A Guide to Identifying an Authentic, Screen-worn Costume
Updated 23 January 2016
It is my sincere pleasure to host this very important Superman costume article written by Martin Lakin, with research assistance by Chris King. The article received an overhaul by Martin last October, making it an even more robust resource.
I consider Martin and Chris to be among the top authorities on the history of authentic, screen-worn Superman costumes from Christopher Reeve’s tenure as our Man of Steel. They have spent many countless, tireless hours for well over a decade studying and photographing both authentic and reproduction costumes in circulation around the world. It is their hope, as well as mine, that this article will enlighten and educate many of you, and help clarify the real differences between the “genuine article” and the probable reproductions that have likely appeared on the internet and at auctions. This article, together with Jason De Bord’s outstanding blog, www.originalprop.com, should provide any prospective buyers with the knowledge to be able to make sound collectible acquisition decisions. Martin has more to say about this matter in the article’s conclusion. Read more about Original Prop Blog at the bottom of this page.
Accompanying the article is a gallery of photos of what is believed to be authentic, screen-worn Christopher Reeve Superman-The Movie costumes (on loan from Stephen Lane’s Prop Store of London) formerly shown on display at the London Film Museum. Many photos of these costumes, as well as various CapedWonder™ images, are referenced throughout the article with links.
Super Thanks to Martin and Chris for your hard work and dedication to the original Superman movie series, your friendship and giving spirit, and making CapedWonder™.com the exclusive host of your fascinating article and great photos! Christopher Reeve would have definitely appreciated your attention-to-detail and hard work.
And Super Thanks to Darren Julien, President, CEO and Founder of Julien’s Auctions, and Jason De Bord, President and Founder of Original Prop Blog. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this page to view their costume photos.
“Take the Gentleman’s Cape…”
A Study of the ‘Superman’ Movie Costumes 1978-1987
by Martin Lakin
Revised October 2015
Part 1: History
Smashing his way across the cover of Action Comics #1 in June 1938, the iconic image of a dashing strongman adorned in a colourful arrangement of bodysuit, cape and boots as conceived by young creators Siegel & Shuster would not only endure, but become the template for a legion of comic-book imitators to follow.
For such a seemingly simple design, however, there is much more to the uniform of the premiere Superhero than meets the eye – and this retrospective of its cinematic adaptation serves as a detailed analysis while honouring all the talents involved in its evolution.
Having won an Academy Award for best costume design in 1972 for Nicholas and Alexandra, and further nominated in 1976 for The Three Musketeers (her first collaboration with producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind), talented young Yvonne Blake was no stranger to forging elaborate collections and was, therefore, an obvious choice to tailor the Man of Tomorrow for contemporary cinema.
Given the considerable task of translating pulp iconography to the silver screen for what was intended to be an epic retelling of the character’s origin played straight, the producers and designer researched the character’s evolution over his forty year, four-colour history and various live-action incarnations before referring back to the source material of the era – the DC comics of the late 1970’s themselves.
Yvonne Blake – “Superman’s costume was created for the comic and I could not change it. It was not allowed. So I tried to make a costume as attractive as possible for the actor and as correct as possible for Superman fans. I was not particularly a fan; but I had to reproduce a costume that did not seem ridiculous, it had to be credible and manly, and not similar to one worn by ballet dancers…”
Footnotes from Yvonne Blake’s original costume design sketch (dated 1976);
“Leotard in shimmering blue two way stretch fabric worn over fake muscles and harness for flying. Capes to be made in various flowing fashion for resting. Boots in glove leather or elastic with small heel. ‘S’ motif in red and gold on breast and again in all gold on back of cape. Gold metal belt with ‘S’ buckle.”
As Blake undertook the task of producing the portfolio of sketches for the lead characters, there was little in the way of wardrobe available for the audition process. This accounts for the appearance of early would-be Supermen in hastily-assembled ill-fitting bodysuits with socks for boots and a shield-free cape. This same ensemble would be used for Christopher Reeve’s successful screentest – securing the role by drawing attention to the performance rather than the outfit.
