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Secrets of Superman's Underwear

Fri May 9, 2014, 5:52 PM

Of all the questions that have long vexed my mind, and made for so many sleepless nights, has always been the Big One: Why the shorts on the outside of the leotard? At long last, it is with great pleasure that I present intrepid cub reporter and talented new writer, Ariel Williams, who has finally succeeded in getting to the bottom of “Superman’s Underwear.” Please join me in welcoming Ariel to the depthRADIUS family.

Written by Ariel Williams

Ihave always been a fan of comic books. I grew up in mostly small towns in the 80’s and 90’s and often had to entertain myself with only one or two television stations and no cable TV. Books were always a source of escape from the real world and from my own rather boring life. Art was also a way for me to express my own ideas and flesh out the images I saw in my mind’s eye when reading. From there comic books were a natural draw for me as they had both amazing tales like the books and creative visuals. The more I read comics the more I tried to learn everything I could about this unique art form. When it comes to comics, I’m the geek who usually has the 411…

A common question I get, especially from those that don’t read comics, is...

“Why do superheroes run around in those strange outfits?”

“Why does Superman wear his underwear on the outside?”

It really does seem strange when you think about it. Superman is apparently wearing tights with underwear over them and no clothes other than the spandex and his cape. This sartorial style is echoed in many comic book heroes with their origins in the earliest days of comic books in the 1930's and 1940's onward. The reason for the unusual superhero undies is a strange mixture of economics, printing technology and artistic talents trying to find a middle ground between the two.

— Aeschylus, in Prometheus Bound (c. 478 BC)

In the early 1930's and 40's, the printing of comics came in two forms, black and white and 4 color. (This is also where we get the term “4 color hero.”) In general, comic books were intended to be as cheap as possible so the lowest grades of paper were often used and the fastest and cheapest printing methods.

Capt. America, 1954 – Atlas Comics

Comics and comic books were not considered a serious art form. They were a cheap diversion or something for children. The color printing was initially only reserved for the cover page of a comic because it was a costly process that required the ink to be applied in 4 separate stages, one for each color. The problem became that when doing this the machines had to run at a very high rate of speed to produce enough comics and they would eventually become misaligned and need constant adjustment. This is why we see comics from this era onward with the colors bleeding outside of the lines. This is especially true when color was later applied to entire comics.

Due to these minor imperfections in the process itself the comics were produced with sharp clean edges defined by hard black and often the layouts would be done so that objects could be painted a single color. These restrictions and a lack of a proper gray constrained the art style to fit within the technology of the day. The methods they used to overcome this came in using either a style much like pointillism (halftone) as the image above or hard solid colors, hatching and crosshatching as below.

Keeping your colors simple was the best way to do this but it restricted character design and forced them to create an inventive way to make the character stand out.

Daredevil Comics #25, 1944 – High magnification scans of comic book details

— E. B. White, in "The Old and the New," in The New Yorker (19 June 1937)

Working within the limitations I have just described, comic book artists took great strides to make powerful and lasting impressions. Right or wrong and consciously or not, this led to emphasizing hyper masculine or hyper feminine character traits to make the characters seem larger than life on such a simple format. We often see color changes or divisions at the head, chest, waist, hands groin and feet. This allows the characters to have certain "attributes" stand out.

Which one looks more "heroic"?

Left: original, Center: "no undies", Right: groin accent

The center option almost seems to have neutered Superman with its lack of definition. While option three might be acceptable in this panel, in some poses or in very small panels in the comics his legs might overlap the groin area and the entire pose might loose definition. You literally might not be able to tell his leg from his a-hole. Also, inadvertently defining his "package" would have scandalized 1940's sensibilities.

Even characters that wore only a single color often had detail lines outlining the pelvis from the rest of the body so their features could easily be made out on small panels.

Here we can see what looks like "undies" even on the Human Torch and Mr. Fantastic.

