Continued from Part 4: ‘Holy Bat-Comics, Batman!’
#3 – Superman’s ‘super-suit’!
Perhaps the biggest change to DC’s new 52 initiative was the revamp of Superman himself.
Now, I feel the need to preface this by saying I really am a huge super-fan, like ever since the premier of Smallville’s pilot a good eleven years ago (when I was in high school that is). Mark Waid’s ‘Superman: Birthright’ several years ago simply enforced everything I subconsciously dug about this legendary icon, however at the same time I’ve always been of the opinion that his costume was, for lack of a nicer word, outdated.
To be fair, it is after all the original superhero outfit, and therefore practically blasphemy to tweak it, but I do think it was the right call to finally shake things up a bit (those red speedos had to go). As with most of the New 52 versions of the DC heroes, practically all of their designs now emphasize practicality, thanks to Jim Lee. For instance: the Green Lanterns wear energy construct uniforms, Flash’s costume is apparently some kind of nano-tech, Aqua-man wears Atlantean Scale-male, and Batman has a light-weight suit of Kevlar high-tech armor.
In the pages of the new ACTION COMICS, by the great Grant Morrison (of ‘All-Star Superman’ fame), a young Man of Steel is first starting out as a Metropolis vigilante in… blue jeans, work boots, a red indestructible cape (we later learned belonged to his biological grandfather), and a certain symbolic, Kryptonian ‘S’-shield crest across his chest, emblazoned on his…um… t-shirt? One of the purposes of this story arc is to show the evolution of a super man to a true super hero. For one he’s both inexperienced, and de-powered significantly. In the new continuity this story takes place 10 years prior to the current-era, main ‘Superman’ title (by George Perez) where he’s already established, and working for the Daily Planet, and 5 years before the Justice League story where he first runs into Batman and co.
In the pages of ‘Action’, Morrison shows how a young, brash, very cocky Clark Kent whose prone to making mistakes, but will not let anyone stand in the way of truth and justice, including the police… and the military. Although a tank will knock the wind out of him and stopping a runaway bullet train nearly kills him while simultaneously injuring approximately half the passengers in the process. The comic displays an organic use of his impressive powers between super-speed, super-strength, heat-vision, and x-ray vision! Initially, this Superman has yet to find out about his past heritage (Krypton’s destruction), his powers are still manifesting (he can’t yet fly, just like in the original Golden Age comics), and he has no problem busting through a wall, grabbing a government a corrupt lobbyist, and then dangling him upside down above the city until piss is running down his shirt.
The first four issues were outstanding, every character involved was spot on (Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Gen. Lane, John Corben/’Metal-Zero’, Jimmy Olsen, etc), and it ended on a cliff hanger, then the next couple issues were kind of a letdown (filler stories delving more into the mythology), but then came issue 7! This one picked up where number four left off: essentially Brainiac has abducted Metropolis itself! Now, Superman has to take a leap of faith out of the atmosphere and take on the Collector of Worlds on his own turf.
During this issue Clark discovers and dons a Kryptonian suit of armor. This of course leads into George Perez’s Superman story arc (also worth checking). Now, this is something that was bound to happen. Ever since I’ve gotten into comics I’ve felt that they needed to do something just like this. People I’ve talked to often say, but its Superman, he doesn’t need armor! Let me explain where I’m coming from.
There are a few requirements for Superman’s getup: The red/blue color scheme is a given, it is non-negotiable due to the whole bright beacon of hope thing; it has to be aerodynamic, for flight maneuverability; and most of all, the suit must be able to withstand a beating! Seriously, these threads have to logically be made of some near-indestructible kryptonian material, because otherwise if the Man of Steel were to say disarm a nuke hurtling towards the sun and then had to race back to save Lois from one of Lex’s ridiculously elaborate evil schemes, people would be shouting ‘Don’t look up in the sky!’ due to a butt-naked Clark Kent streaking (literally) across the sky thanks to a useless, incinerated, piece of cloth that Ma Kent knit for him, because it looked nice and heroic (and don’t give me that nerdy telekinetic aura techno-babble bullshit).
The super-suit must have a purpose beyond looks, I would even go out on a limb and say that it should work as a giant solar panel to amplify his powers / strength, but yes it also has to look awesome, and classic, echoing the original Jerry Siegel / Joel Schuster design. I think they really pulled it off in that regard. Feel free to argue with me in the comments below. In the new DC universe many of Superman’s supporting cast has changed as well. Check out the backup stories in Action Comics for the origin of ‘Steel’, John Henry Irons. Also worth note are ‘Superboy’ (a teenage clone of Superman mixed with Lex’s DNA), and Supergirl (Kal-El’s teen cousin, Kara Zor-El, who grew up on Krypton and was frozen prior to its unfortunate demolition).
The best Superman stories show why he’s considered the greatest super hero. If you’re looking for a different, but equally great take on his origin, with a more classic look, check out either ‘Birthright’, or J. Michael Straczynski’s ‘Superman: Earth One’. Whether or not you like the new look I highly recommend you pick up Action Comics, if you haven’t done so already, it’s a fast-paced, immensely entertaining read!
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