Superman: Man of Style Finalists!

Editors Note: The following 21 entries have been selected as finalists for the Superman: Man of Style contest. These entries were rated and reviewed by the P:R Staff as well as by our guest judge, super-scribe Mark Waid! The winners (the entries with the highest composite scores) will be announced on Monday over at Pulp Secret in a special video announcement! Check back here on P:R later in the week for the Honorable Mentions. – Dean Trippe

Art Grafunkel

Dean: This is one of the more radical entries we got! I’m surprised by how much this feels guy feels like he belongs in the Superman mythology. Maybe not Supes himself, but I dig the Kryptonian cleric-plus-techno vibe. Could easily work as a Zod, Eradicator, or possibly a new villian created by Brainiac? Any way you slice it, this is a cool look, but unless the Superman titles take a hard turn, it’s just not Superman. Totally wicked, though.

Jess: I’m with Dean: this isn’t Superman himself, but it’s definitely someone in his world.  I’m actually getting a Vandal Savage vibe from him, myself.

Rachel: I was thinking Mr. Sinister, but that might just be the hair and cape. Incidentally, this is one of a number of designs we got in which Superman is barefoot, something we haven’t seen with any other character.

Chris: Art is showing a metric ton of creativity here, but it’s taken him on a journey outside of who Superman is. But man, I’d love to see this guy face-off with Superman.

Joel: If Superman had been created in the Seventies for Warrior Magazine, this is exactly what he would have looked like. Grafunkel goes very the bold, creating a new image for Supesf rom the ground-up, but I think he misses the boat when it comes to the gadgets, specifically. At risk of stating the obvious, the essential, timeless appeal of Superman is that he is a Man who is Super. That is, he is the basic human experience raised to the level of hyperbole. Gadgets get in the way of this by making the character a specific sci-fi conceit, rather than an enduring metaphor-mask.

Vito: It’s definitely “out of this world” which is not only the norm with Art, but also the whole kit and kaboodle with Superman.  He kind of looks like one of the Obsidian Age characters from the Joe Kelly JLA run, though.  I like it, but I think we all agree that this isn’t exactly Kal.  And is he packing Kryptonite on his belt?

Waid: Blurgh.  Really creative, but zero to do with Superman.

Avi Bastermagian

Dean: I think if Superman were created within the last ten years, this is about what he’d look like. It’s a little on the generic side, but it definitely feels like a Superman to me. I like the wide red bands on the gauntlets, pants, and boots, but the cape-over-the-neck-guard look is a bit cumbersome. I’m also missing the yellow in this normally primary-colored hero.

Jess: Oh, I like this.  If Kon had grown up to be Superman, this is what he would have worn, no question.

Chris: WOW. Finally, no underwear on the outside but giving the man some pants. I like this so much that to find something wrong with it, I’d maybe say the chest symbol could be changed up to be less morose. But otherwise, way to go Avi!

Rachel: Avi’s design is really, really sharp, but I miss the bright colors–this strikes me as a darker Superman, both literally and metaphorically. Even though it’s even further from that costume than from the original, it immediately made me think of the Superman of the alternate-reality Justice Lords–enough that I actually went and checked to see how close it was to Justice Lord Superman’s actual costume (not remotely, by the way).

Joel: Jess hit it right on the nose with this one. This would be a great costume for an adult Kon-El. It’s well designed, with a balance of large color areas and linear elements, and the repitition of red throughout the black areas. I like that there are two black tones: those with gray-blue highlights, and those with red. The only area that bugs me is where the black turtleneck ends. It’s awkward that the cape almost, but doesn’t attach along that line, and then the top of the S-shield doesn’t quite relate to that curve, either.

Vito: I think you hit it on the head, Jess.  This is Superb—er, Kon El, all grown up and taking the mantle.  I really like it, and this could easily be a 10, but just like with Art, this doesn’t say Kal to me.

Waid: A really sleek take incorporating the classic elements.  More yellow would have brought the score higher.

Charles R. Rouse-Rodriguez

Dean: Okay, aside from the rocket-pack, I think this is fun as all get out. I don’t see Supes needing the extra technology (this is a costume redesign contest, not a character redesign contest), but the scifi action uniform suit is very cool for an alien hero like our Kal.

Jess: This strikes me as what Clark would have worn if he’d landed on Rann instead of Earth.  I like the sash and the piping (and I love dorky little Clark Kent off to the side there), but like Dean I don’t know why he needs all the bells and whistles.

Chris: Not a Superman to me, but this would rank high as the official space suit for Kryptonians.

Joel: As discussed with Grafunkel’s piece, I don’t think Superman needs all the doo-dads, and this costume is all doo-dad. This looks like a space-adventure suit worn by someone who doesn’t have innate powers.

Rachel: You know what it is? It’s an action figure costume–the kind with all sorts of little fiddly bits that your cat inevitably eats. That said, it’s a pretty damn cool design; I could see it as, for example, the government’s “official” look for a superhero from space. And I like the idea of Superman’s costume giving him a means to collect and store solar energy (I’m guessing that’s what the circle doohickeys on his chest and hands are).

Vito: I’m going to go a little higher as it’s really innovative and really true to the sci-fi/pulp origins of Superman.  Dean’s right…the jetpack is a little too much to suspend disbelief on, but I dig it!

Waid: I like the drawing a lot more than the actual design–it’s just a little too gadgety for a guy who doesn’t need gizmos.

