In 2011 DC decided (again) that really Superman needed to be updated and look less old fashioned. In an attempt to achieve this they gave him a silly collar and removed his red overpants. I was open to the idea that maybe the red pants had outlived their usefulness to the next generation (even though I still liked them) and waited for DC to come up with something that made it work.
After a few different attempts (as well as those on screen with SUPERGIRL and MAN OF STEEL) the net result was that they all looked rather shit. Superman’s tight body suit now looked like a onesey. The blue overwhelmed the design and left unbroken he looked like he was dressed for a mime class at a university drama course.
Those that claimed the red pants had “no practical value” were left to defend an assortment if functionally redundant belts and floating buckles as artists and designers tried to run from the truth: The red pants are awesome and the suit looks better with them,
And so to 2018, the year of Action Comics #1000 (not to mention our pal’s 80th anniversary) DC have come to their senses and and put the pants back on the Man of Tomorrow where they belong. Are they cashing in on nostalgia? Sure! But not only is it the right aesthetic choice, it also shows us how there’s nothing like a big landmark or anniversary to have on take stock, and consider all that came before. Of COURSE, Superman must always continue to evolve to stay relevant. But the red pants symbolise a recognition among DC content makers (well, Geoff Johns) that between New 52 and BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MAKE A PORNO, our boy had gotten a little off track. A little dark. A little less Truth and Justice.
Last year Whedon fixed some of that by bringing us the best Superman on screen since the 80’s and Rebirth has made a real effort to bring Superman (and DC heroes in general) back to their rightful position as beacons of hope and vessels of adventure. The visual cue of installing something often considered needless and outdated is kinda perfect. Superman is not here to be cool and edgy. He is here to be timeless and perpetual. The world being what it is, I need heroic Superman more than ever.
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