The 90s were a hard time for Superman. For one thing…he died….then after that, things really started going down hill.
After The Death of Superman, World without a Superman, and Reign of the Supermen – the world finally had the “real” Superman back from the dead. It was a long journey, and an interesting comic book trilogy. It was massively successful, and prove to be a HUGE hit for DC.
So they tried to repeat that success. You know how that normally works, right?
Well, as the 90s clicked on, they tried “The Death of Clark Kent”, which was met with a resounding “meh”, and finally at a creator’s retreat, the team behind Superman decided that they wanted to change Superman’s powers…permanently. They were officially out of ideas of what to do with Supes, and wanted to change his powers, but keep his costume the same, so that people would know they were serious….well…that didn’t go over so well…instead….we got Electric Blue Superman.
This version of Superman came to be when Supes’ powers started “evolving” and his body eventually became unstable. A containment suit was necessary to keep him in a solid state, instead of just being energy. The result was a new costume, blue “skin” and energy based powers. Clark found that he could turn these powers “off”, and that he would be completely human when that happened.
As you can imagine…this wasn’t winning any new fans. Of course, the publicity stunt got a lot of attention, but at this point there was a new Super-stunt every summer, so it just wasn’t that big of a deal. As the storyline struggled to gain the desired level of reader interest, DC decided to pull out a page from the Marvel Handbook (particularly referencing the “Spider-Man Clone Saga”) by continuing to run a story that should have died, directly into the ground.
The result of that, was the special “Superman Red/Superman Blue” which took the Electric Superman storyline one step further down the toilet by adding a “clone” of Superman. In the special the villain Cyborg trapped Supes in an “energy containment structure” and drained all of his energy into “thousands of different directions” causing him to lose corporeal form and disappear. When the energy reappeared moments after the Cyborg left the room, there was a red stream in addition to the blue stream that had previously been there. The two beams of energy shot off in different directions, both forming Supermen, and both of them, of course, believe they were the original Superman.
The craziest part of this storyline, however, is the ending. It wasn’t in this special, but several issues later, when the Red/Blue thing was officially beginning to make people sick, they simply dropped the storyline.
The two energy forms collide and BOOM – normal Superman is back! In a thought balloon later, Clark guesses that he was “rewarded” for saving the world by getting his old powers and life back. By who? Not real sure…but really, does it matter?
This Superman story sort of defines the 90s in a lot of ways. Much of the 90s was about gimmicks. Be it gimmick covers, gimmick deaths, or gimmick costume changes, and Superman Red/Superman Blue had ALL THREE. The 3-D cover, Superman “dying” and being “reborn” as two different beings, the new red costume to compliment the newly acquired blue costume…it’s all here in it’s craptastic glory. Ah…what an Era…