Hi, I’ve just started reading JLA. I’m up to around no 15 but I’m still completely clueless what’s going on with Superman. Why is all different and blue? No-one else seems to be mentioning it.
I’m guessing it’s something going on in his comics, but I can’t find anything on it.
Yo listen up here’s a story about a Superman that lives in a blue world… ahem sorry. Anyway, here are the events that lead Superman to saying “I’m blue!” (DA BA DE DA BA DI… sorry again! That song’s just too darn catchy). Here we go:
Origins of the Concept
The original Superman-Red/Superman-Blue tale is an “Imaginary Story” [Basically an Elseworlds story, later designated as Earth-168 in the pre-Crisis continuity] that appears in Superman #162 (July 1963). The script was written by Leo Dorfman, with art by Curt Swan. In the story, Superman has decided he wants to finish his list of unaccomplished goals, including the enlargement of the Bottle City of Kandor. In order to accomplish these goals, Superman invents a machine, powered by various types of Kryptonite, that will increase his intelligence. The machine works, increasing Superman’s intelligence a hundredfold, but with the unexpected side effect of splitting Superman into two beings, Superman-Red and Superman-Blue.
As Superman in that scan notes, this actually happened before under the influence of Red Kryptonite but that time one was evil and one was good, this time though we just got Super Twins. The story is so ridiculous I can’t not share more of it:
The twin Supermen successfully enlarged Kandor, freeing its citizens from their bottle prison. They then bring the remnants of Krypton together, creating a “New Krypton” (and eliminating all existing Kryptonite in the process). The two Supermen go on to create an “anti-evil” ray, which can cure criminal tendencies in anyone. They place the ray into satellites in orbit around the Earth, curing not only villains such as Lex Luthor and Mr. Mxyzptlk, but Communists such as Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. The reformed Luthor goes on to invent a serum that cures all known diseases, which he puts into the water supply.
With nearly all of the world’s problems solved, the two Supermen have time to deal with personal matters. The split allows them to resolve the love triangle between Superman, Lois Lane, and Lana Lang. Each woman claims her own Superman, and they have a triple wedding: Superman-Blue marries Lana, Superman-Red marries Lois, and Lucy Lane marries Jimmy Olsen. Red decides to live on New Krypton, sacrificing his powers, while Blue remains on Earth, starting a Super-family.
These versions of Superman Red and Blue actually make a few cameos after this too:
Superman-Red and Superman-Blue appeared again in a story written by Bob Rozakis and Paul Kupperberg and illustrated by Adrian Gonzales and Vince Colletta and first published in German in Superman Album No. 1 in West Germany in 1981. The story was published in English in 1982 in the oversized Superman Spectacular (an unnumbered one-shot in the United States but published as No. 1 in a series in The United Kingdom.) In this story, red Kryptonite causes Superman to be temporarily split into Superman-Red and Superman-Blue and the two Supermen battle Lex Luthor and the Terra-Man.
The 90s Version from JLA
Anyway, in a 1997 storyline Superman basically lost his powers but, because he’s Superman, of course he developed new ones:
Something odd strikes Superman as his powers begin to fluctuate. A trip to Kandor only seemed to make things worse. Superman found himself as pure energy, needing a containment suit from Dr. Emil Hamilton [which is why his suit looks so different]. Superman’s new form was a blue and white energy being who could still fly (faster than ever) but who possessed far different abilities than those traditionally associated with the Man of Steel. Furthermore, [he could turn his powers off but] when he changed back into Clark Kent, he was rendered powerless.
Superman worked with his new powers and continued to be a hero. He found that he was considerably faster, intangible, and able to interact with computers in this energy form. However, he found that he was weaker to energy disruption, and needed to use his powers creatively to replace the super-strength he formerly had.
Further details on his powers from the Wikipedia:
While retaining most of his abilities, he could now also sense different kinds of energy, including the trail of radioactivity from a passing van, bolts of electricity and magnetic tractor beams rather than his original heat vision. He was also able to absorb the radiation, although this was incredibly painful.
He also later discovers he’s now invulnerable to Kryptonite in this new form. Anyway, he has a bunch of adventures, including the ones you’re reading about in JLA. However, eventually Cyborg Superman and Toyman team up to destroy him… which doesn’t go exactly according to plan:
In the Superman Red/Superman Blue one-shot (February 1998), a trap created by the Cyborg Superman caused Superman to split into two beings who represented different aspects of his personality, though each believed himself to be the original. Superman Blue was the more cerebral entity, preferring to think his way out of situations and actually solve problems with his mind as well as his powers. Superman Red was more rash, but also more decisive, preferring action over taking the time to think. Over time, these two personalities grew more and more polarized and individual, to the point that neither entity wanted to become one Superman again.
Both Supermen deeply loved Lois Lane; unlike in the earlier Red/Blue story, there was not another love interest for one of the Supermen to pair up with. Instead, they fought over Lois’ affections, each with almost no consideration for her feelings; Lois lost her tolerance for this and essentially kicked them both out of the house until they could figure out how to unite.
There’s some ridiculous stories during this, like superpowered female admirers of Superman fighting over them (one liking the idea of two of them, one hating it) but eventually the Millenium Giants are summoned and it all comes to a head in the crossover Behold! The Millennium Giants!
Superman Blue and Superman Red are not capable of handling the colossal giants on their own. The Giants begin to march over the world, causing havoc and destruction, obliterating the city of Thiena Na Oge and most of the nation of Markovia in their path. The JLA rallies to take up the fight, and the two Supermen are finally able to destroy the giants – but the cost may be the Earth itself! The two Supermen engage in one last, desperate gamble to save the Earth from total destruction – even if it means losing their lives in the process.
I’m sure the next part with literally shock you:
Not only is the Earth saved, but Superman is restored to his old form and powers (and into a singular being once again) much to the happiness of everyone (especially Lois).
So yes, the whole thing was pretty ridiculous and derided by fans even at the time. Personally I love the snark in Wikipedia’s coverage of them merging back together:
The explanation is vague; Superman felt he was “rewarded” for saving the world, although he later claimed that he returned to normal when his electromagnetic energy dispersed.
So there you have it!
And that’s the end of them?
Although Superman briefly returned to his electric-blue form when facing Brainiac-13 after he was apparently absorbed by Brainiac’s energy conduits while trying to disrupt his power supply, this was revealed to be the result of Brainiac 2.5 – Brainiac-13’s past self, hiding in Lena Luthor to avoid being deleted by his future self – creating the electric Superman based on scans taken of Superman in that form, allowing Superman to keep Brainiac-13 occupied while his real body was restored in a LexCorp facility.
Superman Red also appears in Superman/Batman #25 alongside an army of alternate Supermen and Batmen.
Well, glad the New 52 probably erased all that!
After Flashpoint, The New 52 was created and Superman’s continuity was altered. However in Action Comics #13, the “Electric Blue” suit is shown inside a display case at the Fortress of Solitude.
Now, this wasn’t the only time that Superman split into two separate beings… but that’s a story for another day ;)
Hope this was helpful!