Earlier this afternoon, Warner Bros. Television and The CW revealed the new Superman costume, to be worn by Tyler Hoechlin on Superman & Lois when it debuts in early 2021. The Man of Steel's portrayal in the Arrowverse has been applauded, but fans have been split on the costume that he has worn since Supergirl's second season. Now, with his own show on the horizon, Hoechlin is getting his own new, fancy suit -- and as with basically every superhero costume to come to film or TV, you can break down its components and try to trace the lore that they likely came from.
And yeah, that's what we're going to do. Becuase that's the kind of nerds we are.
Following the events of The CW's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover last season, Superman & Lois will launch in 2021 and centers on Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin), Lois Lane (Bitsie Tulloch), and their two sons, who leave Metropolis for Smallville. Superman and Lois have to navigate the challenges of being parents to a pair of teenagers (who might or might not have their dad's superpowers) while also being famous world-savers in their own right as the world's most adored superhero and a celebrated investigative journalist, respectively.
Because the series is set after the Crisis, little is really known about the world Superman inhabits. At the start of that event, Superman and Lois only had one son -- an infant -- and so when the timeline was realigned, it clearly quite a bit changed. So whether that means this new suit will have always been his costume on Earth-Prime, or whether the change will be addressed in-story, is anybody's guess.
In the meantime, let's see where the suit is (probably) drawing inspiration from...!
The Superman emblem (or, if you prefer, El family glyph) is more or less exactly as it has been in previous incarnations of the Arrowverse Superman costume. If you look closely, it even appears that the little gold tabs that stuck out about 2/3 of the way down the glyph and seemed to anchor it to Hoechin's previous costume appear to be here (although less visible).
This is notable primarily because the emblem used in behind-the-scenes materials was different from that used in the previous costume (or on Supergirl), and led some fans to wonder whether the glyph -- or even the whole costume -- might be a bit more inspired by his look from 2011's The New 52 reboot. More on that in a bit.
The emblem might seem small by modern standards -- since Superman: The Movie, it has taken up more real estate on the front of the costume, something aped in the comics following the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot The Man of Steel by John Byrne. Still, this feels like a fair homage to Superman Returns, a movie that seems to be a visual inspiration for elements of the production (perhaps not surprisingly, considering that movie got an unofficial sequel when Brandon Routh's Superman returned for "Crisis on Infinite Earths" last year).
Superman Returns also marked the first time in live action that the costume had used a pentagonal belt buckle and that the glyph on Superman's chest was raised off the fabric of the shirt.prevnext
Like most of the superhero costumes on The CW and the big screen, this suit looks like it's some kind of leather or molded rubber but is more likely a more breathable and flexible kind of cotton, which can be dyed and printed with a design to look more convincingly like spandex, scuba, or other skintight, durable materials that you might expect superheroes to wear.
The tiny patterns on the suit are likely tiny pentagons in the shape and dimensions of the Superman glyph. That is a practice that Colleen Atwood used on the costumes for Arrow and The Flash, and seems to be a way designers use to give the seemingly arbitrary detail work on the fabric a tie into the overall theme of the suit.
Like the Man of Steel suit, this one appears to have a metallic sheen to it, and to feature some airbrushing of the muscles. That isn't to say that either Henry Cavill or Hoechlin don't have muscles on their own, obviously, but traditional skintight fabric tends to de-emphasize and "flatten" what's there naturally, creating a need to compensate for the screen.prevnext
In 2011, DC relaunched their entire publishing line, removing most of the characters' history and depicting them as much younger, newer to the world, and facing more "real-world" issues like public cynicism around the role of all-powerful aliens who suddenly appear out of nowhere.
Superman's spit-curl was done away with, and his costume became a suit of Kryptonian tech-armor, which could transform into his civilian clothes with a thought, not unlike how the Venom symbiote used to do for Peter Parker when he was wearing it as a Spider-Man costume. His red trunks were removed, but to break up the now-all-blue bodysuit, Superman got a belt that was flat, shiny red, with a pentagon in the middle that evoked the Superman logo, but did not actually include a second glyph in it:
The Superman & Lois belt seen above arguably looks more like the New 52 belt than it does the Rebirth version, albeit with a touch of Batman's Rebirth utility belt in the form of those links.
Whether or not Superman's will secretly have bat-shark-repellant that can somehow come out of the links...well, time will tell.prevnext
The seams on the costume might not seem like a big deal -- certainly they are par for the course when it comes to Arrowverse costumes -- but they bear mentioning. First, because Superman has traditionally had a flatter look to his fabric. When you look at the pre-Superman Returns live-action suits (or the pre-New 52 comic suits) it was generally depicted as a one-piece tunic that looked seamless.
