Superman is probably the most famous superhero in history thanks to his iconic costume and instantly recognizable symbol on his chest. But it’s fair to say that he’s jumped in and out of a treasure trove of costumes. From practical costumes, gritty reimaginings and comic-accurate designs, fans have been truly spoiled over the years. Since it’s not completely clear when we’ll next see Kal-El on the big screen in the DC Extended Universe, our latest video takes a look at the best Superman suits in film and television.
Dean Cain’s suit in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman proved the Kryptonian could work on television as well as theatrically. The bold blue suit with the equally bright symbol stood out excellently on-screen and captured the essence of the hero pretty well. While it wasn’t a radical redesign or reshaped the Superman mythos, the show was a great way of modernising the character at the time.
Superman: Red Son
And now for something completely different! The recent animated movie, Superman: Red Son, explored the consequences of what would happen if Kal-El landed in the USSR, instead of Kansas. So instead of the iconic ‘S’ design, we’re given a very militaristic costume with a high collar with the sickle and hammer emblem on his chest. The film was adapted from the Mark Millar Elseworlds story of the same name, and is definitely worth a watch. It’s interesting how a slight change to Superman’s costume gives off a completely different atmosphere. He’s intimidating and commanding in Red Son, although he still strives for justice.
Superman’s early years were explored in Smallville and gave us a few variations of his costume. Although we did briefly see Tom Welling with the classic design under his shirt in the final episode, he’d been wearing the ‘S’ for quite some time. From his early days of a blue shirt and red coat, to the leather jacket designed with the symbol on the front. The show managed to find inventive ways of getting around the traditional cape and tights. Our personal favorite is the trenchcoat and black shirt ensemble – striking, but different. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Tom Welling in the full outfit, but that final rooftop scene was still satisfying.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War
DC managed to catch fans off guard this year with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. It was gritty, violent and a perfect way of ending this chapter of their animated universe. But it also had some excellent new designs for Superman. There’s the classic design he wears to begin with which feels slightly inspired by the New 52 and later Rebirth eras of comics, especially with his red belt. But it’s after Darkseid wins that his looks become really impressive. The first completely depowers him after the Lord of Apokolips tattoos a Kryptonite ‘S’ into the hero’s chest. It’s a genuinely inspired way of taking Superman’s powers from him. But it’s his second design that impressed us. In order to get the strength back to fight Darkseid, Superman gets possessed by the demon lord, Trigon. It gives the hero a dark redesign, with a fiery cape and flaming chest symbol, mixed with the villain’s horns and demonic face. It’s an excellent way of levelling the playing field against Darkseid.
The third TV Superman to make our list is Tyler Hoechlin. First seen on The CW’s Supergirl, the latest version of the hero donned a modern take on the classic costume. The practical look straps the cape firmly to his shoulders with a chunky red and gold belt complimenting the suit. His ‘S’ symbol is a little darker than usual – but it pairs nicely against Supergirl’s costume. While many fans were skeptical about Superman in the Arrowverse, Tyler Hoechlin’s hero sits neatly next to all the other caped crusaders. Hopefully his solo series, Superman and Lois, will explore the character a bit more in-depth.
Reign of the Supermen
Okay, we might be cheating with this one a little. When DC decided to adapt the Death of Superman into two films, they gave us a number of iconic Superman designs. After his fateful battle with Doomsday, a number of other Supermen take up Kal-El’s mantle. Cyborg Superman offers a monstrous version of the hero who’s being controlled by Darkseid himself. Henry Steel dons a Superman-inspired exo-skeleton while Lex Luthor reveals his Superman clone, Superboy. Superboy’s design harks back to his classic 90s design with a leather jacket over his slick black and blue costume. Finally, there’s Eradicator – who’s actually a hologram designed by a computer at the Fortress of Solitude. His cool visor and his streamlined costume definitely looked cool. Ultimately he’s only around to protect the real Superman while he secretly rejuvenates. And once he does… Oh boy. Fans got to see him in the stunning black suit, complete with that iconic mullet. DC really gave Superman fans a treat with these two movies.
Of course, we can’t have a Superman list without including Henry Cavill himself. When the star first debuted as the hero in Man of Steel back in 2013, fans were given a truly modern redesign to suit this darker take on the character. So long, red trunks! Hello, metallic blue costume and bright red cape. The suit has incredible detailing in it, which matches the regal nature of the Kryptonian culture that Zack Snyder briefly explored. The red boots had a similar design, and they look perfect. It’ll be great to finally see the Black Suit in action during the director’s Justice League cut when it finally arrives on HBO Max next year. Who else is excited?
When it comes to comic accuracy there’s another suit that made everyone’s jaw drop. Brandon Routh’s Kingdom Come outfit that we saw during Crisis On Infinite Earths. Aside from the incredible fact that we got to see Routh return to the role, they perfectly adapted the costume from the Mark Waid and Alex Ross series. It’s a darker Superman who’s lost hope, but is no less heroic. The black and red symbol is genuinely stunning, there’s no wonder many fans want to see the star get his own limited series as that version of the hero! If you haven’t watched the Arrowverse crossover, trust us, it’s absolutely worth it for golden moments like the Kingdom Come suit.
Sure, the Kingdom Come suit was incredible, but it’s Brandon Routh’s cinematic appearance as Superman that truly earns his costume the penultimate spot on the list. It feels like it’s been taken straight out of the comics. The dark red cape, trunks and boots look incredible against the light blue suit. Then there’s the symbol, it feels like a great modern follow up to Christopher Reeve’s suit. It’s a shame Routh never got to continue the role in a sequel, but as early 2000s superhero movies go, it’s genuinely one of the better ones. Or at least, we think so anyway.
Come on, did you really expect anyone else to grab the top spot here? It was always going to be Christopher Reeve’s costume. It set the bar for what a superhero costume could look like on the big screen. Sure, it looks a little silly now, but it’s one we all fondly remember. Superman was already iconic. But as Reeve soars through the air in the truly classic design – it’s easy to forget that he’s an actor and hasn’t just stepped out of the page. Dated effects aside, Christopher Reeve is Superman.
But while we wait for the Kryptonian’s cinematic return, tell us in the comments which of his costumes is your favorite! Make sure you keep an eye on Heroic Hollywood for all the latest entertainment news and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content in the future!