Fernando Lucas

Dean: Whoa that’s neat. The “S” symbol being a representation of Krypton exploding is way too tragic for Supes to actually wear it, but gosh it’s clever. Similarly, Supes losing sunstone crystals all the time in flight or battle just doesn’t seem smart (unless they’re inert, not being control crystals, I suppose). I think it needs a cape, but I totally love the concept.

Jess: The idea is really cool, but in execution it…well, it kind of looks like a chicken suit.  Even if there were a way to make it look less feathery, I feel like a hero encased entirely in crystal is not the most approachable guy in the world, which doesn’t strike me as being particularly Superman-ish.

Rachel: I think Jess’s concerns are right on the money: this Superman is literally pretty prickly, and while a spiky power suit has its advantages, I just don’t think it fits the character. Superman is all about approachability–he’s a symbol as much as he’s a superhero–and this costume broadcasts the opposite. I do love the concept, though–it’s super cool and hella evocative. It could even make for a pretty rad Superman villain, if you just tinted those crystals green…

Chris: This is a very striking imagine, but my practicality-sense (TM) is rinigng off. This could be a one-time power-up suit for Supes, butI don’t see him wearing this much bling — Lois would get jealous!

Joel: I love this design, and am kind of in awe of the creative reinvention on display, here. It’s a brilliant application of the Donner Kryptonian crystal technology, and that S-shield is simply an act of genius. I love that the crystals are constantly growing and breaking off into confetti, giving Supes a Miracleman-style Tinkerbell effect. What happens to those fragments? Do they dissolve? Are the gathered up by collectors and sold on eBay? Do they sink into the earth and quietly grow into… something? I agree that it doesn’t have the approachability that is key to Superman’s appeal, and the boots look a little unconsidered, but that all that’s keeping this from a perfect score.

Vito: I love the idea, but the execution is a little…I don’t want to say flawed, because it’s quite ingenious.  It just reminds me too much of Doomsday in its concept.  I like Joel’s Miracleman explantion, but I wish I could get behind this more.

Waid: Glurgh.  No offense, ’cause it’s imaginative, but it’s just so cold–and, worst of all, I really think the one thing Superman doesn’t want to be reminded of every time he looks at his own insignia is that his planet exploded violently.

Jared Axelrod

Dean: Jared one-upped everyone else by actually constructing his steampunky Supes! I’ve seen a few similar designs of the character in my day, but this one sure is spiffy. I’m not sure I see it working for Supes in the comics, but it’s an interesting enough Elseworldsy take that I’ll cut it some slack. Very cool.

Jess: I have a total weakness for steampunk, and this is just fantastic.  I love the goggles, the way the cape attaches, and the…boot covers?  Spats?  Whatever, they’re excellent.  Dear DC: I now request several hundred Victorian Superman stories featuring this costume, Sherlock Holmes, and possibly bayonets.  Love, Jess.

Rachel: It’s worth noting that Jared’s costume isn’t a stand-alone–it’s part of a marvelous steampunk redesign of the entire Justice League, The Guild of Justice-Minded Citizenry. Where were these guys during Fights, Flights, and Tights?

Chris: Reign of the Supermen. I’d love to see Clark institute a Superman program with Jr.s, and Jared would be an able-bodied pick.

Joel: Wow, well this gets points for realization of vision. I love the asymmetrical cape connection, but would like to see how the rest of the cape connects in the back. Action spats, epaulets, and filigree collars should, clearly, be a part of more superhero costumes. The belt needs a little more weight and interest, and I’m not sure about the relationship between the pentagonal buttoning and the little S-shield. The two shapes being so close to one another is awkward.

Vito: I think Jared really went the extra distance with the top…but the bottoms don’t look as inspired.  Granted, all of the classic Superman elements are represented, but for something so steampunky, I would like to see something a little more ornate on the legs, perhaps s-shields going down the sides, and maybe a darker red.

Rachel: Yeah, I’m with Vito here. The spats are nice, but the plain red field of the pants sticks out against the ornamentation of the rest of the costume. Even continuing those brass buttons from the spats up the sides would help lend it a more unified look.

Waid: Indifferent.  More appreciative of the craft and dedication than of the design.  Don’t dig the huge not-S chest symbol.

Ming Doyle

Dean: This is the highest rating I’m giving out, and with good reason. Ming has taken a solid design route and imposed it over the Superman mythos, redesigning not just Supes, but Kara and Conner as well (good gosh, I’d love to see that kid back and sporting these wicked duds)! The new take on the S shield is magnificent, and the inclusion of multiple shades of blue into the uniforms is brilliant. I love how otherworldly these costumes look, but totally retaining the superheroic appearance and instant recognition for each character. Ming’s removal of the much maligned red undies is the best I’ve seen. And I just can’t get over how much story there is in this single piece. We’ve clearly got our SuperFamily back together, working more often from the same base of operations at the Fortress of Solitude, and even Superman updating his costume in the step towards greater unity with his namesakes. I love it to bits. To me this design walks a strange, perfect line between feeling like a Silver Age comic and and Ultimate-ized take on the characters. Good show all around, Ming. I think everyone else is just playing for second from here on out.

Jess: I am trying really, really hard not to give Ming full marks just for including Kara and Kon, because I tend to be extraordinarily partial to Superkids, but this is just fantastic all around.  I love the piping and that Clark is the only one wearing a cape.  I love that they seem to have incorporated elements of each other’s costumes – the fellas have Kara’s extra-long sleeves with the pointed elements, and much of Clark’s costume is reminiscent of Kon’s debut outfit, like the black elements and the narrow belt (thankfully minus some of the more dated aspects, like the fade).  I love Kon’s boyish short sleeves and the fact that Kara looks strong and capable and, you know, fully clothed, but still very sassy and teenaged.  I would absolutely buy a comic with this on the cover, in a heartbeat.