As showcased in the February 1977 screen test footage in the 2001/2006 Superman-The Movie DVD, the key details of the ensemble, such as the cut of the briefs, the refinement of the belt and the chest motif, would steadily evolve into the final onscreen version during the remainder of the casting, and the elimination of latex enhancements (though some surviving tunics exist with label notes stating ‘Muscles’) were confirmed once Reeve’s insistence that it was them or him favoured the gruelling workout regime to follow –
Christopher Reeve – “I decided what I would do was let the costume do all the work. Don’t do too much, don’t pose. I decided against wearing the Styrofoam padding under the blue tights, instead I went on a crash bodybuilding course to give me the right physique… ”
Further illustrations submitted by Blake depict Marlon Brando as Jor-El wearing the ‘Superman’ chest shield on director Richard Donner’s insistence of the symbol being given some substance. Ever since Joe Shuster’s first sketches, the prominent \S/ motif had traditionally been perceived as denoting ‘Superman’ but that whimsy was at odds with Donner’s mantra of verisimilitude. The Father/son emphasis of the mythology was expanded on by Tom Mankiewicz resolution that the diamond-encased ‘S’ was instead the family crest of the ‘House of El’ and all Kryptonian society would be bestowed with similar icons, catering for a modern audience and comic puritans alike.
Blake would apply a similar rationale to debunking the notion of Kal-El’s outfit as mere ‘costume’ by making it the basis of generic fashion for the Kryptonian population, with unisex bodysuit, cape and boots worn by adults & children alike. Despite appearing in one of Blake’s early watercolours entitled ‘Krypton Street’ only the notch-style boots would be fleetingly glimpsed onscreen during Krypton’s demise.
The chest shield’s new purpose as a futuristic crest prompted an upgrade from the official DC Comics Superman logo (as shown in the movie’s opening credits) to a sleeker shape and variations of this new emblem would embellish both Kal-El and Jor-El’s outfits. The artwork and patterns for these revisions were inconsistent, however, as the crest adorning the front of Superman’s costume differs somewhat from the shield outline embroidered on his cape, as do the renderings on both tunic styles worn by Jor-El.
Footnotes from Yvonne Blake’s Revised costume design sketch (dated 1976);
“Leotard in shimmering blue two-way stretch Helenca worn if necessary over false latex muscles and a flying harness. Cape in fine wool – (various fabrics to be experimented with for flying) ‘S’ to be appliquéd in yellow on the back of cape & inserted in the front. Trunks to have higher leg-line than in the comic. Belt and buckle in yellow patent leather & plastic. Boots in softest glove leather with concealed fastening.”
Helenca. 100% Nylon. Smooth, durable, and very strong. Intricately woven sheer fabric. Excellent multipurpose material, ideal for various types of undergarments and lightweight apparel also. Also known as Helenka, Helanca and Helanka.)
Possibly an addition of the manufacturer, small white nylon labels in genuine costumes bearing a makers logo identify the fabric as 100% Polyamid. Now referred to in the industry as Polyamide, the definition is applicable to the Superman costume but is hardly conclusive –
Polyamide (nylon) is a strong elastic synthetic fibre. It is made from petroleum products and was produced in the 1930s as an alternative to silk. Today, it is the second most used fabric in the United States. Polyamide, or nylon, is a definition of a range of synthetic polymers made through a special chemical process. It was invented by Wallace Carothers at DuPont in February 1935 and is still a widely used and popular synthetic fabric.
The actual material invented for the Superman costume was sourced by costumier Noel Howard, then Production Manager at Bermans and Nathans of London, based on the fact it had all the required properties, but was otherwise dissimilar to common stretch fabric.
