Okay, let me complain about Superman’s new costume.

§ September 8th, 2011 § Filed under superman, swamp thing, this week's comics § 16 Comments

To follow up on yesterday: I ended up not getting Justice League International…just seemed a little too…generic-y superhero, you know? I also picked up Omac, after giving it a look-through or two, and hearing a good word or two about it from comrade-in-funnybook-arms Chris Sims. It’s Keith Giffen doing a totally-nuts Kirby riff, and if you’re gonna do a book like Omac, Kirby it up as much as possible, I say.

And Swamp Thing…my mystical eye of Aga-Mike-o has peered across the nerdinet and has witnessed the pleasingly positive response most people have had to this new debut issue. Like I said yesterday, it continues the “Alec Holland evading his Swamp Thing destiny” storyline from the mini-series, and I’m assuming Scott Snyder will eventually provide the explanation for the sudden reseparation of Alec from Swampy, when the rejoining of the two was such a big deal at the end of Brightest Day. But, also like I noted, where the Search for Swamp Thing mini-series seemed awkward and forced, this new issue is more along the lines of what I want from a Swamp Thing comic…creepier and more introspective.

There’s also a bit of business introducing Swamp Thing’s next adversary, which features a certainly intentional reference to one of the more disturbing visuals from the Moore/Bissette/Totleben era. I don’t know that it’s supposed to be the same thing from the Moore run, but…well, I realize I’m being vague here, in an attempt to avoid spoilers. But you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.

One more thing, and this could be a SPOILER, I guess: this comic features, I believe, the second in-story appearance of Superman in his new costume that we’ve seen since the beginning of the relaunch. And while Yanick Paquette does a remarkable job illustrating this issue, there’s only so much one can do with that new Superman costume. It just plain looks awkward. Even the dude who designed the thing couldn’t make it work in the one panel he had to sell us on it in Justice League #1.

I like to think that I’m not simply being a typical reactionary comics fan, hating something because it’s different from what I’m used to. I mean, it’s…I’m not even sure how to articulate it. I think it’s a level of…pretension, perhaps, that seems uncharacteristic of what we think of when we consider the character of Superman. I think it’s that collar. It sort of gives him, like…airs of royalty, maybe? A “hey, this is my important uniform, I outrank you” kind of thing? And the action figure space-boots he suddenly has? It’s like Superman is slowly turning into the kind of superhero Old Superman opposed in Kingdom Come, with the overwrought, overdesigned ’90s tech-fest look.

Yes, maybe the red underwear over the blue tights was kind of goofy. Actually, there’s no “kind of” about it…it is goofy. And as someone reminded me on the Twitter not long ago, Superman’s costume is essentially just an old-timey circus strongman outfit. And…I’m okay with that. “Simple” works for Superman. So does “goofy” — it’s a little more humanizing, helping to bring a fantastic (in the original sense) character like Superman down to earth. (Compare also with the work jeans and boots costume in the new Action.)

Granted, that George Perez cover makes it look okay, but then, that’s George Perez. He makes purt’near everything look okay. But I’ll have to see what he does with it inside the book. Maybe once I get the in-story explanation for it (if there is one), I’ll be a little more accepting.

I mean, sure, if DC sticks with this costume, I’ll get used to it. But it’s really no improvement, especially if no one can draw it in an appealing fashion. It’s just change for change’s sake, and just one more shout of “hey, look, we’re different now!” among DC’s cacophony of similar cries.

So, in conclusion, I liked the new Swamp Thing comic. And let us put an end to the DC posts on this site…at least ’til next week.

16 Responses to “Okay, let me complain about Superman’s new costume.”

  • Marc Burkhardt says:

    Yeah, the Superman costume took me out of the story as well. Maybe his costume will be simplified as time passes…

  • Happenstance says:

    I will cheerfully disagree about the George Perez cover. First, the whole image looks like Superboyman Prime about to twist Reality’s head off or something; I do not care to be reminded of that particular character/story/period of time. Second, it comes way too close to the horrifying look of Jay Disbrow’s infamous desktop-anatomy-doll-gone-mad, Captain Electron, gone even madder.

    As for the costume itself, I quite agree. Again, there’s a lot of Superboyman Prime, a dash of Mon-El, a dallop of Lex Luthor’s Super Powers number (that armor), and all that damned piping that already screamed TRYING TOO HARD when they put it on Batman. And Supes needs piping even less than Batman does. Oh, and the SUPERHUGE “S” BECAUSE HE’S SUPERMAN…you know, that worked once. In the ’50s. On the circus strongman outfit that suddenly is less hip than wearing Iron Man’s pants without the top half.

