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Superman’s live-action S-shield through the ages, from Kirk Alyn to David Corenswet

Superman is identified by his chest symbol, and we are looking back at all the Superman logos to date in live-action.

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

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Superman’s S-shield is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world – and that’s thanks in no small part to live-action movies and TV shows. The Man of Steel’s famous insignia has graced more than a dozen actors’ chests over the years, solidifying its iconic status.

Yet every big and small screen S-shield is also unique, which begs the question: how do they all compare? We wanted to find out, so we’ve rounded up every live-action Superman’s symbol, from OG Man of Tomorrow Kirk Alyn to his newest successor, David Corenswet.

Superman / Atom Man vs. Superman (1948-1950)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

The first live-action Superman, Kirk Alyn portrayed DC’s flagship superhero in two serials: Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). His S-shield in both was more or less in line with the design primary Superman artist Wayne Boring popularized at the time, although the S itself was a bit thinner and had a kink in the tail. Alyn’s emblem was also slightly smaller than how Boring typically rendered it. Overall, it looks pretty crude – but what do you expect from a costume developed on a shoestring budget?

Superman and the Mole Men / The Adventures of Superman (1952-1958)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

George Reeves replaced Kirk Alyn as The Last Son of Krypton for 1952 feature film Superman and the Mole Men. He then reprised the role in fondly remembered TV series The Adventures of Superman. Reeves sported the same S-shield in both productions, which (like Alyn’s) mirrored Wayne Boring’s design. This is especially true of The Adventures of Superman’s later seasons, where the negative space is less pronounced, making the S’s spine thicker. In either iteration, Reeves’ sewn-on S-Shield was slightly more sophisticated than Alyn’s, but not much bigger.

Superman: The Movie and its sequels (1978-1987)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

The definitive Superman for a generation of fans, Christopher Reeve headlined Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman III, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. He donned an identical outfit in all four flicks, complete with a generously proportioned S-shield. Overall, there’s a ‘looseness’ to Reeve’s logo – particularly its chunky, up-flicked tail – but it still looks pretty dang close to the S-shield that DC artists (such as Curt Swan) drew in that era. Incidentally, Helen Slater wore a matching chest symbol in 1984 spinoff Supergirl.

Superboy (1988-1992)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Two actors played the junior Man of Steel in the Superboy TV series: John Haymes Newton and Gerard Christopher. Both wore similar S-shields that looked a bit more factory-finished than Christopher Reeve’s version. Notably, Newton and Christopher’s chest crests both had a neater, rounder tail closer to the classic comics’ design than what Reeve wore. That said, their S-shields were the same colors and roughly the same size as that of their big screen counterpart, although Christopher’s covered even more of his upper torso.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’s Dean Cain boasts one of the biggest S-shields on this list (and possibly the shiniest). Cain’s chest emblem extends almost as far as his armpits. It’s also a deeper shade of red than earlier versions and a tad off-kilter. Otherwise, it’s on-brand with the traditional design from the comics from the mid-1950s onward. It’s worth noting Cain also wore a slightly different (and appreciably smaller) S-shield in Lois & Clark’s movie-length pilot that matched the comics even closer.

Superman Returns (2006)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

The S-shield Brandon Routh wears in Superman Returns takes its cues from the Christopher Reeve movies (as it’s a quasi-sequel to the first two), however, it’s different in several ways. For one thing, the colors are off; Routh’s symbol is maroon and gold. It’s also much smaller than Reeve’s (if anything, it’s closer to George Reeves’ version). And most notably of all, this S-shield is both textured (with little S-shields, no less) and raised off the wearer’s chest – a trend that future flicks would run with. This distances Routh’s logo from that seen in Superman’s comics of the time, although artists such as Pete Woods and Renato Guedes soon emulated it.

Smallville (2001-2011)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Tom Welling wasn’t Superman for (almost) all of WB/CW series Smallville’s run – yet he still earned two S-shields for his troubles. One was a white stencil on a black shirt, the other was an embossed pattern on a red jacket. Both were modeled on the Superman Return’s version – and for more reasons than just ‘corporate synergy.’ The same costume Brandon Routh wore in Superman Returns appears in Smallville as Clark Kent’s future crime-fighting gear, so mirroring that aesthetic for Welling’s proto-costumes made sense. Welling eventually donned Routh’s outfit (or the shirt, at least) for Smallville’s last-ever scene and it appears unaltered from the film.

