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Superman's Costume

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"Once he is out of view, the timid reporter switches to a colorful costume known with fear, admiration, and respect in every corner of the Globe!"

The Evolution

Throughout the course of his sixty year career, Superman's chroniclers have portrayed him in a wide variety of artistic styles - but the basic details of his costume have remained substantially unchanged.  Superman wears a blue costume complemented by red trunks, red boots, and a long, flowing red cape.  A yellow belt encircles his waist, and there is a highly stylized Superman insignia - consisting of a large red letter "S" inscribed within a yellow shield, which is bordered in red - emblazoned on his chest. The back of Superman's cape bears a similar insignia, except that this one consists of a yellow letter "S" inscribed within a yellow shield bordered in yellow.

Superman's S!

What minor changes there have been in Superman's costume over the years have generally been in terms of coloring.  His boots, for example, which are blue in a number of very early adventures (Action Comics #4 & #5) and yellow in at least one other (Action Comics #7), have been consistently colored red since the end of the 1930s.

1939

The stylized "S" insignia on Superman's chest, small and sleek in Superman's earliest adventures, soon becomes larger, more highly stylized, and more distinct. (See The Incredible Growing S!) In a number of early adventures, the shield is portrayed (in various colors) with a yellow border, but the red border has become standard by the beginning of the 1940s.

1941   1941 - Note red belt

Inconsistencies persist for nearly twenty years, however, regarding the coloring of the insignia on Superman's cape.  Missing entirely from Superman's costume in a number of texts, it is sometimes portrayed as a blue "S" on a yellow shield, sometimes as a yellow "S" on a blue shield, sometimes as a yellow "S" on a red shield, sometimes as a red "S" on a yellow shield, and sometimes as a yellow "S" on a yellow shield.

Not until the late 1950s does a yellow letter "S" inscribed within a yellow shield become the standardized form of the insignia emblazoned on the back of Superman's cape.

Secret Origin

1941 The origin of Superman's costume has been treated inconsistently in the chronicles, although there is virtually unanimous agreement among the texts that the costume is as indestructible as the Man of Steel himself. In Summer 1940, Superman describes his costume as "constructed of a cloth I invented myself which is immune to the most powerful forces!"

By the early 1950s, however, the texts have begun to describe Superman's costume as having been fashioned by Martha Kent out of the colored blankets she and her husband found wrapped around the infant Superman when he arrived on Earth in a rocket from the doomed planet Krypton.

At this point in the chronicles, numerous texts describe Superman's costume as having been fashioned from an inherently indestructible material from Krypton. Superman #112 offers this observation:

    Indestructible as time itself, Superman's costume, woven of a strange cloth from his native planet, Krypton, has aided him in unique ways, many times in the past!

More recent texts, however, have greatly modified this position.  Although Superman's costume is still described as having been fashioned from a fiber of Krypton, this cloth is now said to have acquired its indestructibility just as Superman acquired his super-powers - as the result of having been transported from the planet Krypton to the vastly different environment of Earth.

According to Superman #146, Martha Kent was moved to fashion a super-playsuit for the infant Superman because the child was constantly destroying his store-bought clothes by engaging in various forms of super-powered play.  Fortunately, the Kents had had the foresight to save the three blankets - one red, one blue, and one yellow - in which the infant Superman had been swathed when he arrived on Earth in his rocket.  Because the blanket material was indestructible and therefore could not be cut by any scissors, the Kents unraveled some loose ends and then coaxed their super-powered infant into using the heat of his X-ray vision to cut the unraveled thread so that Martha Kent could use it to sew the Kryptonian blankets into a super-playsuit. Years later, Martha Kent unraveled the playsuit and rewove the thread into Superman's now-famous costume.  According to one of the stories in Superman Annual #8 (1963), the young Superman used "strips of rubber padding" salvaged from the wreckage of his rocket to fashion a pair of bright red boots, while a yellow strap, also salvaged from the rocket, became his belt.

Indestructible

Superman's costume is, by all accounts, absolutely indestructible. Fire cannot burn it, the strongest shears cannot cut it, and neither bullets nor lightning can make a mark on it.  Not even the force of six atomic bombs exploding inside it can do harm. (Superman #78, 1952)

So long as it remains on Earth, or in some other environment where Superman would ordinarily have super-powers, Superman's costume retains its indestructibility.  This remains true even if, for some reason, Superman has temporarily lost his powers.  Similarly, the costume retains its indestructibility even if someone other than Superman wears it, rendering the wearer invulnerable to bullets and other weapons so long as the weapons strike the costume and not the wearer.

According to the most recent explanation of Superman's powers, Superman derives his super-powers, in part, from the peculiar radiations of Earth's yellow sun.  On planets revolving around a red sun, however, such as the planet Lexor, or the planet Krypton before it exploded, Superman has no super-powers.  Similarly, on red-sun planets, Superman's costume loses its indestructibility and can be torn and damaged like any ordinary garment on Earth.  If Superman's costume is ripped or damaged during a visit to a red-sun world - or during a visit to the bottle city of Kandor, where red-sun conditions prevail - Superman must take care to repair the damage before returning to Earth, where the costume will once again become indestructible and therefore impossible to cut and sew.

Understanding Comics panel from
Understanding Comics

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Text on this page taken from The Great Superman Book © 1978 by Michael L. Fleisher.  Superman TM © DC Comics

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