In this week’s Action Comics #978 by Jurgens and artist Carlo Barberi, readers start getting some answers about what this new status means for Superman’s continuity – and the history of the post-“Rebirth” DCU.
One of the key changes? Best as we can tell, there’s no Conner Kent in this new world. He apparently never showed up after “Death of Superman.” And the “New 52” romance between Superman and Wonder Woman appears to be eliminated as well.
And with the growing list of Superman’s back-in-canon adventures, coupled with revelations in this week’s The Flash #21 and Blue Beetle #8, the continuity of the DCU has abandoned its former “New 52” insistence on it being just over five years since superheroes debuted. Instead, the long, storied history of the League is back in play.
So what else is still in continuity? Did anything survive from the “New 52”? And what’s throwing back to the post-Crisis continuity? Let’s take a look at the issue to find out.
To review: As “Superman Reborn” revealed, someone messed with Superman in the past and split him into two, causing him to live two distinct lives – one as the “New 52” Superman and the other as the post-Crisis version. Lois Lane lived two lives along with him.
The manipulation of Superman’s history appears to be related to the over-arching mysteries behind “Rebirth” continuity, previously linked to Watchmen and hinted to be caused by Dr. Manhattan.
But DC’s “Superman Reborn” crossover put Superman’s two lives back together, creating a new version of Superman and Lois Lane – and thus, a new official continuity for the DCU going forward.
This week’s Action Comics#978 picks up on the thread started in the last issue, as Superman plays back the “memory archives” in the Fortress of Solitude, allowing Jurgens to effectively establish the character’s new continuity and overwrite what came before.
First, he reviews how he met Lois Lane when he first came to Metropolis. Gone is the tale of jeans-wearing Superman from Grant Morrison’s early “New 52” stories, replaced by the story of Lois falling from a helicopter and being rescued by Superman, very much a laSuperman: The Movie.
Readers are shown a slew of Superman’s villains, as well as several of the costumes Clark has worn in the past, including the red trunks and Electric Blue.
We see Lois and Clark’s engagement and the day Clark revealed to her that he was Superman. It’s all been mashed together by Jurgens into a new continuity.
Most of the new history follows the post-Crisis version, including the “Death of Superman,” the “Reign of the Supermen,” and Clark and Lois getting married. Even the destruction of Coast City (by Cyborg Superman) has returned to continuity.
However, there are some differences:
– The “Reign of the Supermen” story doesn’t appear to have Conner Kent in it; how much of the original 1993 crossover is back in continuity is unclear, but Conner Kent is no where to be seen in this version of it Jurgens is bringing forward into “Rebirth” continuity.
– As Jurgens promised in Newsarama’s interview, Ma and Pa Kent died earlier in Superman’s life (an element taken from his “New 52” origin).
– “Convergence” has disappeared from Superman’s memory, with Jon being born in the Fortress of Solitude with help from Wonder Woman and Batman, all in their “New 52” costumes. (Their escape to the Fortress was linked to the dangers of Lois’ investigation of Intergang, keeping that part of her story in continuity.) And Perry White is young Jon’s godfather.
– Superman’s bearded and black-costumed era in California was just because Clark and Lois took a sabbatical from The Daily Planet so they could raise Jon in peace. Lois’ work as Author X is still in continuity, now linked to her sabbatical.
– The public’s knowledge of Superman’s identity (during the “New 52″‘s “Truth” storyline) appears to have disappeared.
– The family’s time in Hamilton County was arranged so that Clark and Lois could work at The Daily Planet while raising Jon in a comparable way to Clark’s upbringing on the Kent farm.
– Some of “New 52” Superman’s history is still intact, and now appears to be part of this new character’s time when he was living in Hamilton County.
– The relationship between Wonder Woman and Superman isn’t really addressed, although it’s clear that she’s just a friend. (In fact, she calls Lois “sister” during the scene depicting Jon’s birth and contemporary Superman remarks the two women were “close by then.”) Lois’ relationship with Jonathan Carroll is also not part of the story anymore.
Mr. Oz Appearance
As Clark talks to the robotic Kelex about his memories, Clark senses that something is wrong, but he can’t remember what – all the memories Kelex shows him match what he remembers.
Yet he retains the memory of Mr. Mxyzptlk telling him that some force has fractured reality.
As talking about the Mxyzptlk event (while standing in the Fortress), Superman hears a voice saying, “Consider the long game.” (In the issue, the voice appears to be speaking in Kryptonian.)
(Readers will remember that DC Universe: Rebirth #1 showed Mr. Oz saying the same thing to Clark as he describes himself: “Friend or enemy is too simply a term when you consider the long game. Some might call this that.”)
Later in the issue, a vision of Mr. Oz’s face actually appears to Superman in the Fortress. “My message is for you and you alone,” he says. Superman remembers having seen Mr. Oz in DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
“All you need to know,” Oz says, as Oz destroys the Fortress statue of Ma and Pa Kent, “is that you are dealing with forces beyond you, alone, or otherwise.”
The Super-League is shown and still includes Superwoman, Steel, Supergirl, the New Super-Man, and the now-turned-hero Lex Luthor. So it looks like none of that more-recent continuity has changed.
Superman remembers what Mr. Oz told him in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 – that he and his family are not what they seem.
Realizing that Oz had the power to get into the Fortress of Solitude, Superman says of Oz that “all of us are threatened” by this “foe.”
