Superman: The Unauthorized Biography
Glen Weldon (Author)
A celebration of Superman's life and history - in time for his 75th birthday. How has the Big Blue Boy Scout stayed so popular for so long? How has he changed with the times, and what essential aspects of him have remained constant? This fascinating biography examines Superman as a cultural phenomenon through 75 years of action-packed adventures, from his early years as a social activist in circus tights to his growth into the internationally renowned demigod he is today.
Hardcover: 352 pages
Initial Reaction: August 5, 2011
Another Look: January 9, 2013
In this article I'm going to be examining, in detail, the Superman costume for the up-coming movie "Man of Steel". I did the same thing back in April 2005 when we were shown the first photo of Brandon Routh as Superman for "Superman Returns".
Initial Reaction: At this point in time we'd only seen one photo of Henry Cavill in the costume. Compared to the first photo we saw of Brandon Routh for "Superman Returns", this photo is a dynamic action shot that is eye-catching, while still leaving much of the costume unseen, making discussion about its design a hot topic amongst fans.
Another Look: With time having passed, and with clearer photos and actual film footage having been released, it's obvious the changes in the costume design don't impact too much on the character's identity.
It's a little difficult in this photo to tell how red the cape is, but it looks much brighter and redder than the cape from "Superman Returns". It also appears to be cloth, rather than the rubbery material used in Brandon Routh's costume.
The cape in this photo appears to be very long. However I'm sure they will have different capes for different scenarios in the film, be it a walking cape, flying cape, standing cape, etc...
We don't know if there's a yellow version of the "S" emblem on the back... I'm not too fussed either way. I'd prefer to see it there, but it's not essential.
With the "Superman Returns" costume my biggest problem with the cape, and in part with the whole look of the costume, was in the way the cape joined onto the costume. I have no such qualms with the "Man of Steel" costume. In fact I'm loving the design of this part of the costume. The cape at the shoulders is perfect. It really adds a regality to the character's over all look. From this initial look, it appears as though they got the cape 100% right in my opinion.
Having seen the cape in action in the theatrical trailer, I can honestly say I love it! I think the red cloth is perfect. Some people are complaining that the cape is too long, but I don't mind it at all. The flow of the cape, the way it moves... it adds a real regal feeling to the over all look of the costume. I think the cape is my favorite part of this new costume.
Once again, as with "Superman Returns", there's no "S" on the cape... and, for me, that's not a deal breaker. The "S" on the cape hasn't always been a part of Superman's costume, and really isn't that important from my perspective.
Once again, due to the lighting in the photo it is very difficult to tell just how blue the main part of the costume really is. It appears to be somewhat muted and less vibrant than the blue in either Christopher Reeve's or Brandon Routh's costume. However I'll reserve my judgement on the color of the blue until I see further images.
The neckline appears to be perfect. It's not too low, and not too high. It allows the cape to connect on at what I think is the ideal position for a Superman costume and allows the cape to drape over the shoulders.
As with the "Superman Returns" costume, the material appears to have a small repeating shield pattern. Although this version appears to be much more prominent. It almost has a scaly look to it. Now if this is Kryptonian material or technology, then fine... but I do prefer a more simple, straight blue material. It doesn't look bad here, but I'm not sold on it at first glance.
There also appears to be extra design features to the sleeves near the wrists, and on the legs around the thighs. It's hard to tell in this initial photo just what those designs or features are, but they seem fairly subtle regardless.
It's fairly obvious that the material used for this costume has a huge bearing on how the colors appear. Lighting from different angles really show up the blues, reds, and yellows... while in some other shots and angles, especially where Superman is backlit, the colors become muted and aren't as vibrant.
There's no doubt that there are multiple costumes, probably with variations in texture, for different scenes in the movie. I know previous Superman films have had multiple costumes and capes that were used depending on the location, movement requires, lighting, etc... Regardless, the costume is instantly recognizable as Superman.
The additional design elements, such as those that can be seen on his sleeve cuffs and midriff area, don't detract from the costume. If anything, they add to what would otherwise be a very plain costume with the removal of the red trunks.
Perhaps having seen a similar costume for over a year now in the monthly Superman comic books, including the "Smallville: Season 11" book, I'm much more relaxed about this new look.
Where many fans complained about the size of the "S" for "Superman Returns," there seems to be no complaints about the size of this "S" for "Man of Steel". It looks nice and large and fits nicely across the chest.
Once again the "S" has been given a solid presence rather than just being part of the fabric of the costume. While it appears to be made out of the same fabric as the rest of the costume, it does have a slightly raised appearance. However it is no where near as solid-looking or as rigid in appearance as the "Superman Returns" shield.
