The Comic Book Influences of Superman’s New ‘S’ Shield

Although it will be some time before we see David Corenswet in the full Kal-El regalia for James Gunn’s Superman ( no longer Superman: Legacy) we did get a preview of a very important part of the costume — the ‘S’ shield emblem of the Last Son of Krypton. Although the photo released by James Gunn on social media on Clark Kent’s birthday doesn’t give us a full view of it, we have a pretty good idea of what the symbol looks like now. It draws inspiration from three distinct eras of Superman. Some from the pages of DC Comics, and some from other media. Here are the principal design influences on the new Superman ‘S’ shield.

Snow on the Superman S shield, as a costume tease shared by James Gunn for his Superman movie
Warner Bros.

Kingdom Come Superman

The Kingdom Come Superman, as drawn by Alex Ross, and worn by actor Brandon Routh in the Arrowverse.
DC Comics/Warner Bros.

The first Superman ‘S’ Shield that the new emblem recalls is the one artist Alex Ross designed for the series Kingdom Come. That 1996 mini-series by writer Mark Waid was about an older Superman, one who retired from being a hero after a personal tragedy. This is a darker Superman, so the yellow in the emblem was replaced with black. But the very minimalist ‘S’ shape is present in the version of Gunn’s design. We actually have seen this design in live-action before. Brandon Routh used it in the Arrowverse Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event in 2019. At first, it was a direct copy of the Kingdom Come look. By the end, it was a version in the traditional Superman colors. One of the first teases Gunn released on social media when he took over DC Studios was an image from Kingdom Come. Now we know why.

Golden Age/Fleischer Animated Superman

the Golden Age Superman, as seen in the animated Fleishcher shorts of 1941, and in the pages of Action Comics.
DC Comics

The yellow trim outside the ‘S’ shield goes back to the earliest days of the comics. About two years after Superman debuted in 1938’s Action Comics #1, his emblem began to be a black triangle with a big red ‘S’ in the center, surrounded by a yellow trim. The yellow trim didn’t last that long in print. But they used it in a major milestone in non-comics Superman media. We’re talking about the 1940s-era Fleischer cartoons, which ran as afternoon serials. These shorts were extremely popular, and a big influence on the look and design of Batman: The Animated Series. Although the comics quickly pivoted away from the yellow trim, it’s clearly present in the costume design David Corenswet is going to wear.

The Classic Superman Emblem

Superman drawn by Curt Swan, John Byrne, and Frank Quitely.
DC Comics

Finally, the color scheme for this Superman looks to be pretty classic. The iconic Superman emblem most people know, worn by Christopher Reeve and seen on countless pieces of merchandise, made its debut in 1944. And it mostly stuck around for decades after, undergoing only minor revisions. Red and yellow is how we mostly think of the Superman emblem today. So far, it seems that Gunn is sticking to that aesthetic. Although it’s hard to say, the color palette does look more muted than the classic version. It’s akin to the one worn by Henry Cavill in Man of Steel, or Tyler Hoechlin in Superman and Lois. However, that could be lighting. The actual suit colors might “pop” a lot more than what we see in the image.

The new Superman emblem for James Gunn's film (L) and the Superman of the series Kingdom Come by Alex Ross (R)
Warner Bros./DC Comics

Superman hits theaters on July 11, 2025.

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