical task type.  In contrast, Batman is all about stealth and cunning.  Beyond just protecting Bruce's identity, they reinforce that image of the cat-burglar/black ops figure.  With a lot of other heroes it could go either way...usually it comes down to aesthetics.  Spider-Man, for example, wouldn't look nearly as cool with bare hands, even though logically the gloves ought to sabotage whatever "stick to the wall" power he inherited from that goofy spider.

I agree with Permanus that losing the trunks would make Supes look MORE like a dancer, not less.  I believe Shuster designed the outfit in the vein of a circus or vaudeville strong man, with tights and trunks to protect the ladies in the audience from the sight of his sexy, hairy chest and limbs.  And for me, the trunks again reinforce the "strong guy" image whereas no trunks says girlie-man, or at best, narcissist.  Works on Barry Allen, though, because he's all about speed...hey, it's better than shaving his legs!

I miss the "S" shield on the cape, too.  There was something regal about that thing.

I'm okay with a few tweaks here and there.  I can take the "S" as small as Swan drew it or as large as Boring drew it (Boring's was the prettiest).  I prefer no "S" on the belt buckle, though...that's just a bit much.  Also the blues and reds can get darker and lighter and still be okay.  With the trunks, I prefer them bigger, like Kirby, Rude and now Darwyn Cooke draw them, and not "speedo" style as Brandon Routh had.  Also, Superman MUST have the spit curl.  He looked really dull without it in the Byrne years, and I was sorry to see the last Reeve movie follow suit.

Batman can change his duds as often as he likes, since he has different tasks and anyway his clothes are prone to being shredded regularly.  But the super-suit is almost a character unto itself, and a huge part of the legend, as evidenced in that great Kamandi tale where a religion grows up around it:



That sort of multi-generational, cross-cultural iconography is simply not possible if you're changing the thing all the time, now is it?




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