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James Gunn's Classic Superman Sounds Great, But Please Leave Those Red Trunks In The Past

Trunks! They're great on a beach, awesome when you're doing sports, and handy in a pinch when someone has stolen all your other clothes and they're all that stands between you and the world. But are they suitable for a Superman?

DC Studios co-head, comics fan extraordinaire, and Superman rebooter James Gunn has teased a classic "All-Star Superman"-style take on the character before, and even after announcing his first DCU superman move, he's kept going to the All-Star well on his Twitter account. Gunn attempted to settle the trunks debate when he created a poll that asked a question for the ages: "Superman: Trunks or no trunks?" According to 59.3% of nearly a half-million people (and surely no bots whatsoever) who have strong enough opinions about a pair of fictional red underwear to vote on the subject, the answer is clear: Superman's red trunks are, in fact, good.

The Super-trunks fans of this world are, of course, perfectly entitled to their opinion. It's just that said opinion is fundamentally wrong, because we live in the future, and it's high time to leave Superman's unwise costume choices from the 1930s behind. Let's take a look at why Gunn's classic Superman should leave his trunks to the time (several decades ago) and place (the nearest furnace) where they truly belong ... and why many people nevertheless feel otherwise.

It's understandable that people want to hang on to the ultimate hero's iconic outfit

Does it seem weird that James Gunn would take time from his busy schedule of rebooting a cinematic universe and tweeting cryptic clues about various aspects of said reboot to poll something that, let's face it, seems pretty silly? It's not as strange as you might think. Reddit is full of surprisingly fiery debate about the subject of Superman's red trunks, with the pro-trunks faction arguing that the clothing item is essential to the color scheme and look, and detractors pointing out that they look stupid. 

As some fans have noted, it gets surprisingly intense, and seems to be exclusive to this particular character. "Nobody cared too much when Batman lost his trunks, nobody even noticed when Captain America lost his, but for some reason it's turned into a perennial feud for the Superman fandom," Redditor u/Adekis wrote in one of the debates.

The red trunks, at this point, are a bit of a phenomenon. That's not an exaggeration. When writer Brian Michael Bendis brought them back in the comics in 2018, outlets like CBR followed the garment's in-universe story. Bendis himself hyped up the trunks so hard that he actually threw trunks out to the audience at that year's Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (via Bleeding Cool). It's not hard to figure out why the trunks have a place in many fans' hearts since they're a very visible part of the character's most classic design. However ...

There's no need to preserve Superman's most pointless design element

The hidden meaning behind Superman's trunks is simple. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's template for the superhero's look stems from the era's strongmen, pro wrestlers, and circus performers. For these people, the trunks were essentially backup pants to cover up the potentially embarrassing revelations made possible by the physicality of their profession.

In Superman's case, such precautions aren't really necessary, because his costume is made of significantly sturdier stuff than over-the-counter fabric. Even if he was in the habit of rocking the same clothing materials as regular people, an extra layer wouldn't do much to stop Doomsday from punching his athleisurewear into another dimension. As such, Superman's trunks are entirely redundant from a practical standpoint, and even their visual impact is up for debate since the same color scheme-breaking effect could easily be achieved with, say, a simple belt.

Nostalgia notwithstanding, why would anyone even care about the trunks at this point? Superman's had a whole bunch of costumes over the decades, including that really weird capeless design from the late 1990s Electric Blue era. Every long-running superhero character's had a whole bunch of looks, and while Superman's hardly the go-to fashion icon in his universe –- man had a mullet at one point, for crying out loud — this one item of clothing shouldn't even register with people anymore.

Is the argument here that the trunks are old school, and therefore classic? The really old-school incarnation of Superman — the one that originally rocked that baggy pair of red Y-fronts — couldn't even fly. Is it because superhero adaptations should retain their most iconic original design? Sorry, how many costumes has Batman had this week across all media, and how many of them have featured the trunks he also happily wears in classic comics? We get that the trunks are important to some fans, but objectively, there's just no reason to expect Supes to wear them anymore.

Gunn may just be covering his bases with that poll, anyway

Let's revisit that James Gunn poll about the subject one more time. Some of the more fervent voters might have missed the little disclaimer he tweeted after it. "Btw this is for fun," it reads. "We're not going to decide whether Superman has trunks or no trunks based on an egregiously non-scientific Twitter poll." 

Gunn has long since proved himself as a smart guy who's well-informed on the subject of superheroes and their fandom. Since he's tackling Superman, he must be aware of the more controversial corners of the character's fandom, including the trunks debate. There's a perfectly good possibility that he's simply indulging fans with the poll. If he decides to go with a trunkless Superman design — which he should, because as has been established, the trunks are pointless in every way — he now has the opportunity to shrug and say that while he knows that many people wanted trunks, that design aesthetic just didn't work in the DCU context. 

Of course, losing the trunks may lead to a whole different brand of internet weirdness. Maybe the more toxic fans figure out that witty hashtags won't sink the good ship DCU, and find a new way to keep their blood pressure up by orchestrating a #trunkgate that conveniently forgets that Henry Cavill's version didn't wear a pair, either. It'll probably be pretty awful, but still, the band-aid must be ripped at some point ... especially when said band-aid comes in the shape of a big ol' pair of red superhero shorts.