It took more than seven years, but, Superman is now back in his iconic red trunks!
Just a little while ago, an announcement was made about Action Comics #1000 will see the debut of the Superman in a costume designed by Jim Lee. The new, but, classic appearance is a combination of various elements picked from the numerous Superman costumes over the years, including the renowned red trunks.
The Kryptonian as worn a lot of costumes during the eighty years of his existence, but, there is no other version that matches the impact of his original costume. Now that it is back in the limelight let’s have a look at the earlier attempts by DC to do away with the red trunks and how they have repeatedly managed to come back.
Red, White, and Blue
The Superman’s costume has been renowned for the red trunks right from the debut of Action Comics #1 in 1938, and it is even older than the unmistakable diamond-shaped S-shield. The first genuine change to the costume was made much later in 1991 when the revived Superman returned from the dead wearing a black and silver Kryptonian costume. After he was back, DC could have easily disposed of the trunks, but, the iconic costume was back soon. It remained in place until 1997, when DC gave a total overhaul to Superman in what was later called the Electric Blue era.
While his revamped look merged into the overall DC Universe’s narrative of the era, Electric Blue Superman came into being during the days of DC’s court trial regarding the ownership of Superman’s IP. The changes in looks and powers were part of an overall strategy to demonstrate that the character remained as popular without any of the old visual appeal which had made him famous as Superman. The case was ultimately settled, and it led to the “By Special Arrangement with the Jerry Siegel Family” credit that you can spot in all the Superman materials, and Superman was once again back to his famous red and blues, trunks and everything else.
The New 52
Another decade passed before The New 52 arrived and it provided DC a chance to redo the look of its universe. Jim Lee created new costumes for the Justice League, and Superman once again dumped his legendary trunks, which were replaced by a chunky red belt to break the monotony of the blue costume. Zack Snyder’s movie Man of Steel which started production a month before The New 52’s launch, also discarded the red trunks, providing Henry Cavill’s cinematic adaptation an embossed design around the waistline.
Later it was disclosed that the Superman seen in the New 52 was not the same guy who was seen before Flashpoint and that Superman as well as his family had survived the changes to the continuity and were living an undercover life. This Superman was first seen in a stealth suit resembling the resurrection costume of the 1990s; however, once the New 52 Superman died, he came out in public wearing a new costume conceptualized by Jim Lee and Tom Derenick. In the new costume, the red belt was thinner, and there were no red boots, which made the costume look like a single piece. The latest costume of Superman after the Superman Reborn turned out to be a nice compromise for the famous Superman appearance, but, without the red trunks. The boots were back, and the belt was again a lot wider, but, not chunky, and the buckle was redone to yellow.
While a section of people might not consider the return of Superman’s red trunks to be a big deal, but, it represents much of what has made DC so appealing and captivating since the arrival of Rebirth. It glances back to what clicked with DC’s characters, while taking them into future, and towards new stories. While the jokes/memes about Superman “wearing his underwear outside” will continue, but DC always defended any changes it made. Superman is beyond cool or trendy on the day, and the red trunks are a great part of his being timeless. It’s good to see them return!