So... People who know me, know that am a big Superman fan. Have been for a long time. I'm not a blind fan. The Man of Steel and I have had our ups and downs, but for the most part, I've been able to defend or explain away most of the things that people don't understand about him.
Of course I, like many, found SUPERMAN RETURNS to be rather repellant (though not at first). But for the most part, I take Superman as whole (at least from my lifetime) and enjoy his escapades.
Now DC Comics has announced that they're going to reboot the Last Son of Krypton. I don't have a problem with that. Honestly, to date, my definitive Superman is the John Byrne reboot of 1986. I also like Geoff Johns' take in SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGIN.
What I DON'T like is when you take Superman's already tenuous hold on believability and loosen it even more. This is hard for me because I, like most, haven't read the new take yet (as it is not out for a few more months) and so I am only speaking for what I'm seeing.
The biggest and most glaring problem for me is the new costume. FINE, he starts out in jeans and a t-shirt. Not many people make the leap right to tights, so I get that. Fine. HOWEVER, at the Superman panel at San Diego Comic Con, Superman editor Matt Idelson was reported as saying that it's possible for Superman to be hurt and thus he needs armor.
ARMOR??? REALLY??? What is he, Iron Man? Let's take a sec to look at Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man... In the film, his most portable armor had to be carried around in a briefcase. "Well, that's because it was full of tech," you say. Well then let's look at Batman's armor in the Nolan films. Not exactly inconspicuous, no?
What am I getting at, you ask? Remembering that for quick changes, Superman generally keeps his costume on under his clothes, HOW EXACTLY IS HE GOING TO HIDE ARMOR UNDER HIS CLOTHES?
One of my main concerns with SUPERMAN RETURNS as far as the costume was concerned was the "S". It was a raised piece of hard rubber (which one could assume was supposed to be made out of anything). ANYONE who has tried to wear a Superman shirt, let alone a whole costume, under a suit knows that it's hard to hide when it's just fabric. Make it raised and people are SERIOUSLY going to notice.
The appeal of a form-fitting costume under clothes is that it doesn't bulk you up too much, and so Superman could still get away with stooping over to look like a weaker Clark Kent. Put a suit of armor on underneath (recalling now the relative size of the Batman armor from the Nolan films) and he's going to look like a freakshow.
Which brings me back to the title of this note. One of the hardest things to explain about Superman's costume is where his boots go when he's Clark. Does he really wear bigger shoes over them or does he fold them up and put them in a pocket? I mean there is really no good explanation. Bigger shoes would make him look like he had clown feet. For Halloween when I did both Clark and Superman, I wore rubber overshoes over the boots, but they wouldn't fool anyone. Now, we're trying to assume that you could fit body armor under clothes?
"But Jason," you say... "isn't his armor from Krypton too and therefore made of some super-space-age-thin as fabric-armor?"
Incoming Superman writer Grant Morrison said that the cape was the only thing he had from Krypton, which would lead us to believe the rest was manufactured here somewhere. I don't even know how they're going to explain how he got that, but that's a cart-before-the-horse kinda situation.
The point is, I honestly wonder if this was truly a preemptive strike to tie in to a new look for his costume for the upcoming MAN OF STEEL film. If that's the case, why bother? Comic books have never gone out of their way to tie in perfectly to the film versions because the film versions don't deal with canon anyway, so what does it matter?
One last question from the audience...
"Jason, with all that's happening in the world and all the things that take up people's time... did you really just waste precious moments of your life writing and even thinking about Superman's costume?"
Yeah, I did. And for no other reason than because Superman is an institution. He's been around for 73 years now. And he's been very much a part of my life for all 34 years of it. As a child he was a huge inspiration for me. If there was a fictional character I'd like to meet, let alone be, the most... it would be him. He is recognized the world over (yes, in real life) instantly. That's how important he is on a global scale.
People have wrongly pegged him as the world's oldest boy scout... they say he's tired as a character... and they say he's got the corniest costume around. To that I have three things to say:
1) He's just trying to do what's right with what he has. He's trying to lead by example. That's a hard road to take, but in the best of stories, he is not perfect.
2) He's as tired as the writers who craft his stories. Think Joel Schumacher who famously said about the Batman films that 'it's a comic book... it doesn't have to make sense.' If you go into the character seeing just a guy who can juggle planets (which he can't) or a guy who can turn back time (which he hasn't been able to do for 25 years) or a guy who can do anything (which he can't) you've defeated yourself before you've even started. Write for Superman because you like him. Otherwise, stay out of it.
3) THIS has been said many times, but bears repeating. Christopher Reeve MADE that costume look good. He wore EXACTLY what Superman wore in the comics. No padding, no armor, no rubber shields.
He wore it with equal parts pride and modesty. And it COMPLETELY worked. He looked much better in that than poor Brandon Routh looked in that horror that they put him in. Sure, people mock the underwear on the outside, but if you really want to pick it apart, there CAN be a reason for that... But that is a rant for another time.
I'm worried about the good folks at DC. They are the caretakers of the dreams of young comic readers. They're trying very hard to turn the business around, and sometimes that means making large-scale creative changes in an attempt to bring your readership back. Reboots can be good and can be VERY necessary to keep characters relevant. But remember that the world you're crafting needs to work for your readers, or they won't come back anyway.
I ADMIT that I won't have all my answers until the story comes out... but if this is any indication of the web they plan to weave... I may just need to come to terms with the fact that this is once again... The Death of Superman