Rachel: Ming has consistently set the bar for costume redesigns, and she does it again here. This Superfamily is clearly alien–I love the way the logo has changed so that it’s no longer immediately legible as an “S”–and just as clearly superheroic. The subtle variations between the costumes–Clark’s cape, Kon’s sleeves, Kara’s skirt–and the extent to which  the characters keep their individuality but still have such a cohesive look blow me away. Looking more closely, I’ve also noticed that those variations are reflected in *all* the costumes: Kara’s boatneck, for example, echoes the neckline of Clark’s cape and the dark section at the top of Kon’s shoulders, and the red sides are a common note for both Kara and Kon. My one complaint about these, and the one reason I knocked off a point, is that they’re awfully busy–I think they’d lose a lot in small panels, and I have trouble imagining them drawn by anyone but Ming.

Chris: The drastic simplification of the “S” logo into what it is sets the tone for my whole interview. This would be a Superman who’s finally at peace with his dual homes of earth and Krypton, and accepting both Lois and the Superkids as family. This is a really inspirational piece.

Joel: This is a great illustration, and there are a lot of wonderful elements to these costumes (the S-shield, the two blue-tones, the characterizations, etc.), but, to my eyes, these designs are just a little too busy. I think it’s the yellow piping, which breaks things up too much. And mid-shin is a very awkward place to end a boot. I’d suggest either moving the boot tops a few inches higher or lower, and switching the piping to the lighter blue.

Vito: Ming, if we could bottle up whatever otherworldly talent that you, Jemma, Daniel, Joel and Dean have for superhero design, we’d make a mint.  Every child in America that has grown up at the feet of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko comics would drink that potion in a second.  But I’m digressing from the actual design here.  The idea of a uniform design among a “family” of characters isn’t new.  I think the only family in comics that doesn’t adhere to that thinking, at least nowadays, is the Batman Family.  So, it’s great that the thinking behind a family design went into this.  But for the actual designs, she really found a way to update Superman himself without going to far from what we know, and that made for a killer design.  And then she pushed it further by taking that design and switching it up for his supporting cast.  The one that catches my eye the most is Kara.  Remember the Supergirl contest?  The one element that makes or breaks Supergirl is her skirt and I think that’s the one problem DC has with the character; how do you put a teenage girl in a mini skirt without making her too sexy for her age?  Ming’s design totally shatters any artist’s or writer’s conception of what she (Supergirl) can be and what she can look like and that’s all based on the strength of that Superman design.  I’d be interested to hear from Ming as to which character she visualized first.  She’s an amazing artist, that Ming Doyle, and it’s hard not to give her a 10.  My heart might belong to Kyle’s design, but my head is right here.

Waid: This is really great.  Not too noodly, and extra points for designing something that adapts well to Supergirl, as well.

Jon Morris

Dean: Jon’s Sun God Supes is the following: Wicked. Fourth World. Shiny. Excellent. It’s so Herculean and happy, I can’t say anything against it.

Rachel: I’m giving Jon’s design a full extra point because of how thoroughly it breaks from the traditional representations of Superman. Most of these–even the best of them–lean very heavily on the “real” costume, and the ability to make such a dramatic departure from such an iconic look deserves notice. Maybe this is what Superman would’ve ended up if he had crash-landed on Themyscria. Also, while it doesn’t have anything to do with the costume, the pose and facial expression on this are awesome. They totally crack me up: I bet this Superman always says everything in a loud, declarative voice and is super enthusiastic.

Chris: What if Superman crash landed in ancient Rome? That’s what this hits me over the head with. I don’t think he could pull this off in 2008. But maybe I’d like to see him try.

Joel: Argosy Action Superman! Beyond the obvious virtues of this fun drawing, what I really like about this design is that it really could have been what Superman looked like, if Joe and Jerry had been paying less attention to circus performers and more to Supes’ pulp magazine predecessors (“Clark Kent! Golden Warrior from Another World!”). And then, all superheroes costumes would be derivations of this! The gold armor looks futuristic enough to balance the Classical inspirations. The solar eclipse buckle adds some nice mythic undertones. I’m a little worried about whether or not that cape is a tripping hazard, and the feet are a little footie-pajamas for my taste.

Jess: It seems like it might be a little awkward to go around in – the leather truss would poke him in the ribs every time he bent over, and if that S-shield is raised it would be poking his armpit rather uncomfortably when he put his arm down.  I’m also not sure why he needs gauntlets if he’s super strong and invulnerable.   I definitely give it major props for creativity, though.

Vito: Sun God, huh?  I can see it.  In fact, this is very New Gods meets Greek Gods.  Not too far off the original intention of…well, any comics, really!  The one thing that throws me off is the cape.  It looks uncomfortable to me.

Waid: Very creative, but not very Superman-ish.

More finalists and the P:R Staff entries after the jump! – D.T.

Jorell Rivera

Dean: Kind of a Kryptonian Jesus here. I can see this as two things: Kal-El’s pajamas, or what Kal might be wearing if it took his ship a decade longer to touch down in Kansas. Either way, I like the yellow section with the S symbol and the barefoot look.

Rachel: Awww–I like the idea of Clark Kent sleeping in Superman pajamas. That said, I’m generally not too fond of this design. The colors are cool, but I think more of the messiah feel comes from the pose and facial expression than from the outfit–which ultimately leaves you with, yeah, a set of (admittedly pretty stylin’) PJs.