Howard and Blake then collaborated on an exhaustive series of experiments with dyes to achieve the correct shades before returning the final version to a specialist manufacturer in Austria, in possession of the only machine capable of the particular weave –
Yvonne Blake – “We were the first to use Lycra in a movie when the material was still in the process of invention. We found in a factory in Austria, and made a strong fabric that did not lose elasticity. The turquoise was special because chroma key was the same blue or green color of the suit and so it couldn’t be either too green or too blue or it would disappear. In fact, we used one of the first Lycra’s in the market. It was an innovative and interesting period. We felt quite excited about doing things that we considered completely new…”
Yvonne Blake – “I read somewhere that Chris is supposed to have twenty-five different costumes and six or seven special capes – for flying, crouching, leaping, sitting, standing, whatever. Actually, the number’s probably higher than that. Mainly, that’s where the wardrobe expense comes in, on all the doubles and duplicates and special-effects needs…”
Production sources have it that well over thirty suits were assembled by Bermans for Superman-The Movie, with the first attempts constructed to affirm its alien nature by disguising visible seams. In practical terms this meant restricting all the construction to one side and a costume change left to right and shot to shot. With the concept abandoned, the emphasis would shift to the technical aspects of the costume to adapt it for use in the plethora of special effects.
The final Superman costumes would fall under two distinct categories. Flying or Walking. The Walking versions would be mostly free from any SFX adjustments and sport a narrower cape. The Flying versions would incorporate any number of variances to accommodate the pioneering flying sequences. This would require a wider cape and bodysuits made to slide over and disguise the’ body pan’ fixed to the end of a front projection pole-arm. All costumes were labelled in type by Bermans with colour codes (with A representing blue and B representing red), catalogue number and performers name, i.e. “Christopher Reeve 4913, Walking, Superman II” (often misspelled in the case of Mr. ‘Reeves’), and usually scene-specific, handwritten notes would also be added by marker, or randomly in ballpoint pen).
Howard and Blake would later testify that there were at least an equal amount of SFX versions of the standard costume adapted to facilitate everything from blue screen process separation, (bodysuits dyed turquoise) a series of exacting vents to be cut into both tunics and capes (to accommodate live flying harnesses) and even a ‘Wet’ version dyed several shades lighter to preserve the original colours when soaked through (for scenes in Luthor’s pool).
Costumes would also be made for stunt doubles (primarily Vic Armstrong) and even in miniature for flying double Kiran Shah and various scales of animatronic puppets created by Stuart Freeborn and Colin Chilvers.
For the Richard Donner cut of Superman II a special Superman tunic was made (minus the shorts) for Margot Kidder as Lois Lane to wear as a nightshirt – indicating that in the framework of the Movies, the supersuit is seperated at the waist. For the third installment of the franchise shot in 1982, a series of costumes were washed through with black dye to indicate various stages of degradation as Superman succumbed to the influence of Kryptonite.
The machine used to manufacture bridal weight spandex was retired in 2005, and to this day no other method of duplicating the same weave has been found. The unique lycra may have become extinct along with its manufacturer, but not before it was adopted for Supergirl, the Superboy television series and later, Stallone’s Judge Dredd, where the fabric was dyed midnight blue for the Street Judge uniforms. Noel Howard went on to assist in the development of the equally iconic costume worn by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and was active in the industry for many years until his passing in 2009. Without Howard, the Superman movie costume we all know and love would have been quite different, and its longevity is a fitting testimony to his career.
Part 2: Analysis
To specify the texture of an authentic costume’s makeup, the closest metaphor for the grain of ‘Bridal Weight Spandex’ is that of a ‘waffle weave’. Up close, the mesh is clearly defined. The knit is thick in texture and is much ‘heavier’ than an average lycra. Despite common perception, it is also not a regular ‘Navy’ blue. In reality, the colour is more of a steel shade of teal – there are greyer hues underscoring the blue palette. The ‘magic’ aspect of this particular fabric is that it comprises of a metallic element that photographs in a variety of blue tones and retains that colour on film, depending entirely on how a scene was lit. This accounts for why the casual viewer interprets the outfit as ‘blue’ and ‘shiny’, as reflected in most reproductions. The colours in the bodysuits were painstakingly treated with dye to achieve ‘Steel Teal’, and are prone to fading, leaving only the grey element behind. This colour discipline also applied to the red of the shorts, which were scarlet, and the yellow featured on the crest, exhibiting a deeper mustard shade. It should also be noted that the tunic/shorts, tights and chest shield are all identical fabric with no exceptions.
