Mysteries Of The WB Tour


G R E G  V A S I L O F F –

M A G I C A L  M Y S T E R I E S 

O F  T HE  WB  S T U D I O  T O U R


As a lifelong enthusiast of the Christopher Reeve Superman films and the amazing costumes that made them come to life, I was thrilled to learn that there was an original costume on display just a short drive from my home.  The costume is currently displayed in the “DC Superheroes and Super Villains” section of the Warner Brothers Studios tour in Burbank, California. I took an opportunity to take the entire family for an extended tour of the Warner Brothers property in September 2023 with the “Grand Finale” being the DC exhibit.  

When I reached the legacy costume display at the end of the tour, I found Christopher Reeve’s costume enclosed in a class case alongside a 1989 Michael Keaton Batman Costume and a 1970s era Lynda Carter Wonder Woman outfit. This particular costume was labelled as being from the film Superman III. However, as we have seen in recent prop auctions, many times a complete costume may have elements from several films in the series to make a complete ensemble. If this costume is from Superman III, which part of the costume are they talking about? The tunic? Cape? The boots? It is difficult to know for sure without seeing the Berman’s & Nathan’s tags that are hidden inside the costume that could tell the story. These labels are often adorned with handwritten notes, usually in ballpoint pen or felt tipped marker, denoting studio numbers, refurbishment dates, degradations, or their sequential number in a batch of pieces –

The costume was mounted on a white mannequin that was noticeably out of proportion with the dimensions the costume. Of note, the torso was too long compared to Chris Reeve’s, and it overstretched the tunic lengthwise. This odd proportions also made the legs of the costume appear shorter and the boots look taller than they should.

The dim lighting of the exhibit visually produced tones of a darker turquoise blue in person than pictured in the photographs taken with my iPhone. The blue fabric is notorious for shifting tones in different lighting, which aided in the blue-screen special effects for the film. The red parts of the tunic and trunks also appeared to be a deeper and darker red than other costumes that I have seen in person. This, again, could be due to the lighting, the dye lot of the costume, or the affect that was needed for a particular scene.  For example, “wet” tunics were a lighter blue in order to appear the correct colour on-screen when saturated with water. An example of this can be seen in my article “Spandex Decade” at

So, was this in fact from the third instalment of the Superman series? Breaking this costume down into its elements, I will use the clues that were visible to answer this question and make an educated guess –


There were no flying harness slits visible, and the trunks appeared to be attached to the tunic, indicating that it was a “walking” costume. It was in an overall good condition, with some wear noted on the front of red trunks.  Most importantly, the stitching on the cuffs of the sleeves contains a tell-tale detail that has been consistent with other screen-used examples and screen captures from the films.  It is worth mentioning that costumes made for Superman: The Movie and Superman II were the same costumes, since most of the scenes were filmed simultaneously. I have never seen a Berman’s and Nathan’s tag labeled “Superman II,” so we will treat the costumes from the first two films as one.  The costumes from the first two films exhibited a single stitch at the edge of the cuff to finish the edge. Costumes from Superman III and Superman IV exhibited a double stitch at the cuff and has been consistent in many examples and can even be seen on-screen. This particular tunic has the single stitch, leading me to believe it is from the first two films.  The “waffle-weave” and tone of the fabric are also much different in this example than the fabric used exclusively for Superman IV, so I think it is safe to rule out the fourth film.  I have personally examined tunics from the first and fourth film side-by-side in the past, and I can confirm that they are indeed different fabrics entirely. Martin Lakin also discussed this in a video here.


The leggings were severely faded and were almost a pure silver tone as most of the blue has faded away. This was most likely due to the costume being stored improperly over the years, most likely under UV or halogen lighting. There were no visible flying harness slits, meaning they were probably “walking” tights.  The leggings usually had a Berman’s and Nathan’s tag hand-sewn to the inside of the back of the waistband, which would denote the film in which it was used – 


The cape appeared to be in very good condition with no tears or visible damage. There were no flying harness slits or “cape flapper” pockets noted. The padding on in the pleated shoulders was rather thin for what appears to be a “walking” cape. The classic yellow “S” patch was barely visible through the display case and could only be seen when viewed from the side of the display case. The sometimes visible “yellow border” that is seen on later production capes in the film series was not present; evidence of a cape made for the earlier films.  Without seeing the tag, there was no way to know for sure.  Interestingly, the capes did not have Berman’s and Nathan’s tags on their inside liner until Superman IV.  Instead, they used a white cotton label with handwritten notes that delineated the type of cape (walking or flying) along with the actor’s name and film number.


The classic resin buckle was in remarkable shape with no visible marks or scratches which can be seen on many existing examples.  The vinyl material of the body of the belt was also free from damage and was not wrinkled or creased in any way.  Most surviving examples of the belt that I have seen have at least some amount of visible damage on the buckle or creasing of the patent vinyl.  Unfortunately, there is no way to determine which film this is from without seeing the backside of the belt. It should have a Berman’s and Nathan’s tag with Chris’s name, waist size (36), studio number, and film number.


Both boots appeared to be identical in that they had the same features.  They both lacked the stitching in the top “V” notch for the internal metal supports seen in the walking versions.  They also lack the stitching in the middle of the “V” that is where an elastic strap was anchored inside the top of the boot to wrap around the actor’s calf to keep the boot from slipping down.  The final clue that tells me that these were “flying” boots was the piece of red tape that can be seen under the right toe peeling away from the sole.  Red gaffer tape was used during flying scenes to make the boots appear uniform and clean when the sole was visible.  There was no visible damage or wear on these boots either, indicating that they were not used primarily for walking scenes. There are no visual distinctions between the screen used boots across the four films that I am aware of, so it is impossible to say which film they are from on the outside.  The boots normally contained notes on the inside written on the wrong side of the leather in black felt tipped marker – 

At this point, I found myself scratching my head. I couldn’t say for sure which film this was from. Then, I thought – what about screen matching the costume to a particular scene in one of the four films?  After pouring over all four films and endless photographs on, I was not able to 100% successfully match this tunic to ANY scene in any of the films.  Since no two chest shield emblems are exactly the same, usually a small defect or irregularity can be used to trace a particular tunic to a particular scene in film.  It’s also a dead giveaway to see when Chris did a costume change.  For example, if you watch the “Luthor’s Lair” scene in the first film, you can see Chris change through four different tunics for a single scene because of the visible differences in the chest emblems.

The only scene that is a possible candidate for this tunic to be a match is the “helicopter rescue” scene from the first film.  In particular, the few seconds where we see Chris with the helicopter “…with one hand” and Lois in the other.  This short clip displays a chest shield with some similarities to the Warner Brothers tunic.  The right-hand side of the top of the ‘S’ shields curves slightly upwards, instead of being straight across.  Also, the “smile” of the emblem, or the bottom triangle, appears to be “pinched” or puckered on the top right corner in both the Warner Brothers display and the helicopter scene –

How could we know for sure?  There is only one way- to see the labels on the inside of the costume.  The detail on the cuff, as mentioned earlier, is a dead giveaway that this is not from Superman III.  Could this be production made but not seen on screen? Yes.  Could it be a stuntman’s? Also possible.  Would the wardrobe department at Warner Brothers entertain the idea of checking for us?  Probably not anytime soon. 

This investigation was more about the journey than the destination.  The “good stuff” and the story are always in the details.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this costume and documenting what I found in order to help other fans that are passionate about keeping these films alive.  It’s all about the nostalgia!

Stay Super!