Chris: Supes’ PJs. I can’t forget that.

Joel: Pajama Jesus Superman! I like the thinking here, and if I had Superman’s powers, I wouldn’t mind wearing something along these lines. If your feet are tougher than shoeleather (or, for that matter, steel), why wear shoes? And the cut of those pajamas look very airy and comfortable. But the color placements seems a smidge arbitrary, and the whole Messianic thing cuts down on Supes’ all-important approachability.

Jess: I tend not to like Messianic takes on Superman, and I agree with Joel that the color placements seem arbitrary.  And is that an off-the-shoulder top?

Vito: I think we all see Jesus Kal: Superstar here, but I’m into the barefoot look.  Had DC gone the GL/GA route with the entire line (that is, told true socially conscious stories duing the late ’60s/early ’70s), here’s the Superman of Woodstock.

Waid: Nice use of color, but really arbitrary design that doesn’t accentuate the power of the form very well, to my eyes.

Kristina Diggs

Dean: I think this is fun as all get out, but it’s not gonna fly for SuperMAN. Still…so pretty…

Chris: This is almost too youthful for it’s own good. Superboy? Definitely.

Joel: This design, which puts the boi in Superboy, is fun, but too busy. Just a few too many shapes breaking up the space without any real intention behind them.

Jess: Agreed.  It’s more manga high school Elseworlds Superboi than anything else.

Rachel: But I’d give it a 6 or 7 at least, if it were supposed to be Superboy/Superboi. And I’m with Joel on the busy lines–this is a design that I think would really shine cleaned up a bit.

Vito: It’s charming!  Maybe it is a Superboy look, but extend those sleeves, and I can see it for Supes.  And I’m not sure if Kristina has submitted before, but this is a great entry for a debut!

Waid: Yeah, charming, but not terribly functional.  Not that underpants on the outside is particularly functional, either, but still….

Kyle Latino (Full image with supporting cast!)

Dean: This one rocks the socks. I love the period base uniform here, but I am absolutely blown away by Kyle’s reimagining of the entire Superman costume change history.

Chris: Wow. Superman as a Blackhawks’ style aviation hero. The logo on the jacket and the shirt underneath? Marvelous.

Rachel: I am such a sucker for aviator jackets–and for free-flying heroes who incorporate traditional aviator gear into their costumes *coughStarmancough*. I also really, really like the scarf as an alternative to the cape; it’s not something you see a lot, and it looks SO sharp, especially with a costume like this one. I’m not sure why–maybe it’s the simple emblem and the darker palette–but this Superman more than any other reminds me of Siegel and Schuster’s original design for the character (and of course, he’s sporting the car-throwing pose from Action Comics #1 in the lower right, which doesn’t hurt).

Jess: Fantastic.  I agree with everything said above; I, too, love me a dapper aviator look!  And the cast variations are fabulous and really show off how versatile this basic look can be.  (If nothing else, it takes a lot of chutzpah to deliberately invoke Superman Red and Superman Blue!)

Vito: I’m an absolute sucker for pulp inspired designs.  This is everything Siegel and Shuster were thinking when they came up with Superman; Doc Savage meets Wylie’s Gladiator.  The entire cast was done up in such spectacular fashion, that I have to endorse this as my Best in Show.  He even used old school coloring techniques!  And doggone, look at that scarf!

Joel: I’m torn. On one hand: this is a costume that would work in the real world, which is always something I like; it speaks to Supes’ genre roots, which I’m also a fan of; and the full cast image with all the variations is both clever and well-executed (especially the two Superboy designs!). On the other hand, it looks kinda generic. I don’t think this Superman, had he been introduced in the late Thirties, would have caught the popular imagination in the lasting way the real Kal did.

Vito: That may be true, Joel, but Doc Savage, Secret Agent X and Nick Carter sure captured the popular imagination before Superman, so maybe, maybe not?

Joel: Sure, but not to level of Supes, who has been one of the most recognizable images in the world for pretty much his entire existence. You can’t walk into a Target and buy Doc Savage underwear. Which, of course, is a terrible shame.

Vito: Not really.  Doc Savage underoos would be torn to shreds.  But you make a good point.

Waid:  Love.  Love. Love.  If only the colors had been more iconic.

Vito: See that Joel?  Waid and Delsante know what’s up!

Joel: Curses! Foiled again!

Les McClaine

Dean: Solid drawing from Les (as per usual!) but I’d like to see this thing with boots and yellow where the blue is in the chest symbol.

Chris: Les really thought this one out, but the simplicity of this might baffle some people. I think Les is headed in a great direction, but I don’t think he’s made it there yet. He’s got a firm grasp on Superman’s facial likeness and style though.

Joel: Hugs-for-Everyone Superman! I think this is a solidly workable design—if not as the mainstream Supes, than as variation. I could buy this as a happier parallel to Kingdom Come Superman. I wouldn’t mind the negative space in the S-shield as a third color though. If not that classic yellow, than some third color, just to provide a little more visual hierarchy to the costume.

Jess: There’s something very cuddly about this Superman.  He just wants to love you!  I think it needs a little more visual interest – maybe a third color, as Joel suggested, or boots instead of footsie pajama legs, but I am digging the shield/shirt action.

Rachel: D’awww. He really does look like he wants a hug. I love the simple lines of this, but I think it needs a little more–a third color, or boots would definitely do the trick. Also, the way this costume reads, there’s a big red arrow directing the viewer’s eye straight toward Superman’s crotch.