The tunic has a central zipper in the back, and, in some instances, eye-hooks for closure at the neck. The appliquéd Bermans label should be to the right side of the collar. There are seams in the back either side of the zipper rather than on the sides (to avoid having a seam visible whilst Superman was in flight). The collar has a rounded appearance when worn, but appears squared laid flat. Two fine lines of stitching finish the edge of the collar, and two matching sets of oversized press studs should break the seam line on the shoulder. The shoulder seams are pitched at slight angles off the arch of the shoulder, and the sleeve is finished by a generous width of cuff.
The ‘S’ chest shield is arguably the most crucial aspect of the costume. In accordance with Blake’s revised sketch, the yellow portions of the red shield were to be inserted, meaning the crest would be also be comprised of spandex rather than screenprinted or appliqué. As all the costumes were handmade, variations are present in all the shields meaning no two are 100% match and often noticeably switch between scenes due to changing of tunics to avoid visible sweatmarks.
The ‘S’ chest shield construction is thus: a template of the design is used to cut out the diamond section from the front of the shirt. This same template is used to cut the negative shapes (the yellow portions) using the guidelines, and similarly, leaving a red ‘frame’ to insert the yellow shapes to form the ‘S’. The excess border of all the shapes is used to tack the shield together (an intricate process), while the smaller yellow triangles are stitched in conventionally due to their small size, making the stitching visible on the outside. From inside the assembly looks unsightly, but is, nonetheless, the defining factor of the Superman costumes, and the unique shape of the ‘S’ invariably the stumbling block of all reproductions.
Some SFX versions feature the red shorts as separates (resembling Speedos with belt loops), these featured on early versions of the ‘walking’ costumes but thereafter generally employed for flying sequences (indicated by slits made to accommodate harness links). The majority of ‘Walking’ shorts were made integral to the blue tunic to avoid gathering and loss of shape. The four chunky belt loops were added halfway over the top seam of the shorts to prevent any bleed over the beltline. The loops are bisected by an apparent pleat in the centre. This is a consequence of the seam beneath showing through from the pressure of the belt, rather than an intended detail on the surface. The cut of the leg hole/arch is fairly narrow and tapered, finished with elastic for shape and fit. Many reproductions overlooking these elements are notable for their inaccurate long briefs with a wide crotch.
Many belts were made for the movies and most have clear identifiers. As evidenced once again by the Superman-The Movie DVD documentaries, the belt was approx 2” wide, 36” long and made from fabric-backed patent vinyl (the gallery below shows closeups of the shiny patent vinyl material). Some stunt belts may have been painted leather, but there were no authentic, screen-worn belts made with a dull or matt finish.
Other examples of belts show that they were lined with electrical/duct tape (presumably for preservation, or ease of movement) but in any case, genuine Superman belts do not stand the test of time. Due the fragility of the vinyl/leather most tend to warp and crack. Some retain their wardrobe labeling, and/or handwritten notes, but often those will have worn off through use.
Although Blake’s first drafts depicted an \S/ shield mounted on the buckle, the subsequent screentests would demonstrate the transition of the buckle from ornate metal clasp to a flawless incarnation of the version worn in the comics. The final bordered oval buckle would be approx. 3” across, made from plaster and painted mustard yellow.
As the buckle was purely cosmetic with no practical function the belts were tethered at the rear by either hooks or elastic thread through punctured holes (another example), while the buckle itself was attached with paper fasteners. The ‘heads’ of the fasteners were filled into holes crudely bored into the rear of the buckle, and the ‘legs’ punctured the surface to be secured from behind.
Made in corresponding fabric and colour, the blue tights were unremarkable in their construction apart from the central seam being deeper than the standard inside leg. Impressions from the elastic waistband would be disguised under the finishing touch of the belt, along with any visible impressions left by the underwear containing various sizes of metal codpiece (a well-documented source of amusement for leading lady Margot Kidder). The costumier’s label on the inside waistband was intended to match with a corresponding top (tunic) of the same batch, but this would become muddled during production as they were switched due to damage or wear. The tights also were all full footed, evidently with softer, more comfortable fabric from at the ankle, and conversely there’s no evidence to suggest that there were any with foot straps or similar, so any tights that have may also be discounted as reproduction.
Arguably as complex in their assembly as the chest motif, Superman’s red boots are infamous for being another difficult aspect of the costume to replicate accurately.
