In “Man of Steel” Henry Cavill’s Superman says the emblem on his chest stands for hope, but as Amy Adams’ Lois Lane points out, it’s an “S” on this planet. But that “S” sure is one of the most recognized symbols on the planet. There is probably some social sciencey study to back it up, but trust me, everyone knows the Superman shield.
But it hasn’t been the same iconic symbol over the course Superman’s 75 years. Since his debut in “Action Comics #1” in 1938, the “S” has undergone major changes. The most popular is likely the curvy serif red “S” on a yellow background, framed by the red and geometric five-sided shield. However, Superman started off with a police badge-esque shield and simple “S” on his first cover, and over time, it traded yellow for black, gained and lost weight, went sans-serif, became a three-dimensional accouterments and even went electric blue-and-white for a little while.
You needn’t take my awkward descriptions of the symbol though. In a bit of infographic goodness, HalloweenCostumes.com has created a visual evolution of Supes’ shield. They cover a lot of ground with descriptions of each iteration but I wouldn’t be a nitpicky nerd if I didn’t point out they neglect to discuss all the various animated variations — as well as the 1988 “Superboy” series where Clark sported a shield most closely resembling the early ’90s comics (vertical upper serif, diagonal left edge, rounded bottom serif) with lots of room between the “S” and the shield border.
Still, this is a cool visual guide to the Superman “S” and is the fun piece of trivia to annoy your friends with as you’re waiting in line this weekend to see “Man of Steel.”