Jess: See what you did, Rachel?  Now I can’t stop looking at it.

Vito: Absolute love it.  That s-shield is quite possibly the most innovative of the designs in the contest.  I think the use of blues and reds is both classic and new in the same breath.  I’m fine with the absence of a belt, but the extra material on the cuffs just doesn’t fit with the overall fit of the costume.  Hardly an issue, which is why it’s 1 point away from perfect.

Waid: Design not as good as the drawing, but the piece as a whole does a very nice job of capturing who Superman is.

Paul Salvi

Dean: Man, this totally needs some saturation, but the lines and shapes are slick as heck.

Chris: Morose, but I’d like to see how Paul did it in action.

Joel: Stealth Suit Superman! For all those times you have to sneak through the Shadow Nebula. Problematic color scheme aside, I like the basic shape of this costume, the lines created by the piping, and the way they relate to the belt-line, cape-hem, and collar. The S-shield isn’t quite working, yet, but it’s close. Also, this Superman is played by Bruce Campbell, isn’t he?

Rachel: Man, Superman, you gotta stop raiding Batman’s wardrobe! It’s a hell of a job to make a grey-and-black toned costume that immediately evokes the character and doesn’t immediately imply that he’s gone evil. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s a color scheme that works for Superman, at least not as a primary costume. Since his inception, Superman has been all about the bright colors, and since the beginning, that’s also represented a lot about him as a character and a hero. There’s a reason no one has ever published Superman Black & White–color is too much of who the character is, both within his universe and to readers.

Vito: Not as bad or morose as the scores would have us believe.  Rachel has a point; there is a certain color scheme associated with Superman that breathes life into the character and has done so for 70 years.  That said, I don’t mind the colors because when I see this, I think one thing; The Superman of Gotham City.  No matter where he is, he’s still Superman and this is still Superman to me.  And this s-shield is amazing.  The lines lead the eyes to all the angles within the entire costume and that’s kind of cool!

Jess: I do like the lines of the costume, and it is impressive that Paul managed to make this very definitely Superman while working in gray tones, but I’m really missing that color.  The length of the cape also seems a bit awkward – I think it needs to be longer or maybe shorter.

Waid: 9.  On any other characer, a 10.

Jonathan McNally

Dean: I dig the intense happiness quality here, and I’m on board with every element except the headgear. Great blue boot stripes and wristgear.

Chris: This makes me think music. It totally portrays a wholly different kind of Superman.

Vito: There was a Superman musical in the 70’s, you know.  I like the headgear, and the belt, but I would have used a contrasting color on the boots (the blue maybe?).  There’s a lot of red here (whereas, the normal Superman costume has a lot of blue).  It’s not bad, really.

Jess: Certainly better than the Superman musical was!

Rachel: This is another design that’s more elseworlds than main-universe Superman, and it’s awfully charming. The old-fashioned football uniform look and bright palette play up the All-American Boy angle on the character. Also, he’s frolicking! With birds!

Joel: Football Frolic Superman! This is a really fun design, and I’d be interested to see what sort of adventures this Superman would have. The headgear, boot-tops, and gloves all relate nicely to each other with a repeated use of right angles. The S-shield is a bit bland, but in a Golden Age kind of way.

Jess: Aw, look at him skip!  This is a Clark who is really sad that he never got to play football in Smallville.  I’m with Vito in that I’d like to see more contrast in the boots, but this is definitely a fun, Golden-Agey/Elseworlds-y Superman.

Waid:  Frolicking good, pointless headpiece bad.

Daniel Krall

Dean: Aw levels at maximum! I really dig this illustration, but I don’t think the actual costume’s quite there yet. Maybe it works best as an in-progress take by Clark and Martha on the Supersuit.

Chris: In this competitions I’ve grown to look forward to seeing Daniel Krall’s work every time out. Each time he aims for the bleachers in terms of creativity, but I think this time his idea got the best of him. As an illustration it’s the tops, but the costume itself doesn’t do it for me.

Joel: This is a wonderful illustration, and I love the depictions of Ma Kent and Krypto. But I agree with Chris and Dean that this costume isn’t quite hitting my buttons. I like the narrative concept of the Ma Kent-sewn action suit, but the actual design seems a little strange. Especially that red item emerging from his pants. It looks like he put on a weight-lifter’s leotard over his shirt, and then pulled his pants on over those. Does the cape connect to it? Or to the collar? And he seems to be wearing an awful lot of layers. Although, I guess that make sense, if his mother designed it.

Rachel: It’s tempting to give Daniel’s design a higher score, because of the amount of attention he lavishes on detail and context; if this contest were for scene design, it’d be a full 10. That said, this Superman costume just doesn’t do it for me. The number of layers and the way they fit–or don’t fit–together makes the costume look slapdash, as if Clark just pulled on every red or blue garment he could find, in no particular order. That’s reinforced by the fact that the elements really don’t seem to go together–aside from color, there’s not much visual connection between the boots, pants, shirts, and cape.

Vito: I see exactly what Daniel went with, and it just doesn’t work.  He went with Kansas-farmboy-as-superhero.  Not a bad idea, but the execution…leaves me a little cold.  First, I don’t see the need for a cape here other than to be true to the original; if we’re to assume that all these designs are to take place in Action Comics #1, then the farmer motif doesn’t need a cape.  The colors, though, are pretty great.  This guy is totally out of The Grapes of Wrath (historically accurate since Kansas was affected by the Dust Bowl).  The s-shield is a little clunky.  I’m usually all over Daniel’s work, but this one isn’t doing it for me.

