What Were They Thinking?: I Red This And It Blue

In the world of comics, change is inevitable. When you have characters that have been in publication for 80, 70, 60 or 50 years, some elements are going to become stale. Of course, changing back is also inevitable but we've covered that a lot recently and I'm kinda done moaning about Marvel for the moment (for the moment). But anyway, as I was saying, sometimes characters need a bit of a shake up to make them interesting again. For example, The Flash switched Barry Allen for Wally West. And then you had the original shake-up of The Avengers team, that swapped Ant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man and Thor for Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, with only Captain America remaining from the original line-up. But what about bad changes? Well, this is What Were They Thinking, the place where we look at all of the stupidest, most ill-advised things in comic book history. So of course we've found some pretty bad changes. Like this one:

Ah yes, the 90's. Where comics could not be too edgy, there was no such thing as "too many pouches" and, for some reason, Superman split in two.

So, what's the story here. Well, there's this rather neat little 1963 story that got the ball rolling that saw Superman create a ray beam powered by Kryptonite that would increase his intelligence. The ray was successful, but it had the unforseen side-effect of spliting Superman in two, one with a red costume and one with a blue costume. Together the two Supermen unshrink Kandor, rebuild Krypton, solve world crime and Communism, figure out the answer to world hunger, cure every known disease on Earth (with a reformed Lex Luthor's help) and get married to Lois Lane and Lana Lang respectively. Now, this story is completely non-cannon and has pretty much no bearing on what we're meant to be talking about, but I'd really rather be talking about it than the 90's version, so I thought I'd just pop this paragraph in.

Anyway, the one thing from the 1963 story that did leave an impact was the idea of two Supermen, one red and one blue. Only problem is, the idea was resurrected in the 90's. 1997 to be exact.

So, everyone knows what Superman's powers are right? He can fly, has superstrength and superspeed, can jump the height of a skyscrapper, has laser vision and freezing breath, his skin is bullet-proof and all of this comes from him getting energy from the sun (or any yellow star really, but our sun for the sake of simplicity). So, what happens when you deprive Superman of sunlight for a long time? Well, in most cases (read: all other cases, comics, tv, movies, games radio etc. etc. etc.) he loses his powers, becomes increadibly weak and could even die. But in our 1997 story, he develops new energy based abilities, because reasons... literally, they never explain why. He also has to start wearing a new costume to stop himself from dispersing. Which makes him look like a Captain Atom knockoff, rather than one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history. Oh and he turns blue. So everyone, meet Blue Superman.

And what happens next? Well, Cyborg Superman and Toymaker trap the New Blue Sue and the trap somehow splits Supes into two Supermen, one Red and one Blue, again because reasons (yep, they don't explain that one either). Blue Sue is more of a thinker and Red is more impulsive, so of course, they can't agree on anything, even who was the original. Even Lois Lane gets sick of them.

Oh and then they arbitrarily fuse back together into the original Superman (the Red, Blue and Yellow costume) after a battle with the Millenium Giants. And do you think they explained how or why? If you answered yes, you ovbiously haven't been paying attention, because of course they didn't. Oh and if you think I've skipped anything from this storyline, nope. The only other thing that happens is a cat-fight between Obssession and Maxima over who gets to do the dirty with both Supermen and that only happens because Maxima can't share. But other than that, it's just a lot of Superman arguing amongst himself whilst the fans are just sitting there going "wut?"

Now, I'm all for change in comics. I would love to see more of it, rather than just rinse repeat the same old things like Marvel and DC keep doing. But this is not the way to do it, mainly because, they didn't do it properly. For there to be change and for that change to stick, there needs to be solid reasoning. Let's take a look at my two examples from earlier. The Flash changed from Barry Allen to Wally West for a good in-story reason; Barry Allen was killed saving the world and his former sidekick took up his mantel in his honour. Simple and it worked. Now the Avengers. That changed for a behind-the-scenes reason that makes as much sense. The writers kept on getting letters from fans asking about where The Avengers comics fitted in with the continuity of each characters solo adventures. Because this was a time where every single comic didn't tie into the same huge storyline event, it was quite confusing. So what did Marvel do? They swapped every hero with their own solo series (except Captain America, whose solo series took place in WW2, 20 years earlier than any other series) for a character who didn't have their own series. And they explained it in-story as every member but Cap resigning because they had their own problems to worry about (i.e. their own series). That makes sense on both levels.

But what about Superman Red/Blue. What was the storyline reason for it? It just happened and it happened in a way that contridicted all previous and future stories. So, they messed that up, but surely there was a good behind-the-scenes reason right? Right? Nope, not that I can find anyway. Although, the debut of the Blue Superman had a special edition Glow-In-The-Dark cover and the issue where Superman split into his Red and Blue personalities was printed as a 3-D comic complete with 3-D glasses, which suggests DC was trying to make a buck off of the very tail end of the collector boom that Marvel rode so hard in the early 90's with all of their variant covers and special editions. But as for the terrible story. Sorry, I got nothing.

And with that

JR out.

JR19759

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3 Responses to What Were They Thinking?: I Red This And It Blue

  1. It is explained a few issues after why he split. It is his bodies natural defense. The trap kept him from the sun longer than ever before. So before his body died, his body kept absorbing the electromagnetic energy but not the radiation that gives his powers. It wasnt because he beat the Millenium Giants or saved the world, it is just he returned to normal when his built up electromagnetic energy dispersed. If they put him in a trap that stopped all forms of radiation and energy, he would have died.

    Is it a great story, no in my opinion. But it does explain what happens if supes is blocked from the sun that only stops radiation that recharges him. He overloads in other energies. It might not be the best reason, but it is a reason. I put it under the different kinds of kryptonite reasons. Different radiations, different effects.

  2. And it gave us that amazing moment in Grant Morrison’s JLA when superman moves the moon.

    Give a bad idea to a good writer… 😉

  3. Not to be pedantic but that is incorrect. He became blue Superman because he lost his powers during Final Night. He tried to jump start himself at like STAR labs or something. He was overloaded and became blue.
    Not sure about the split cuz they lost me but he returned to normal after both Supes expelled all their energy against the Millenium Giants. When asked how he said “Maybe the Earth rewarded me?”
    ooooookaaayyyy

    Hillbilly:
    It is explained a few issues after why he split.It is his bodies natural defense.The trap kept him from the sun longer than ever before.So before his body died, his body kept absorbing the electromagnetic energy but not the radiation that gives his powers.It wasnt because he beat the Millenium Giants or saved the world, it is just he returned to normal when his built up electromagnetic energy dispersed.If they put him in a trap that stopped all forms of radiation and energy, he would have died.

    Is it a great story, no in my opinion.But it does explain what happens if supes is blocked from the sun that only stops radiation that recharges him.He overloads in other energies. It might not be the best reason, but it is a reason.I put it under the different kinds of kryptonite reasons.Different radiations, different effects.