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The Comics Inspirations Behind David Corenswet’s Superman Suit

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James Gunn broke the fandom internet yesterday by posting an image of David Corenswet’s brand-new Superman suit on a random Monday morning. As always, fans went crazy on social media, dissecting what they liked and didn’t like. And it was fun, but I still wanted to dive deeper into the differences and references to past suits.

For me, the most interesting part of the reveal was seeing how James Gunn and costume designer Judianna Makovsky incorporated unique details from various versions of the character. In this article, I’m going to break down some of the comic inspirations behind the new Superman suit and speculate on what that might mean for this new portrayal of Clark Kent!

Check out the cropped image below that James Gunn posted on Threads, for the big reveal of Superman’s new suit! 

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Note: all images courtesy of Warner Bros/DC Comics

The yellow outline on Superman’s chest shield

This comes from the first appearance of Superman in 1938, and was later popularized in the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons of the 1940s. As a result, this detail is often associated with the earliest days of Superman’s career, which might be exactly why Gunn & Makovsky are using it here.

Recently, the yellow outline was featured again in the great Superman Smashes the Klan comic by Gene Luen Yang & Gurihiru, which takes place in Superman’s early days in the 1940s. The yellow outline was also used briefly in live action for Tyler Hoechlin’s first suit in Superman & Lois.

S symbol

S symbol comics

Collar and lines on Superman’s suit

These details have been used a number of times, but they truly became canonized with Jim Lee’s Justice League redesigns for the New 52.

Historically, Superman’s collar has been associated with designs that are more authoritarian or militaristic. In these cases, the suit becomes a uniform, formal and powerful. To varying degrees, this reasoning can be seen in Superman: Red Son, Injustice, The New 52 comics, and Tyler Hoechlin’s evil Supermans in the Arrowverse.

But traditionally, Superman is a simple farm boy. He’s friendly, open, and comfortable, and an open neck line reflects that. I don’t think Gunn & Makovsky designed this suit with militaristic or authoritarian intentions, but perhaps he did want to emphasize the “uniform” element. Based on the pose in the picture, it looks like Superman is waking up early and getting dressed for work. The costume is just his work uniform, and perhaps that’s what the collar is supposed to symbolize.

superman legacy collars and lines

Superman suit collar comics

The S symbol of the Man of Steel

This distinctive S comes from Kingdom Come, the famous 1990s comic by Mark Waid & Alex Ross. In an alternate future of the DC Universe, a new wave of edgy heroes have taken over, and the classic superheroes have to come out of retirement to rebalance to the world.

With Lois Lane long dead, Superman now lives as a humble farmer, far away from the world’s problems. Clark is in a much darker place, and he has to be reinspired to lead once again. When he finally dons his suit, it’s with this unique symbol, eschewing the iconic S and yellow for a barely recognizable polygonal design with a solid black background.

There are theories that by using the Kingdom Come shield, Gunn & Makovsky may be symbolizing that Superman will be a “reverse” Kingdom Come: Perhaps this younger Clark Kent starts in a world with edgy heroes, and it’s Superman’s job to show them a better way. Plus, it just looks cool.

Fun fact: Both the black and yellow designs were also used in the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Infinite Earths event for an alternate future of Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns variant. Both yellow and black variants were also used in Superman: The Warworld Saga comics. The Warworld symbol introduced a sharper angle at the bottom of the S, which is also seen in David Corenswet’s version.

S symbol

S symbol

Superman’s knee pads and trunks

The knee pads are another new addition for live action! Knee pads aren’t a common element in Superman comics, but the inspiration may have come from the early suit in Superman: American Alien (which loosely inspired the animated movie Superman: Man of Tomorrow). 

This detail adds a workman-like quality to the suit, as if this Superman spends most of his time with physical labor. This is also accentuated by the worn out, battle damaged details in the reveal photo. This is someone who isn’t afraid of physical work. 

Meanwhile, the trunks mark a classic-style Superman look! The belt loops were actually my favorite detail of the new suit. There’s no specific comic inspiration here because the trunks and belt have been a staple for Superman almost consistently since his debut in 1938 (based on “strong man” circus outfits). The belt loops specifically add a humanized, down-to-earth element to the suit design.

Superman's suit knee pads and trunks

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Final thoughts (for now) on David Corenswet’s new Superman suit

In general, some might say that this suit is a full reversal of the Man of Steel costume designed by Zack Snyder & Michael Wilkinson. Where this has geometric lines and polygons, that had elegant lines that traced body anatomy. Trunks, no trunks. Collar, no collar. Curl, no curl. The colors and textures are difficult to compare at this point, but there may be more differences once we get to the final post-production stages of the film.

Overall, this suit tells me that James Gunn knows the history of the Superman’s costume designs – but we’ll have to wait and see how many of these details factor into the story!

Are you excited for Superman next year? What are your favorite aspects of the new design? Let me know on Twitter (@vinwriteswords) and remember to follow the site (@MyCosmicCircus) for more Superman movie, series, and comics coverage coming soon! 

Also check out our other Superman reviews here, including All-Star Superman, My Adventures with Superman, and Superman & Lois!

DC Showcase: All-Star Superman Comic Review

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Review: My Adventures with Superman Is Warm, Wacky, and Wonderful

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Vin

Reviews, reading guides, and crazy theories. Obsessed with the Midnight Sons. Find me on Twitter @vinwriteswords!

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