Another survivor of the initial designs, the boxing-type boots were over 20” tall and size 11, cut from crimson glove leather with the comic-style notch below the knee, but with a much wider cuff. Although skin tight, they were soft and pliable, as there is footage of Reeve repeatedly pulling his up between takes as they persistently wrinkled at the ankles. Efforts to alleviate this were the addition of elastic around the neck of the boot and stitched-in stiffeners to strengthen the peaks of the \/. A central seam runs down the length of the boot until its bisection by a toe section that is reminiscent of a ballet shoe.
There is a slim internal heel on a standard boot, but evidence of thicker bases on some (possibly to lessen the impact of a stunt ‘landing’) exist, while the surviving soles themselves are usually in poor condition, as they were either taped up to prevent wear or left, resulting in extensive damage. On the backs of the boots were silver zippers from mid-heel to top, with an accompanying line of Velcro tape to correspond with a wide flap of excess leather to close over to both seal the boot and hide the zipper.
Age is also detrimental to authentic Superman boots, and due of the nature of the thin leather, they become tatty and stiff. Many have been discovered with interesting details scrawled inside for specific purposes (flying/walking/waterproof, etc.), also including special versions where the zippers were cunningly relocated to the front of the boots for certain scenes, including nabbing the “suction cup” burglar, bridging the railroad and retrieving Lois’ car in Superman-The Movie.
Look no further than The Making of Superman II to see just a sampling of Superman capes made for the production. Of all the pieces of Superman’s attire, the capes possibly had the most extended life. They were often repaired and ‘remade’ for the sequels, shortened for Supergirl Helen Slater, and later adopted for John Haymes Newton as Superboy. The capes were also the most duplicated piece of the costume, as many scenes were dependant on a cape doing a particular job, so they were made in differing configurations in length and fabric besides being modified for effects shots. The flying capes are much wider than walking (up to eight feet) and exhibit slits in the sides so the wires from the flying harness could pass through and attach to the crane above the actor. Although worn, the ingenious ‘cape flapping’ device was a special effect rather than wardrobe, so only gets an honourable mention here.
In order to capture the look popularised by the comics, it became necessary to rethink the cape’s neckline and shoulder construction in order to avoid pulling around the collar and a limp drape. Therefore, padding was added to the shoulders to boost their shape. As Reeve literally ‘grew’ into the role, the shoulder padding would visibly lessen during the course of filming.
Tension to marry the cape to the nape of the neck was achieved by passing two long straps beneath the armpits and tied around against the back – forcing the cape forwards into position. Two sets of male press studs on the inside of the cape would lock the cape into place by marrying up with the female press studs present on the shoulders of the tunic. The look was finished by having two neat fixed reverse pleats in either shoulder, leaving no impression on the outside of the tunic. The capes were predominantly fashioned from heavy wool gabardine, notable for its pronounced diagonal weave (twill) and in most cases, finished with a jagged hem. This results in at least some fraying in most capes that have survived.
Approximately eight inches down from the neckline of the cape’s exterior resides the yellow ‘S’ shield. This is made from the same material as used for the bodysuit in the matching mustard yellow, and details are embroidered in black cotton to echo the chest shield in outline. As this shield is in fact a patch, yellow flash is visible outside the border.
Not all capes exhibit the yellow shield (this screenshot of Superman spinning Zod from Lester’s Superman II clearly shows a cape with no yellow S shield), as some were never intended to be seen from behind and did not warrant the detail. Cinemaquette‘s president confirmed in 2010 that a number of Reeve Superman capes with no yellow S shield currently reside in the Warner Bros. vaults.
Incidentally, a yellow cape shield was the only item that Christopher Reeve kept as a souvenir from the production.
Part 3: Summary
If one were to try and authenticate an item of wardrobe from the Superman movies, the fundamental basics are that the costumes should exhibit signs of appropriate age and wear for a garment over three decades old. Secondly, the costumes will be less refined in terms of quality than generally perceived. This means, like many screen-used props and wardrobe, that some details and stitching will look haphazard up close. There will also very likely be some fading/and or soiling from use, including make-up residue, dirt and water damage – recent examples have also exhibited moth holes due to poor storage.
