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Variations on a super-theme: Superman's suits through the years

You might not think that Superman's famous threads have changed much in TV and film since 1978, but there's much more to super-fashion than just a red cape and yellow shield at San Diego Comic-Con 2013.

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Seth Rosenblatt

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'You can't save everything, Leith'

Leith Adams, movie poster expert and the Executive Director of Warner Brothers Corporate Archive, delves into the secret history of Superman's on-screen costumes. "I was always told, 'You can't save everything, Leith,'" he recounted. But when it comes to some classic Superman suits, Adams was able to save the day. Or at least, the fabric.

The costume seen here is one worn by Henry Cavill in this year's "Man of Steel."

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All in black

Following the lead of the Superman comics in the 1990s, but with different story-logic, Cavill's Kryptonian donned this black version of his costume before assuming his more familiar red and blue one.
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Two TV show Supermen

On the left is the back of the cape worn by Dean Cain's Superman in "Lois and Clark," while the black suit on the right is from "Smallville".
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Superman on '90s TV

Dean Cain's Superman from "Lois and Clark" wore a fairly straightforward version of the suit.
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'Returns' brings changes

"Superman Begins" landed to much controversy, including the raised S-shield and belt worn by Brandon Routh.
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Classic Superman

1978's "Superman" movie gave its audience not only a chance to believe that a man could fly, but that his brightly-colored costume wouldn't look entirely ridiculous on the big screen.
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One slightly threadbare cape

Leith Adams noted that the modern "Man of Steel" costume was designed to be worn by its hero, and so imperfections such as this fraying in the cape gave the character's outfit a more natural look over the course of the movie.
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Superman's suits through the ages

On the right is the classic 1978 "Superman" suit. Opposite it is the "Evil Superman" costume worn by Christopher Reeve in "Superman III," while in the middle we can see the cape from "Superman Returns."
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Where did Superman's trunks go?

In both the new Superman movie and DC Comics' recent reboot of the character, Superman dropped his iconic red underwear. Explaining that the origins of the costume were of the circus strongmen from the mid-1930s, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio said that it was time to update his look for the modern era. "He hasn't lost them, he's just wearing them in a different way," DiDio quipped. Here, DiDio stands next to his favorite of the costumes, "Evil Superman."

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