New Old Villain
The issue revisits that mysterious figure from Action Comics #977 who was collecting various Superman villains. He’s on the moon and revives Eradicator, who recognizes him.
Eradicator teleports Metallo and Blanque to the moon, where the villains have taken over that former Batcave on the moon.
Finally, the mysterious figure’s identity is revealed: Hank Henshaw. (But this doesn’t look like the Cyborg Superman shown earlier in the montage about “Reign of the Superman.” This is the human-looking Hank Henshaw from the Superman: Lois and Clark run. However, he appears to have the ability to change his appearance.)
He tells the other villains that their group has been gathered together as a “Superman Revenge Squad.”
As with many recent DC “Rebirth” issues such as this week’s The Flash #21 , the publisher is beginning to hint at answers to questions DC Universe: Rebirth #1 raised, with more questions are popping up as a result.
Superman’s new history seems to be fairly complete (despite some nagging feelings “something” is wrong), but he doesn’t seem to be missing as many years as Wally West suggests was stolen from everyone else in “Rebirth.”
DC may have a clear path towards providing a new continuity that makes sense to readers, but until that’s revealed we all have to hope they’re not going down the rabbit hole that led to Zero Hour and all the Crises in the first place.
Check out our exclusive unboxing of the Superman figurine from Eaglemoss Collectibles’ DC Comics Super Hero Collection.
For over 40 years, Eaglemoss has been specializing in pop culture memorabilia. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company would delve into the world of comics. One of their most popular lines—the DC Comics Super Hero Collection—has made a recent comeback. So far, we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two offerings from that line—Batman and Harley Quinn.
Now, Eaglemoss brings us the granddaddy of all superheroes—Superman! Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and introduced in Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the Man of Steel has endured over 80 years of popularity. His “S” sigil is the second most identifiable symbol in the world—with the Christian Cross being first.
Each Eaglemoss offering in the line includes an exclusive figurine of the character and a companion magazine, documenting the subject’s exploits throughout the years. For a limited time, subscribers will also receive a limited edition collector’s box with each order.
Bam Smack Pow is once again lucky enough to receive one of these collectibles from Eaglemoss. So join us as we perform an unboxing and review.
Photo Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve Lam
As mentioned before, Eaglemoss is providing limited edition collectors boxes for their figurines and companion magazines. The boxes are custom-designed and prominently feature the character. Here, we have Superman standing stoic on the front of the box with a generous window, allowing admirers to peer inside.
One side of the box features a full bodyshot of the Man of Steel in comic art form. The other side, features a photo of the figurine. The back of the box gives collectors a preview of the overall DC Comics Super Hero Collection line.
Photo Credit: Steve Lam
As we remove the “outer shell,” we find the figurine housed in a two-layer, molded plastic case. Personally, I think most product lines should follow Eaglemoss’s example. The item is well-protected and, most of all, it’s not a hassle to remove. There’s no frustrating packaging that leaves injured fingers and egos.
Photo Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve Lam
The companion magazine is a brief history of Superman from a character standpoint. It’s still many pages though. “Brief” is a relative term when you’re dealing with a character who has a history as rich as the Last Son of Krypton’s. So even at 15 pages with super-tiny (pun intended) print, the magazine is still a summary. It’s definitely a fun read and will show you the many changes the character has gone through.
Photo Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve LamPhoto Credit: Steve Lam
Here, we have what everyone’s been waiting for—the Superman figurine. Even at this small size, the Man of Tomorrow is larger than life. The character’s symbolic nature will always make him a giant in fans’ eyes. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m fawning over a fictional character. But Superman is one of those childhood memories that I hold very close to my heart—which is why this exact scene went through my mind as I admired the figure:
The figurine is highly detailed and the colors are very close to the classic Superman palette. The red isn’t too bright and cheesy. It’s more of a regal crimson, and definitely not muted. Overall, the sculpt is nicely rendered from all angles. At the bottom of the pedestal, you’ll find an official DC Comics seal and numbering—signifying its limited edition status.
Photo Credit: Steve Lam
Eaglemoss continues its tradition of providing a very high-value offering with its Superman figurine, collector’s box, and companion magazine. It’s actually quite addictive as you can’t let Superman just stand alone in his fight for truth and justice—that’s why you have to subscribe and try and get the whole line.
If you’re still on the fence, the $4.95 is pretty much a risk-free trial. You can cancel at any time. However, I doubt any collector will. You can check out Eaglemoss’s official DC Super Hero Collection website to see how you can get started on a subscription today.
A special thanks to Raphaël Cohen from Eaglemoss Publications Ltd. for helping us with this review.
Disclosure: Bam Smack Pow was provided with a free sample for the purposes of this review.
About Eaglemoss Collections
Eaglemoss Collections is the leading partwork publisher with over 40 years of experience and a passion for creative and innovative collectable products. With expertise in die-cast models, figurines, build-ups, crafts, and cooking products, Eaglemoss publishes in more than 30 international markets across five continents with offices in London, Paris, New York, Moscow, Sao Paolo and Warsaw.
Last summer, the world got its first-look at Justice League when Warner Bros. updates fans on the project at San Diego Comic Con. The event saw an official movie poster released which featured the Man of Steel standing amongst Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Batman. However, since Justice League had its convention debut, fans have noticed Superman has been getting the cold shoulder. The hero has not been included in any footage or promotional adverts since SDCC, and fans have been anxious to see the Kryptonian again.