A Superman costume with its unique brand of spandex made in the late 1970’s would not resemble contemporary textures of Jersey, stretch lycra or Polyester, and the cape would similarly not be lacking its characteristic weave. The boots would also not be heavy leather or have conventional soles/heels or side zipper – these outfits were tailor-made for an individual that was 6’4” tall and over 200 lbs., with best examples bearing his name.
Once you have experienced firsthand the intricacies of a genuine Superman costume, the shortcomings of reproductions are pronounced. Due to their rarity and how few authentic costumes are in exhibition around the world, the extensive gallery of photographs below that accompany this overview taken all over the world should highlight the differences thoroughly.
The information above pertains to the three Superman films made by Dovemead Ltd. between 1976 and 1982. Once the Salkinds had sold the rights to the Superman motion picture series to Cannon Films in 1986 after the disappointing box office performance of Supergirl, new Producers Golan & Globus were not only denied access to certain special effects equipment but also to any of the previous wardrobe, meaning all-new costumes were required by designer John Bloomfield for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
Although Bermans and Nathans were once again commissioned for costume, the Supersuit in IV looks distinctively ‘bleached’ in exterior scenes. Ironically, this blue on film more closely represents the ‘true’ colour of the costume having been photographed virtually ‘flat’ and not bathed in the glow of Geoffrey Unsworth’s light as in previous installments.
Once again duplicates were made for effects shots, but as the production was a far quicker and cheaper affair, no effort was made to colour correct the costume against process photography, and visibly less care was taken to hone details which explains the appearance of the flying harness through the material and the lack of padding in the shoulders of the cape.
In the decades since the quartet of Superman movies ended, the fate of many of the costumes that were not re-used in subsequent productions remains unknown. The Salkinds retained the rights to the Superman family in the late ‘80s, and although Superman V was announced by the Cannon Group, and then in pre-production as Superman: The New Movie back in the hands of the original producers after Cannon’s demise, a fifth film never materialised. The final appearance on-screen of a Reeve costume was in the second season Superboy episodes ‘The Thing of Steel’ and ‘The Battle with Bizzarro’ – featuring the same costume used in John Haymes Newton’s screentest (as seen in the first season DVD release).
Outside of the productions themselves, public sightings of genuine costumes were extremely limited. Indeed, for decades the only way to view a real suit came courtesy of The Movieland Wax Museum in California and its sister site Stars Hall Of Fame in Orlando where their elaborate ‘Fortress of Solitude’ attraction housed waxworks of Christopher Reeve appearing in suits specially made by Bermans and Nathans. Across the pond, Madame Tussauds in London would host an in-flight posed figure clothed in another Bermans original but with a nylon cape (fan-assisted for movement).
As time and wear would lead to eventual ruin and replacement on all these displays (usually with inferior copies), the exhibits themselves would nonetheless last well into the 2000’s before being retired. Thankfully, original pieces would get museum standard treatment in the 1990’s with the introduction of the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, where complete Superman and Supergirl costumes would circulate throughout their many venues across the world.
In recent years, besides a permanent (albeit private) residency for a complete costume in the halls of the Warner Brothers museum in Burbank, a large touring exhibition of costumes chronicling the onscreen history of Superman collated by WB & DC first appeared in Valencia, Spain in celebration of DC Comics 75th anniversary, and later (joined by an ‘Evil’ costume from Superman III) at SDCC 2014 for a costume booth celebrating 75th birthday of the Man of Tomorrow himself.
Meanwhile in the UK, flourishing movie memorabilia merchants Propstore loaned a complete costume from Superman II long-term to the Movieum Of London (later the London Film Museum) eventually relocating to a site in Covent Garden with a replacement tunic from Superman: The Movie.
These beautifully preserved examples afforded unprecedented access and greater opportunity for inspection than ever before (the Valencia display even permitting handling of the costumes) culminating in the most thorough documentation of the costume to date from colour matching to measurements.
It is unknown just how many original costumes currently reside in the public domain but with Warner Bros. recent announcement that no more original wardrobe from the series is to be released from their archives (after their final donation of a complete Superman III costume to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian) the market has piqued.
