It was over 70 years ago when Superman arrived in Kansas from Krypton and was adopted by the Kents. The comic book character catapulted superheroes into American pop culture and become an instant classic. Today, the American icon’s signature costume and “S” symbol is more recognizable than any other superhero.
“Let’s put him in this kind of costume and give him a big S on his chest, and a cape, make him as colorful as we can and as distinctive as we can,” Joe Shuster said, as quoted in Les Daniels’ 2004 book, Superman: The Complete History, about Superman’s look.
Shuster along with Jerry Siegel created the Superman hero in the early 1930s and by 1938 he was featured in the first edition of DC Comics’ Adventure Comics. It wasn’t long until Superman had his own comic book series, newspaper strips, radio and television shows, movies, video games and an empire of merchandise.
In Beverly Hills, C.A. in 2003, two of the original costumes
that George Reeves wore on the 50's show were auctioned off for
The Superman creators achieved their goal of creating a distinctive superman costume. Over the decades, Superman has been saving Metropolis and the world in a simple blue top with matching tights and a pair of red trunks worn on the outside. It was finished off with a red, flowing cape. At the time, the outfit resembled circus performers and characters from pulp magazines, paperback publications with a fictional story, according to Daniels’ book. The costume was then adopted by other superheroes.
While the character and storylines have changed and evolved over Superman’s lifetime, the superman costume has only undergone minor changes. Most significant is the iconic “S” symbol worn on Superman’s chest that has made a large impact far beyond the comic book world and is identifiable by Americans.
This symbol has grown and matured over the years just as the character has. It developed from a small, yellow badge with a thin, red “S” in the middle to a dominating element of the Superman costume. Today, the five-sided symbol is still yellow but filled with a large “S” and is reprinted on a majority of Superman merchandise.
The superman costume itself plays a role in the comic books however; storylines vary as to where the costume came from, according to the fan site, Superman.nu.
A 1940 edition stated the hero made it himself with indestructible material he invented but the costumes origin changed in the 1950s. The comic books suggest it was sewn as a playsuit by his adopted mother from blankets he was wrapped in when found. These blankets are from Krypton and are indestructible on earth, much like the costume’s popularity.
Versions of the costume have been adopted by spin-off characters, such as the
Superboy costume and the Supergirl costume, which are featured in comic books and in cartoons. It also has been adopted by children and adults of all ages that want to bring their alter egos to life whether the costume is bought from a Superman vendor like
Superhero Costumes or only includes a pair of underwear and their mother’s sheet tied around their neck.
No matter if the costume is homemade or store bought, from the planet Krypton or invented by Superman himself, it will continue to have an impact on American pop culture for generations to come just as it has since 1938.