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The Disappearance of Superman's Trunks

Updated on April 29, 2012

Muscles of Steel

Henry Cavill (Poor Soul) As Superman
Henry Cavill (Poor Soul) As Superman

The Tale of the Trunks

In the next film iteration of Superman ("Superman: The Man of Steel") Henry Cavill wears a re-designed costume. If you are a Superman fan just emerging from your cave, you will already know this much. Also, if you have been living in the dark, you still probably have noticed what Superman's new costume resembles.

I can live with the grayed-out, muted tones of blue, red and yellow, and even the superfluous flourishes, but I gotta tell you the absence of the red swim trunks is a big mistake. Poor Henry looks as if he is wearing a woman's latex jumpsuit.

Guys and gals, I think part of the purpose for Superman wearing the red trunks was to serve the same utility as a "modesty panel" at the front of most office desks. For some reason or another, I personally do not want to see Superman's penis bulging inside his over-tight jumpsuit, do you?

I sense that the red trunks served the purpose of hiding Superman's privates from you, me, and the rest of the world, which I had appreciated -- although the trunks had been getting smaller with each new iteration of the Superman figure.

I'm not a prude, I'm not homophobic, but I just do not see what positive purpose is served to advertise Superman's sex.

The idea of making the "cloth" of Superman's costume appear alien in nature is a clever one. An examination of the costume Brandon Routh wore in "Superman Returns" displays an inter-connecting "S" pattern in the blue portions of his suit. I thought that was fine thinking on someone's part. The Cavill suit also seems to be a strangely "woven" fabric -- but less like a natural clothing than something that might be worn by Catwoman.

It's all well and good that Cavel's muscles bulge from the suit -- as he spent many an hour building them strictly for this motion picture -- even though there is no logical reason for Superman to have developed into the winner of a muscle-building contest just because he was born on an alien world. His super-strength is a kind of supernatural gift from having transitioned from a red sun to a yellow.

Comic book science doesn't have to make more sense in terms of physics than within the "Star Trek" universe or other fantasy concoction. The important thing is for the writers to just come up with a reason -- any reason -- why something is the way it is.

Unlike the publicity "stills," I'm hoping that Cavill will be moving around too quickly on the screen for us to be subjected to an idiotic focus on his crotch.

We didn't have to deal with this thorny issue with any of the iterations of Batman (even the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale trilogy) because Batman's costume seemed to consist of a lot of armor and bullet-proof protection materials -- and that was fine with me.

In the comics Batman also wears a pair of blue-colored trunks -- and I think for the same reason. And since these characters originated as simple cartoons in ten-cent comic books, the original intent was probably just to make the super-heroes look colorful and flashy enough so as to catch the eye of some youngster with an extra dime in his pocket.

Mass color printing was not that old (by the late 30's) so seeing Superman in his original design must have had more of an impact than what we feel seeing a film in 3-D. The color of the costumes conveyed a brand of swashbuckling boldness.

When Robin was brought on the scene, the artists used almost ever color on their ink wells to make him seem spectacular.

And the word "spectacular" is the main divergence from the late 30s, through the early 2000s. For a very long time, a young audience was thrilled by the use of color. It served a deliberate purpose -- it caught the eye and excited the imagination.

Today, the primary body of critics regarding the costumes of super-hero costumes and other mundane matters dealing with comic books remains in the dominion of the baby boomer crowd. Generation Y is only marginally interested. They are spending most of their time blowing off heads with their computer games.

But, the baby boomers seem to be ashamed of their continued interest in this comic book material. They have become a very fussy audience. They demand a greater and greater sense of "realism" in the motion picture adaptations.

What on earth for? What is the psychological impetus that causes the most idle of boomers to insist that their Silver Age heroes take on a more "realistic" guise?

I suspect the root of all this is in the shame most of these boomers must feel for never having outgrown their adolescence. If you are still reading comics at the age of 50 or beyond, I surmise that this "need" for realism is actually an offset of some kind -- a way of making little boy fantasies more palatable and consumable to their psyches.

Am I reading too much into this. No, I really do not think so.

Thus, we get a Batman who is solid black in coloration, a Superman who is wearing a gray-toned woman's leotard -- because the red trunks were just too funky.

Okay, whatever.

So, let's see someone produce and direct a realistic Tarzan picture. This would be interesting because although Tarzan shaved regularly -- as must any British citizen of Victorian-age heritage -- he was also a cannibal. Yes, read the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Not only did Tarzan eat apes he conquered, he also ate the local tribesmen. How would that sit in our "politically correct" world.

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    • profile image

      Jade Davern 

      5 years ago

      DC has removed the trunks even in The New 52 comics. I don't even know why.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Even I didn't like the removal of the trunks! Being a Superman fanatic I have always pictured him in his full uniform. Your hub intrigues me and makes me think that with these current changes, what will be the effect in the superhero franchise

      Great hub!

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