Why Superman's Black Suit Is So Important For The DC Hero

Superman in Black Suit in DC Comics
(Image credit: (DC))

It’s been a monumental week for DC fans since Zack Snyder revealed an exclusive clip from his upcoming cut of Justice League during the JusticeCon event. It was only 16 seconds long, but it was enough to satisfy those who’d been patiently waiting for the Man of Steel filmmaker’s complete vision for the DC superhero team-up to come to life. It featured Henry Cavill donning his famous black suit. If you haven’t seen it yet, check this out:

Since Justice League was in production, musings of the appearance and disappearance of the black suit has been a hot button point of discussion. On the heels of Henry Cavill debuting his badass alternative Supes look, and as we prepare for more teases for the Snyder Cut, let’s backtrack – why is this change of color to Kal-El’s costume so important to a character also defined by his traditional outfit's red and blue patriotism? It's time to break it down here:

Superman with Black Suit and mullet in Reign of Superman

(Image credit: (DC))

What Are The Origins Of Superman’s Black Suit?

It wasn’t until over 50 years into Superman’s comic book run that the character’s costume received this dramatic shift as a result of the famous Death of Superman storyline in the early ‘90s. In the shocking crossover comic story, Kal-El dies in a battle against Doomsday and is given a funeral attended by a grieving Lois Lane and many prominent DC characters. Death of Superman was told in three parts: Doomsday, Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen! In the final installment, the black suit is introduced when he is resurrected in a regeneration pod inside the Fortress of Solitude.

The black suit is known by a number of names, including the Recovery, Regeneration and Solar Suit. At its core, the suit's use is a practical one since it is said to contain restorative technology as Superman recovers and heals. The black suit allows him to absorb the radiation of the sun (where his powers come from) more vigorously. When Superman wears the black suit, it serves as this transition period between his death and return to his hero work. It's a symbolism of hope for the hero to earn his colors back and start saving the day again. Plus, he rocked a pretty awesome mullet in this look.

Superman in Kingdom Come and Batman Beyond

(Image credit: (DC))

How Superman Has Added Black To His Suit In Other Ways

Over the years, Superman’s Recovery Suit has made an appearance in other instances where the hero has needed the extra juice or reboot if you will. In the 1996 comic story Final Night, Superman briefly wore the suit again when his adversary was the Sun Eater and his powers were running low. In other later appearances, the blacksSuit has not always been straightforward to its origins from Death of Superman. Even when the same suit isn’t in frame, the color black has been an important color for Superman’s transitional periods.

In another ‘90s run of Superman called Kingdom Come, Superman doesn’t turn to the Recovery Suit, but he does add black to his “S” emblem after Lois Lane is killed and he hangs up hero work for an extended period of time. Blackness around his “S” symbolizes him starting to come out of the darkness as the hero is meant to be. And to throw it back to the late '90s/early 2000s series Batman Beyond, an older Superman in the future shows up in a black suit, which different from the Recovery Suit, but certainly symbolizes Kal-El as a hero with powers that are not exactly what they used to be.

Tom Welling in Smallville, Tyler Hoechlin and Grant Gustin in Arrowverse

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

How Live-Action TV Has Depicted Superman In The Black Suit

Expanding into other Superman media, let’s look at how the black suit has been translated for live-action television adaptations of the character. Remember Smallville? The CW show predating the Arrowverse followed Tom Welling’s Clark Kent growing up before he became Superman. Although the show took a number of creative liberties with the character, one important milestone in his journey to becoming the iconic hero happened during Season 9. Welling’s Kent wore a black suit and trench coat as he did vigilante work in Metropolis, before finally donning the red and blue by the series finale.

The Arrowverse debuted the black suit for Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman but in a much different context than how it is symbolized for the character. In the Elseworlds event, the man behind the suit is a psychiatrist named Dr. John Deegan, who used the Book of Destiny to give himself the looks and powers of Superman. He wore a black suit instead of red and blue when he posed as the Kryptonian on Earth-1. This version of the black suit obviously derives outside of the classic reason why Superman wears black. Besides the Elseworlds version, each of these iterations show a dawning of the character becoming his truest self; a symbol of hope. He has to be at his best when he wears the red and blue ,and when he’s trying to earn them out of respect, he changes his look.

Henry Cavill as Superman in Justice League

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Why Henry Cavill’s Black Suit Was Left Out Of Justice League

Henry Cavill’s black suit was removed from the theatrical cut of Justice League because the filmmakers reportedly felt the character should come back in his “upbeat” red and blue costume, according to the film’s costume designer, Michael Wilkinson. Here's what Wilkinson previously said:

At first it seemed that it might be a logical choice for the look of Superman when he's resurrected. Zack is extremely respectful and passionate about the depiction of Superman in comic books and graphic novels, and traditionally when he is resurrected, he is in the black suit. But as the tone of the film developed and we were in pre-production, the filmmakers felt that the classic red and blue suit seemed more appropriate to our story and our script. It seemed that a more positive, upbeat image of Superman was what was needed -- the idea of hope and that the world could in fact be saved was important, so that's the direction that we went.

As word of the Snyder Cut has become a huge discussion within the DC community over the years, talk of the black suit has been key because Justice League has so many parallels to the Death of Superman storyline. This Recovery Suit has become incredibly symbolic to the character and we’ve yet to see it play out in a major theatrical release. Luckily, that'll finally change when the Snyder Cut arrives next year.

Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more news on Zack Snyder’s Justice League dropping on HBO Max in early to mid-2021.

Up next: Zack Snyder’s Justice League: Superman Black Suit Breakdown

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.