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The Real Reason Superman Wears A Black Suit In The Justice League Director's Cut

A slight change is in the cards for the Man of Steel in Zack Snyder's Justice League — and it's one DC Comics fans should appreciate.

At the virtual Justice Con event over the weekend, writer-director Snyder unveiled a new clip from his upcoming director's cut of the 2017 film. In it, Superman (Henry Cavill) — recently returned after seemingly meeting his end at the hands of Doomsday in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — is seen touching down at the home of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), where he encounters Alfred Pennyworth (Jeremy Irons). It wasn't so much the substance of the clip, though, but Supes' duds that had fans buzzing: he's sporting a black-on-black version of his iconic costume, which constitutes a great big old nod to the "Death of Superman" storyline published by DC in the early '90s.

During his Justice Con panel, Snyder revealed that while it had always been his intention to feature Superman's black suit in Justice League, he had been overruled by Warner Bros. executives, who were already trying to course-correct away from the dark 'n gritty aesthetic of the DC Extended Universe to that point. "At the time, the studio said there was no chance because I was arguing for the black suit the entire time and they were like, 'We don't think it's a good idea,'" he said. "Eventually we were like, 'Fine. Don't worry about it, we're good.' We said we'll shoot the suit the way it was."

Snyder, though, had a trick or two up his sleeve. "We had done little adjustments to the suit that would make it a little easier to [color correct it in post-production], because we had done some experiments in Photoshop, so we knew how to do it," he recalled. "I thought from the beginning it was a great idea because it was the correct evolution for him when he rose from the dead, he'd have the black suit. It just made sense" (via Heroic Hollywood).

The black suit is known as the "Recovery Suit" in comics canon

In the pages of DC comics, Superman's black suit is strongly associated with his death and resurrection — and not just because it's a cool color scheme to wear while making your return from the dead. After Supes' apparent demise at the end of his brawl with Doomsday in Superman Volume 2 #75, it was revealed that he had been transported by parties unknown to the Fortress of Solitude, where he was recuperating from his slight case of death in a "regeneration matrix." Unfortunately, recovering from being deceased is a lengthy process, even for Superman — and when he's able to exit the matrix, he discovers that his powers are a no-show.

Needing to get back to protecting the world, Supes dons the black suit — which, in the comics, is known as the "Recovery Suit." Its primary purpose is to absorb solar energy, helping Superman to recover more quickly — but it also provides some protection from physical damage, and even comes equipped with rocket boots so that Big Blue can still fly, Iron Man-style, even in the absence of his powers.

Unlike the version featured in Zack Snyder's Justice League, the comic version of the suit does not have a cape — the better for Supes to fit into a set of Kryptonian war armor, which was also handily stashed in the Fortress of Solitude, and which Supes had to make frequent use of until his powers returned. Of course, the black suit's regenerative and protective qualities don't seem to have translated to the screen; Superman can obviously still fly in that clip, so the choice to wear it seems more like an aesthetic one than a necessity. This raises the question: if the black suit is not terribly important to Justice League's narrative, why did Snyder feel that it made so much sense to include it?

Two suits, two visions for Justice League

Well, other than indicating that he felt wearing black was a proper "evolution" for Supes after returning to the land of the living, Snyder had little to say about why he fought so hard to include Superman's black suit in Justice League. But it's worth noting that the theatrical cut — which was completely revamped by Avengers director Joss Whedon after Snyder was forced to depart midway through production due to a family tragedy — almost featured a scene which Snyder shot, in which both the black suit and the Kryptonian war armor can be seen. 

This scene was destined for the cutting room floor, but Snyder indicated that it'll be featured in his cut, and that the voice of Supes' father Jor-El will be heard, offering guidance to the hero (via ScreenRant). It's almost as if, at this point, the black suit has become something of a symbol for Snyder: one which speaks to his need to hit the sweet spot for those fans who are well-versed in comics lore, rather than catering to the widest possible audience at the behest of the studio.

At any rate, we can say one thing for certain: Zack Snyder's Justice League will be a completely different experience from the theatrical cut, which by some estimates used only about ten percent of the footage Snyder shot before departing. Asked during his Justice Con panel whether his cut of the movie will feature any of Whedon's footage, the filmmaker did not equivocate. "There will be no chance on earth that I will use a shot [that was filmed] after I left the movie," Snyder said. "I would destroy the movie, I would set it on fire before I would use a single frame that I did not photograph. That is a f***ing hard fact."

Snyder just keeps giving fans more reasons to be excited about his cut of Justice League, and we can't wait to finally lay eyes on the film as he intended for it to be presented. Zack Snyder's Justice League will debut on HBO Max sometime in 2021.