2005 Movie News Archives

Brandon Routh as Superman

June 26, 2005: Jon Bogdanove Speaks Out on New Superman Costume

A while ago we posted some comments from various industry people in regards to their reaction to the new Superman costume for "Superman Returns". Amongst those we contacted was comic book artist Jon Bogdanove.

Jon was a regular artist on the Superman comics in the 1990s, and is currently busy working on other projects. So busy in fact, that he missed replying to my email at the time. But Superman holds a special place in Jon's heart, so he couldn't pass up the opportunity to make these comments (better late than never)...

    So far, the folks in Hollywood seem intent on translating Superman's costume to the screen like they translated Batman's -- which is to try to put their own spin on this cultural icon in a way that exploits film's natural potential over comics' necessary simplicity.

    In Batman's case, this has worked well. Batman's designers have been able to keep the essential recognizable elements while playing freely with the materials and details. This has resulted in Bat-suits that represent the armor and augmentation the Dark Knight would realistically need in order to function as a mortal superhero. As long as the symbolic elements that identify the character are maintained in some form (Bat cape, ears, mask, etc.), there is plenty for Hollywood to play with and re-interpret without violating the universal icon they are banking on. This is because the Bat-suit is an intrinsically functional part of the character. It is more than simply a symbol of identity, it is a practical tool the Batman needs to survive; a gadget.

    Conversely, Superman's suit is not a gadget. Its function is strictly symbolic. Its unchanging accuracy is essential to the success of the property.

    Batman's "face" is his mask. Almost any actor could wear it and still be believably Batman.

    Superman wears no mask. His distinctive likeness is his costume. It is the only thing that makes him universally recognized no matter who is cast or how well or poorly he is played -- or drawn, for that matter.

    Gadget-filled armor, eternally updatable, fits the Batman concept. Storywise, Bruce Wayne can afford to periodically modify or replace his suit, just as he does his car.

    Superman has only one costume. In his story, the suit was made by Ma Kent from the red and blue swaddling clothes baby Kal-El arrived in. This fundamental story-point does not lend itself to plastic S-shields and repetitive belt buckles. There needs to be something fundamentally home-made looking and basic about the Superman costume.

    "Basic" describes Superman well, in a variety of ways. He is, after all, the First Superhero -- the basic, stripped-down model. The Classic. He doesn't need any punked-out black leather, plastic, kevlar or trinkets. He wears tights and, yes -- a cape!

    If I were the producer in charge of adapting Superman to the screen, this would be my starting point and my guiding philosophy in developing the movie.

    Jon Bogdanove

2005 Movie News

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