    Electric Superman was an understated masterpiece in comparison. Once “Man of Steel” (AKA “Hey, Can You See My Dick From The Back Row? …Hello?”) is over with, this artist’s nightmare will disappear faster than a speeding bullet.

    Masamune Shirow must be laughing his ass off.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    The costume changes in general, and Supes’s new armor/cape deal in particular, remind me a lot of the kinds of changes a sports team will make to its uniforms and logo for no real reason except to goose merechandise sales. And it will have the same result: people will look at them for a minute, check them out to see if the actual team plays well/comics are any good, and then go back to what they were doing and possibly deciding “I liked the old uniform/costume better.”

  • caleb says:

    Yes, I recall Jim Lee saying somewhere that the high collars were supposed to look more formal, but Superman’s already wearing a cape. I don’t know how you get much more formal than a cape. A powdered wig, maybe? Lambskin gloves?

  • J.W.Rollins says:

    On the subject of Supes, have you seen this story?

    http://boingboing.net/2011/09/06/mentally-disabled-man-robbed-of-his-epic-superman-collection.html

    There is a thing on Facebook where people can donate stuff to help this guy rebuild his collection:

    https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=244103278966028

  • IvoryTower says:

    Apropos of nothing, that cover makes his package look *gigantic*. It almost makes me wish he had a skirt.

  • davidb says:

    Someway, somehow, some…why a whole lotta people on some DC executive board had to sit down and agree amongst themselves that there was no way this could be thought of as a bad thing…

    …and not burst into tears, giggles or indeed flames.

  • suedenim says:

    It seems wrongheaded to me on a basic level. Superman is… well, he’s SUPERMAN. Probably, like, 90% of the entire planet Earth knows who Superman is and what he looks like. And that look pretty much hasn’t changed since 1938. Look at those Converse ads. Lots of significant costume changes for the various heroes… all EXCEPT Superman. Other than hairstyle, he’s had basically ONE change – the adoption of the modern, stylized “S” shield.

    Why make a book about Superman where he doesn’t look like Superman?

  • suedenim says:

    Oh, and on the collar thing, I think you nail it, Mike. The collar looks like the sort of thing you’d use to differentiate an alternate-Earth Superman from the “real” one – like the Justice Lords Superman from the animated series… who did indeed have a high collar:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Justice_Lords.jpg

  • CW says:

    I utterly despise the new costume of Superman, especially in the new film. Looks like it’s from the never-made Nicholas Cage Superman flick of the ’90s. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

  • MrJM says:

    Vegas has put the over/under for Superman returning to his classic costume at March 2013.

    – MrJM

  • David G says:

    One of the things that always worked for me with the classic outfit was the sense of “I’m so tough I can fight crime/aliens/bad guys/whatever in a leotard. The suit does not protect me. My skin does.” Having armour (or the appearance of armour) makes him look weaker.

    Those collars seem to be very fashionable on sportswear just now. Which is just going to make them look worse in 3 years, assuming they last that long.

    I think we blame all this on the suit in the Tim Burton Batman movie.

  • fl000b says:

    Really? Cos’ I totally blame the super-penis and collar costume on Jim Lee alone. Much like I put all the blame for Jericho’s outfit and Changeling’s mullet on George Perez (yet I’m still really looking forward to Teen Titans: Games)

  • pedro de pacas says:

    Okay say what you want about the new Supes costume – love it / hate it / ambivalent – you’re talking out your ass if you say it doesn’t look “like Superman”.

    It’s a blue suit with a red cape and a big ‘S’ – that’s Superman!

  • Tonebone says:

    I believe the impetus for changing Superman’s costume was to remove the last vestiges of the 50% the Siegels own from Action Comics #1, per their lawsuit against DC/Warner. I think his suit was changed to appease lawyers who determine what does and does not constitute a derivation of that costume. I believe the attachment of the cape/collar and the briefs are the final pieces remaining from the original.

    I Also think all of the other characters created before the All-American/National/Detective merger in the 40′s were also changed for the same reason, to head off such lawsuits. The Justice Society characters are missing, at this point, and are probably going to be altered greatly before reappearing.

  • DappaKappa says:

    Hey Mike:

    You said BUT consider this hypothesis:

    The Man-O-Steel is NOT in a one-piece totally sealed leotard but rather there is a cutout for the neck, two hand and . . . . a “RELIEF ZONE”. The last area is covered by the “CODPIECE BRIEF”.

    ( If you know what I mean.)