There really is no definitive version of Superman. Every Superman and comic book fan has their idea of what Superman should look like. Some love the trunks, others think the trunks are out of date. Some fans love the yellow S on the cape, others think the S Spit Curl is pointless. Some people love a Big S, some love a smaller S, others think the elevated S is also a perfect version. Either way, as a Superman fanatic since the age of eight, I have my own favorite versions of Superman and his costumes, and these are the top five.
The Reign of the Superman
When Superman died in 1993, the world was taken over by four supermen, all of whom claimed to be Superman. DC claimed they could also possibly be Superman. I fondly recall collecting all four issues, and loved the hype surrounding it. Of course neither of the foursome ended up being Superman, though they played crucial roles in the return of the ACTUAL Superman. There was the African American Steel in the silver steel suit, Superboy with his shades and leather jacket, the Conduit who also wore green shades and a Kryptonian style Superman suit, and Cyborg Superman, a Cyborg who looked an awful lot like Silver Age Superman who ends up revealing himself to be a murderous monster with the desire to destroy humanity. When Kal El Returns to re-claim the throne he has to battle Cyborg Superman and Mongul. Cyborg Superman remains an instant fixture of the Superman mythos.
5. Superman Beyond
Superman Beyond is one of the many wonderful results of Bruce Timm’s DC Animated Universe. Introduced in “Batman Beyond,” a now aged Superman is draped in a darker more cynical garb for crime fighting that also demonstrates his Kryptonian heritage with the white panels on his arms. When he’s first introduced he’s the leader of a brand new generation of the Justice League, and soon becomes canon for the “Beyond” Universe. He even manages to fetch his own “Beyond” series of comic books. I like the black and white costume, and love how it takes a Kryptonian edge. The way the S shield molds in to the design is also very creative and matches the aesthetic of the new generation Superman fights against.
4. Recovery Suit Superman
It’s really hard to not enjoy this suit. It’s so nineties, and supplies oodles of nostalgia for yours truly. After returning from the dead and being sapped of his powers, Superman returns to Earth and now dons a mane of long hair, and a black one piece costume along with a silver S Shield and Silver wrist braces. This suit was a signature outfit for Superman for a short time, as even though this was the actual Kal El and Superman, there was doubt in everyone’s mind if this was just another impostor trying to claim the heroism of the original Superman. It didn’t help his case originally that this character had no superpowers, but after managing to plead his case, he brings down Mongul and Cyborg Superman with the help of his DC friends and hell of a lot of fire power.
3. Superman, Son of Zod/Hernan Guerra
I don’t read many comics these days, so I was very surprised to find out that in another DC universe there was such a thing as a Hispanic Superman. Do my eyes deceive me? In “Gods and Monsters,” Hernan Guerra is a descendant from Krypton sent to Earth as one of the last of his species. Rather than be programmed by Jor-El, Zod gets to him programming his DNA in to the young orphan. When he arrives on Earth, he’s instead discovered by Mexican immigrants and rises to become one of the most powerful beings on Earth. Not at all valiant like the actual Superman from Earth 1, Hernan Guerra is more of an anti-hero who works on a very gray moral code but every bit the powerful being that Superman from Earth 1 is.
2. Kingdom Come Superman
“Kingdom Come” is one of the most important and brilliant graphic novels I’ve ever read in my life, as it brought the DC Universe to a whole new level and brought me such a unique and compelling tale of the old generation bringing down the new. The Superman here is presented as something of a forgotten icon along with the other two heroes of the DC trinity and is tasked with helping to defend the planet against the reckless new bunch of heroes. Superman goes through the wringer, fighting against nemeses and tasked with bringing together the classic Justice League. He also has to battle with Shazam when he’s brainwashed by a collective of super villains hoping to bring down the Man of Steel. With the greying hair and large S, Kingdom Come Superman was impossible to miss during the 1990’s, and he’s pretty much the poster boy for the masterpiece mini-series.
1. Bruce Timm Superman
This Superman like Batman from the animated series is an amalgam of the best elements from Superman, the man of steel. He has the spit curl, and signature suit, along the yellow belt and red trunks. The yellow S is missing from the cape only because it’s very difficult to animate a cape, let alone a cape with a symbol on it. The Clark Kent from Bruce Timm’s universe is also bookish, but not the timid and meek individual Kal El plays him as in the original Christopher Reeve movies. This Superma is a lot more sly and confident, but also unimposing enough to where he can convince people that he’s not the man of steel underneath his blue suit. This is the Superman costume I think of when I think of the ideal Superman suit. There’s no goofy armor, and no silly all blue suit. It’s traditional blue, red, and yellow, with the classic trunks and S Spit Curl. I also really appreciate the bold square jawline that Timm gave Batman and Bruce Wayne. It adds to the godlike quality that Superman embodies.