Superman: When Martha Kent First Designed Clark’s Costume | CBR

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Today, we look at the first time that Martha Kent made Superman’s costume for him.

In “When We First Met”, we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

I could have sworn that somebody wrote in to ask me to do this one, but it wasn’t anywhere in my e-mails, so I don’t know who requested this one. Remember, if you send in a suggestion on Twitter or on Facebook, that’s fine, as, whatever, the post will still get covered, ya know? But I won’t remember who sent the suggestion in, so that’s why my e-mail (brianc@cbr.com) is always the best bet. Anyways, on with the show!

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In the hit new CW TV series, Superman and Lois, the opening scene shows Superman springing into action, saving a kid, who compliments Superman’s “cool” costume and Superman replies, “Thanks, my mom made it for me.”

This, of course, was a direct reference to a sequence in Superman For All Seasons #1 (by Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale and Bjarne Hansen), where a little boy is once again saved by the Man of Steel…

and this happened to be the first time that we saw Superman in action…

One of the major changes in the Superman mythos after Crisis on Infinite Earths was that Superman’s adopted parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent, were still alive. Their impact then was continuous on Superman and it had an impact even on revisitations of his past, like Superman For All Seasons, which did a wonderful job trying to marry the Superman of the present (well, the then present) to the so-called “classic” Superman era.

As Mark Waid pointed out to me, though, Jeph Loeb got the “My mom made it for me” line from Lois & Clark: New Adventures of Superman (you can see it here).

In any event, that leads us to the question, “Okay, so his mom made him his costume, but when was that actually part of the official comic book continuity?”

An important thing to remember about Superman and about comic book superheroes in general is that the very IDEA of the superhero costume was, in effect, non-existent by the time that Action Comics #1 came out. That isn’t to say that there were no costumed heroes, as of course there were. The Phantom, for instance, appeared as a comic strip years before Action Comics #1 came out. However, while the Phantom certainly had a superhero costume, it really wasn’t the sort of traditional types that we associate with the period. No, the typical superhero costume of the late 1930s/early 1940s (which, in turn, would define the superhero costume for generations of superheroes to come) was essentially created by Joe Shuster’s design of Superman’s costume in Action Comics #1.

The interesting thing of it, though, is that Shuster was pretty clearly just looking to the tradition of the circus strongman with his initial design of Superman’s costume. The fabric is clearly nothing special. It’s barely even form-fitting.

Clearly, when the Superman feature began, his creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, did not give much thought to Superman’s costume besides “it is his costume.” Heck, that was the case for most of the superheroes to follow Superman into the pages of the many different comic books of the era. People were not exactly going out of their way to give thought to how these things worked in practicality. Early Batman stories had Batman keeping his costume in a trunk at the foot of his bed. There was no thought about how Superman’s costume survives the bullets fired at him in Action Comics #1.

The costume wasn’t torn because the costume wasn’t torn. That really was the extent of the thought process.

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Fascinatingly enough, when Siegel and Shuster finally got around to thinking about how Superman’s costume survives all of the damage that it is done to it, their reveal was that Superman simply CREATED this indestructible costume!

In 1940’s Superman #5 (by Siegel, Shuster and Wayne Boring), we learn that Superman’s costume is made out of a special cloth that Superman invented himself…

Of course, as you might expect, no one really necessarily paid attention to that concept, as I doubt even Siegel was really too confident in that solution. It was common back then for a new idea to show up in one of these stories and then instantly forgotten (like Superman’s ability to mold his face). However, it is definitely consistent in the comics of the era that his costume WAS indestructible. It just was sort of silent on WHY it was that way.

Superman did not get a real full-fledged origin until his tenth anniversary in Superman #53 (in a story by Bill Finger, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye). Twenty issues later, in Superman #73, that same creative team re-visited Superman’s youth and added in a little addendum, where they revealed that Superman’s costume was created out of blankets found in baby Kal-El’s spaceship…

And his clothes were “super” all the way until Crisis on Infinite Earths. After Crisis, John Byrne came up with a concept that Superman has a sort of aura around him that keeps anything super close to his body protected. So his costume was just ordinary cloth, simply protected via the aura. The costume, though, was once again made by Martha Kent, as seen in Man of Steel #1…

Boy, Byrne sure did draw one heck of a Superman, huh?

So there ya go, the answer as to when Superman’s mom first made his costume is 1951’s Superman #73!

Thanks to whoever sent this suggestion in! If anyone has a suggestion for/question about a notable comic book first, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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