— William Shakespeare, King Lear (1608), Act III, Scene 2

Modern comics are starting to move away from this trend a little as better printing technology has allowed smooth gradients and shading to compensate for the issues of the past and opened up a whole new range of possibilities. Even so, the iconic images of superheroes in comics are so strong that little has changed from those early days.

“Look ma no undies!”

(To be honest, even here a fine line is observed to make sure there is definition between pelvis and legs, but at least it doesn't look like underwear.) Even here we can see the issue of not segmenting the body by contrasting colors. In the pose to the bottom-left, Superman’s leg and groin area seem to blend together a bit too much for my likes but the shading makes it acceptable and the red belt provides a visual queue for his midline.

The New 52 Superman – Art by: Jesus Merino, Lettering by: Carlos M. Mangual, Colored by: Brian Buccellato

Fantastic Four #49 (1966) – A comparison between a scan from the original to the present-day reprint.

  1. Did you ever question why Superman wore his shorts outside his leotard? Or did you simply accept this as being the standard super-hero uniform? Can you think of other odd quirks we accepted in our comics heroes that were necessitated by technical/political/economic/social considerations more than by artists’ choices?
  2. If you are an aspiring comics artist, do you think you would have enjoyed the challenge of trying to solve the restrictions of primitive print production, or are you very grateful to be using today’s technology?
  3. Do you think more should be done to educate arts students in the creative innovations that were invented to keep comics alive in their earliest days? Should the comics narrative storytelling form get more of the respect regularly lavished upon early cinema?
  4. After reading an article like this one about Superman’s underwear, does this special knowledge make you feel just a little bit superior to everyone else not in the know?
  5. Funniest answer possible please: Youtubing the opening credits of the weekly 1952-58 Superman TV show, the bad guys shoot Superman in the chest. He stands there as a motionless target, smiling, hands on hips. The bullets all bounce off his big “S” insignia. Out of bullets, the bad guys toss their empty revolvers at Superman’s head. He ducks. Why?

Ihave always been a fan of comic books. I grew up in mostly small towns in the 80’s and 90’s and often had to entertain myself with only one or two television stations and no cable TV. Books were always a source of escape from the real world and from my own rather boring life. Art was also a way for me to express my own ideas and flesh out the images I saw in my mind’s eye when reading. From there comic books were a natural draw for me as they had both amazing tales like the books and creative visuals. The more I read comics the more I tried to learn everything I could about this unique art form. When it comes to comics, I’m the geek who usually has the 411…

Writers: FromAriel, techgnotic 
Designers: marioluevanos 
Credit: to John Hilgart @ 4CP | Four Color Process

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Add a Comment:
WingDiamond Featured By Owner 5 days ago
A joke I read in one of them "Dirty Joke Books"

How do we know Superman is (insert target ethnicity or locality)?
Who else would wear their jockey shorts over their leotards?
E2-Class Featured By Owner 6 days ago  New Deviant Hobbyist General Artist
answers to those five questions:

1. Yeah, i used to question why he wore undies outside that jumpsuit, but i never thought it was for economic reasons. Mickey mouse also has four fingers because it saved money too.
2. I'm proud of today's modern technology, but I wouldn't mind using technology of old.
3. Maybe so, I do enjoy a good classic.
4. Most of my friends don't know this, so I guess this means I have bragging rights.
5. Because those guns had villain DNA, and superman is secretly germaphobic. (that's the best I could think of) Superman 
RexdeDino Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2015  New Deviant Hobbyist Writer
I don't have answers to 1-4 questions, BUT I have one for nr. 5

