In My Pants

"Smallville Season 11"
I flipped through Smallville Season 11 #1 this week (it was free on Comixology, like your first hit from the dealer) and was struck by the Superman costume (pictured right). It's very similar to the classic, but with a red belt and darker patches down the sides, beginning under the arms and continuing down the sides of the legs, flattering the torso like a rugby top. It has a few lines on and around it, seams like it was actually sewn together by somebody, but nothing overly elaborate. Some detailing on the boots. Enough to make it look distinct from the comics.

Most significantly, no red shorts.

And I'm looking at it, and I'm thinking, well, this is actually fine. It looks like Superman.


"New 52" Superman
See, I'm not overly fond of the "New 52" Superman outfit (left). I enjoyed Grant Morrison's run on Action (see earlier article), and am satisfied with his reason for wearing it - it's not only easy to change into and out of, but it is itself invulnerable, bolstering his own innate protection as well as reducing his repair bills. But for some reason I don't like it, and I kind of thought it was because of the shorts.

The shorts may have been somewhat of an anachronism; they've been explained as the result of superhero outfits being drawn from acrobat uniforms, breaking up the lines of the human underneath, and yes, drawing attention away from any indecent bulges that may or may not arise from, ahem, sensitive anatomy. Plus they're really easy to draw. Most superhero costumes happen like this: You draw a naked human, and draw lines on it. The classic "Underpants-over-the-tights" look comes from drawing your lines right at the hip. But whatever the roots, over 70+ years the shorts became iconic for Superman. You take that away, and it's not Superman, it's a guy wearing the S-Shield in an alternate universe (and we've had enough of those over the years).

But then I see this Smallville one, and it's not so bad.

"Man of Steel" Superman
What else could it be about the New 52 uniform that sets my teeth on edge? Comparing and contrasting with the "Man of Steel" outfit (right) - a movie I still haven't seen and in all honesty am ambivalent about - the costume is again a little off. But, again, I don't think it's the lack of red underwear, it's more the belt, which is here implied rather than explicitly present. There's a differentiation of texture which is kind of an attempt to break up the form, combined with the under-arm torso emphasis thing they have going on again, but it's not particularly successful. You end up with this sort of vast canvas of blue that's more reminiscent of the (likewise awful) Fantastic Four movie uniforms.

(As an aside, I love the Smallville Season 11 belt, the way it takes a V-line and a little bit of trim to make that pentagon "buckle" out of negative space.)

But it's still Superman for some reason. Certainly from the waist up, which I find I can't say about New52!Clark. It's something more subtle.

It's the collar.

Kal has always had his shirt end at the collarbone. The cape's shifted around; sometimes it comes from that same line, sometimes it's attached around the back of the neck, but the shirt itself always ends there. The neck itself is bare. I don't know why that's a dealbreaker for me but for some reason it is. It somehow makes it more militaristic, more constricted. I'd say there was a juxtaposition of Clark Kent's work collar and Kal-El's open neckline, but that would sound pretentious. Maybe I just have a neck fetish. Whatever the reason, it seems to be the thing that bothers me most about New 52 Superman.

Images sourced via Google Image Search. Used without permission.


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