The design of the "S" is quite different. Well, it actually harkens back to the Golden Age Superman "S" shield design, and has a very retro feel to it. The flourish on the top-right of the "S" is very similar to the Golden Age "S" shield and over all the shield reminds me somewhat of the George Reeves costume. I quite like it.
Next to the cape, the "S" design on Superman's chest for "Man of Steel" is another favorite element for me. The more I see of it the more I like it.
I especially love the way it looks in that one scene from the trailer where we see the costume on display (supposedly within the Fortress of Solitude). The colors looks great and the "S" really pops.
Due to the shadow in this first photo released, it's almost impossible to make any comment on the belt. You can hardly see it. It does appear to have an oval metallic buckle. It appears to be gold, although it's hard to tell. Whether the rest of the belt is a similar color or not I can't say. Whether it has any design elements or not remains to be seen.
So we now know there's no belt... well, a buckle of sorts and some design elements on the midriff, but no belt. As there are no briefs/trunks, a belt isn't really necessary I guess. But it is interesting that they've broken up the blue costume with a gold, oval shape that is exactly where the gold/yellow oval belt buckle would be positioned on a costume that did have a belt.
There doesn't appear to be any red briefs. It looks like they've totally removed this element from the "Man of Steel" costume. But I could be wrong. Once again the lighting in the first image released make it very difficult to tell. I'm a fan of the red briefs. I think they're an important part of the costume. They're not a deal breaker, but I'd personally prefer they were included. I'll have to wait for a clearer image to make a more informed judgment.
The red briefs/trunks are gone. As I mentioned above, having become familiar with the no-trunks look from the comic books for over a year now, it doesn't really bother me. Especially now that I've seen this costume in action via the trailer. The removal of the trunks, and the "bareness" of that region of his body, hasn't really been noticeable in the footage we've seen thus far, so it's not that obvious that they're not there.
I've always preferred that Superman's boots be of a similar material to the rest of his costume, and here (although it's once again hard to tell) they appear to be just like that. We can only see one of his boots in the initial photo released, and even then that boot is in shadows. What we can see is that the shape of the boot appears to be true to the design used in most comic books. The top of the boot sits high on the shin. Whether it has any special embellishments to its texture or not will have to wait for brighter photos.
The boots are obviously Superman boots. Their shape and design are true to the classic Superman look. Their appearance and texture is consistent with the rest of the costume. The color is red. They rise up his shins to a reasonable height. What else is there to say?
Now for the man wearing the costume...
In all honesty, I wasn't even sure this was Henry Cavill when I first saw the photo. Having seen a lot of photos and video interviews with him since he was cast in the role, this photo doesn't really do him justice.
The hairstyle in this photo doesn't scream Superman. They've really brushed it back and there's no spit-curl on his forehead. That's not really a big deal, and the angle of his pose may be misleading somewhat.
I've really come to like Cavill, and think he'll make a great Superman. In body he's quite muscular, probably as buff as what we've come to expect from Superman when in comparison to what we see in the comics. Again his pose, body position and lighting of the photo make it hard to see any muscular definition.
I'm sold on Cavill. He seems ideal for the part now that I've seen him in the role via the trailer. His voice has the right tone. The accent isn't a problem (as many people were worried about). He has the strong jaw, the blue eyes, the musculature. You look at him in the costume... and it's Superman. He really sells the part.
The hair looks fine in most shots. There is no spit-curl, but as with previous actors (Dean Cain, George Reeves), it hasn't always been a part of Superman's look. It looked kind of unnatural on Brandon Routh in "Superman Returns", so I'm not too concerned that it's not part of Henry Cavill's Superman.
Cavill definitely has the build and the presence required for the part. And that, to me, is more important than a curl of hair.
As with "Superman Returns," the release of this first image of Henry Cavill for "Man of Steel" sent the fandom into a frenzy. The comments across the internet were flying thick and fast. In general, and from the look of our own poll, most fans reacted in a positive way towards this first photo.
I've got to say that I was very impressed with the fact that they released a dynamic action photo rather than just a plain standing pose. It's obvious that a lot of thought and effort went into the composition of this photo. It's exciting for what it shows, and just as frustrating for everything it doesn't show. The light and shadow play in this photo was obviously done intentionally. The left hand and the cape draped over Cavill's left leg are purposely obscuring that side of his body so as not to reveal too much of the costume's design. The shadowing of the lower portion of his body, the waist down to his thighs and right boot are all darkened so as not to give too much away. It's expertly done. They've left us wanting more.
The theatrical trailer, running 2 minutes and 20 seconds, set the internet alight! The official Warner Bros. YouTube video was viewed over 20 million times in 2 weeks. People are ready for "Man of Steel", and the costume design isn't even really being discussed by those seeing it for the first time. It's Superman, and that's all that really matters.