Jess: I’m with everyone else here.  As an illustration, it’s a 10, no question; as a costume, not so much.  It’s definitely a wrestling singlet plus fishing pants plus I don’t know what else.  I will say that the boots are fantastic.

Waid: Great drawing, too noodly a design.

Brian Mead

Dean: Argh I am overwhelmed by the amazing Fourth Worldliness. I could totally see this working in a New Genesis-based Superman arc. So fun. I’d have gone ahead and extended the chest’s ‘S’ symbol down to it’s usual point, or pushed the vertical symmetry a bit further.

Chris: This is a great illustration, but for costuming itself it’s a bit too complicated.

Joel: Although I agree that the overall design is busy, there are a lot of nice details worth lingering over. I like the S-shield, and the way it interacts with the shapes around it, and I really like the way the belt and the bottom of the tunic create a point that mirrors the more traditional pentagonal S-shield. The two tones of cool gray make for a pleasing change to the color scheme. And I’m intrigued by the tight red sleeves peeking out of the cuffs. I’d suggest simplifying as much as possible without losing some of the nice shape-harmonies, and ditch as much of the yellow detailing as possible.

Rachel: The thing that sticks out most to me about this is that it looks very alien (which I like, and which I think gets forgotten far too often when dealing with Superman), with a bit of military dress garb to it. It also drives home the extent to which these redesigns fire my imagination–I immediately thought, “Well, yeah–this is a Superman whose father wrapped him in one of his uniforms before tucking him into the rocket.”

Vito: There’s a lot in common here between Brian’s design and Ming’s.  Could I be scoring lower because I saw Ming’s first?  Maybe, but I think where Brian and Ming differ is in color scheme and s-shield.  This one is pretty traditional, and that’s not a bad thing but compared to everyone’s nouveau s-shield designs, it leaves me a little uninspired.  The yellow piping is a little too much (I agree with Joel…simplifying this by eliminating the yellow piping might score higher).

Jess: I am digging the alien/military vibe Rachel picked up on, and I love everything happening in the chestal region – the shield, the connection to the cape, the vertical red band, everything.  But yeah, it’s a little too busy.  I’d take out some of the layers – make it the usual onesie instead of shirt, tunic, and pants.  But keep the cuffs!  They are nifty keen.

Waid: Stop with the alien military motif!  Superman is a FRIEND.  He’s WARM.  He’s your favorite uncle.

Jemma Salume

Dean: Gah, fun. I’d like to see this as an alternate universe Supes/Conner that pops in to help out on a specific arc (and maybe spins off into his own title). I love the detailing on the gloves, boots, and waist. Color wise, I think I’d need to see this in direct sunlight to make any judgements. The intense blue lighting is making the colors seem a bit reflective, which I don’t think is intentional. Regardless, great lines.

Chris: This looks like a Kryptonian supervillian, not Supes. Those eyebrows, that tousled hair.

Joel: What a beautiful design. I love the rhythm of the lines throughout the costume, and the repeated staggered interaction of diagonals. I think you could take the cape off (or not) and walk this costume down the runway of any fashion show. Great boots and gloves, great hem-line on the jacket, even the hair is great! It really relies on the S-shield to make this Superman’s costume, however, and I think that’s the costume’s weakest link. That’s just not a very iconic S. If that were resolved, this would be my first choice for the design of a younger, sexier Superman.

Rachel: Since I first saw this, I’ve been calling it “baseball Superman” in my head. Jemma makes some bold departures from the traditional look, which is good, but the problem is that it leaves us with very little to identify the character as Superman. The wraps on the hands and feet also say “martial artist” to me, which Superman isn’t. He does have the best hair, though–no question.

Vito: It’s interesting how Jemma and Dean went with a full body white color scheme (great minds think alike?).  He certainly looks alien, and that’s a credit to Jemma because it’s the one thing I think Superman has always lacked; Superman, raised by human Earthlings, never looked like anything but human.  Here, he looks otherworldly.  And I appreciate it, but that’s also why I’m not so high on it.  Superman is one of us.

Jess: There’s something about the face that makes him look…well, evil, and thus not Superman-y, and I’m trying to ignore that to concentrate on the costume, but dang, Jemma, those eyes are looking straight into my soul.  Rachel hit the nail on the head with this one – this Supes plays for the Yankees (which is fine with me, because a little Kryptonian assistance couldn’t hurt my boys).  There’s also something very youthful about this Superman, as with all of Jemma’s designs – perhaps this is a revised Superboy Prime (apparently we can say that again!)?  It’s a gorgeous design, but not quite Superman.

Waid: Seersucker Superman.  Eh.

Mike Maihack

Dean: Haha, well I don’t see Mike’s design here working in the regular title, but I do think it’s fun. Maybe it’d work best in a story where a kid who met Supes is explaining the encounter to his friends.

Chris: Several of the entries sho that yellow piping, so there’ s alot of common thought going on. I like what Maihack has here but I think another couple drafts at the design would have worked out some kinds and simplified it into a more iconic costume that Superman needs.

Rachel: I’m with Chris all the way on simplifying. In particular, those lightning-bolt jagged lines on the torso really take away from what’s otherwise a really cool design.

Vito: Good Lord, this is spectacular!  However, the lightning-like piping makes me think Shazam! more than Superman.  It’s at the very least, and Elseworlds design.