Now, it looks like their wishes have come true. Today, a new website for Justice League launched thanks to DC Entertainment, and a poster promoting the site just gave fans more Superman.
In the poster, fans are shown the 6-hero line up of the Justice League. The Flash and Batman are shown standing beside one another while Aquaman and Cyborg mirror them on the right. In the center, Wonder Woman stands at attention while Superman stands slightly off to the side.
The new promo created by Rubies, a company known for selling officially licensed DC Comics costumes. The site shared this new poster with fans to advertise its upcoming superhero costume line based on the film.
Even if the poster is a basic ones, plenty of fans are happy to see Superman suited up once more. The hero has been kept out of marketing thus far, and there are those who hope Warner Bros. keeps it that way. After all, the hero’s appearance will be a tricky one to introduce. The DC Extended Universe killed off Superman last year when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted, but the blockbuster ended with a teaser regarding Superman’s revival.
It does seem unlikely that Warner Bros. will let everything out about Superman’s resurrection, but the studio will surely capitalize on the hero’s involvement soon enough. The second full trailer for Justice League may very well see Superman rise again.
Justice League currently has a 4.13 out 5 ComicBook.com User Anticipation Rating, making it the fifth most-anticipated upcoming comic book movie among ComicBook.com readers. Let us know how much you’re looking forward to Justice League by giving it your own ComicBook.com user anticipation rating below.
In Justice League,fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Justice League is directed by Zack Snyder, from a screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on a story by Snyder and Terrio, and stars Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J. K. Simmons, and Ciarán Hinds.
Justice League opens in theaters on Nov. 17, 2017.
The ongoing saga of post-Rebirth Superman culminated this week in the final part of “Superman Reborn” in the pages of Action Comics. It didn’t just forever solve the tale of two Clark Kents though — it had some extremely big ramifications for the whole of the DC Universe. (more…)
The trailer for Syfy’s brand new series about Superman’s home planet — before its inevitable destruction — leaked yesterday, and much to many people’s surprise, it appears to be a prequel to 2013’s Man of Steel.The technology and insignia for the House of El are identical to the DCEU film’s prologue, and it’s spearheaded by David S. Goyer, who also wrote Man of Steel.
There is plenty of potential in the idea of Superman’s grandfather’s adventures on the DCEU’s Krypton with its many civil wars, monsters and the corrupted society that Man of Steel established. But we could also see other iconic characters from DC Comics — so here are the most likely to show up when the show premieres:
The Kryptonian scout ship in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice showed that the Kryptonians clearly have records of Steppenwolf and more than likely the world of Apokolips. Perhaps the Krypton series will show Steppenwolf or another representative of Apokolips — possibly even Darkseid — visit Krypton; it would make for one hell of a storyline.
2. A Green Lantern
In brightest day, in blackest night, a green special guest is in sight! Since Krypton takes place many years before Superman is born, we can rule out that characters like Hal Jordan or John Stewart will make an appearance — but perhaps there will be a crisis on Krypton that forces the Guardians to send a member of the Green Lantern Corps to assist.
This way, we can get our first taste of the Lanterns before 2020’s Green Lantern Corps, which would get us even more excited for the film. Perhaps we can see a rookie Tomar-Re? Sinestro when he was still a Green Lantern? Perhaps the father of Abin-Sur? So much potential there!
Bring on the main man! You can introduce this beloved badass as an antagonist or antihero or both, and it would satisfy Superman fans everywhere. Lobo could end up being a fan-favorite special guest with his hooked chain, amazing motorcycle and greatest attitude in the galaxy. They don’t call him the “main man” for nothing, you know.
4. The Original Blue Beetle
Krypton doesn’t always have to bring in the iconic characters; maybe it can set up a more obscure character with the Blue Beetle. Comic book fans will know of the two humans who wielded the blue scarab on their back, but what about before it arrived on Earth?
Perhaps Krypton will show the Reach sending the original Blue Beetle to destroy Krypton, giving us the villainous side of the Scarab. Can this be the threat that requires the Green Lantern? It would be quite the fight for fans to enjoy: Green Lantern vs. Blue Beetle.
Perhaps Krypton can set up the villain for a future Superman solo film with one of Superman’s deadliest threats. Brainiac has been reimagined in so many different ways in the comics, animated shows, movies and even video games — so Syfy has so much leniency with the character: evil artificial intelligence? That can be done! An alien from Colu? That can be done! A Kryptonian with a robot body? That can be done!
This can be the perfect way to set up Brainiac as Superman’s greatest rival — with a connection to his grandfather, similar to how Man of Steel created a connection between Jor-El and General Zod.
Krypton looks and sounds like an awesome show, and its possible connection to the DCEU is just icing on the cake. Syfy has given us some amazing shows like Battlestar Galactica, Being Human, Eureka, Warehouse 13 and many more, so I have faith in this series.
Are excited for Krypton? What DC characters do you want to see appear? Let me know in the comments below!
Possibly thanks to some computer wizardry from the heartless machine-man Braniac, a trailer for Syfy’s Krypton TV show has apparently leaked. Like a chunk of debris from an exploded planet, the video is quickly making its way across the internet, but since the clip hasn’t been released by Syfy itself just yet, there’s a good chance some or all of it could change. As for what actually happens in the trailer, it looks like a sci-fi spin on the drama of shows like Game Of Thrones, but with just enough winking and nodding to the Superman mythos to make it seem like one of those superhero shows everybody watches these days.
