The Last Son of Krypton, Superman is a superhero unlike any other. The standard considered to which all other heroes are held to in comic books, Superman forever paved the way for the medium when he first appeared in Action Comics #1. People had never seen anything like it before, with his Golden Age costume and his cape billowing in the wind as he jumped over skyscrapers. Like most things however, Superman is a character who has changed and adapted to fit the times he’s written in. With the changes come different powers, new assortments of supporting characters, weirder and stronger villains, and of course, a wide-range of different and gnarly costumes.
He is the superhero with the longest-running history, so it makes sense whenever Superman’s wardrobe is altered and/or modified. Granted, there are particular looks that never go out of fashion and remain fan-favorites, just as there are others that are met with distaste and only appear for a time before disappearing into the figurative ether. Without question, Superman has endured more costume changes and been suited in more ridiculous armors, than nearly any other comic book character. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 of Superman’s most powerful uniforms and suits of armor!
15 CLASSIC RED AND BLUE
You can’t talk about Superman and any of the many costumes and suits of armor he’s donned over the years without first discussing his classic red and blue outfit. It might not be the flashiest or give extra powers, but it’s a look known by practically the entire world. The power to inspire is Superman’s and his costume’s greatest ability.
It was made from the cloths and blanket he was wrapped in by his parents when they put him in a rocket to escape the exploding Krypton.
In her infinite wisdom Ma Kent realized her son needed an appropriate look to go out and save the world. With a little elbow grease, she sewed together his clothes and blanket. Because it was Kryptonian in origin, Superman's suit remained undamaged when bullets hit it and it never caught fire. It was nearly as invulnerable as the Man of Steel himself.
14 SUN ARMOR
Superman’s lead a colorful life. Part of that life revolves around both aliens and his relationship with the Sun. Though the star supplies Superman with his powers, in the early days of his career, the Last Son of Krypton was still struggling to unlock his potential. Other problems Superman wasn’t especially experienced with were kryptonite and Lex Luthor. In Superman Confidential #11, Superman is dying of exposure to kryptonite, partly thanks to Luthor.
While his body suffers, his mind is visited by a telepathic alien (who’s also a historian) -- its been locked inside the chunk of kryptonite that is killing Superman. After some shenanigans, Superman comes to and the chamber with the kryptonite is closed off. Superman then puts on some lead-lined Sun Armor and takes the sealed chamber with the spirit of the telepathic alien into space so he can throw it into the Sun, per the alien’s request.
13 RETURN OF SUPERMAN COSTUME
Following Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday, four beings showed up stating they were the “real” Superman. There was a Cyborg version of Superman, a Kryptonian weapon posing as Superman, a young clone, and an engineer. To the surprise of few, none of them were actually the real Superman.
Yet the Kryptonian copy of Superman, the Eradicator, had actually taken Superman’s body and used special Kryptonian machinery to revive Superman in a special healing chamber.
After, Superman was put in a healing suit so the rejuvenation process would keep restoring him. The result was a snazzy silver and black outfit. From there, Superman got together with his friends and stopped Cyborg Superman from causing untold destruction. Later on, an alien friend of Superman used her telekinetic powers to transform the black costume into his traditional-looking garbs.
12 NEW 52 ARMOR
DC’s the New 52 introduced a lot of changes to their longtime comic book history. One of the biggest revolved around Superman and his origin. In seeing Clark Kent’s early history as the Man of Tomorrow, he doesn’t have the classic uniform, but it running around in jeans, a T-shirt, and a cape. Only later, through a crazy sequence of events involving attacking the spaceship of The Collector of All Worlds, does he stumble across Kryptonian armor. The armor quickly synced to his DNA and became Superman’s uniform.
The armor shaped around him by assembling outwards from the S-Shield and over his body. Essentially a form of Kryptonian nanotech, Superman later learned to make the armor shift, making it resemble any type of human clothing. While fans had problems with the costume, it did save Superman from ripping open his shirts all the time.
11 ANTI-PARASITE ARMOR
The villain known as the Parasite is one of Superman’s deadliest enemies. Known for his ability to drain his victims of their life force and even their powers through either touch or proximity, getting in close and personal with the Parasite is typically a no-win situation. In the comic Superman Earth One: Volume Two, Superman is still young and relatively inexperienced, so when the Parasite shows up for the first time, Superman loses their first encounter, nearly killed in the process.
