Saturday, October 16, 2021

 

Superman Red and Superman Blue

Guest columnist George Haberberger aims to debunk the Mort Weisinger era with this scathing story of his “Red and Superman-Blue” experience. George is a regular contributor to the ComicBase program.

“Red and Superman-Blue!” was an imaginary story, (Elseworlds or What-If? for all you Gen X-ers) published during the editorial reign of Mort Weisinger, a man arguably just as responsible as Stan Lee for the rise of Marvel Comics. By that I mean that Weisinger's approach to comic story telling epitomized the idea that comics should never be taken seriously and could not be a medium for intelligent stories. While Stan Lee took a different approach, it was like the difference between Pauley Shore and Robert DeNiro. I was just a kid and I thought this story was a farce. I can't understand why the current editors would care to call attention to that embarrassing era. It certainly holds no nostalgic charm for me and had comics continued in that direction I would not be reading them today. That said, here's my synopsis.

The story opens with the publisher of the Planet posting a notice of raises for Perry, Lois and Jimmy. Clark doesn't get a raise, (it says so right on the notice!), and Lois, (never passing up an opportunity to be cruel to Clark), surmises that his lack of getting scoops is the reason. Clark thinks how ironic it is because as Superman, he helped them get those scoops. (Characters in Weisinger’s stories always point out how ironic something is.

Perry takes everyone out for a celebratory lunch, but Clark begs off. Perry thinks Clark’s too ashamed to face them, but actually he has an appointment as Superman with the rulers of Kandor (the Kryptonian city in bottle in his Fortress). The Kandorians proceed to list Superman's failures and present him with an ultimatum.

Their list of his failures are:

1) He has FAILED to restore Kandor to full size.

2) He has FAILED to find a cure for kryptonite and

3) He has FAILED to rid the earth of crime and evil.

The ultimatum is presented as follows:

“This petition from all Kandorians requests that you complete these super tasks in 6 months! If you fail we will ask you to let one of us change places with you and try to accomplish them.”

In the face of this petition(!) Superman is, of course, appropriately contrite: “Kandorians, I’ve been a disappointment to you, but I’ll do better! I agree to the 6 month trial period.”

Superman’s solution is the Brain Evolution Machine he’s been working on. It will increase his intelligence a hundredfold. Naturally, it’s powered by all varieties of kryptonite. Lucky thing he hasn’t eliminated that stuff yet! Superman enters the leaded glass booth containing green, red, blue and gold kryptonite around a headband. Curiously, the gold kryptonite doesn’t permanently remove his powers, the red kryptonite doesn't effect any weird changes upon him, and the green kryptonite doesn’t cause him any pain, (the blue would only affect Bizarro even if they were being consistent.) Supergirl activates the machine and Superman starts getting smarter right away.

“The PAIN! EEEYAHH! My head is splitting! Turn it off!” The next panel shows the machine exploding, and there stand two Supermen, one primarily red, the other blue. Each one has increased their intelligence over a hundred times. Characterization and subtlety were alien concepts in Weisinger-comics so no pages were wasted on such non-essentials. We’re up to page 4 at this point, and by page 6 Kandor has been restored to full size. Of course just enlarging Kandor wouldn’t be impressive enough. The Supermen fly to the meteor belt and throw meteors together consisting of Hyper-Magneton. This “mysterious element” attracts ALL the fragments of kryptonite throughout the universe and reverses the process that made them harmful to Kryptonians. So now using Brainiac’s repaired enlarging ray gun Kandor is restored to full size on New Krypton. The Kandorians now have super powers, but that is not enough to overcome the tremendous homesickness they have for THEIR ORIGINAL GALAXY!! Amazingly, the twin Supermen knew they would feel that way and had already put New Krypton in an orbit(?) which will take it back to Krypton's original constellation.

Now Lori Lemaris contacts and informs the duotone duo that Atlantis has been watching all of the previous 9 pages and would like to have their own planet too. Apparently, the Atlanteans feel like freaks on Earth, even though the planet is 75% water. The Supermen decide that the now-redundant Memorial World of Krypton which he and Supergirl built when they had some free time would be perfect for the Atlanteans. Calling Krypto, who expresses only minimal surprise at two Supermen, the four of them, (counting Supergirl), train their heat vision on the polar ice caps, flooding the planet. Then, using magnetic meteors, they created a water spout from Earth to the flooded planet so the Atlanteans can take an inter-planetary swim of, well, several million miles at least. That takes a single panel. Like if there was a bridge to Mars and we could all just walk there.

Their attention now turned to wiping out crime by constructing a hypnotic Anti-Evil Ray. The projectors are placed in orbit and with no thought of self-determination or free will, so “hypno beams pulse earthward, weirdly affecting criminals everywhere.” In addition to a radical change of heart for bank robbers, shop-lifters and escaped convicts, the Anti-Evil Ray also influences Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro. Apparently, evil political ideologies do not extend to Americans, since politicians like George Wallace or Lester Maddox were not shown to be affected. Lex Luthor, now reformed after having his personality rearranged, develops an antibiotic serum which cures every disease on Earth, even to his own baldness.

Now, finally, each of the Supermen decides it’s finally safe to get married and since there are two of them, one can marry Lois and the other, Lana. Of course that’s not a big enough event, so Jimmy Olsen and Lucy also marry in a triple wedding.
Superman-Red and Lois move to New Krypton where Supergirl retires along with the reformed Phantom Zone criminals, (more effects from the Anti-Evil Ray.) Superman-Blue devotes his life to science, and since there is no more crime, his robots can handle any natural disasters. Both marriages produce twins of each sex and the reader is asked to decide which couple is the happier. Good thing they didn’t ask if I wanted my twelve cents back.

This contrived, simplified, everything-is-just-perfect, comic made me look again at the Fantastic Four. Say, the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom have teamed up and are dragging the entire Baxter Building into space in one piece. Wow! That seems positively plausible.

George Haberberger has been reading comics for 43 years, taking time out for meals of course. He believes good writing trumps good art every time, but when both elements meld successfully, comics are magical. He does not have fond memories of Mort Weisenger's editorial output and makes no apologies for being a traitor to his generation.