Krypton focuses on Cameron Cuffe’s young Seg-El, Superman’s grandfather, and the trailer opens with him addressing his future descendent in a recorded message about his mission to save Krypton from some unknown threat (it can’t be the impending explosion, because that doesn’t happen for a long time). Unlike his son Jor-El, who always seems to have a swanky space house when we see it in Superman comics and movies pre-explosion, Seg-El is more of a grubby street rat, who spends the trailer sulking through Kryptonian streets, examining a Kandor-esque bottled city, and using a stick with the Superman emblem (or House Of El seal) to access a pedestal that literally has the Superman emblem on it. He also talks about some kind of rebellion that the House Of El attempts to pull, but it’s unclear if that happens in Seg-El’s future or if it has already failed and that’s why he’s a grubby street rat in the first place.
Based on this trailer (which comes via io9), it’s still unclear how any of this could possibly impact or reflect any famous storylines or events from the Superman universe, but Krypton could easily do what Fox’s Gotham does and just twist the comic book canon in a way that allows it to introduce tweaked versions of famous characters. Until that happens, at least it has some interesting Superman-inspired visuals, including weird spaceships and a dude with a golden head who looks like Marvel’s Living Tribunal with twice as many faces.
Syfy is reportedly planning to begin airing Krypton later this year.
[Note: io9, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]
In the first few pages of this sneak peek below, Damian Wayne is sleeping over at the Kent homestead after he and his Bat-dad grapple-hooked into farm country. With Batman still gone after a night of investigating, Clark tells the boys to grab their suits so they can go have a look for Bruce. Meanwhile, the mystery surrounding Hamilton deepens. And in this issue, Supes has to decide whether to take a life … and with his son in tow.
The issue is written by Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi; art is by Jaime Mendoza and Doug Mahnke; cover is by Patrick Gleason, with a variant cover by Tony S. Daniel.
Check out an exclusive preview of Superman #21, published by DC Comics and available on April 19. If you dig what you see, pick up the book when it drops on Wednesday.
DC Comics Rebirth Spoilers and/or Speculation follows?
Classic Superman artist Jon Bogdanove recently posted some cover art on his facebook account.
As part of that, he commented on DC Comics Rebirth’s Action Comics #1000 and How Superman’s red “Modesty” tights and The Shuster Family Lawsuit may play into it.
This is one of my most favorite drawings ever— the original “The Adventures of Superman” #16 cover as it was originally commissioned by DC for the final issue of that title. I was asked to add New 52 Superman after the cover was finished, so he is drawn and inked on a separate board. To fit him in digitally, I had to rearrange the five classic Supes in Photoshop, making all the figures smaller. Nothing against poor, ol’ 52, but I like this version best.
As part of the comments to the image he posted, the question about Supermen’s red trunks or “modesty shorts”, Bogdanove was asked if the New 52 Superman’s lack of red outsider underwear was becaise of the legal battle between the Shuster Family, Superman’s co-creator, and DC Comics? Jon Bogdanove responded as follows:
That is my understanding. To protect their IP copyright, they needed to distance themselves as much as possible from Siegel and Shuster’s “contribution” to it. The idea was to dump anything that could be contested as being created by Siegel and Shuster, without totally tanking the universally recognized and beloved brand. On New 52, I was even instructed to avoid Sman’s face– no S curl, no cleft chin etc. He was meant to be a totally different man. Some of that has relaxed now all is settled, but the SS heirs only won the rights to his modesty briefs– so no more shorts on Superman without paying them. At least, that is the inside buzz as I have heard it.
Bogdanove followed up with the art colored…
…as well as clarified his comments on Superman’s shorts that sparked much debate.
Hey, about this business with Superman’s shorts– or “The Modesty Briefs Affair”, wherein people, including me, have speculated that the reason Superman doesn’t wear red trunks anymore is because Siegel and Shuster’s heirs figuratively “sued the pants off him” (to quote a FB pal): I want to reconfirm that everything I have said, and will say here, is just that—SPECULATION. It is based entirely on rumors I have heard from various current and former DC folks and other people inside the industry. Let me reaffirm: I could be wrong.
But since when has that ever stopped anyone on social media? So, in true Donald Trump fashion, here’s what I think happened to The Man of Steel’s pants:
(Remember, this is all distilled in my head from an assortment of inside rumors and confidences from within the industry. I COULD BE WRONG. But please feel free to get worked up, if that’s what you’re here for.)
Someday, I would love to read the settlement that finally ended the nearly 70 years long legal struggle of Superman’s creators and their surviving heirs, to recoup a bigger share of the profits generated by their invention. I’d at least like to read a summarized brief of Warner’s legal arguments over the years. My guess is that one of the provisions of the settlement is that the heirs are enjoined from speaking about it, and I wouldn’t expect Warners to either. So we may never know.
Ultimately, I think this final chapter of the war— this final case— came down to a fine-tooth, point-for-point argument over specifically which defining characteristics of Superman were actually created by Jerry and Joe before they came to DC and started laboring as “work-for-hire”.
For example, Superman’s red boots replaced his Greek lace-ups AFTER Jerry and Joe signed him over. Likewise, the “S” emblem continued to evolve from the original while Jerry and Joe were under contract, as did much of his likeness and appearance– EXCEPT for the modesty briefs. Apparently, that’s the one original characteristic that persisted unchanged from before the boys ever approached DC until the resolution of this case.
