Fashion tugs on Superman's cape at Comic-Con

Where did Superman's red trunks go? Learn the answer to this and other super-questions on a San Diego Comic-Con Preview Night tour of Superman's suits over the years.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
2 min read
Watch this: Comic-Con 2013: DC's Superman 75th Anniversary Exhibit

SAN DIEGO -- There are a lot of questions concerning Superman's fashion sense. How does his suit stay intact against speeding locomotives? What's with the cape? But perhaps most importantly, where did his red underwear go?

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

See all photos

The DC Comics booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2013 has been turned into a fashion showcase for Superman costumes from movies and TV since 1978. In addition to one set of street clothes for Clark Kent, eight of Superman's heroic uniforms were on display, including outfits worn by Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh, and Henry Cavill.

If you've seen Cavill in this year's "Man of Steel" -- and judging by its ticket sales, chances are you have -- you've probably noticed that the character has dropped his iconic red trunks, so to speak. The red underwear that adorned the character for most of his 75-year-existence are gone.

This is not a cause for concern, says Dan DiDio, co-publisher at DC Entertainment. Wearing a Superman baseball cap and occasionally letting his Brooklyn accent through, DiDio explained that Superman's costumes have weathered small changes on-screen and in the comics since the superhero's inception.

Costume designers for both the comics and the new movie, he said, worked independently of each other, yet kept many similar elements. "There's a certain regalness that comes from the cape," he said, "And the S-shield is the core of the character. There might be slight changes over the years, but it's essentially the same," DiDio said.

While DiDio's favorite costume on display was the "Evil Superman" suit from "Superman III," because it reminded him of Christopher Reeve having to play the film's climactic scene against himself, the Warner Brothers archivist who gave the tour of the suits said that his favorite wasn't even there.

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.' Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Leith Adams, who is a renowned movie poster historian and the Executive Director of Warner Brothers Corporate Archive, said that his favorite costume, which also wasn't on display, is the simple T-shirt and red cape worn by the child actor playing young Clark Kent in the new "Man of Steel." While the Evil Superman suit was rescued by accident, stored and forgotten, in the new films Adams has been able to save not only the hero costumes but items like the swaddling used to hold the baby Kal-El.

But what about Superman's missing red trunks? DiDio had an answer for that.

"He hasn't lost them," quipped DiDio. "He's just wearing them in a different way."