With The New 52, DC superhero costumes got the '90s/WildStorm treatment and started having a lot of details that may look cool on a static image, but often get ignored by pencillers rushing to make a monthly deadline. among those are the seams that costumes like Superman's and The Flash's, got, adding additional lines to their traditionally spandex-looking suits.
Going with the theme we mentioned about the tiny pentagonal (we assume) designs, the seams on the Superman suit seem pretty similar to those of the New 52-era comics costume, but actually do a better job of explicitly feeling like they trace the general shape of the glyph, giving the suit a kind of holistic theme even where it isn't immediately clear. Look, for instance, at the way the seam around his shoulder loosely mirrors the shape, and the way the Y-shaped seams that go down his chest seem to intentionally shape the costume to draw attention to the glyph.prevnext
There isn't a ton to say about the sleeves here, other than to say that they have resisted doing what Man of Steel and the post-Rebirth costumes have done in introducing metallic-looking cuffs/gauntlets on the wrists of the costume. Instead, they have the same general look (minus the red trim) that Superman's cuffs had in his New 52 costume -- an aesthetic that carried over to the previous Arrowverse Superman costume.prevnext
Because of his circus strongman-inspired look, Superman has long had a wide, open neck on most iterations of his costume. Depending on the artist and the time period, this could be more or less dramatic, but the wide, square neck is a staple of most takes on the look. In the comics, there are a few exceptions, including both of the New 52 looks -- during that time, almost all of DC's superheroes had high collars, while Action Comics told throwback Superman stories taking place before he had a real costume and wore a Superman t-shirt (which had a crew neck).
The Superman movie serials and George Reeves's The Adventures of Superman TV show did feature a crew neck collar (as well as a smaller Superman emblem, but again, that was in keeping with the look in the comics at the time), so in live-action, the crew neck isn't completely unheard-of.
But it's rare, especially in recent memory. Christopher Reeve's collar had the more classic look -- and so does Henry Cavill's Superman. In between, we had Brandon Routh and Dean Cain in the suit (we aren't talking about Smallville, first because he didn't really wear the suit and second because it was identical to Routh's).
The Brandon Routh suit actually did have a crew neck collar -- one of only a handful of places where the filmmakers diverged from Richard Donner's vision, as Returns was technically a sequel to Superman II. Cain's suit had the crew neck for the pilot, likely because his show's official title -- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman -- was meant to evoke Reeves' The Adventures of Superman, so why not emulate him? -- but it vanished once the show went to series and went with a more traditional look.
Practically speaking, this might help Hoechlin, as one imagines it's easy to get cold shooting in Vancouver during the winter months.prevnext
Design-wise, the boots look like they're very similar to the ones Hoechlin has been wearing on Supergirl (which are, in turn, aesthetically inspired by the New 52 look), but downsized a bit. They look less chunky and more streamlined, likely leading to an easier time moving in them over a long production day.
"We got Superman into some custom athletic inspired Super-Boots as a 'jumping off point,' and focused on a new neckline and cape to maximize the billowing and movement we all love to see in the books and films that have defined this character for generations," designer Laura Jean Shannon explained. "A streamlined muscle structure and updated paint job combined with some dynamic design lines and a sculpted armored belt all took his established custom fabric into a new direction to solidify the new look for Superman in Superman & Lois."
...Speaking of the cape...!prevnext
Based on this single image alone, it looks like the more leathery capes that Supergirl and Superman have used in the Arrowverse to this point are a thing of the past, with a heavier cloth cape standing in for it. That might be just a matter of the shot they chose for promo purposes, obviously, or it might be the soft lighting of the photo shoot. Still, that seems to be borne out by the comments above about how they want the cape to "billow" -- an effect that's hard to get out of the heavier materials.
It's also likely that the heavier materials would be significaly less comfortable being ticked into the crew neck of the tunic, where the cape will be up against Hoechlin's neck all the time. In the past, Hoechlin's Superman had the cape fastened to his costume via gold clips.prevnext
BONUS: The Daily Planet Globe2comments
While not technically part of the costume, this gave us an official look at the Daily Planet globe as it will appear on the show. Clearly inspired by live-action versions that have gone down the line from Superman: The Movie to Lois & Clark to Superman Returns, getting increasingly eleaborate but always having a skeltal metal frame, the current globe seems to have taken all of that to its natural endpoint, straight up lifting the Unisphere from the 1964 New York World's Fair and just labeling it with the Daily Planet's name.
Standing over 100 feet tall and housed at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in New York, the unisphere's rings -- which here seem evocative of Superman's rings around the planet in Superman: The Movie during the divisive time-travel sequence -- are actually tracing the trajectories of the first three satellites in orbit around the planet.prev