Desperate to find a way to beat the energy-absorbing baddie, Superman retreats to the Fortress of Solitude where he’s outfitted with anti-Parasite armor.
Yet it comes with a few weaknesses, including preventing Superman from absorbing sunlight or letting him unleash his heat vision. Still, Superman makes do. At the last instant, right as his armor shatters, Superman lands a powerful punch, defeating Parasite.
10 METAL MEN ARMOR
In the 12-issue series Justice, Lex Luthor and a cabal of villains have seen a prophecy stating the world will end on account of the superheroes failing to prevent a nuclear Armageddon. Though the dream was actually fabricated by Luthor, Gorilla Grodd, and Brainiac so in order to create a Legion of Doom and destroy the Justice League, the other villains aren’t aware of their plot and sign up.
Able to infect anyone with little mechanical worms, Brainiac kidnaps the heroes’ sidekicks and puts them under his thrall. Before the final battle, the Justice League realizes they need protection; else they will be taken over too. And so, the heroes known as the Metal Men wrap themselves around Superman, Batman, etc. offering them shielding from Brainiac’s technology.
9 KRYPTONITE PROTECTION SUIT
One of Superman’s few weaknesses is kryptonite, the radioactive rock from his homeworld. It’s brought Superman to his knees on more than one occasion. But what if there was no kryptonite on Earth for Superman to worry about? His foes are constantly getting a hold of the stuff and using it to nefarious ends, so why not just get rid of it all? In Superman/Batman #44-49, Superman believes he’ll be more effective at fighting crime if there’s no kryptonite left to threaten him.
He and Batman round up all the kryptonite they can find and lock it away and during it all, Superman wore a protective lead-lined titanium kryptonite Suit.
It was a total body suit with a face-covering helmet that had a retractable one-way visor so he could use his heat vision. It also had a life-support system built in and could self-repair.
8 POWER ARMOR
When Mxyzptlk’s temporarily turned Superman human, because that’s the sort of tomfoolery Superman has to deal with from imps that come from the 5th dimension, he still wanted to protect Metropolis. His friend Professor Emil Hamilton created the Power Armor, letting Superman continue to fight crime. Superman first used the suit to stop the villain Killgrave from escaping Stryker’s Island Prison. There was a bit of a learning curve, as Superman was unfamiliar with the armor, so fails at keeping Killgrave from escaping.
The Power Armor gave Superman super-strength and served as considerable protection. It could punch through brick and concrete walls, withstand small-arms fire, and was dropped several stories, falling through two floors of a prison building. The suit also had several sensors built in, but Superman found the sensors a poor substitute for his super senses.
7 THE MASTER RACE ARMOR
The final installment to Mark Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns trilogy, Dark Knight III: The Master Race, featured a group of Kandorians trying to take over the Earth. Batman goes about recruiting everyone he can to stop the threat. Unfortunately, the Kryptonians, though still in the relative infancy of their power, are more than a match for the planet’s heroes. With no choice left, Batman enters Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and literally digs him out of a self-imposed exile.
The two heroes unite, but realize they need something to even the odds against the hundreds, if not thousands of crazed Kryptonians.
Having seeded the clouds with synthetic kryptonite, Batman and the Flash manipulate the weather patterns and make it rain down liquid poison on the Kryptonians. Not one to stay on the sidelines, Superman dons specialized hulking lead armor to protect him against the kryptonite while he fights.
6 SUPERBOY-PRIME ARMOR
Superboy-Prime is one of the strongest non-magic based mortals in the entire DC Universe. There are few in the Multiverse that boast his level of power. Even though he’s just a teenager, Superboy-Prime is leagues above most heroes or villains. Originally a good guy during Crisis On Infinite Earths, he went insane in Infinite Crisis. During the event, Superboy-Prime, obsessed with ridding the universe of its “imperfect” heroes, goes on a rampage. Tearing through the Teen Titans, all the Flashes come together and throw Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force.
While this would be an inescapable prison for some, it’s merely a bump in the road for Superboy-Prime. He reappears in relatively short order, but wearing a power suit modeled after the Anti-Monitor armor. This extra layer of protection constantly supplies him yellow solar energy, boosting his already insane levels of power.
