Electric Bluegaloo, Act 6: Genesis
Of all the strange transformations Superman has undergone in his 78-year history, none has been quite so derided as the year where his familiar costume and powers were replaced with a blue and white "containment suit" and a tenuous relationship with electricity. But that raises the question, was it really all that bad? Two decades later, we want to find out, so ComicsAlliance is taking a look back at the Electric Blue Era of Superman to find out not just what worked, but if anything worked. This is... Electric Bluegaloo.
This week, Genesis hits the Superman titles with world-shaking changes like... uh... hang on, I'll get back to you on this.
- Superman: The Man of Steel #72, by Louise Simonson, Scott Eaton, and Jimmy Palmiotti
- Superman #128, by Dan Jurgens, Ron Frenz and Joe Rubenstein
- The Adventures of Superman #551, by Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, and Denis Rodier
- Action Comics #738, by Stuart Immonen and Jose Marzan Jr.
Okay, so. Genesis.
Of all the Major Events that DC did in the '90s, and there were a ton of them, Genesis might have been the one that was most thoroughly and immediately rejected by the fans. I mean, there weren't many that actually delivered on the promise of Changing Everything --- Zero Hour was probably the one that came closest, and even then it only really mattered if you were either reading Legion of Super-Heroes or super concerned with the idea of Batman fighting Joe Chill --- but while most of them came and went without much fuss, Genesis is the only one I can think of that might as well have just never happened. I don't think I've ever seen anyone really discuss it, positively or negatively, and even though it shot pretty big with an idea for restructuring the fundamental nature of the entire DC Universe, it fizzled out almost immediately.
So here's the premise, coming straight from the mind of John Byrne: There's a naturally occurring phenomenon in the universe called the "Godwave," a mysterious wave of energy that cascades across the universe over thousands and thousands of years. The first time it passed through, it created the beings worshipped on Earth as gods, and when it rebounded, it created superhumans. Now, it's coming back for the third pass, and Darkseid's going to weaponize it to turn off everyone's super-powers, or maybe just make them get all weird, depending on which book you're reading.
The end result of this was that it was meant be a sort of unifying force for origin stories, explaining all the various reasons for super-powers as different manifestations of the Source, the mystical energy beyond the edge of the universe that Jack Kirby created in the Fourth World saga. But, as you might've already guessed from the tone of this column, it didn't really work out.
I think part of the problem was that there had already been attempts to do the same thing before that made a lot more sense. Invasion, for instance, had introduced the concept of the Metagene, which basically meant that DC already had their equivalent to Marvel's mutants. Trying to tie everything from the Speed Force to Kryptonian biology to, I dunno, Batman's batarangs as products of a single unifying source (er, Source) just did not make sense for the universe --- even beyond the somewhat problematic religious connotations.
Fortunately for us, Genesis is only really a factor in one of October's issues. Instead, we meet what might be the most '90s supervillain team of all time.
As Superman's powers begin to go a little haywire during the arrival of the Godwave, Louise Simonson and Scot Eaton pit him against a gang of bad guys that have been waiting in the wings for a while now. As you may recall, the big fight against Morgan Edge's version of the Superman Revenge Squad included a new villain, Baud, who was essentially a golden Sonic the Hedgehog who operated on Looney Tunes physics.
Well, as it turns out, Baud is actually a member of a second, even more secret team, a group of techno-baddies led by a would-be world-beater named Override. And since our characters so far are "Override" and "Baud," it will not surprise you that the rest of the team includes:
- And Scareware
I love them. I love them so much.
Sadly, they're not really all that integral to the plot, which mostly involves Override using Superman's fluctuating powers to create dimensional portals so that he can go grab the stuff he needs for an overarching Master Plan. Superman eventually frees himself, but not before Override vows that "the people of Metropolis will reach their CYBER-POTENTIAL."
I may have mentioned that I love him.
Before that can happen, though, Superman's off to participate in the big crossover, getting roped in by Highfather and the New Gods for a mission to repair a crack in the Source Wall:
But it turns out that there's actually a more pressing concern here. Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, previously thought to be destroyed at the hands of Hal Jordan after being personally responsible for blowing up Coast City and killing seven million of Hal's neighbors, actually survived by transmitting his consciousness into the strange circuitry of the Source Wall. And this, for the record, is never actually explained --- which is weird, since it might be the only thing that isn't explained when this guy shows up.
I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of ol' Cyborg Sperman, and a big part of that comes from the fact that he's just way more complicated than someone named "Cyborg Superman" should be. Every time he shows up, he has to somehow work in an elaborate monologue just to explain himself.
And it's made even worse by the fact that it takes like two full pages just to get the part where he's basically Reed Richards. I do quite like his undercut, though.
Anyway, Cyborg Superman's powers include being able to project his consciousness into machinery --- something that's already been done once before in the Electric Blue Era with Metallo --- and while Superman is very worried about Henshaw taking over his borrowed Mother Box, he never once mentions that his new costume is a containment suit full of Kryptonian circuitry. In fact, the mention of the containment suit is so conspicuous by its absence that it comes as no surprise when Henshaw stows away inside it and rides back to Earth --- and it really makes Superman himself seem like a huge dope for not thinking of it.
Fortunately for Superman, he's not the only dope in the story. One would assume that for someone who wants to kill Superman, having absolute and undetected control over the containment suit that's literally keeping him from dispersing into an explosion of energy would provide a pretty easy avenue for murder. Instead, he just hitches a ride and bails out into a wall of TVs.
Meanwhile, children hate Jimmy Olsen.
After his special about revealing Superman's secret identity flopped and left him dealing with members of Intergang who think he knows more than he's telling, Jimmy's been on the run, aimlessly trying to get away from the people who want to interrogate and/or murder him. So far, it hasn't been going too well --- over the course of these four issues, he's been dealing with firebreathing dinosaurs cloned by mad scientist Dabney Donovan, a troop of angry boy scouts, and, of course, the car full of resurrected gangsters that have been sent to drag him back to Metropolis.
But when Intergang catches up to him, Jimmy gets off the road, and finds himself in... The Wild Area.
Next week is going to be pretty great, y'all --- even if Override and Download don't show up to hack the planet.
- Stuart Immonen has replaced Karl Kesel as the regular writer of Action Comics. He'll be writing and drawing the book up through the end of the Electric Blue Era, staying on the book with the exception of a few fill-ins and crossovers until the "soft relaunch" with Action #760 in 1999.
- Cyborg Superman returned to Earth, swearing revenge.
- Override acquired the three items he needs to usher in an age of Cyber-Potential from other dimensions, including a "scalar string" and a hive-mind control chip.
- Genesis happened.
- Superman encountered a new foe, Inkling, who speaks in rhyme and has the ability to phase through solid objects.
- Jimmy Olsen is now hanging out with a bunch of super-bikers created by Jack Kirby.