There's something special about an everyday citizen taking it upon themselves to protect the weak, particularly when the action is set in the pages of a comic book. When those skills are based on martial arts and a good attitude, a long cape or a simple mask can do the trick. But when that vigilante rises to the rank of certified superhero... a more sophisticated wardrobe is called for. Take Superman, for instance: a superhero so iconic, so all-powerful and unflappable that his existence across more than half a century has seen dozens of updates, upgrades, makeovers, and groundbreaking new looks - and he's about to add one more.
After the debut of DC's New 52 Universe saw nearly all of the publisher's heroes given new looks, Superman's was, unsurprisingly, among the most hotly debated. The return of the classic version of the hero in DC's "Rebirth" took a step back towards the most iconic version of the Superman suit, but another change is on the horizon. Not that the cover of Superman #20 has been revealed, we have our first look at the next set of Kryptonian threads the hero will be sporting. And yes, it marks one step closer to his classic look... with a catch.
The New 52 Makeover
For many fans, a Superman still just isn't a Superman without a pair of red underpants pulled over his blue bodysuit. But as Zack Snyder attempted to make the shorts work in live-action, the artists at DC came to the same conclusion as the director: in a truly modern story, it's hard to justify a pair of short shorts over top of an otherwise fictionally-believable Kryptonian undersuit (the original design hearkened back to circus strongmen). As a result, the New 52 ditched the shorts, and the bright yellow belt that came with them. In its place, the suit was re-imagined as almost a second Kryptonian skin, emerging from out of Superman's skin to cover him in metallic, scale-like armor.
Aside from the small, plate-like detailing seen in several other Justice League styles, the gauntlet-like wrist detailing and high collar made up the most significant changes to the new Man of Steel's implied purpose, class, attitude... in essence, a bit more strongly connected to a sophisticated alien civilization - not something reflecting the whimsy or optimism of a Kansas farmboy. There's nothing that upsets a Superman fan more than the feeling of their favorite hero becoming unrecognizable, and as a result, the New 52 Superman's days were numbered.
Also, his boots were blue to match the rest of the suit. Unforgivable.
The Classic (Mostly) Returns in Rebirth
When the version of Superman that existed prior to the re-writing of the DC Universe into the New 52 variant returned - thankfully removed from that reality at the time - he did so in a black suit. Since he was living and operating in secret, unseen, it matched the spirit of his mission perfectly. But when the New 52 Superman perished, leaving a vacancy opened, Clark decided the time had come for him to step back into the spotlight. And to do that, he would need to put on his classic costume... which, itself, had some updates to bring it into a 'happy medium' between the old and new styles.
It was also a bit closer to the version worn by Henry Cavill in the DC Movie Universe. The darker blue remained, along with the minialist red belt acting as homage to the underpants of the past. The collar and cape retreated back to their best known locations, and all that remained of the truly alien bodysuit look were a set of bracers worked into the cuffs of the suit (remarkable close to those of the films). The boots remained blue with a merely red highlight along their top edges. Given that the costume marked the return of a classic Superman, a semi-classic suit was enough to comfort alienated fans (pun most definitely intended). But soon, they'll have an even more familiar style returning.
The Brand New Look
Those reading the chapters of "Superman: Rebirth" from the start know that his return was only the beginning. This version of Clark Kent finds himself at the center of a strange mystery involving a mysterious man named 'Oz', a connection to the characters of the Watchmen graphic novel, and a growing number of missing DC heroes. With his "Superman: Reborn" story coming to an end this April, the cover of Superman #20 (via ComicBook) shows that his true rebirth brings a reborn Super-suit with it. We've singled out the biggest changes in the design above, but the message is clear: artist Patrick Gleason is taking yet another step towards the red, yellow and blue color scheme and structure of old - but we wouldn't hold out hope for the red underpants returning any time soon.
As you can see above, the cuffs have been removed completely (one detail that fans might actually miss) while the belt remains red, yet accented with a gold buckle in the same shape of Superman's chest insignia (and sigil of the House of El). The blue may appear a bit lighter, but it's hard to tell how much of that is the sunlight to thank, or the colors of this particular cover. And yes, the boots are red once more. Perhaps even metallic, but further research will be needed to confirm.
[UPDATE: Check out the new suit, as revealed in Action Comics #976]
Research coming in just a few months, along with the character changes and revelations that convince Superman it's time for yet another change. Based on this image, what do you think of the update? Is it closer to the version of the Man of Steel you're hoping will one day return, or were there parts of the Rebirth costume you would've preferred to see stay?
Superman #20 will be released in April 2017.