5 KRYPTONIAN WARSUIT
Long ago, the Kryptonian Warsuit was developed as an instrument of war. When it wasn’t being used to raze enemies’ planets to ash, it was applied for surviving harsh radioactive wastelands. Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, since it’s made of Kryptonian technology, created a Warsuit for him.
Superman didn’t use the Warsuit much, but it did appear in the Adventures of Superman comics, and more notable when he fights Lobo for the first time.
Throughout the fight, Lobo nearly kills Superman and the hero has to retreat to the Warsuit to even the odds a bit. Later, after being killed by Doomsday, Superman used a Kryptonian Warsuit to facilitate his slow recovery process. It was forgotten for a time until Lex Luthor discovered it. Lex reprogrammed it and course tried to kill Superman with it in the "Fall of Metropolis" storyline.
4 ELECTRIC BLUE
Amidst DC’s The Final Night, the Sun went out and Hal Jordan had to sacrifice himself to re-ignite it. With the Sun, the source of Superman’s power, going out, the Man of Steel lost his powers. When the sun later returned, so did Superman’s powers, except now they were wonky and didn’t work properly. Because the solar energy was metabolizing in a different ways inside his body, Superman was turned into a being of energy.
He no longer had his typical powers, but now possessed insanely powerful energy powers. These new abilities were so intense that he needed a containment suit. This led to the infamous “Blue Superman” era. If that wasn’t enough, a later attack by Cyborg Superman spit electric Superman into two versions: an electric red Superman and an electric blue Superman. Don’t worry, it didn’t last forever.
3 HUNTER/PREY OUTFIT
In the 3-part Superman/Doomsday: Hunter Prey, Doomsday reveals he’s alive and well. After breaking free from his restraints on an asteroid, he heads to Darkseid’s home world Apokolips and starts killing everyone and everything in sight. Meanwhile, Superman senses Doomsday and decides to hunt down the monster. Superman gets outfitting with a Mother Box and goes to Apokolips. When he gets there, Doomsday eludes him and Superman battles Cyborg Superman.
Afterwards, Superman teams up with Waverider but before they go and fight Doomsday, Mother Box outfits Superman with a new suit, providing him with a whole array of weapons, including sonic weapons and plasma swords.
Combined with his Kryptonian abilities, the suit’s power would mean destruction for anyone… anyone who isn’t Doomsday that is. Still outmatched, Superman risks everyone is one last gamble and sends Doomsday to the end of time with the help of Mother Box.
2 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED ARMOR
In the mini-series Superman Unchained, Superman discovers that a powerful alien named Wraith fell to Earth decades earlier and the U.S. government kept it under wraps, housed it, and made it a fighting force for the country. When General Lane learns that Superman knows of Wraith’s existence, he decides to kill the Man of Steel. Superman fights back, practically destroying all of Lane’s forces, but Wraith intervenes and punches Superman to Colorado.
At one point, Superman comes into possession of something called the Earthstone, takes it to his Fortress of Solitude, and General Lane arrives at his doorstep armed for war with weapons specifically made to kill Kryptonians. The Fortress then builds Superman a war suit to fight with. Extremely durable, more so that Superman himself, it also came with an extendable energy hammer and an energy shield.
1 COSMIC ARMOR
In response to the evil Monitor Mandrakk escaping imprisonment, his wife, Zillo Valla, enlists Superman’s aid. Clark however, is at the hospital bedside of his wife Lois, since she’s in a coma, but Zelo says the Monitors have a cure they will give her if Superman helps her. He agrees. With a bunch of Supermen pulled in from across the Multiverse, Captain Allen Adam, or Captain Atom, fuses Superman and Ultraman together, creating Cosmic Armor Superman.
Powered by the two Kryptonians, Cosmic Armor Superman is fueled by memories, duality, symmetry, and all possibilities and probability.
With Multiversal power at his beck and call, supplying him with every super power, this new Superman and his battle chassis battle Mandrakk, a being more powerful than anyone or anything within the Multiverse, and wins. Though technically more an individual than a garb, with “armor” in the title, Cosmic Armor makes the list!