Hello and welcome back! I’m Alex Jaffe and this is “ASK…THE QUESTION,” a monthly feature
here at DCComics.com where I answer questions about the deepest reaches of the DC
Universe (or about, you know, Batman) posed by none other than you, the devoted DC fans.
Have a question you’d like to ask? Just head on over to the illustrious DC Community and drop your question in the submission thread we have set up for it. You’ll find me there under the name “HubCityQuestion.”
But enough setup, let’s get to this month’s questions!
What’s the deal with the red and blue Superman?
If you were around in the ’90s, you may recall that there were four major Superman stories in the news cycle: Superman’s death, Superman’s return, Superman’s wedding and Superman’s strange new costume and powers. Followers of this last story would learn that not only did the nature of Superman radically change, but he had also apparently split into two separate beings—one red and one blue. A publicity stunt? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s one with roots going all the way back to the Silver Age. For the origins of this concept, we need to go back to the year 1963.
One of the staples of Superman’s early years were “Imaginary Stories,” tales which imagined an alternate history of Superman or a possible future without gumming up the character’s status quo. One such story was “The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!” in Superman #162. In this Imaginary Story, a kryptonite-fueled lab accident at Superman’s
Fortress of Solitude permanently duplicates the Man of Steel and the two wear different colored Superman costumes to keep each other differentiated. With two heads better than one, the two Supermen work together to re-enlarge Kandor, eradicate both supervillainy and communism with an “anti-evil ray”, found a New Krypton and most importantly, resolve their storied love triangle by marrying one girl of their dreams each: Superman-Red settling with Lois Lane and Superman-Blue marrying Lana. And they all lived happily ever after.
In 1982’s Superman Spectacular, this curious effect was paid tribute in a non-imaginary story when exposure to red Kryptonite splits Superman into two beings temporarily once more. This concept was later revisited in episode 36 of the 2016 animated series Justice League Action, “Superman Red vs. Superman Blue.”
That brings us to the tale of the two “Electric” Supermen, re-envisioning the Leo Dorfman and Curt Swan concept for the radical nineties. In 1997, Superman found himself with a new emerging set of powers, mainly involving the control and manipulation of electricity. This was further complicated in the Superman Red/Superman Blue one-shot, where Cyborg Superman and Toyman capture the Electric Superman in a cage which has the unintended effect of splitting him in two—a state they remained in for, like, three or four months all told.
Why did it take that long for them to reunite? Well, frankly, because the two Supermen hated each other. Unlike the two identical Supermen of the Silver Age, this split had each colored Superman inherit different aspects of his personality. Superman Blue was cool and logical, where Superman Red was passionate and impulsive. The two began to see themselves as complete beings in their own right, not wishing to sacrifice their individuality. They eventually did, though, when uniting meant saving the world from the Millennium Giants in 1998’s Superman #135—an act which disperses Superman’s electromagnetic field, returning him to his old, non-electric self.
Since that event, the “Red/Blue” duality of Superman has been revisited conceptually a few
times. The “Superman Reborn” story of 2017 sees Mxyzptlk unite the Superman continuities of the New 52 and pre-Flashpoint eras by color coding them as “Red” and “Blue” and in Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man, Kenan Kong’s distinct red costume stands in contrast to Clark Kent’s classic blues, perhaps granting us hope once more in that “Imaginary Story” where two Supermen can truly save the world.
Do you prefer Superman in his Red or Blue form? Let us know in the comments!