Superman Red/Superman Blue

I was thinking about this today.  In the grand scheme of things the storyline where Superman’s powers went all wonky on him leading to his gaining a whole new set of powers and a new costume wasn’t a terrible one.  It wasn’t the best story arc and the whole splitting into two thing didn’t do a whole heck of a lot for me, but looking at the past two decades worth of Superman stories that I’ve lived through as a whole I really can’t say that it was terrible.  Misguided?  Yes.  Poorly executed?  Not at all.  In fact one of my favorite Lex Luthor stories of all time happened during that year or so worth of stories.

(It was Superman (Vol. 2) #131, in case you were interested.  This was the issue where Lex Luthor took back his position of being Superman’s arch enemy after a few years of drifting around a bit.  And it had a great cover.)

Superman #131

The thing is that all things considered the Electro Blue era wasn’t as bad as some others.  In some cases it was a whole lot better. 

Here’s the thing; if I have learned anything from following a character for the past two decades it is that as bad as something might seem in a few years something may come along that is even worse.  The Electro-Blue Superman era is a good example of this.  I remember being miserable as a fan when they went into the whole Superman Red/Superman Blue thing.  Utterly miserable.  I wanted my classic Superman back.  I wanted the costume.  I groused like any self-respecting (or as close to self-respecting as they can get) fan would grouse.  I wasn’t online at the time so I did most of my bitching to my friends and the guys at the comic shop, but still, there was bitching. 

Believe me there was bitching.

Then it ended.  The costume and powers were restored.  The story that got us there was awful, but it got us there nonetheless.

Years go by. 

2002 rolls around and suddenly all three Superman books are, to put it lightly, the suck.  Steven Seagle on Superman.  Joe Casey on Adventures of Superman.  Joe Kelly on Action Comics.  To top it off they even cancelled Superman: The Man of Steel

It was a dark, dark time to be a Superman fan or for me to be a Superman fan, whichever works better for you.  Once they stopped the triangle numbering system everything went downhill.  Joe Casey wrote some terrible Superman stories.  Seagle’s work wasn’t all that much better and Joe Kelly started a downward slide that he never recovered from.  And I remember…vividly remember thinking one thing.

“Man, I really miss Electro Blue Superman.”

Time passes again.  Greg Rucka comes on Adventures of Superman.  Chuck Austen and Brian Azzarello leave Action and Superman and are replaced with Gail Simone and Mark Verheiden.  Things get better.  I look forward to getting my Superman comics again.

Then 2007 hits.  DC gives Action Comics a major push because not only is Richard Donner (the director of a little film called Superman: The Movie) going to co-write the book with Geoff Johns but Adam Kubert will be drawing it as well.  The first part of Last Son comes out.  Then the second.  Then…nothing.  The book gets pushed back.  Then it gets pushed back again.  Then Superman starts running late.  Then Superman Confidential starts running behind.  Stories start playing musical chairs.  It was a terrible, terrible year to be a fan of the Superman books and do you know what I kept thinking?

“Man, I really miss Electro Blue Superman.”

So, what’s my point?  Well, no matter how bad an particular era seems something can come along and make the one that you hate seem like the height of comic book excellence.  Many Superman fans hated when they changed his costume and powers, but those stories were at least interesting and the creators were trying to push the character forward.  It is possible for a concept to be flawed and the execution turn out to be pretty good.  When the concept is flawed and they botch the execution.  With the former you can respect that the powers that be were trying something new and did the best job they could.  With the latter…I hate to say this because it sounds extremely judgemental but when it comes to the latter I have very little patience. 

Ah, enough bile for one day.  Things are definitely looking up for the Superman books.  Geoff Johns is firing on all cylinders, especially with the current Braniac story.  James Robinson had a solid opening on Superman and the two books are apparently going to be connected soon, so hopefully things will even out for a little while.

And if they don’t, well I can always dig out those Electro Blue issues, can’t I?

More to follow…

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  1. penfold says:

    My problem with the electro storyline is that it felt so unnecessary. Fans were still getting accustomed to having the regular Superman back following Reign of the Supermen and then he was taken away again in a totally unnecessary and convoluted storyline which culiminated with the Millennium Giants thing, which still stands as one of the lamest Superman storylines of the past, oh, fifteen or so years. Making matters worse is that the electro powers stuck around for almost a full year. If the series had only lasted for three-six months, I think it’d probably be more fondly remembered.

    Still, the electro thing did lead to those Retro storylines (Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and a future Superman thing) for a few issues so that was okay… but then they all led right to the Dominus arc which, y’know, was more sUck.

    So pretty much we were screwed for most of 1997 and ’98.

  2. Mike knows my feelings on the electric blue Superman (posted on my own blog here). I’m actually one of the few people that enjoyed that concept. We all knew it was temporary, so the best thing you could do was roll with it. While the Superman Blue/Superman Red concept was neat, that portion of the overall story wasn’t executed well. I would just rather had the electric Superman storyline personally.

  3. fiduch says:

    i loved the electric superman storyline, actually. since superman has been around for so long, he’s always in danger of becoming a static character, and that provided an excellent opportunity for a refreshing look at big blue adjusting to and dealing with a completely new and foreign set of powers, as well as clark kent embracing life as a normal, non-powered human.

    though it was the death of superman that initially got me into comics, it was actually the electric superman storyline that prompted me to start actively collecting. however, being the uninformed n00b that i was, i actually subscribed to them, meaning my comics got shoved through a mail slot, and i often didn’t get them until well after they’d been released. after my subscriptions ran out, i just started heading weekly to my local comic store, and i haven’t stopped in the 10+ years since!

  4. Zashkaser says:

    I love these stories! Keep making them!

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