As a result, the briefs are the one thing Jerry and Joe’s family were able to hold onto– or regain. DC can’t use the pants without paying the heirs a little something— or so I’m told. Word on the street is that someone at DC or Warners is angrily determined never to pay for those shorts, so off they came!
Now, there is also buzz that Dan Jurgens, and others in the company, have campaigned hard in favor of the traditional, classic, populist brand, appearance and costume– and that Diane Nelson or someone up top recognizes the dollar value of that brand as being worth much more than what it costs to rent the shorts from the heirs.
This buzz suggests that Superman will be restored to his true self in ACTION #1000– which would be awesome in the extreme— an historic comics event tantamount to “The Death of Superman”. I think it would heal and restore a great deal more than just #Superman. I think the effects would be restorative across the industry. I would expect a revamp and revitalization of the movie franchises to stem from it, eventually– worth millions in revenue.
Again, just rumors and speculation. I could be wrong. Have I mentioned that yet?
But, checking out the vibe at DC these days, I have to say I detect a gathering of life force. I think DC is getting its head out of the old “everything must be Batman” days and getting its mojo back, folks. Mark my words and stay tuned!
If you turn back the clock twenty years and look at the Superman comics that would have been new in stores at that time, younger fans might be surprised to see a version of the character who, physically at least, doesn’t resemble what you think of when you say “Superman” at all.
That’s becuase twenty years ago last month, Superman #123 hit the stands and reinvented the Man of Steel as an energy-based superhero with a one-piece outfit, blue skin, and electric powers.
It was a few months later that Superman was split into two distinct characters in a reinvention of an old story called “Superman Red/Superman Blue,” elements of which have recently been reused in Superman and Action Comics.
The story was at the time — and continues to be — controversial, often mocked, and beloved by many of the dedicated audience who were reading the Superman titles at the time, many of whom had been on board since 1992’s The Death of Superman, some even since John Byrne’s The Man of Steel reboot in 1986.
To get a sense for how the story developed, how it has aged, and some of te creative machinations that went into it, ComicBook.com performed a series of interviews, and has combined most of them into a roundtable interview.
Below, you can find remarks and recollections from longtime DC editor Mike Carlin; then-Superman writer Dan Jurgens; Superman: The Man of Steel artist Jon Bogdanove; The Adventures of Superman writer/artist Stuart Immonen; Action Comics writer Karl Kesel; and Glenn Whitmore, who colored all of the Superman titles at the time.
Some further insight, including a lengthy interview with Superman artist Ron Frenz, who designed the new costume, will be coming along soon.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
What, in your recollection, led to the Power Surge/Superman Transformed storyline?
Karl Kesel: The idea had come into my mind to give Superman completely different powers. Not only would this be a fun monkey wrench to throw at Our Hero, but on a story level I saw lots of possibilities to show Superman struggling — something not easy to do or often seen with Superman. For the first time he wouldn’t know what he was capable of, he wouldn’t know what could or couldn’t hurt him. I liked the idea of showing Superman learning, pushing himself, sometimes failing because, well, that didn’t work. It also gave us the opportunity to give fights with old enemies a new twist.
In the end, though, the real point of the arc would be: it isn’t the powers that make Superman who is is, it’s Superman himself. I had no idea what those new powers might be — and I actually wanted other people to contribute that part so that more people were invested in the story. I believe Jon Bogdanove suggested energy powers.
The whole Red/Blue thing came later. In all honesty it would have ever happened if we hadn’t gone with the Ron Frenz’s blue suit design. We could have just as easily had a black suit with some sort of glowing design on it — in which case Red/Blue would have never happened. I’m not sure who came up with the Red/Blue idea — I’d guess Dan or Roger.
Dan Jurgens: We were always looking for big stories to do with Superman and those usually involved the idea of changing up the status quo in some way. We had discussed the general idea of a costume change even back when we brought him back from the dead, of course. That was part of the inspiration for the all black costume.
So we kind of revived some of that here and also went with a change in powers, which we’d also talked about previously.
Jon Bogdanove: It was introduced at the Super Summit, and we were like “Yeah, okay.” [Laughs] That was a period when the company was looking fo the next Death of Superman and we were deep into event-driven mode. Of course we knew that you couldn’t just manufacture the next Death of Superman, but the assignment was to come up with whatever the next overarching arc is. I think it was Mike [Carlin] who suggested Superman Red/Superman Blue. We were talking about some of that stuff form the “silly sixties,” from the Julius Schwartz era that we read when we were growing up, from the Weisinger era. We were slapping around for what the next big event was, and for some reason we settled on Superman Red and Blue, and it sort of grew from there.
How would you respond to the assessment that this and similar events came out of a desire by editorial to find “the next Death of Superman?”
Carlin:Never once did management tell us to “Do it again.” Lucky for us VPs like Paul Levitz and Dick Giordano were from the creative pool and knew that we had caught lightning in a bottle. That being the case, as creators ourselves, WE wanted to see if we could do more and more stories that the readers would get excited about.
Mike, Jon says you were the one who sold it to the team. Is that your recollection as well?
Mike Carlin:Nope. When we used to do the Superman Summits we included all four writers, all four pencilers, all four inkers AND the colorist even. And as corny as it seems doing SOMETHING with “Superman Red/Superman Blue” was suggested by colorist Glenn Whitmore.
