Superman hasn’t worn red trunks over his blue suit since 2011, but after one thousand issues, the Man of Steel has earned the right to wear whatever he wants. In the cover of the upcoming landmark issue #1000 of Action Comics, Jim Lee has envisioned a new costume for Superman that mashes together all of the most important elements of the iconic character’s history, including his red “underwear” (which is not underwear).
Unveiled Friday by DC, Action Comics #1000, which will be available April 18, will unveil a new costume drawn by DC publisher and artist Jim Lee. If the costume looks kind of old school and familiar, that’s because it is. Aside from modern elements like the cuffed wrists (2016 Rebirth) to the diamond “S” evocative of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, the red boots and trunks and the yellow belt bring Superman back to his most timeless look.
Besides the costume change, Action Comics #1000 will also be a big deal as it celebrates a milestone with a stacked who’s who of DC and Superman lore. In addition to Superman writers Peter Tomasi, artist Pat Gleason and Action Comics writer/artist Dan Jurgens, the comic will have ex-Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis’s first DC story (in his new DC-exclusive gig) which will be a 15-page collaboration with Jim Lee.
But the costume! This is more than just a special outfit for a special cover of a special issue. It will be Superman’s new outfit going forward, marking yet another change in Superman’s wardrobe within the last few years.
Back in 2011, in an effort to modernize Superman (as well as the rest of the DC Universe), many DC heroes got big costume changes as part of the hard reset, dubbed the New 52. Decked out in armor instead of spandex, Superman also ditched his red trunks in favor of a plain red belt. He also had a turtleneck. Superman went through another change in 2016, during Rebirth, and in early 2017 had a few more tweaks that included the return of his long red boots. Now, an older version of Superman is back, but no matter what Clark Kent is still just a farm boy from Kansas who is now raising his own family.
By the way, Superman never wore “underwear.” As confirmed in an issue of Action Comics #967 in 2016, the red “undies” (as Jon Kent put it) were just a “decorative element.” The suit was all one piece.
As writer Jim Beard pointed out in a 2011 Tor piece analyzing Batman’s trunks, comics were a difficult visual medium that needed something to break up the colors around the midsection. When Bill Finger was drawing Batman for Bob Kane in the late ‘30s, they included trunks, and it became a staple of the superhero genre for years to come.
Action Comics #1000 will be released on April 18.