Monday, January 04, 2010

Monday Night Murals: You sound like you have changed from red to blue

It's Monday, so you know what that means...a brand-new season of Antiques Roadshow! Tonight, a little stuffed bull brings in a priceless Ming vase to be valued, and



Okay, let's do Monday Night Murals instead.

Action Comics #742/Superman: The Man of Steel #77

L: Action Comics #742 (March 1998), art by Stuart Immonen, Jose Marzan Jr., and Patrick Martin
R: Superman: The Man of Steel #77 (March 1998), art by Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke, and Patrick Martin
(Click picture to big red- or big blue-size)

No, you're not seeing double (unless you've been drinking steadily since five PM)—those are two Supermen (Supermans?) flying through the Metropolis sky. Now, many comic book cover murals across a single title or across titles featuring a single hero are saddled with the problem: how can you feature the same lead character on every part of an interlocking mural cover? Well, you could put his head on one cover and his butt on the other (tee hee), or, as in the are of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition, have Reed Richards' arm stretch across the back and front covers of every volume from M to W. Or, you could just have two versions of your hero, hopefully dramatically color-coded so that you can have, um, just off the top of my little stuffed head: a Green Hulk on one cover and a Red Hulk on the other. But that would be just plain silly.

Superman #162No, this pair o' 1998 covers is a homage to and updating of the classic "Superman Red/Superman Blue" story of 1963 (in Supes #162). The Man o' Steel splits into two, two, two pretty-nearly-identical persons, the same down to every aspect except dress code. You'd logically think they would wind up having a all-out no-punches-pulled battle in a junkyard, but heck no!: This is silver age Supes. Er, Supeses. The pair team up (gosh, that would have been the weirdest issue of DC Comics Presents of them all) to fight war, end crime, stop poverty, get Jack Parr back on the air, and, while they're at it, each one of them marries one of Superman's sweethearts, ending the age-old love battle between Betty and Veronica Lois and Lana. Only one who's unhappy? Lori Lemaris, who gets stuck with "Superman-Green."

The storyline was revisited in '98 when Superman first evolved into a blue-tinted electrical powerhouse, and then eventually split into two separate, warring personalities. It's been a while since I read these issues, but if I remember correctly, Blue was cold and logical, and Red was fiery and gung-ho. Blue planned out his battles, Red charged in without thinking. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's Goofus and Gallant, Last Sons of Krypton.

Superman Red/Superman Blue #1Around about then is the time I stopped reading all the Superman comic books that I'd been following faithfully since 1990: Superman; Action Comics; Superman: The Man of Steel; The Adventures of Superman; Superman: The Man of Tomorrow; Hey Superman, Where Are You?; The Thirteen Ghosts of Superman; The Superman/Batman Comedy/Adventure Hour; Jimmy Olsen: Heckblazer; and The Blazing Guns of Lois Lane, Superman's Girlfriend. The Red/Blue storyline wasn't really the reason; I'm pretty sure the Millennium Giants storyline was. (Even though that had a mural cover, didn't it?) DC dragged the Red/Blue saga on just a tiny bit too long—the whole shebang lasted about than a year, but with four titles a month it seemed like forever. Today I object most of all to having that neon blue Superman appearing in what would otherwise be the primal and definitive portrayals of the Justice League in Grant Morrison's "Rock of Ages" storyline in JLA #10-15. Me? I get out my red and yellow crayons for a classic makeover of those issues. Your milage, and artistic inclinations, may vary.

Anyway, that mural. Despite my lukewarm feelings for the storyline, I do love this pair o' covers. Despite the fact that they're done by two different artist teams, the style meshes perfectly, and there's a wonderful touch that is a hallmark of a clever mural: the detail that isn't apparent until the covers are fitted together. In this case it's the soaring trails of the Supermen which form a red and blue "S" the exact style of the "S" on the temporary Superman logo from this period. As I like to say: way cool.

If you'd like to read the 1963 Superman-Red/Superman-Blue story, you should, nay, must pick up DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories, Volume 1 at your local comic book store or bookstore or by clickin' the Amazon linky-think to the right. It's full of the wackiest, way-outtest DC tales of the multiverse, which Grant Morrison ought to be bringing back any day now. On the other hand, if you want to read the 1998 Superman-Red/Superman-Blue saga, dig in the couch for some change because I'm pretty sure you can pick up most of the issues of the whole dadburn shebang (Action #733-744, Superman #123-135 and Annual #9, The Adventures of Superman #546-557 and Annual #9, Superman: The Man of Steel #68-79 and Annual #6, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #9-10, and Superman Red/Superman Blue #1) in the quarter box at your local comic store. Also, geez, as long as you're there in the quarter bin, why not pick up the entire runs of Scare Tactics, Power Company and Sovereign Seven?

Or, if you're a Marvel Comics fan, pick up the adventures of Spider-Man-Red-Blue/Spider-Man-Blue-Red:

Spider Super Stories #25

Tell 'em Bully-Red and Bully-Blue sent you.


Sphinx Magoo said...

I kinda liked the Superman-Blue storyline. I liked that they were evolving Superman's powerset and that they were experimenting with his look. Like Smart Hulk and Spider-Man Black, I knew his look would eventually be restored but I had fun reading the stories in the meantime.

Thanks for the Spidey Super Stories cover! That brings back memories of Romita awesomeness!

googum said...

"Also, geez, as long as you're there in the quarter bin, why not pick up the entire runs of Scare Tactics, Power Company and Sovereign Seven?"

Actually, I do have a run of Power Company from the quarter bins! Been trying to figure out where I put it...but Sovereign Seven? Hey, don't you threaten me.

Anonymous said...

I would totally read "The Blazing Guns of Lois Lane, Superman's Girlfriend". It sounds awesome.

Your Obedient Serpent said...

I rather liked the Electric Superman phase myself, though how much of that was due to Morrison's use of the character in JLA, I don't know. It was something new and different, rather than the re-hashing of old Silver Age stories that had been (and continues to be) a staple of the Superman titles since the Crisis.

And then they turned it into a re-hash of an old Silver Age story. Blah.

They never really resolved it, if memory serves. They mumbled something about the Millennium Giants, and poof, he's back in the old costume, all tangible and stuff.