Costumes becoming available at auction historically have commanded escalating sums, and as a result of Reeve’s definitive portrayal, the value of these garments will only ascend. This gap in the market for people clamoring to own a piece of this cinematic milestone is currently being plugged by certain individuals passing off replicas of wildly varying quality off as the genuine article. These copies are sold under the pretence that they are screen-used wardrobe with ‘provenance’, including everything from C.O.A’s to convincing recreations of the Bermans & Nathans labels.
While not a new practice by any means, these reproductions have sporadically invaded the market, and money is still changing hands on the basis that not enough is known about the genuine articles to verify their authenticity. Hopefully, the information presented here, and the constant vigil kept by the www.originalprop.com with its incomparable catalogue of lots presented for auction, will hopefully serve as a guide to rectify this. In the meantime, those fortunate enough to own a screen used piece, or to have seen one exhibited, should feel privileged and appreciate the efforts of the individuals who contributed to the Superman costume’s lasting legacy.
My sincere thanks to Superfans Chris King for his tireless research, Jason De Bord for his fantastic efforts, and CapedWonder™.com’s Jim Bowers for hosting this article.
London Film Museum Gallery
Updated 25 October 2013
Special Note: The colour of the costume leotards in the photos below is deceptively various shades of blue. The real costume fabric is much more “teal” in reality and, in most instances, only appears to be at its most blue when being photographed (using film still, digital still, motion picture film stock); thus, the variations in blue seen throughout all five Superman movies.
Click here to see one example of how two digital still cameras models render the blue colour differently. The blue colour in the right photo is more representative of the actual teal look in an authentic, screen-worn costume.
Please refer to the ‘Tunic/shorts’ section in the article above for more explanation about this blue/teal subject.
This first costume pictured below was photographed by Martin Lakin in 2008 and has since been returned to the Prop Store of London. It appears to be the very same costume that Christopher Reeve is shown wearing in this photo taken at Pinewood Studios, England for Superman II.
This second costume pictured below was photographed by Martin Lakin in July 2012 and has since been returned to the Prop Store of London. It appears to be the very same costume that Christopher Reeve is shown wearing in this one-of-a-kind continuity Polaroid taken on the Lex Luthor set at Pinewood Studios, England, in September 1977 and in various promotional photos for Superman-The Movie.
Article and London Film Museum/Movieum photos are © Copyright 2013 by Martin Lakin, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission. All Rights Reserved. Additional photos are © Copyright 2013 by Jim Bowers, Chris King and Prop Store of London. Every effort has been made by the author, photographers and CapedWonder™.com to make the above information as accurate and organized as possible. CapedWonder™.com is not an official authentication resource and makes no claims beyond “guideline” for the article and photos in this section of the webpage.
Prop Store of London’s Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction
Updated 24 July 2015
Over 450 lots of original props, costumes and rare production material from more than 150 films and television shows will be auctioned at ODEON BFI IMAX, Waterloo, London on September 23, 2015. The spectacular live event will feature an interactive webcast with bidding available online, by phone or in person.
Prop Store and ODEON will also present a 2 week, museum-grade, free-to-enter exhibition showcasing over 250 of the auction lots. This display will allow visitors the opportunity to get up close with these incredible pieces of entertainment history.
Click here for more information about this upcoming auction.
Below are photos (courtesy of Prop Store of London) of an authentic, screen-worn Christopher Reeve Superman “wet” underwater costume tunic worn in the Superman-The Movie scene where Superman struggles to free himself from the deadly Kryptonite in Lex Luthor’s lair pool. Also featured below are CapedWonder photos of Christopher Reeve on the set wearing a “wet” costume.
Below are photos (courtesy of Prop Store of London) of an authentic, screen-worn Christopher Reeve Superman “muscle” underwater costume tunic worn in Superman-The Movie during select flying sequences.
Color studio photos are © Copyright 2015 by Prop Store of London, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission. All Rights Reserved. B&W set photos are © Copyright 2015 by CapedWonder™.com, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission. All Rights Reserved. Every effort has been made by Prop Store of London and CapedWonder™.com to make the above information and photos as accurate and organized as possible. CapedWonder™.com is not an official authentication resource and makes no claims beyond “guideline” for the information and photos in this section of the webpage.
