Though Warner Bros. did its best for a while to keep him out of the trailers and other marketing materials, it was almost always a given that Superman would show up again at some point in Justice League last year. For a very long time we didn't know how, or when, but for many comic book fans one major question about the Man of Steel's resurrection loomed from the moment Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ended: What about the black costume?
Fans of the iconic and massive early '90s DC Comics event known collectively as "The Death and Return of Superman" know that, after Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday, he remained dead for a while as four different Superman imposters made their presence known. When he finally was resurrected, the Man of Tomorrow was sporting a different look in the form of a black costume with no cape, a silver logo, and silver gauntlets (and some questionable hair, but hey, it was the '90s). It's a fondly remembered era for many fans, and it was even briefly referenced in Batman v Superman when Superman's public coffin was revealed to be glossy black with a silver emblem. That, plus director Zack Snyder's fondness for comic book homages (including heavy use of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman armor design for Dawn of Justice) led us to believe there was a good chance we'd be seeing a resurrected Superman in some version of the black costume in Justice League.
That didn't happen, which of course prompted speculation that Joss Whedon — who was called in to finish Justice League when Snyder stepped away to deal with a family tragedy — may have scrapped any black-costume plans or footage in favor of another direction. Then a deleted scene emerged with the film's Blu-ray release showing a resurrected Kal-El briefly glancing at a version of the black costume while aboard a Kryptonian ship, only to abandon it. So, were there originally plans to actually use the suit beyond this Easter egg? Not according to costume designer Michael Wilkinson.
Speaking to Digital Spy at the ongoing DC Exhibition: Dawn of Superheroes exhibit in London, Wilkinson noted that the black costume had interested both himself and Snyder "from the get-go," with references dating back even to Man of Steel. When it came time for Justice League, though, the notion of actually putting the costume into active duty was dropped fairly early on.
"When we were prepping Justice League, at first it seemed that it might be a logical choice for the look of Superman when he's resurrected. Zack is extremely respectful and passionate about the depiction of Superman in comic books and graphic novels, and traditionally when he is resurrected, he is in the black suit," Wilkinson said.
"But as the tone of the film developed and we were in pre-production, the filmmakers felt that the classic red-and-blue suit seemed more appropriate to our story and our script. It seemed that a more positive, upbeat image of Superman was what was needed — the idea of hope and that the world could in fact be saved was important, so that's the direction that we went."
So, based on Wilkinson's account, we never got particularly close to an actual scene in which Superman tries on the black costume. Instead, we got just a few seconds of it, and then it was on to the red and blue. While it may have been fun to see even a single scene in which the black costume was used before Superman underwent a change, the decision to keep it on the rack is in keeping with the eventual tone of Justice League. Keep in mind that by the time he "died" in the comics, we had more than 50 years of Superman history to look back on, so the black costume was striking both to readers and to characters in the context of the story. In the DC Extended Universe, we had just four years and two films' worth of Superman history to work with, so while it may still have been visually interesting, the black costume wouldn't have had quite the same impact anyway.
Still, it is somewhere out there in the DCEU, so who knows? Maybe we'll see a Kryptonian other than Zod rockin' the black look on the big screen someday.