Monday, 5 September 2011

Superman Goes Commando! (In a Manner of Speaking)

On Saturday, I caught up with an (as per usual) interesting blog post by Zaki Hasan from the previous day: "Why Superman Needs The Red Underoos."

The post ties in with DC's latest stunt, a total company-wide reboot of their entire line and fictional universe (let's not even get started on that one), and more specifically focuses on their redesign of Superman. The man of the hour here is Jim Lee, who is the man responsible for rethinking and revamping an old faithful design (which has already, admittedly, seen some variations over the years, while nevertheless keeping a basic design intact). Apparently, the first view of this new design can be seen in a single panel in the debut release of the rebooted Justice League #1, and the most radical changes appear to be the addition of a collar and the loss of the otherwise ever-present red-underwear-on-the-outside.

Now, as Hasan points out, the red-underwear-on-the-outside has always been a point open to derision, but I could not agree more with his assessment that "the red trunks (along with the yellow belt) [...] helped give a much-needed sense of visual balance," which the Lee version clearly lacks.

However, the loss of the red trunks is not limited to DC's reboot of the character. This week has also provided the first full frontal look of Henry Cavill in his Superman regalia. Cavill is the actor portraying the character in the upcoming Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Cristopher Nolan, and currently being filmed. (The photo is from on-set, so the colour scheme is not necessarily a definite match to what the film will show, I hasten to add.)

While the fact that this version (at least) has no collar produces a less fascistic and more traditional looking hero, the lack of even a (wrongly) coloured belt seems to underline Hasan's point about visual balance. However, there is more to it than that. Even discounting Cavill's somewhat awkward pose in this picture (which honestly looks quite a lot like a man in need of a bathroom break),
if we think of the traditional skintight superhero costume as a comic book shorthand for the perfected human form, then the need for modesty — and thus the whole "underwear on the outside" thing — starts making a lot more sense. Just look at Cavill's...*ahem*...area to understand what I'm talking about.
I can but agree, yet again, with Hasan's assessment here.

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