It's because his mother made the suit, and his head isn't covered by the suit.
The suit is bulletproof, because as we know from Harry Potter, motherly love is an indestructuble barrier.
Well, maybe if a giant rock monster punches you in the gut, BUTTHAT'SDIFFERENT!
coolcat378 Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
The insight! *-* I must get my mother to use all her motherly love to make me a cloak of indestructible power and greatness!!!!!!!!SupaGirl 
MissyTD Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
So it's not ok for me to wear my underwear on the outside since I'm not a superhero...?
ashwhite3110 Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2015  New Deviant
nice job. i like your reasoning.
mylovelyart1 Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2015  New Deviant Hobbyist Artist comment
Miarath Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2015   General Artist
Thanks for sharing such a great journal! :D
Well, I actually never thought about the why, although, sometimes
I wondered why many superheroes fight in bathing gear or nearly naked, which has to be really
uncomfortable for fighting.
Deepizzaguy Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2015  Student Writer
Thank you for sharing the history lesson of why Superman's costume has had so many changes.
SuperSparkplug Featured By Owner Edited Nov 10, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
It was also because wrestlers and some performers would wear their costumes like that, back in the old days, with underwear on the outside. This was probably more of an influence to his design than the technological issues outlined here. While they were certainly a factor, the culture of the time with performer outfits influenced Superman's design, which coincidentally helped them out when they had to deal with their printing limitations. While this does explain the comics of the time, what you're explaining here isn't entirely right with regards to Superman.
secondsign Featured By Owner 5 days ago
There's a practical reason why wrestlers and others wear separate trunks over tights.  The tights usually come up to the waist but, regardless of the fabric used or how tight they are made, it's very hard to keep them in place and laying smooth.  The trunks, since they aren't pulled as much by leg movement do a better job of staying smooth and in place.
SuperSparkplug Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Professional Digital Artist
Ah, cool! Good to know! :)
Kilven Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2015
The underwear look to this day still looks better on the comics page. They tried ditching the underwear with his New 52 look, but when you actually look at the art they still have the underwear lines in almost every drawing you'll see, now it's just blue instead of red. And honestly, without the red underwear it just doesn't look like Superman.
Drakonadrgora Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2015
Actually they were not underwear but shorts like what wrestlers wear. People just assumed they were underwear because of how they looked. If you look at many professional wrestlers in today's tv many of them were similar looking shorts. Really all it was for was a difference it color to set off the depiction from upper and lower body. A single color outfit becomes boring and forgettable. where as a multi-color outfit draws your attention and you remember it more.

Same as how in modern times those that try to stand out wear clothes of different colors on top and bottom and shoes to draw attention to different parts of the body. Where as some wear singular colors to draw attention more the to face area instead.