Joel: Yup, this is very Shazamy. Imagine the poor Wizard’s disappointment, after going through all the trouble of luring a boy down into the subway tunnels and granting him godlike powers, when young Clark replied, “But I already…”

Vito: There’s an Elseworlds story!

Jess: But if Clark is vulnerable to magic, does he lose his regular powers when he says “Shazam”?  I’ll add my voice to the cries for simplifying this, but I gotta say I love the medallion-style shield.  It’s probably my favorite shield of all the redesigns.

Waid: Yet another one that’s so much better a drawing than it is an actual, iconic, easily repeatable design.

Daniel Heard

Dean: Points for fun, but deductions for plausibility. I don’t really see this as feasible in a Superman title.

Joel: Tuff-skins Superman! While some Superman continuities have Supes’ action suit being a Kryptonian artifact, others have it created entirely by Martha Kent. And what a great “Ma Kent costume” this is! This looks so wonderfully like the snazzy sewing of a Thirties Kansas farm wife, right down to the grommets in the armpits! Obviously, this early costume wouldn’t pass muster in slick, sophisticated Metropolis, but dang, I hope, somewhere in the Fortress of Solitude, a mannequin is sporting this reminder of Supes’ roots.

Rachel: Or in the Batcave, since the costume galleries are more Batman’s style than Superman’s…

Joel: Rachel, you aren’t reading your Showcase Presents, are you? Silver Age Supes was obsessed with making life-sized dioramas of his own history. Clark must have had stock in a mannequin factory.

Chris: My dad would call this Superman a hillbilly — and not as an offense, but as a compliment. But it doesn’t do it for me.

Rachel: Forget Man of Steel–this is the Man of Denim! I like the basic design, and I love the way the red bits are balanced, but I think it needs to be about three sizes larger. Heavy, skin-tight denim is nobody’s friend. Also, is he wearing a vest?

Vito: I think, and again this is purely guessing on my part, but I think this is what Daniel Krall was going for in his design.  It’s pretty underwhelming, which is exactly what shy Clark would be comfortable in.  It’s pretty cool to see this like this.  But, I don’t think Superman could wear this.  Why not?  Well, if you, or better yet, if Lois was to see this Superman rescuing a school bus hanging off of a bridge, and then go to work with a guy nicknamed “Smallville,” the leap between secret ID and alter ego would not be a huge one.  I like both Daniel’s concepts, but it just couldn’t work.

Jess: I love it.  Look how happy he is in his 30s overalls!  I’m picturing him sitting on the half-constructed Empire State Building eating lunch out of a metal tin.  It’s a little less striking than maybe it should be, which is why I knocked the point off, but man.  This is a Superman who is gonna get the job done, and then play catch with the kids he’s saved.  Awesome.

Waid: Clever, but again, I’m never too keen on Superman over-accessorizing.

Anjin Anhut

Dean: I’m not crazy about this one, despite digging the drawing style. The armor stuff just looks slapped on over a standard Supersuit.

Chris: This is a real departure from how Superman is traditionally played out. What if Superman’s cradle landed in Themiscrya?

Rachel: In this case? I think Jon Morris’s Superman would cheerfully kick his ass.

Joel: Nice one, Chris! The Classical allusions are obvious, and I was all ready to talk about the Romans, but Themiscryan Superman is a much more interesting Elseworlds to contemplate. Because of Supes’ role as DC’s resident Sun God, a lot of the submissions have gone to gone to Antiquity for inspiration, but I think this is the most elegant and dignified take. My only concern is that point at the bottom of the chest plate. Assuming Superman ever bends at the waist, that seems like a bad idea.

Rachel: The armor really bugs me, because it’s superficially functional gear, and in this case, it’s totally unnecessary. That’s one of the central conceits of Superman, and of his costume: he doesn’t need any protection or added power, so anything above the basic spandex is entirely for show–and unless Superman wants to hammer out the dents every time he moves, he’s also trading in mobility. And since this redesign basically involves the traditional Super-suit with armor laced on above, it doesn’t do much for me as a package. I do dig the cape, though…

Vito: I was ready to give this a 9, because it’s absolutely beautiful.  It’s stunning.  But Rachel is right; the plating is unnecessary.  It’s cool, but it’s unnecessary.  But good gravy, I’d write this Superman tomorrow if I could!

Joel: Maybe… it’s… uhm, magic armor? Because, growing up on Themiscrya, Supes would encounter a lot of magic, which he is vulnerable to. Maybe?

Jess: Darn your incisive comments, Rachel!  You’re absolutely right, but boy, is it pretty.  I’m a little confused by what’s going on around the Superpanties – does he have a little skirtlet in back? – and I think I’d prefer boots to sandals, but this is one gallant Man of Steel.

Waid: Superman has a deep, deep need to be embraced and accepted.  Armor doesn’t sell that.

Victor Newman

Dean: Like a few other entries, it’s cool, but just isn’t Superman.

Chris: Tony Stark in a Superman costume. I like the design, but it’s not Superman to me.

Joel: Your right, Chris, this isn’t Superman. It’s ZOD! And what a Zod! The built-up shoulder and neck succinctly implies militarism, inflexibility, and self-aggrandizement: all characteristics you want in an interstellar dictator.

Rachel: A more populist Zod, perhaps, since he’s apparently trying to cash in on Superman’s popularity with that big bright S.

Vito: Rachel and Joel, you took the words right out of my mouth.  This is Zod.  Start kneeling, fanboys.

Jess: I was thinking Superman as the son of a coal miner rather than a farmer, but Zod works too.

