SUPERMAN's Red Trunks: Examining Continuity Twists That Make Them New (Sort of)

Action Comics #1000
Credit: Jim Lee (DC Comics)
Credit: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado (DC Comics)

Brian Michael Bendis, the much-hyped new writer on DC's Superman books, has said that the change in the character's costume will have an "in-story" explanation.

Specifically, readers will learn why the Man of Steel is wearing his red trunks again, starting with next week's Action Comics #1000 and continuing through all the Bendis-written titles launching this summer.

It's an exciting development for long-time Superman fans because the iconic red trunks were rebooted away in 2011 when DC revamped and relaunched its entire line as part of the "New 52" initiative.

With the New 52, Superman became a younger, newer version of himself, and his costume started as jeans and a T-shirt, eventually evolving into a mostly-blue costume more reminiscent of the latest cinematic version than the character's classic look.

As of September 2011, the trunks were not only gone but, in the newly rebooted continuity, the trunks had never existed.

And some fans weren't happy about it.

So how will their return be explained in-story?

They're Already Part of Continuity Again

The red trunks actually returned to continuity last year during the "Superman Reborn" storyline. Although Superman hasn't technically worn the trunks for years, and although 2011's reboot erased them from the character's history, April 2017's Action Comics #978 showed that the character's newest continuity now includes a history where Clark Kent wore red trunks as part of his costume in the past.

images from Action Comics #978
images from Action Comics #978
Credit: DC Comics

Confused? OK, let's take a stab at explaining this...

The 2017 change to continuity happened because the "New 52" version of Superman (who had never worn a red-trunks costume) wasn't the only Superman on Earth.

Credit: DC Comics

In spring 2015 (during the events of the DC event "Convergence"), an older version of Superman (with red trunks) traveled from his alternate timeline to the current DC Universe, bringing his wife Lois and son Jon with him.

So there were two versions of Clark Kent flying around on Earth: One was the young, "New 52" version in blue, and the other was an older, married Superman (who used to wear red trunks, but now wore all-black so he wouldn't run into his doppelgänger).

DC revealed during 2017's "Superman Reborn" that the two Supermen were actually two halves of the same character, and that they were created by a villain who split Superman into two.

We know. It's still confusing. But stay with us. Two halves of Superman. Got it?

Because by spring 2017, after a couple deaths and some comic book science-magic, the two Supermen were combined into one, single character.

This new version of Superman had combined memories from both "halves," with bits and pieces taken from each version's continuity.

Credit: Kaare Andrews (DC Comics)

Everything connected to Superman was sort of combined and morphed too, including the memories and experiences of villains and friends and … well, everyone around Superman. (Welcome to Retconning 101.)

People Remember That New History

As a result, even though the current Superman is sort of a brand new "Rebirth" version of the character and has only been seen in a blue costume with no red trunks, his continuity and past have been altered to include memories of once wearing red trunks.

And Superman's not the only one who remembers the trunks.

In a preview of Bendis' Action Comics #1000 story recently released for C2E2, two characters are introduced who appear to be helping Superman. They're just two women who were sitting at a table in a restaurant when Superman crashed into their midst. One of them says to the other: "He's wearing the red shorts again." The dialogue proves that the new version of Superman's continuity from "Superman Reborn" is even part of the memories of people on the streets. They remember him in the red trunks too.

Credit: DC Comics


So Why Are the Trunks Back?

Credit: Jim Lee/Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)

So putting Superman back in the red trunks, and explaining the change in-story, shouldn't be that difficult.

It's not like they've never been seen before by Superman's family, friends, adversaries and fans. And they certainly aren't being invented from scratch.

The reason for switching back to the shorts might be as simple as wanting to re-live some of his past.

Or maybe there's some time travel involved, since Bendis' The Man of Steel story appears to revisit a lot of Superman's past.

Maybe he's trying to match the color scheme of his cousin Supergirl, who's featured on the cover of The Man of Steel #6.

Or maybe he just thinks it looks better. Don't you?

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