Electric Bluegaloo, Act 8: The Dragon’s Teeth
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, we're edging closer to the Millennium Giants, and Superman's Halloween costume must be seen to be believed!
For readers of a certain age, I have to imagine that there are very few cover gimmicks that bring back as many fond memories as the big Close-Up Headshot covers that DC did back in 1997. Even putting aside that they hit at a time when DC was producing some of the best comics of the decade --- although I honestly can't think of another time they've done a big cover gimmick like that and had that many stone cold classics lined up as a part of it --- they just look great.
It's worth noting that Marvel had pulled a similar trick back in 1986 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the modern Marvel Universe, but while those comics had the elaborate border that featured a whole roster of heroes, DC opted for a more minimalist approach. Everything was scaled back, and even the book's logos were replaced with the title of the book in a plain white (somewhat stylish) font.
Taken all together --- like, say, on a shop's New Comics wall that was divided by publisher --- the effect was an incredible visual, but it also made for a pretty interesting snapshot of the entire universe. And nowhere is that more evident than in the Superman titles, where your four covers feature Clark Kent, Electric Blue Superman, Scorn, and a new villain called Ripper. That's a weird bunch of characters.
I remember looking back at these covers ten, even five years later and wondering who this blue guy with the horns was, and why there wasn't one for Lois, or Lex, or heck, even Jimmy Olsen. But at the end of the day, that's like looking back at the Green Lantern cover from the same month and wondering where Hal Jordan is and why this goofball with a green metal crab on his face is waving around a power ring. Like it or not, it's a pretty accurate summary of what's happening in those comics.
And on the off chance that those didn't already set a tone for the weirdness that we're going to see in this month's issues, the stories themselves are pretty up front about it. Especially considering where we start:
We open in Halifax, specifically Strange Adventures, a real-life comic book store that still exists, although I'm not sure if they still have the displays for Vampire: The Masquerade dice and Steve Jackson's Illuminati at the counter. As for why we're opening in Canada and not Metropolis, it's because it's one of three places in the world where scientists have recently discovered artifacts that they've dubbed Dragon's Teeth --- strange chunks of pointy, spiraling rock that appear to have some kind of complicated structure that's not unlike genetic code. This, as you may recall from science class, is not something that rocks usually have.
More pressing for us, though, is the fact that Lois Lane has been kidnapped by a baddie called Rajiv who's out for revenge:
This is actually something that was set up last month, but now it's come to the forefront in a truly bizarre form. Thanks to the cutting edge military technology known as "GPS" --- or "Global Positioning System" --- General Sam Lane has tracked his daughter's location and is now pressganging Clark Kent into an impromptu rescue operation.
It's essentially an '80s action movie as a buddy comedy --- the setup is not actually all that different from Gymkata, when you get right down to it --- but with the added twist of Clark having to figure out how to not expose his secret identity to his father-in-law.
A solid premise, maybe, but the execution leaves something to be desired, especially since the inconsistency that's been plaguing his new powers for the entire time they've been around is in full effect here. There are several scenes that conveniently ignore the idea that there's a big Shazam-esque crash of thunder and lightning whenever Clark transforms into his energy body, which wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't been a major plot point only a month ago.
We do get one interesting twist on his powers, though: It turns out that since his body is composed of energy, Superman has the ability to shift himself out of the visible spectrum, putting him into a "stealth mode" that Stuart Immonen and Jose Marzan Jr. do a pretty good job of depicting over in Action Comics:
Here, it helps Superman get Lois back and also maybe blow up a secret cliffside base occupied by a former drug lord's private army, a sequence of events that happens so ridiculously fast that you don't even have time to figure out if Superman just exploded a bunch of dudes while rescuing his wife.
With that done, we go back to worrying about the Dragon's Teeth, which are brought to Metropolis just in time for Superman to check them out on the way to a Halloween party. At first, they seem to just be archaeological curiosities, but when they're exposed to Superman's energy form, they begin to come to life.
Superman, on the other hand, has more pressing concerns. Namely, his Halloween costume.