We worked very hard not to simply discount any ideas no matter what corner of the room they came from — and we were all fans of the original “Imaginary Story,” but we wanted to do something new that was something the particular team we had assembled at that time wanted to get behind. Now if the writers and artists couldn’t come up with something the room wanted to do we wouldn’t have done it. People joined in with ideas and suggestions… and the Power Surge idea was fleshed out. And while it was controversial when it came out — clearly we’re still talking about it.
Glenn Whitmore: The idea to revisit “Superman Red/Superman Blue” did come from me. Every year at the Super-summit, it would become the running gag that I (as colorist) would pitch the idea, though I was serious about it. Being someone who loved the Silver Age, I simply envisioned in my mind that Superman would be drawn by the artists as Curt Swan drew him. The story would simply be one about a split personality; Red would have the more aggressive personality while Blue was the more cerebral and thoughtful one.
I have the distinct memory of being in the conference room and pitching that idea. Everyone began to laugh at me. This idea had everyone in stitches as if it was the most inane idea ever pitched. In those days, I was the youngest of the group with the reputation of a goofball. Anyhow, I was dead serious when I pitched it. Not being a writer, I probably had trouble articulating what was in my head.
Every year after, I would seriously mention it, yet still knowing it would get laughs out of the rest of the Super crew.
Somewhere along the way, budgets were cut and the colorist could no longer attend the Super-Summits. KC Carlson had become editor at this point, and when I made a visit to the office (after missing that particular Super-summit), I laughed when I saw the notes for Superman Red/Blue on the plot grids. I had absolutely nothing to do with the costume and powers redesign aspect, but some of the personality split aspects made it into the storyline.
But obviously it was always going to be a Superman Red/Superman Blue riff?
Jurgens: Over the years, we talked several times about doing “Superman Red/Superman Blue” somehow. Our colorist, Glenn Whitmore, had always been nudging us to do so!
In this case, we finally had a story where it would actually fit. Even as we started the story, we knew we’d get to “Red/Blue” before it was over.
Many of you were part of the Death and Return of Superman storyline, so you were no stranger to the mega-events in the Superman books. Did you anticipate the kind of response the costume and power change would get?
Jurgens: I thought it would get us a bump of sorts, but it ended up getting more attention than I expected. I think some of it was the glow-in-the-dark cover and some of it was simply the idea of us changing and updating Superman.
Carlin:We never tried to anticipate responses. Obviously we always hoped for the best with every storyline… but we also knew that ya can’t please everyone all the time. We certainly had no idea that the Death of Superman would get the attention it received— you can’t pay for the kind of hype the media decided to bestow on that storyline. All we could try to do was react. We made the Return of Superman bigger than originally intended BECAUSE the world was obviously watching. I always figured our job was to not drop the ball when it was thrown to us. And in the case of “Superman Red/Superman Blue” we got another big reaction— but a very different kind of reaction. Still our assignment was always to get people buzzing about what was going on in Superman— and on that level alone it succeeded.
Was always happy when a comic book story makes it onto Saturday Night Live the week it comes out. Again… you can’t buy that kind of awareness.
Kesel: You always hope the stories you want to tell are ones readers will respond to (in a good way!) but in my experience you can never predict that. I was very happy with the reactions.
FACING THE FUTURE
Dan has said in the past that, almost 25 years later, he still never goes to a convention where somebody doesn’t approach him to sign the Death of Superman or ask him to talk about it. I wonder if there’s still similar interest in the “Superman Transformed” story in your experience?
Carlin:I would say no. There are people who enjoyed the story…more people admitting it each day…but nothing will ever match “The Death and Return of Superman” in our lifetimes. Even while it was happening we knew that we would be talking about that for years to come.
That said, I am very happy that you wanted do a commemorative piece on “Superman Red/Superman Blue” for it’s 20th anniversary — during “The Death of Superman”’s 25th Anniversary, because the Super-Team did a lot of good story arcs during our time on the titles…and it’s nice to have more than the one story brought to the forefront.
Stuart Immonen: No, not so much.
Kesel: Oh, “The Death of Superman” is a much bigger moment in the character’s history. I sign far more “Reign of the Supermen” books— and even “Death” books, which I really had nothing to do with!— than I do “Superman Transformed” collections.
Jurgens: It’s weird—I have always and will always get plenty of “Death of…” issues to sign.
But, over the last few years, I’ve seen revived interest in Superman Transformed, just as I have with the Ben Reilly Spider-Man stuff. I get a lot more questions, comments and issues of both to sign these days.
Bogdanove: Well, when it happened of course, everyone was upset that we were messing with the “S.”
I don’t know…I sign an awful lot of them. I think they must have sold pretty well because I would say next to the Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen eras, I get a lot of those Electric Blue eras.
Especially “The Death of Mr. Mxyzptlk,” which came in that run and where I got to do a lot of gag writing and stuff like that. There’s a lot of my personality in that 22-page-long fart joke.
I dont’ know if people talk to me about it a lot, but it comes across my table a lot.
AN HONEST APPRAISAL
It’s a story that the Superman faithful still discuss pretty often. Would you say you’re happy with the execution of the Electric Superman mega-arc?
Kesel: There are a few things I’d do differently, but over-all: very happy.
Carlin:Pretty much… it was something new and different for the Superman character (he had even died before we got to “The Death”, so this really was new) and that’s always fun. As for the folks that thought it was a mistake— it was a story— we always knew that we were getting back to “normal” when the story was done, same with “The Death”… Same with EVERY story arc. And the beauty of having all the Superman titles tie together during any given month, if you didn’t like a story… sit tight, there’ll be a new one coming fast enough.
