SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Man of Steel #6 by Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Fabok, Alex Sinclair and Josh Reed, on sale now.
After being absent since DC Comics “New 52” relaunch several years ago, Superman’s iconic red trunks inexplicably returned in Action Comics #1000. Their return was given an offhand mention in Brian Michael Bendis’ story that issue, but never explained.
That is, until Man of Steel #6 by Bendis and Jason Fabok, the final issue leading up to Bendis’ takeover of the two Superman titles. Rather than chalk the return up to artistic license, Bendis provides an in-story reason for the switch back to the traditional look, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the trunkless design is gone for good.
The Briefs Are Back
Throughout the mini-series, Bendis has cut between two different storylines. The primary story of Superman battling the new villain Rogol Zaar has been interlaced with a flashback explaining the disappearance of Lois and Jon from Clark’s life. The flashback features the return of Jor-El – again – seeking to take his grandson Jon with him to learn of his Kryptonian heritage. In the current issue, Lois grudgingly agrees – if she can join Jor-El and Jon on their journey. To hopefully protect Lois and give her some street cred on her trip through the galaxy, Clark hands over his current costume to her. Having done so, though, does that mean Superman is going to fight crime in his underwear during his family’s absence?
Thankfully, no – clearly, Clark had kept the old suit tucked away, and has now resurrected it to fight Rogol Zaar. Retrieving his old costume from the closet reinforces that everything comes back in style eventually, especially in the superhero community.
Oddly enough, there was never any real explanation of why the red trunks went away in the first place. They just weren’t there when Superman was reintroduced in the “New 52” days – and there were plenty of other modifications of the character to explain. Of course, that was the “other” Superman, who was essentially replaced in the Rebirth era. However, the current Superman, from the pre-Flashpoint era, didn’t adopt the original costume either, after ditching the black one had been sneaking around in, behind the scenes. None of the writers made the trunks’ disappearance into any kind of story – the red trunks were just gone, and that was that.
Back on the Outside – Where They Belong
In the world of superheroes, costume changes are frequently made, oftentimes with barely a mention. But then, these other heroes aren’t Superman, and don’t have eight decades of tradition to uphold. Iron Man can change his armor as frequently as his socks, but if Superman so much as tries out a new belt buckle, there will be potential backlash.
Many believed the undies-over-the-pants look was a relic from a dated era, and that it was time for a change. But when the look was changed, it just never quite looked right. And that’s because, like it or not, Superman is from times past, and like our grandparents, we shouldn’t necessarily expect him to adopt today’s fashion trends just because some youngsters said so.
So while DC had tried to jettison the trunks amongst a slew of other changes to the character and seemingly hoped that no one would notice, their return deserved to be openly acknowledged. Sometimes, mistakes are best admitted by simply going back to what’s worked for generations.
The Man of Steel takes to the skies again, red trunks and all, in the new Superman #1, on sale July 11.