The artists wanted readers to see superman as a whole and not just s face on a body that did some poses while fighting bad guys doing the same. would be boring to read or look at if they did that.
ninjaguy1123 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2015
Dang, this much effort put into a presentation on how Superman wears his underwear on the outside...
At least it was corrected in Man of Steel.
Bad-Recolors Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2015
Superman is pathetic
TommyGK Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You know the real secret of his underwear? It's a one of a kind Chuck Norris edition kind of underwear
AHochrein2010 Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2015  Professional General Artist
I didn't see any mention of superhero costumes reflecting the trunks that wrestlers would wear. 
DanteStrife4 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I know why he wears under panties. cause he is advertising bonds ;)
Minyassa Featured By Owner Edited Nov 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very nicely explained! I grew up with these old comics and accepted them as superheroic style, with an additional note: It was also how circus performers dressed. I never thought of it as "underwear on the outside". Anyone who wanted to wear tights as a costume wore shorts over them because showing off the entire ass, crack and all, or the possibility of camel toe or defined bulge was simply NOT DONE back then. We didn't DO "no panty line" ass. Putting shorts over tights was not only an opportunity to center and balance a contrasting color for the sake of design (five points--gloves, boots, groin) but it ensured modesty. The look was bold and exciting and adventurous, the way that the trapeze artists dressed, suggesting dynamic motion and fearlessness.
RedWolf955 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015  New Deviant
Wow, are you really that blind? His leg is quite clearly separated from his pelvis. The ones without the red trunks look more heroic, because they look less silly than the one that looks like Superman doesn't know how to wear his underwear. 
Xeurum Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2015  New Deviant Professional Digital Artist
:) (Smile)
AbraMichelle Featured By Owner Edited Oct 27, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Interesting new insights
jlgreenlee Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2015  New Deviant
I was always under the impression that Superman's costume was based on those of circus acrobats of the era, and that most superheroes that followed (that would be all of them) just aped the look.
Degamer-EXE Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2015
That's what I think too when everyone makes fun of robin and batman
Grecian-Girl Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
I always thought it was weird that his underwear was outside his costume.  I also thought it was weird that his disguise was a pair of glasses.  He takes them off and strips down to a unitard, complete with metal utility belt, which cannot be comfortable under normal clothes, and VIOLA he is unrecognizable as Clark Kent but is now SUPERMAN! At least Batman wears a mask that covers almost all of his face.  I also never figured out wonder woman. A busty woman wearing a strapless, spangly leotard with no protection except for a pair of bracelets and a tiara.  Never made any sense to me. 
Ichiyama22 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
I could actually explain most of it to you, but it might come off as more or less "comic book logic*
Grecian-Girl Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
If you are interested in giving it a shot, I'm happy to try and wade through comic book logic :)
Ichiyama22 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
First off, Clark's disguise isn't so much the glasses he wears as the persona he presents. He acts as much like not superman as he can. His body language is passive and a bit timid, much like his speech. Nothing like how one would expect a nearly all powerful, invincible god among men to act. Basically, he believes that people only see what they want, and works it to his advantage so that people see a person they'd never want to be the man of steel.
Minyassa Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think comic book logic only works on people who can suspend disbelief, but that goes for most fiction. Some folks just don't like to immerse to the point of suspending disbelief.
Ichiyama22 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Grecian-Girl Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
You're right, that's completely comic book logic.  Thanks for trying!  :)  
Ichiyama22 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Sireloki Featured By Owner Edited Nov 2, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't think, that it's entirely comic book logic. Especially body language is very powrful. The way you move or walk is very unique and creates much of your 'official persona'. In many acting-schools, when you lern to play other people than yourself, you first learn to walk like someone else. You would not belive, what a different this makes, if it's not 'played', but done naturally.  Especially body language is also important for your presence and charisma. With the wrong (or in this case right) body language noone will notice you any further.

In addition there are other features.
Glasses, hairstyle, mimic: In most comic books, CK has not a special face. He's just "standart handsome". Those faces can be varied with little efford.
Outfit: Clark most times wears a standard white collar suit, like million other people. 

So you can say, CK uses the limited capacity of the human brain to process deatils. This phenomenon is called 'inattentional blindness'*: We only percieve what we pay attention to, or ohter way around: we don't see what we don't expect. CK does everything to maximalize that effect.

So it may be unlikely, that nobody recognizes CK as Superman, but it's not entirely implausible.

Aside from this, the criticism not only applies to Superman, although it's mosty expressed in his context. But how many superheroes conceal their true identity by wearing only a little mask around the eyes...

star-dream Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2015
interesting article. i like creativity, and reading here for example, how comic makers were doing their comic books. i honestly never found superman's 'underwear' weird. i didn't even register it as underwear or think about it. they could have designed him anyhow, but they designed him like this and it works.