Jurgens: I was happy with parts of it. Other parts, not so much.
I’d say it got a bit unwieldy there for a time. Big stories like that really need to have a certain amount of control exerted over them and we didn’t quite have that here. It was probably too big and the focus drifted a bit too much.
Is there anything you would do differently if you had it to do over again?
Kesel: The ending.
I don’t think the New Powers arc was resolved as well as it could have been. Since I had come up with the idea, I did propose an ending where we learn that some new villain had found a way to switch his powers with Superman — so now this villain had all of Superman’s powers, while Superman had his. And just as Superman was learning how to use these new powers, so was the bad-guy. Then the bad-guy starts wrecking havoc in ways Superman, of course, would never do, and Superman has to stop him. Basically, Superman has to find a way to defeat “himself.” He does, of course, and then the powers are transferred back to the proper bodies. This then gave us a villain with powers that everyone knows can beat Superman’s powers. I thought that’d be a cool note to end on. Mike Carlin over-ruled that idea, saying it was too much like Venom/Spider-man. Didn’t seem that way to me, but maybe it was.
I’ll admit at that point I was kinda “OK — that was my shot. Who’s got another idea?” And I, at least, didn’t hear any. It could well be that people were tossing ideas at editorial, and nothing was sticking. So when it came time to move on, I said “Well — what if we reveal this is just a stage in Kryptonian physiology, as altered by the effects of a red sun, and Superman more-or-less grows out of it and the new powers go away?” It wasn’t ideal, but we had to move forward quickly. I wrote this explanation into the plot of the jam issue that (abruptly) got rid of the powers, but I’m not sure it really, fully made it into the book itself. A huge stumble on our part. Biggest regret of my whole Superman run, without a doubt.
Jurgens: I’d address focus and the overall size of it, as mentioned above. Smaller, better delineated chapters would have helped he entire approach. I think I’d also try to clean up the ending a bit.
The entire “Death of…” through “Return of…” was focused and linear. That’s really hard to do but if we had more of that here, we’d probably have been better off. That’s not to say I’d change anything as much as I’d tighten it up.
Carlin:There are always things you can tweak and second guess… but comics are a never-ending battle and we’re always moving on to our next fight, and can’t afford the luxury of looking back and re-doing in most cases.
Whitmore: If I were to take on the job now, I would either assemble a team and form a studio to color it, or assimilate myself into a pre existing team. Take one glance at today’s Superman comics, and you’ll notice the whole approach is different. A LOT more work goes into each panel than I ever put into it back in the ’90s.
Today, I could never color a book like that by myself. Also, the conventional wisdom is that my “traditional, comic book-y” approach wouldn’t work for today’s readership. However, others have given me positive feedback on the more colorful approach, praising me for “not being afraid to use color.” Whatever the art style is, the colorist has to tailor his palette to complement it.
Karl, you in particular had to do a lot of heavy lifting to set up this story since you were the brains behind The Final Night. Did The Final Night begin its life as part of this story, or was it just a story you wanted to tell, which turned out to dovetail nicely into this?
Kesel: The Final Night came out of brainstorming possible Superman stories for an upcoming Summit with Stuart `. Stuart said “Superman’s powers come from the sun— what if the sun went out?” And I said “If the sun went out, Superman wouldn’t be the only one with problems!” And a mini-series event was born! I don’t remember it had any specific connections to the New Powers storyline.
Stuart, you worked on The Final Night as well. Between drawing a big event and then taking over as writer/artist on your own book, did it feel a bit like you were being put forth as the future of the franchise or the next Dan Jurgens/John Byrne/Jerry Ordway? As a reader, I remember feeling like your style and Bogdanove’s both really killed it on the Electric Superman.
Immonen: This is very kind of you, but I’m not sure I felt entirely stylistically comfortable until very close to the end of my tenure on the Superman books. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to experiment a little with formal aspects of storytelling, employing different styles, telling stories within stories and playing with format, but I suspect readers would have preferred meat-and-potatoes Superman to what I was doing.
At the start of this story, you had Stuart Immonen, while later it was Tom Grummett drawing the book. Both of those guys are unquestionably A-list talent, but they have a very different look and feel and approach to Superman. Was that an adjustment for you, particularly in the middle of a story where there were already so many big changes going on?
Kesel: I don’t remember any problems or adjustments. Of course, I’d worked with Tom a lot by that point, so having him back on the book was more like spending more time with an old friend. Made for an easy transition.
Mike, from the editorial end, it seems like the shifting roles of Stuart Immonen and Tom Grummett during this time might have been difficult to juggle. Did you know when this big status quo-shattering event started that you would be losing David Michelinie, or was that a surprise?
Carlin:We never really had a lot of surprises in the Super-Group… everyone was always up front and honest when they wanted to move on… and we always knew that it wasn’t in our interest to force someone to stay. We’d lost a few folks before, John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, Jackson Guice, Bob McLeod, George Perez… almost everyone was super-professional and gave us editors plenty of time to find suitable replacements. Sometimes if there was to be overlap we’d have two writers for one title attend the Summit… which is what we did when Ordway was leaving writing ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, we had Karl Kesel come to the meeting so he could introduce his Superboy in the issue after Jerry O’s swan song (ADVENTURES #500).
Stuart, did it feel a little like a trial-by-fire to be writing and drawing your own book in the middle of a big event?
