Superman Needs a Cape -- Even on Smallville


“You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.” – Jim Croce

As Smallville begins its ninth season this autumn, it finally looks like Clark Kent will get the chance to don a Superman costume. Rumors were confirmed when a clip at this year’s San Diego Comic Con featured a shot of actor Tom Welling wearing a black outfit with a big silver “S” on his chest. What bothers me isn’t so much the black and silver colors of the new costume versus the traditional blue, red, and yellow. Rather, my biggest pet peeve is that they have him wearing a dark trench coat instead of the familiar cape.

We can argue forever about the color scheme. In my opinion, Superman needs to be in bold primary colors. It’s been said many times before – Superman is the day to Batman’s night. The Man of Steel doesn’t hide in the shadows. He doesn’t cover his face with a mask. He gets his powers from Earth’s yellow sun, and like the sun he’s meant to be a beacon. The Superman persona, with the cape and shield insignia, is just as much a facade as the Clark Kent persona, with the eyeglasses. The real person behind it all is Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton, the loner we see in the Fortress of Solitude or during those moments when his guard is down with people he trusts. The Superman persona is meant to be a symbol for the entire world to see.

To make him wear black, and worse, to discard the red cape, is a flawed attempt to make the character hip and cool. It negates the symbolism attached to the costume and it also abandons the powerful aura present in the most iconic superhero costume ever designed.

Yes, tights and a cape are comic book clichés, because Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster set the standard. Other characters wore capes for dramatic effect before Superman hit the scene in 1932, but none compared to the Man of Tomorrow.

Making Superman wear black (with a trench coat, no less) is an even bigger cliché. Neo from The Matrix was partially inspired by Superman, and now Smallville is ripping off the Matrix design in a sad attempt to update the character.

I complained about the lack of a cape back when DC Comics redesigned the character in a lame storyline. I complained again on Ain’t It Cool News when Nicolas Cage was rumored to play Superman in a Tim Burton version and I saw the preliminary dark, capeless costume designs.

As I posted again on AICN, Superman without a cape is like Indiana Jones without the fedora or Batman without the pointy eared cowl or Captain America without the shield. Just as the Dark Knight’s cape is meant to evoke the fearsome wings of a bat, Superman’s cape is meant to give the character a sense of nobility and awe. Without the cape, he looks like any other newly designed character trying to stake a claim in the modern superhero landscape.

Give the man a cape. Don’t tinker with Superman’s legacy.

Comments

Peter said…
Aye to the cape and colours. Superman will not be Superman without them. Bring them back in Smallville!
Nick said…
Exciting news! My article "Superman Needs a Cape" is a Salon.com Editor's Pick and a featured story on the cover page at http://www.Open.Salon.com

Check it out!