Tuesday, June 10, 2008


An Alternate Evolution of Superman

On his LiveJournal, cartoonist Marcus Parcus has posted an interesting meditation on icons and iconography, spinning off of his entry for Project: Rooftop's Superman: Man of Style contest. As in their previous Iron Man and Wonder Woman design contests, illustrators are invited to reimagine Superman's look, in particular his costume. For his redesign, Marcus has boiled the idea of "Superman" down to its visual essence, and then rebuilt it from the ground up.
What makes the superman costume a superman costume? Is there something in the visual iconography of the character that, even if only on a subconscious level, underscores his iconic status?

To me, the design of superman's outfit is all sort of an extension of his logo; a proper redesign, it follows, would be as much or more about symbols and graphic design than any fabric-based fashion statements.

What's fascinating is that, as a way of reimagining Superman, Marcus has effectively constructed an alternate history in which the character--and more importantly his emblem--developed along different lines.

How awesome is that? Marcus delves into Zen paintings, symbolism from various cultures, hermetic geometry, and Renaissance physiology to derive a new Superman shield, one that hearkens back to the original Golden Age versions while being completely distinct from any of the modern variations.

And here it is:

Elegant, no?

Wow, what strikes me is how appropriate the redesign looks, the full costume fitting neatly into the art of the period,even the symbol when I think of it is very pulp sci-fi, intentional or not. It's a weird, like seeing something for the first time but having it be completely familiar. It begins to give one ideas....
Pretty much my reaction exactly.
Very interesting. symbols have power and this principal is clearly demonstrated by themonkeymind post.

I think redesigning symbols in this way would make a fascinating class exercise.

I like it a lot, but in some ways it's almost too generic or too universal. He's a superman but is he Superman?

regardless, I'm intrigued and I want to know the 70 year history of this character.
It looks like the international symbol for "Warning: Falling Tennis Balls".
I like this a lot.

Its of the same odd but well researched and reasoned scholarship that the late Stephen Jay Gould did on the evolution of Mickey Mouse.
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