Waid: 5 for Superman, 11 for Zod.

Rosemary Travale

Dean: Argh, it’s adorable, and I love it to bits, but it’s just not Superman to me. It’s a happy Halloween costume.

Joel: Freddie Mercury in a Victorian Swimsuit Superman! How cute is that? Often, during these commentaries, I find myself wishing DC would continue to produce the Bizarro anthologies, and well, this is the argument for them, right here. Don’t you want to see what the rest of Rosemary’s Justice League looks like?

Chris: Definitely Freddie Mercury here, or a Clark Gable.

Rachel: I have to admit that this is hard for me to review, ’cause I keep stopping and scrolling up and staring at the picture and grinning…and then I realize ten minutes have passed. It’s so weird and awesome and charming: the tranquil face, the curled moustachios, the confused-looking birds…

Vito: Totally charming, and makes me wish we could see Superman in a mustache, but the mustache isn’t the problem; it’s the costume.  I think I can see the idea behind it; turn of the century strongman.  That’s a fun and interesting idea, but it just doesn’t work for me.  Buuuut…I agree with Joel; I’d love to see her JLA.

Jess: Hee!  It’s so cute, but is it Superman?  Not particularly.  But if someone could figure out an Elseworlds for this guy, I would be a happy camper indeed.

Waid: It really is adorable.

Note: And now for mine and Joel Priddy’s ineligible entries! -D.T.

Dean Trippe

Jess: Definitely very All-Star Superman, Dean.  I love the sleek simplicity of it, but, uh…forgive me, but the little belt buckle keeps drawing my eyes to an inappropriate place.  I’m sorry, that’s just where I look!  Now I have made everything tawdry.

Rachel: Me, too, Jess–I also have to keep reminding myself that it’s not a belly-button hole; stylistically, it seems like a departure from the rest of the costume, and I’m not really sure if its awkwardness is justified by its function, design-wise. That said, the bright, optimistic quality that I’ve come to associate with Dean’s designs is super-appropriate here; this Superman seems like the perfect icon to herald the future of the DCU…

Chris: I feel a Mike Allred vibe going on here, and that’s a good thing. The combination of the cape and the chestpiece is a really good idea.

Joel: A subtle, dignified vision of Superman-as-guardian-angel. The blue band edging the red is lovely, and has a nice repeat at the hem of the sleeves. I don’t really get the beltless buckle, however, and I don’t think the serifs on the S looks resolved.  Should the top continue all the way down the cape as a stripe? In a straight-on pose, would the bottom serif recall the dollar sign, making Supes appear to be a symbol of American Capitalist Imperialism to the far corners of the world?

Jess: You mean he’s not?  (Sorry, Joel, couldn’t resist.)

Vito: I think Dean’s entry is fantastic, eligible or not.  It really pushes that Superman-as-messiah motif that Singer was going for in the last movie, and you can point to Dean’s use of white.  Superman as an angel of hope…I can get behind that.

Dean: Thanks guys. While not an elligible entry, I’m fairly pleased with how this went. Combining the symbol and cape into one element is a familiar route in Superman redesigns, but by solidifying the S into a single shape and adding the blue stripe against a white bodysuit, I think it retains the Silver Age/All-Star Superman vibe that makes Superman comics fun for me.

Waid: I like the thought behind this better than the execution–I, too, have a hard time not seeing a dollar sign on the chest.  And I’m not crazy about the shade of the blue band.  Like the faux-buckle.

Joel Priddy (Larger Image!)

Dean: I’ve GOT to see this thing actually constructed. I love the way Joel’s created such a large and strong S symbol and the cape connections look like they’d really pop in a physical representation. The long coat is very out-there in a Supes design, but it does make him look smart, like Silver Age Fortress of Science Experiments Superman. I also dig the short, spikey hair cut. The additional supporting cast (ZIBARRO!!) sells this thing beyond all reason.

Jess: It strikes me as more Jor-El than Superman, but I really enjoy the boots, and the way the cape hangs from the S shield.  I will say that it looks super-comfy.

Rachel: Yeah, to me, this one says “Kryptonian formal-wear.” It’s a great design, but less practical for fighting and flying than for addressing the Senate; maybe this could be Superman’s equivalent of Diana’s Ambassador-wear. What really caught my eye were the supporting cast members (although Joel mercifully left out the super-turtle): the clean lines and cut of the logo on Superboy’s shirt rock my socks. Bonus points, too, for a costume that’s physically constructible–you could make this out of existing or hypothetical-but-feasible materials, which is a feature I’m always fond of.

Chris: This really spurs my imagination to go wild. This looks vaguely European to me in a Herge sort of way. Give this man an Elseworlds book and get out of the way.

Vito: Chris, what a great comparison with the Herge comment.  I really like this, Joel, because it’s very much the Kryptonian motif taken the extra step.  Jess may have a point; this might be more Jor-El than Kal-El, but just like the movie says…”The son becomes the father and the father, the son.”

Joel: No Score. Thanks everybody. This piece grew out of the sad fact that I am now older than all but the Kingdom Come Superman. And it’s very hard to realize that one can no longer grow up to be the Man of Tomorrow. So, I tried to come up with a costume that would allow a young man to run around being the pinnacle of all human hopes and dreams without making bitter old codgers like me feel worthless in comparison. I was surprised to find that a vaguely clerical look seemed to work best, although it does make sense, come to think of it. My big question was: did Keanu kill the cassock?

Waid: Casual Friday at the Science Council.