S for style: How Superman got his iconic look

How many logos were designed before the famous yellow S emblem? When did superman finally ‘fly’ in a movie? Here’s all you need to know about this Kryptonian character
Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of the Superman series starring Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and was directed by Zack Snyder.
Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of the Superman series starring Henry Cavill as Clark Kent and was directed by Zack Snyder.
Published on Dec 15, 2018 07:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByAnesha George

The Logo

The character that put the ‘super’ in superheroes was also the first to get a crest. The ‘S’ was called the ‘Superman shield’ in the character’s first appearance, in Action Comics #1, in 1938.

Elements of his look — logo, cape, tights or all three — were adopted by later superheroes like Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

But the S emblem itself has undergone an evolution over the years.

When Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created the character, the logo resembled a yellow and red police badge. Over the years, it lost the cop look, became more streamlined, and found itself within the familiar diamond shape.

In the 1940s, when Fleischer Studios began their animated short films on Superman, the logo changed to a black diamond with a red S within it, versions of which migrated to several comic books as well. The black background resurfaced in 1996, in a storyline set in the future.

The iconic emblem has had multiple interpretations over the years, with ‘S’ representing a snake, a family crest and what DC comics has revealed to be the Kryptonian symbol for hope. It’s now among the world’s the most recognisable comic-hero logos.

Rise of Metropolis

The fictional city that Superman lives in is believed to have been inspired by Toronto, where Shuster was born, but most movies have used New York City as their setting for his home.

Action Comics #16 describes Metropolis as a massive, wealthy and technologically advanced city in the United States.

In the real city of Metropolis in Illinois, USA, you can attend the annual superman festival. It also has a Superman museum and a giant statue of Superman outside its courthouse.
In the real city of Metropolis in Illinois, USA, you can attend the annual superman festival. It also has a Superman museum and a giant statue of Superman outside its courthouse.

There is, incidentally, a real Metropolis city in Illinois, which celebrates this coincidence in extravagant ways.

A giant statue of Superman stands in front of their courthouse, they have annual Superman festivals, and a Superman museum too.

Landmark visual effects

The 1978 film Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman, was one of the most expensive of its time, with a budget of $55 million. It was also the first to use high-end visual effects, to make Superman ‘fly’.

The 1979 film Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, was the first to use high-end visual effects to make Superman ‘fly’, and had a budget of $55 million, exorbitant for its time.
The 1979 film Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, was the first to use high-end visual effects to make Superman ‘fly’, and had a budget of $55 million, exorbitant for its time.

From remote-controlled props to catapulting dummies out of cannons, nothing seemed to work — until the visual effects team created the Zoptic front-projection system where actors were recorded while suspended in front of a background image.

The music

The bars used in the opening credits of Richard Donner’s 1978 film are still the ones that play in our heads when we think ‘superhero in action’.

The theme by the award-winning composer John Williams was nominated for an Academy award for best original score and won a Grammy in 1980. It was reused in Superman movies for decades.

The original score was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and recorded in England.

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Thursday, December 09, 2021