Reactions to Tyler Hoechlin’s scruffy Clark Kent in Superman & Lois highlight the broader problem of beards in superhero movies and TV shows.

Bearded superheroes have been around for a long time in comics and TV shows, but they’ve only come into vogue in movies in the last two decades. Obviously, there were live-action superheroes with facial hair before 2000, but for the most part the on-screen versions of crime fighters like Batman and Superman used to be clean-shaven until then. If anything, though, reactions to Tyler Hoechlin’s scruffy Clark Kent on a recent The CW poster Superman and Lois Television series illustrate how controversial the “superman” issue remains to this day.

In the comic book world, the Man of Steel has been shown to be capable of growing a beard since at least the late 1950s. In the beginning, he occasionally had help shaving, such as when he had Supergirl and Krypto the Superdog use his vision. of heat to trim your beard in the 1960s. Superman # 139. However, in the decades since John Byrne’s 1986 limited comic series Man of steelClark has typically kept himself clean-shaven by reflecting his own heat vision in a mirror. What’s more, the image of a scruffy Superman has sometimes had a negative connotation; most notably, his evil personality in 1983 Superman iii has visible facial hair.

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Clark finally got a beard on the big screen in Zack Snyder’s 2013 movie Iron Man, in which the promising Superman was shown sporting a suitable facial hair at the beginning of his journey. Of course, Clark was clean-shaven long before the end of the film and has remained that way in the DC Extended Universe ever since. However, infamously, the franchise’s commitment to keep the superhero skin-free caused problems when Superman actor Henry Cavill had to digitally remove his mustache during the new 2017 shootings. League of Justice. As a result, the character had a mysterious appearance in much of the theatrical cut of the film.

The moment of the League of Justice snafu was even more ironic, given the higher prevalence (and popularity) of on-screen superheroes with facial hair at the time. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther revealed his neat beard a year earlier in 2016. Captain America: Civil War while Thor and Iron Man from the MCU have always had some facial hair. Similarly, the DCEU’s Aquaman revealed his thick beard in 2016. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and, just a year later League of Justice, Captain America debuted his beloved beard in Avengers: Infinity War.

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As much as beards evoke a general sense of masculinity, they have come to serve an important narrative purpose in superhero cinema. While Aquaman’s beard is representative of his rebellious manners and lonely attitude in the DCEU, it also creates a stark contrast between him and his half-brother Orm that reflects their different principles. Elsewhere, Thor’s beard has evolved throughout his appearances in the MCU, getting busier and more unkempt as he accumulates trauma and matures over the course of his adventures. Cavill’s beard of Iron Man it was also a visual metaphor for where the character was emotionally at that point in his personal journey.

This brings us back to Hoechlin’s Man of Steel in Superman and Lois and why his super beard has caused a bit of a stir. Putting facial hair on a superhero is now recognized as a deliberate aesthetic choice that says something about the character; as such, Hoechlin’s Kal-El having the unrefined skin suggests that he may get closer to the Snyderverse’s Superman on his show, which some feel is a questionable direction for the series. Still, the mere sight of facial hair in superheroes has come to symbolize different things over time, so its meaning may once again change with Superman and Lois.

Superman & Lois stars Tyler Hoechlin, Elizabeth Tulloch, Dylan Walsh, Alex Garfin, Jordan Elsass, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Inde Navarrette, and Wolé Parks. The series premieres Tuesday, February 23 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

KEEP READING: The CW’s Superman & Lois is an uneven but solid addition to the Arrowverse

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