Immonen: With the entire creative roster starting from scratch, and given the structure of the books at the time with an overarching story being carried from title to title every week, and the support of the rest of the teams, it was an ideal way to start a monthly gig. I’d written other things for DC before that, and I expect Joey felt it was better to keep the books “in the family” when Roger and Tom stepped over to the quarterly.
RED AND BLUE
I remember thinking that there was some variation in the way different writers tackled Superman Blue and Superman Red and their wildly different personalities. Was that a topic of a lot of conversation at the time?
Carlin:Mostly at the initial Summit…though we did encourage writers to collaborate on the phone whenever they wanted/needed to. And we had a fairly elaborate system of sending everyone on the team copies of whatever the other creators did that week. So every Saturday everyone would get a massive dump of plots and scripts and pencils and inks…and the onus was on the gang to keep up, so that all the stories reflected each other as best they could. Sure do wish we had PDFs and Scans back then…would’ve saved money on Saturday Delivery.
Immonen: I don’t recall. As was usual, everyone would receive a weekly package with whatever art and script had been turned in to the office, so we were all kept apprised of how each team was handling the material; I think having different takes on the character(s) is par for the course when you have five creative teams exploring new territory in a parallel formation.
Jurgens: That’s one of the things I would have tightened up.
I really can’t emphasize this enough: The idea of producing a tight, weekly comic is extraordinarily difficult. Miss one or two things and it can get sloppy in a hurry. Sort of like a NASA moon launch. Throw a few too many pounds on the ship and it gets thrown off course and will end up on Jupiter instead of its intended target.
(Yes, I know that’s an exaggeration. But it serves the point!)
Bogdanove: I was a little whiny about it at first. Ron Frenz drew what is actually a pretty good costume, but I just wanted to draw Superman. I started calling it the “skater’s costume,” because it looked like a speed skater’s costume. But what saved the whole thing for me was, when I realized that Superman Red and Superman Blue weren’t just duplicates of the same guy, but you could really treat it like two sides of Superman’s personality.
That was really fun, because Superman Blue, for me at least, became the “serious” Superman. Very much the Dan Jurgens sort of grim hero. Superman Red was the late ‘40s bantering Superman, who would punch something and make some lame pun about it. A Superman who seemed to be having fun doing super-stuff. I liked the possibility of splitting Superman into two personalities, that both were sides of him, sort of “Mirror Mirror”-like from Star Trek, having him deal with different sides of his personality, except one’s not crazy and bad, they’re just different sides of his personality. That became kind of fun.
I think they idea to spin the two characters as different interpretations of Superman developed as we started working on the character. It didn’t happen at the summit, I don’t think. I think it just sort of happened organically. Blue Superman was maybe Superman first, Clark as a disguise, and Superman Red was Clark first, Superman as the job. I don’t remember talking about the differences of their personality, I think it just happened.
I feel like a lot of people remember the Red/Blue element of it because it was so larger than life and because it tied into the Silver Age story, but that was comparably little of the actual story. Would you have liked more time to explore that, or do you think the proportions were about right?
Jurgens: Given where we were on the entire story, I think we handled it about right. Had we played it longer I think people would have gotten tired of it.
Carlin: Well, as I mentioned above, we weren’t trying to “tie-in” with the Silver Age story… but we did always love that folks had a fondness for playing with the characters— which “Imaginary Stories” always celebrated. (And WE all loved that story!) And I really think people remember our version of the story because it was so outlandish and wild — for a Superman story — compared with the previous 60 years of adventures. Next year it’s 80 years since Superman was created — and while he’s worn all kinds of variations in his costume, especially in “Imaginary Stories” and “Elseworlds”— but this was one of the few costumes that was a part of his “real” continuity and gave people a scare.
And it never ceases to make me smile when I see an Electric Blue Superman action figure… or an Electric Blue skin in a DC Video Game. He even made an appearance in Bruce Timm and Zack Snyder’s 75th anniversary short! Heck, there are even costumes in Superwoman‘s Rebirth issues that are playing with the Red Blue costumes in a way that’s reminiscent of Ron Frenz’s design for Electric Blue Superman! I think the shock has worn off by now!
And in regards to needing more room to explore any story… the hardest thing for us to gauge is how long is the right length for any given story. It’s bad to drag things out too long… and it’s a bummer to lose out on continued interest by stopping a story waaaay too soon. I think we mostly guessed right on “The Death and Return,” a long story that still left people wanting more (which continued in other titles like Green Lantern, Steel and Superboy for years to come). Sometimes I think we would guess wrong and stick with something too long. Ultimately every single individual reader gets to vote on whether we ever guess right. So it’s up to you if we guessed right on “Superman Red/Superman Blue.”
Bogdanove: I would tinker with it. I would tinker with it in a couple of ways: one, I would have the discussion of the different personalities of the characters up front. I would hammer that out a little bit more carefully, and I’d get to that quicker because that’s really fun. And I don’t remember how exactly it resolved, but I would have liked a high-stakes reason why Superman had to reintegrate. I would play with the great advantages of him being able to be in two places at once. One of the great frustrations of Superman’s life is that he can’t be everywhere, he an only do so much, and that’s a constant frustration for him. So having a spare “him” around, he can do twice as much, so for a while, he’d love Superman Red and Blue, but since each one represents a different aspect of the character, they really are different people and they’re incomplete without each other. Ultimately the logical extension of that is that there needs to be a serious, high-stakes, character-driven reason why they have to re-merge together.