In the many revisions to Superman’s iconic costume, which has roots in circus strongmen of the ‘30s, the piece most constantly removed is his red underwear. Henry Cavill ditched it in the movies, and Tyler Hoechlin had a red belt in Supergirl, just like the New 52 Superman from 2011. But in today’s Action Comics #967, Superman — the post-Crisis version created by John Byrne in the ‘80s — revealed that his kitschy wrestling trunks were not underwear at all.
While on a mission in the Amazon, Jon (aka Superboy) asks his dad Superman why he doesn’t wear his other, more famous costumes. On Jon’s smartphone, he has pictures of his dad wearing the infamous black suit, originating from Reign of the Supermen! which he wore again in 2015’s Superman: Lois and Clark, and the classic costume “with the undies on the outside.”
“It wasn’t underwear,” Superman tells the new Superboy. Turns out, the red trunks were part of the suit as “a decorative element” but was sewn as one entire piece. “Looks like undies to me,” his son replies. Well, he’s not wrong. It’s fooled fans for close to 80 years now.
As for why Superman doesn’t rock the black costume he wore during Lois and Clark, it’s because it had meaning besides looking cool. Superman tells his son the black reflected his situation at the time, working “in the shadows” and “in the background, anonymously.”
When Superman stepped back into the public, he put on a new version of his red and blue — made by Kelex in the Fortress of Solitude, which also ditches the underwear — to appear “inspirational.”
In a world as unstable as the DC Universe, and even our own, we can really use some old fashioned. Just, no red tights.
Action Comics #967 is available now.