i don't understand really to tell you the truth. now a days, its all about picking into other people's ancient works, fairytales, fantasies.. rebooting things, redesigning things, changing things... don't these people have no respect to the original idea, sometimes you don't even know what is the original story. can't we create something new that is worth today, new legends, instead of dissasembling the old untill they no longer have any meaning. isn't the original story enough for its own? its up to the artist to make it good and brilliant and how they dreamt it, it should stay.. its like if someone would decide to go and reboot the artwork of mona lisa into the new version of lara croft from tomb raider and call it mona lisa. i somehow think that the original superman (if that is even the original because it seam to go waay back) is the most pleasing to watch. now a days, movies are just... not having it. its in the way people think i beleive. its like playing a video game and instead of enjoying it they look for flaws and keep blabbing about things instead of BELEIVING, giving it a chance, getting inside. else why are you playing it. if we in future become so realistic and logical, what will become of imagination?
so what if grammar is a little imperfect, so what if there is a mistake here and there, so what if graphics are dated, the important thing is the story, the gameplay, the world that is being shared with you. and that is why i really did not care about supermans 'pants', if i can call it that way.
take nintendo's super mario in old ages, a couple of colors made the sprite, perhaps similar thing like here, mario's look because of tehnical reasons, it was a couple of colors that were supposed to represent a man, and yet, it means so much. it somehow sparkled the imagination, the soundtrack, the magic beans that take you to another world, unlike super mario world which has better graphics and yet, clouds are right there a jump above you and not that inspiring.. though i do like the yoshi's in super mario world, all their colors and the star road ( : . and i liked the night levels of the original super mario bros. the point is, from a graphical point of view, super mario bros 1 was HORRIBLE one can say. and yet.. it wasn't.. it was all there. all it took is to get deeper in the story, to respect the game, to really play it, eager about what will happen next. such outlook, creates dreams.. but if one would start the game uninterested and kept blabbing during the entire gameplay how programmers did this lame, did that lame, how it is horrible comparing to this or that.. they would spoil it and they better not turn it on at all. just the same, for someone to create something special, they need to love what they are doing.. they need to really care.

and for someone to appreciate it, they also need to care for what they are watching, reading, etc. not everything is made for the sake of money and power, not every story has hidden meanings and dark secrets. its possible that sometimes, someone would make something just for the sake of a dream they love. and thats the real thing. thats the best in fairytales and dreams. i think superman is a pretty good story about an extra terrestrial being sent to earth from a very faraway planet named kripton, and thats the beauty of it. this is how it starts.. :heart:

but this is an interesting and nicely written article and i'm not saying i have anything against it or any of this. i'm not sure what is the reason creators of superman made the comic book, maybe they actually cared and maybe they were in for the bussiness for some reason but even if they didn't care for the right things, i beleive someone somewhere out there saw beyond bussiness and money making when they seen this. and THAT is the real thing. those that actually care for something like that, are those that can create the best things.. and that was sort of the point. not everything is on paper, not everything is in graphics, cause graphics without gameplay really don't make a game, its the story that matters. and looking into the story, its hard that i ever thought much why did the supermans magically appearing costume decided to magically appear and why did it also appear the way it did. i personally thought, its awesome.
Minyassa Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Glad to know I am not the only one who wonders why people can't just respect a creation as it is and make their own new one instead of taking the old one and changing it.
ForgottonJourney Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I third that, I'm exhausted from remakes of classics. I want a new story, about a new character, in a world so terribly different... Not a remake of the old movies I grew up with and love. I don't want to see Harry Potter remade,  its perfect the way they filmed it even if details are missed, they got the whole picture. Indiana Jones, The Avengers, Superman, Batman, they are classics being remade to the point of fading. The glory of the story is worn out from constant retelling and remaking. Its time they left them be.
AmeliaDDraws Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2015  Professional Artist
1. I questioned it and was told superman couldn't see through red, and so that made sense as a kid. 

2. I am an aspiring comic artist and I love trying to find better ways to make my comics.  I would have loved the challenge. 

3. Sure. Education on how things were once done is usually a good thing.

4. Yes, I feel very superior now, and at my next cocktail party, when superman's underpants come into conversation, I will educate those who are not in the know, and I will look like a pro :)