Superman 75th Anniversary Costume Tour Gallery
Updated 07 January 2014
Superfans Greg Joseph and Joseph Rinaldi shot these exclusive photos in October 2013 of an authentic, screen-worn Superman-The Movie Christopher Reeve Superman costume and an authentic, screen-worn Superman III evil Superman costume at New York Comic Con 2013. These two costumes were part of the Superman 75th Anniversary Costume Tour by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and DC Entertainment.
Photos by Greg Joseph:
Photos by Joseph Rinaldi:
Photos are © Copyright 2013 by Greg Joseph and Joseph Rinaldi respectively, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission. All Rights Reserved. Every effort has been made by Greg, Joseph and CapedWonder™.com to make the above information and photos as accurate and organized as possible. CapedWonder™.com is not an official authentication resource and makes no claims beyond “guideline” for the information and photos in this section of the webpage.
Julien’s Auctions Gallery
Updated 14 February 2013
I developed a business relationship with the President, CEO and Founder of Julien’s Auctions, Darren Julien, a few years ago. Always the consummate professional and very accommodating, Darren has been gracious enough to share these detailed photos of three excellent examples of authentic, screen-worn Superman IV flying costumes. Two sold in 2012, and the third is due to be sold this coming April at his auction house.
The first two costumes came directly from Superman IV‘s London-Cannon Films Post Production Supervisor, Stephen Barker, while the third from an anonymous source who worked at the studios at the time of filming.
Thank you again, Darren, for sharing these wonderful photos with CapedWonder.com.
Please note that one photo features red stockings in place of boots. The stockings were NOT production used.
This costume sold in March 2012. Click here to visit the auction page.
This costume sold in November 2012. Click here to visit the auction page.
This costume sold in April 2013. Click here to visit the auction page.
Photos are © Copyright 2013 by Darren Julien, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission. All Rights Reserved. Every effort has been made by Julien’s Auctions and CapedWonder™.com to make the above information and photos as accurate and organized as possible. CapedWonder™.com is not an official authentication resource and makes no claims beyond “guideline” for the information and photos in this section of the webpage.
The Original Prop Blog Links
Updated 04 February 2013
Jason DeBord’s Original Prop Blog is an invaluable resource for information, research and high-resolution photographs covering the fascinating world of movie and television props. Of particular interest are his ongoing articles about costumes in the marketplace attributed to use by Christopher Reeve in the Superman movies of the 70s and 80s.
Below are direct links on OPB’s website that should be of particular interest to Christopher Reeve Superman costume enthusiasts:
Click here and make some time to study even more fascinating Superman articles with high-resolution comparative photos of Superman costumes that have appeared in the marketplace. Knowledge is Power!
The Original Prop Blog Gallery
Updated 04 February 2013
Super thanks to Jason DeBord of Original Prop Blog for sending us some of his high-resolution original photography of three confirmed authentic costumes featured below.
Special Note: Jason makes the following statements on this webpage regarding brightness and color cast variations of the costume fabric when photographed (this topic has been previously referenced in the article and gallery above):
“It is important to note that many photos were taken in a short session, and minor adjustments in lighting and settings can produce varied results in the appearance of these pieces.”
“None of the photos that appear in this article have been adjusted in Photoshop or any other program, apart from being resized and, in some cases, cropped…” . Such is also the case with the presentation of Jason’s photos shown below.
Note that some of the photos show fading in areas of the fabric due to UV exposure and aging.
Confirmed Authentic Superman III Evil Flying Tunic:
Confirmed Authentic Superman IV Flying Tunic:
For additional information about these costumes and Original Prop Blog’s costume analysis, please click on the image below:
Photos are © Copyright 2013 by Jason DeBord, and are not to be reproduced or excerpted without prior written permission. All Rights Reserved. Every effort has been made by Original Prop Blog and CapedWonder™.com to make the above information and photos as accurate and organized as possible. CapedWonder™.com is not an official authentication resource and makes no claims beyond “guideline” for the information and photos in this section of the webpage.
CapedWonder Owned Superman III Flying Tunic
Updated 14 February 2013
Click here to see an authentic, screen-worn Superman III flying tunic owned by Jim Bowers.