I really love how this plays out. From the very first page of the issue, you know exactly who Clark's going to end up dressing as (partly because Norm Breyfogle's filling in for Ron Frenz as guest artist), but by the time it's revealed, well.
It's pretty great.
There is, however, one weird touch: There's a running gag throughout this scene about how Clark --- who now has to worry about the more human concerns that come with a vulnerable body --- has gained a bit of weight.
Unfortunately, Halloween is cut short when one of the creatures somehow connected to the Dragon's Teeth, awakened by its exposure to Superman's energy, tracks him down to the Halloween and abducts him --- which, in a pretty great moment, is explained away to the other partygoers by Lois saying that they must've thought he was the real Batman. I mean, it makes as much sense as anything in this universe, right?
These gentlemen are Amun, Hunab, and Dagda, and together, they call themselves the Millennium Guard. They serve as the forerunners of some mysterious creatures who are set to return in about, oh, five months or so, and for some reason, they want to destroy Superman.
Fortunately for the Man of Energy, he's got some pals helping out, in the form of Scorn, Ashbury Armstrong --- you remember her, right? --- and Jimmy Olsen, who has been outfitted by the Hairies of the Wild Area with a flying motorcycle and a fresh set of clothes:
With the help of a young Hairie named Misa --- who has a bag of tricks that includes a "ventriloquistic vox box!" --- the good guys are able to lure the Millennium Guard down the Zoomway and into Project Cadmus, and if none of this makes sense to you, then you need to brush up on your Kirby Jimmy Olsen comics. Suffice to say that Superman ends up tricking the Millennium Guard into a high-tech isolation chamber so that they can no longer detect his energy, and we're safe from thinking about the Millennium Giants for another few weeks.
Meanwhile, back in Metropolis, Lucy Lane has been dragged into the sewer by a monster that eats people.
If you're familiar at all with my feelings about Silver Age Lucy --- Jimmy Olsen's on-again, off-again flight attendant girlfriend who was constantly twisting the knife she'd so thoroughly planted into his back --- you might think I'd be okay with this development. Post-Crisis Lucy Lane, however, was a whole lot more tolerable than the original version, and while she hadn't been seen in these books for a while, we pick up as ends a date with Superman's Coworker Ron Troupe and is then promptly kidnapped.
This is another B-Plot that's been brewing in the background for a while, but with Lucy's abduction, it kicks into high gear. Something has been stalking Metropolis, and with Lucy involved, it's being hunted by Superman, the police, and the founder of STAR Labs, a professional monster hunter named Burt Thompson. Now, thanks to a carving left in a brick wall, it has a name: Ripper.
The thing is, that might not be a name after all.
As Superman discovers when he heads underground, what he thought was a name in English was really just a series of (highly coincidental) symbols left by a different creature. The actual monster remains at large, and is set to encounter a new foe in the form of Kirichitan, an armored samurai whose child was killed in an earlier attack.
Just when you though these comics couldn't get any weirder.
- Superman's powers remain inconsistent, both textually and within the story. Given that they provoked the Millennium Guard into action, Superman's starting to worry that there might be more going on here than it seems.
- Sam Lane launched a full-scale rescue operation to save Lois, but remained completely absent when Lucy was taken into the sewers by a monster, which pretty much mirrors my own feelings about the Lane sisters.
- Speaking of Lucy, her relationship with Ron Troupe hit a bit of a speed bump when her unscheduled trip underground resulted in her missing lunch with Ron's sister, Lenda. Now, Lenda thinks her brother is dating a racist, which seems pretty counterintuitive given the situation.
- Dirk Armstrong vowed to use his column to oust Metropolis's Mayor Berkowitz from office.
- Scorn and Ashbury Armstrong seemed to join up with Jimmy Olsen, further setting the stage for what is shaping up to be a pretty bizarre invasion of Apokolips.
- Jimmy, Ashbury, Scorn and Superman were introduced to Misa, who is actually the daughter of Jude, leader of the Hairies.