5. The guns are made out of kryptonite.
sbassmarine Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2015
1. Growing up, I thought it was odd that super heroes would wear their undies on the outside, but then I watched plenty of Doug (Funny) and Quailman did it too, so- it became canon for me (although reviews suggest Quailman was based on Superman so...). Concerning quirks, at the top of my head I can't think of anything necessarily odd, but after watching The Incredibles and having blatant stereotypes force-fed down my throat, I approached other comics in the same fashion- Superman came out of an era that desperately wanted to give the "everyman" dreams and a fantasy of grandeur to counter-act the financial upheaval and political anxiety. It explains the basis for many of their powers such as: invincibility- adults were portrayed to be able to handle anything; invisibility- empowering insecurity since the 1940s; element superiority- obviously the need to be able to control one's environments when everything else is falling apart. Wonder Woman would do the same for women as they fought for equality. These were parameters set based on economy, politics, social considerations, etc... We've always found ways to embellish our short-comings, and compensate for our needs. Comics allowed us to be all that we couldn't, and do all that we had only dreamed about.

2. Of course, I'm exceedingly grateful for the iPad and Procreate (SHOUT OUT! awesome app by Savage Interactions), but through art classes and through my own trials, I've come to appreciate working in the confines of other people's rules. Any aspiring artist or current artist who has taken part in a DA contest or any art medium contest misunderstands this concept if they were to say they would not like the humble beginnings of trying to make things work. We put restrictions on our own selves when we accept the parameters of a contest- and the bottom line? It makes a better artist.

3. This is a tough question: On one side, teaching out-dated concepts is just that, outdated. We have plenty of current constraints that guide and direct the flow of our imagination, that we just don't need to look at art from those old restrictions. If we never moved forward in our artist education, we wouldn't have (imo) awesome art in the styles of Top Cow, Image Comics, etc. We wouldn't ever move into 3D or find innovative ways to depict what has been depicted before.
On the other side, all those same reasons help teach artists the concepts of old and certainly would influence the student from a technical and stylistic perspective. We are still portraying hero characters in a similar fashion (within the world of Marvel and DC), but we've also taken into account our own advances in technology and how we don't need to wear tights to be super (e.g.: Joss Whedon's Fray; The Losers; Mad Max). We no longer are afraid to show skin, and depict raw musculature, nor define a "hero" as the everyman or woman who sacrifices all in the name of a personal moral code or ideal (e.g.: Maze Runner; The Hunger Games; Divergent).
As far as respect for a medium? I'm sure in their respective circles (see what I did there?), due respect is given. However, as the cinema and comics venue were praised as a regular distraction in their early days, I just don't see that its necessary that comics artists be especially lauded. Back then, going to a comics shop and taking home one of these "portals of escape," or going to the movie theater to receive your regular dose of entertainment, was part of the culture. You didn't have those things at home- you didn't have the World-Wide Web. Everything is so instant now that I think the shift has moved from taking home awesome artistic works in paper to instead, heading to your local GameStop or even shopping online with Amazon to take home great artistic works of computer graphics. Even animated film has seen a boom these last few years with Home, Up, Frozen, Turbo, Despicable me, Big Hero 6, HTTYDragon, The Lego Movie, Inside Out... this is a boom. And this seems to be where our culture is throwing the majority of their respect. Its just the day and age we live in now. Still, for a talented artist making it as a comic illustrator, respect will be given from their fan-base and that will most likely never change. I still buy comics in spite of motion picture, and video games.

4. I make it my business to learn obscure, and irrelevant facts (for most people). Being able to shed light on a previously unknown subject always makes me feel superior. And it should. Knowledge is power after all, and useless facts are only useless until someone asks about it. Someone will eventually ask about it, and I will exert my power of prerogative and instead of explaining this entire article, I will shrug with an indistinct, "I dunno...?"

5. I know the real reason is because George Reeves couldn't see the green-screen bullets, but became incredibly surprised when the offender decided to throw his gun (I like to think that part wasn't scripted and Mr. Reeves realized that prop might actually hurt). But, it could be that his underwear is magical and he didn't have a magical extension like Batman or Captain America to cover his face. Or, most likely, he wanted the bad guys to under-estimate his powers and think the best way to rid themselves of Superman is not with shooting, but rather -throwing- their guns at him. For future reference of course. He would later go on to dodge shotguns, and M240G machine guns, but at least the bad guys wouldn't waste any more bullets. It was an economy thing. Superman was not only helping victims, but helping criminals save money! What a swell guy.

