DC Sketch Cover Madness: Superman!
I think John Romita Jr. is fantastic. I was looking forward to him becoming the regular artist on Superman, and hoped that maybe, just maybe that would signal a creative change in a direction that I liked. The good news is that John Romita Jr. Actually did draw the book. The bad news is that New 52 Superman continues to meander through being sort of a Marvel character, instead of being the sorts of things that I read a Superman book for.
Instead of focusing on that, I chose to make the art on the cover a celebration of the Old School Superman stuff that I wholeheartedly love. The story I’m referencing, the Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue is quite literally the stuff of comic book legend. My copy of it, loved almost to death by the passage of time, had a different cover design, since I read it in a digest sized reprint. Still, the plot is just…incredible to explain. Bear in in mind, this is not a twelve part epic that you take a year collecting…this was ONE ISSUE.
It all starts when the bottled city of Kandor complains that Superman hasn’t made good on many of his promises, including restoring the city to full size, finding a cure for kryptonite and wiping out all evil. Seriously, there is a giant, and fairly Krypto-centric list of Supertasks, and eliminating evil is like, Item 3. If he doesn’t do all that soon, literally clear a list that “sure all disease is like, number 4 on, they’re going to demand that he be replaced by a Kryptonian who CAN, while he goes to live in the bottle.
Solution: The brain evolution machine, made from networked pieces of every really dangerous type of kryptonite (of course…that’s how you get the IQ points out of it. Duh…!).
The thing blows up…go figure. Superman’s intellect is multiplied by 100, but he’s also split into two, color-coordinated copies of himself, EACH with the multiplied intellect. I want to make this clear, because it’s going to be really important later…both the blue one, and the red one are ONE HUNDRED TIMES smarter than the guy that built the Brain Evolving Machine in the first place.
In a matter of moments, they’ve got the solution to the two first things on the list. They create a hyper-magneton planetoid that attracts all kryptonite everywhere to reform the planet Krypton. That’s not dangerous, because you know…he cured the Kryptonite problem. Practically between panels. They then FIX the shrink ray taken from Brainiac to return Kandor to its former glories, allowing a whole population of super-powered Kyrptonians to quickly terraform planet’s ecosystem. Like…in a few minutes. Because the people of New Krypton want to live as they used to, the Supermen put the planet into an orbit that will return them to their proper place in the universe. Safely…and pretty quickly.
Then…being Superman, Times Two, they deal with an item not on the list. The mermaid-like Atlanteans are “tired of being treated like freaks” by the rest of Earth, so they want a new planet to call their own. The Supermen and Supergirl choose the Memorial World of Krypton they once built together, since it is totally irrelevant now. Also…case in point…they had nothing to do one weekend, so they built a PLANET…which they flood entirely with a good shot of heat vision on its polar ice caps. Then it’s all about using magnetic meteors to create a water funnel that can take the Atlanteans to their new home…by swimming…through SPACE.
So…any ten modern DC comics would have been packed with those things…heck, DC spent a YEAR on an enlarged Kandor plotline. This issue isn’t even HALF done.
Back to the list – “Destroy all evil.” Easy one. Hypno-ray projectors in orbit that blanket the Earth with good will. Seriously…this is the plan to solving evil…just brainwash every single person on Earth to do the things that you think are okay. The sheer Right Wing Fascism of the solution is incredible, especially because it works on every criminal on Earth, which apparently includes Communists. No really, look!
Apparently, Superman can now farm out jobs to subcontractors, like Lex Luthor. Lex, no longer spending all his time trying to murder an indestructible man, takes about five minutes to cure all disease…including male baldness. I @#$% you not.
With evil eradicated as soon as it shows up, Supergirl frees the Phantom Zone villains and leaves for New Krypton. Now all that’s left to address is the Supermen’s private lives. They no longer need to juggle Lana and Lois, but who winds up with whom? Solution: The Supermen build big steel “L”s to see which is struck by lightning first, deciding who gets to choose. They don’t do anything drastic like, I dunno…talk to each other. Ask a friend for advice? Nope. Huge girders, and the capricious whim of nature in an incredibly dangerous stunt…that’s the way.
Each of them is supposed to be a hundred times smarter than the original Superman. What now? Say what again? 100X the brainpower, and the way you choose the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is to weld huge L’s with your heat vision out of girders and stand in a @#$%ing storm waiting to get hit by lightning?
The lightning strikes both simultaneously, leaving them in a quandary. What they don’t know is that the ONE difference between them is which girl they love more. As soon as they figure that out, by you know…actually talking to each other,it’s off to tell the girls their true identity. Oddly, they never mention having accidentally duplicated themselves until they run into the other couple on the street. Lois, ace reporter that she is, fails to ask her Clark why his uniform is all red. Whatever… a triple wedding later (Jimmy and Lucy get in on the action at the last minute), and the two couples choose different paths.
Superman-Red and Lois move to New Krypton to live as normal people in an abnormal world, while the Superman-Blue and Lana stay on Earth where Superman devotes his life to science and stopping the occasional earthquake. Each family has two kids, and they still keep in touch.
That’s all in ONE issue.
I’ve actually left stuff out.
Suffice it to say, one of my favorite issues ever, and a big part of what I miss about certain kinds of storytelling. It’s dated in the extreme, and there are all sorts of problems, but the whole story is so overwhelmingly positive, so founded in the idea that if Superman shows up…it’s going to be better. If two Supermen show up…well then, what problem can’t you solve.
Obviously, we see the foundation for today’s sketch cover, as well. I think Protagonist-Red made a bad choice, since she has to wear red jeans all the time, seems to have some kind of kid following her around, and has no ponies. No ponies.
Next Issue: Seriously, there’s still a demand for Carnage?