Rogue of the Week: Superman's Codpiece

Thursday, 01 September 2011 17:24 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue of the Week: Superman's Codpiece

This week, the much hyped DC Comics reboot kicked off with a new number one issue of Justice League, introducing readers to the new look and feel of Superman, Batman, and pretty much the whole new DC universe.  Still, that big DC news may just have been overshadowed by a batch of photos from the Plano, Illinois set of Man of Steel, the cinematic Superman reboot directed by Zack Snyder and "godfather-ed" through development by producer Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer.  These photos served as the clearest confirmation that Henry Cavill's new Superman outfit will not feature the oft-derided traditional red underwear worn on the outside.  That sartorial choice served to highlight what has been a surprisingly pervasive topic of conversation: Superman's junk.  Because of the conversation it has instigated, as well as its out-there, in-your-face attitude, Superman's codpiece is our latest Rogue of the Week.

Verbose though I may be, I'll avoid describing the codpiece in great detail and instead present this image of Cavill in the new costume, which also features stylized bits of what must be Kryptonian hardware.  Take a look:

But the codpiece's selection as Rogue of the Week does is not limited solely to the latest iteration of costume designers' take on Kal-El's Kryptonian anatomy.  The super-codpiece actually has a rich and interesting history that goes back more than thirty years. 

During pre-production on director Richard Donner's Superman, Christopher Reeve was sporting a simple spandex-style costume that put his every physical attribute very much on display, and the groin area prompted much internal debate.  Executives at Warner Bros were reluctant to sexualize the iconic American creation in any way, and wanted costume designer Yvonne Blake to create a codpiece that would, like Joe Shuster's comic book Superman, remove any phallic impressions and make the hero more like a Ken doll.  As explained in a behind-the-scenes documentary on the Superman DVD and Blu-ray, producers Alxander Salkind and Ilya Salkind, on the other hand, vehemently maintained that the superpowered physique must have a correspondingly oversized bit of manhood, with Ilya saying, "Either he has a big one, or he has nothing!"

The eventual metal codpiece that Blake created after much testing was between the two extremes and suited all parties.  Except, on several occasions, for Reeve.  When filming scenes with Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, the actress would jokingly flick the metal accessory with a finger, eliciting much mirth from the crew and consternation from the more serious-minded actor.

When Bryan Singer brought the cinematically-dormant hero back to screens with Superman Returns, the crotch of Brandon Routh's costume proved to be a similarly troublesome issue.  Well before the film's release in 2005, costume designer Louise Mingenbach detailed the process of finding the right junk to suit the new Supes.  ”There was more discussion about Superman’s ‘package’ than anything else on the suit,” she explained in a Newsweek preview piece at the time.  ”Was it too big? Was it not big enough? Was it too pointy? Too round? It was somebody’s job for about a month just working on codpiece shapes. It was crazy.”

So the Man of Steel codpiece is no exception.  Rather, it is the latest in proud procession of roguish crotch-covers.  Surely, when a new Superman movie comes about decades from now, the rebooted codpiece that accompanies it will yet again be a topic for heated discussion.

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