P.S. I'm a Batman kinda guy.
manuforti74 Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Interesting perspective. I had always assumed that the costume was derived from the costumes of musclemen and trapeze artists of old circus acts. I believe they often wore shorts over their tights in order to keep the show "family friendly".
thepokemongeek Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2015
Good for you, Teddy!
Blue316 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2015
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Got this e-mail. She doesn't believe
in chain letters. Well, Foolish Patty.
She was sleeping when her TV started
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You don't want to be like Patty, do
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She got this letter. Another chain
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This is the final case I'll tell you
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He sent it to 12 people. Later that
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Send this to at least 12 people or
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ForgottonJourney Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Uh, these never work on me. Sorry.
TitansFighter01 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2015
I always thought it was weird growing up, but in recent years I think its to break up the color scheme a bit more. Without that division of color the suit just seems a little bland or off in some way. And like the person below me said they were mainly inspired by circus strongmen and other such athletes of the time to denote strength, power and a sense of being larger than life I suppose. Don't forget Batman wears them too.
Cordelllinciel Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2015
5. Maybe he duck because if not, the bullet will rebound on his chest and hit the shooter ?
Raakone Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2015
This is very insightful.

I read a different explanation. The look of these superheroes was inspired by "strongmen", acrobats, wrestlers, and other performers from traveling circuses, carnivals and sideshows from the 19th century until the early 20th. The rule of the day was to stand out, their costumes made sure everyone remembered them. Jules "The Man On the Flying Trapeze" Léotard was an acrobat ended up inventing a standard attire that bore his last name from the 19th century to this day. But Spandex hadn't yet been invented. Those men with trunks on the outside of their leotards was for a practical reason, if a rip should happen at that unfortunate location, they'd be covered. But then it became standard for "the look" for heroes like Superman, even after the material changed. Certain aspects of "the look" for superheroes kind of still goes back to this age, a sense of continuity.
amazonprincess61 Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2015
True, superhero tights were based on circus acrobats and strength athletes, with the shorts layered over them for modesty, in case the tights split in front or back.
George Reeves' Superman ducked thrown pistols after shedding bullets to the chest, because the actor wasn't as invulnerable to head or eye injuries as the character!
Donoghu Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2015
Another reason (especially for Superman) why he was designed to wear those shorts over his spandex pants was already explained :

• Heroes who were wearing blue, gray or white costume had to wear colored shorts/pants over their top (and thighs) because, otherwise, the costume gave the image of an everyday worker of the society. Remember that, back in their time of creation and for a long time, workers like mechanics (or industrial) engineers, cleaners and even the police officer had more or less monochrome working suits. By adding this color in the middle range of the body, it made it possible to never mix Superman from neither the police officers nor the workers he save during his heroic actions.

I can't remember on which TV documentary I heard it (we got a channel called Canal D back in the days that shown documentary during the whole day), but as a huge comic book fan since I was ultra young, it surprised me so much that I still remember the information. (I tried to read comic book before even being able to read.) It was something registered in the early 80's with Jerry Siegel himself (looking quite old). He spoke about why Superman had red short pants as this :
When Joe Shuster first shown a colored concept of Superman to Jerry Siegel, he didn't had any red short pants. Jerry asked him why does Superman looks like a police officer as he was wearing a full blue suit? Joe looked at his concept and replied "Then we just have to add some red short pants. Since his cape is already red, that won't be a problem" and the idea was so much funny that they kept it as it for the color layout of Superman.

That's where Superman's "Underwear" come from.
LuisDiazArtist Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2015  Professional General Artist
It was the choices of his creators and a combination of the color choices when it began printing. Having a more dynamic color palette like that of a stripe shirt can be more eye catching. The idea he still exists with them today is pretty funny since color printing and computers has come a long way. I also think it has only made the character weaker and less appealing.
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