DC Extended Universe (2013-2022)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Henry Cavill (and more than one stand-in) brought Superman to life in Man of Steel and a host of other DC Extended Universe outings, rocking a unique S-shield all the while. Cavill’s chest emblem is brighter than the Superman Returns iteration, however, it’s still more muted than most. That said, this S-shield’s exact hues differ slightly between installments; for example, the Justice League version is much brighter. Yet its core details remain the same, such as its textured surface and more organic-looking S. The latter detail gives Cavill’s insignia a marked resemblance to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster’s designs from the early 1940s.

Arrowverse (Tyler Hoechlin) (2016-2024)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Arrowverse veteran Tyler Hoechlin has rocked a range of different Superman costumes over the years, but for the most part, their S-shields are pretty standard. Indeed, his first logo, for The CW’s Supergirl, only innovates in minor ways. Aside from the now-standard texture, the chest symbol has a gradient shading in the yellow negative space sections; four small, tech-looking yellow rectangles dot the shield’s border, too. Later suits keep the gradient effect but ditch the rectangles (as well as brighten the insignia’s red). There’s one exception, though: Hoechlin’s retro flashback suit from Superman & Lois’ pilot. This kit has a red-and-black shield with a yellow border – evoking some 1940s comics, plus Fleischer Studios’ animated shorts.

Krypton (2018-2019)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Superman never actually shows up in Syfy’s Krypton, however, his S-emblazoned cape does. As such, the prequel series has edged its way onto this list. Different versions of the S-shield appear throughout Krypton’s two seasons, but the one belonging to the Man of Steel himself is pretty standard. Even though the S’s tail has a slightly more squarish top, the overall design wouldn’t look off-model in a DC comic of the last 80 years. Ditto its yellow-and-red color combo, which lines up with Superman’s cape symbol in most comic books.

Arrowverse (Brandon Routh) (2019)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

The Arrowverse has another Superman, aside from Tyler Hoechlin: Brandon Routh. Routh portrays an older, alternate universe Man of Steel in the shared universe’s 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' crossover. It’s a homage to the elder Superman in fan-favorite comic book mini-series Kingdom Come, including that character’s S-shield. Like the insignia artist Alex Ross devised for Kingdom Come, Routh’s Arrowverse emblem is red-and-black (although a red-and-yellow variant briefly pops up) and radically streamlined. Instead of the standard five negative space shapes, this S-shield has just two, resulting in a hyper-stylized, diagonal slash design.

The Flash (2023)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

A CGI Superman modeled on Nicolas Cage makes a brief cameo in The Flash, as a tip of the hat to legendary unmade ‘90s movie Superman Lives. Fittingly, the S-shield on the faux-Cage’s costume reflects the design that director Tim Burton had planned for that production. It’s a slightly sharper-edged spin on the classic logo and cast in deep scarlet and vibrant yellow. This S-shield is also made of a hard, non-fabric material – again, in keeping with Superman Lives’ unrealized aesthetic.

Superman (2025)

Superman
Image credit: Warner Bros.

Finally, there’s David Corenswet’s S-shield in James Gunn’s upcoming big screen Superman reboot. In many ways, this insignia is a synthesis of its predecessors. First and foremost, it follows the Arrowverse’s lead by aping Kingdom Come’s slash design – except it’s red and yellow, not red and black. What’s more, it borrows the yellow edging of Tyler Hoechlin’s throwback suit. Corenswet’s symbol is also textured like the Superman Returns and DCEU S-shields, however, this effect is much simpler by comparison. Finally, Corenswet’s S-shield is raised off his chest and has some dimensionality – the red and yellow components are distinct pieces – like other live-action symbols (but again, in a relatively subtle way).


So there you have it: every live-action Superman S-shield. Looking for more Superman movie coverage? Check out our other coverage of James Gunn’s 2025 reboot!