Hello and welcome back! I’m Alex Jaffe and this is “ASK…THE QUESTION,” a monthly feature here at DCComics.com where I answer questions about the deepest reaches of the DC Universe (or about, you know, Batman) posed by none other than you, the devoted DC fans. Have a question you’d like to ask? Just head on over to the illustrious DC Community and drop your question in the submission thread we have set up for it. You’ll find me there under the name “HubCityQuestion.”
But enough setup, let’s get to this month’s questions!
The Metal Show Set List
I want to read Dark Nights: Metal. But I don’t know what comics I need to read before reading the series. Can anyone help me?
Breathe easy, Gmorax. While Scott Snyder mega-fans can put forth a compelling argument that all of his prior work from Batman to Swamp Thing informs story points and themes explored within Dark Nights: Metal, not to mention the collected work of Grant Morrison, the 2017 Dark Nights: Metal event was designed to be enjoyed on its own. The “Metal” in the title, in addition to referring to actual special metals explored within the story, is meant to invoke the imagery of a classic heavy metal album. I’d suggest letting the sights and concepts wash over you and jumping feet-first into the deep end. If you’re left with unanswered questions or context, well… welcome to the world of serialized comic books. It’s a never-ending quest for context and details.
Of course, before you find answers, you need to know the right questions. Luckily, DC UNIVERSE INFINITE has a Dark Nights: Metal collection where subscribers can handily follow each of the event’s preludes, chapters and tie-ins in their intended sequence (if you’re not a subscriber, there are trade collections). If you have any lingering questions after visiting the series—and, as an astute reader, you likely will—you know where to find me.
For the Aquaman Who Has Everything
What day is Aquaman’s birthday? What’s his astrological sign?
All of your DC (Bronze Age) birthday needs were answered in 1976, with DC’s only ever Super Calendar—a piece of merchandise which assigned practically every day of the year a corresponding birthday of a major DC character who had been created before that point. This calendar has become something of a celebratory point in our own community each month, as our members discover which heroes they might share a birthday with. (If you’re curious, I was born on April 26th, making me a Donna Troy baby.)
As you can see here, our only canonical information on Aquaman’s birthday to date puts it at January 29th, making him, naturally, an Aquarius.
The First Mutant
I recall reading an old story that said Captain Comet was a mutant. Was he DC’s first mutant superhero or villain or was it someone or something else? Also was he originally a mutant or made one sometime later?
The Silver Age superhero Captain Comet is indeed referred to as a mutant in his very first appearance, all the way back in 1951’s Strange Adventures #9—years before the term would find widespread use in popular culture. In fact, the term “mutant” was so obscure at the time that it included an editor’s note explaining what the word actually meant!
Now, considering that the Online Etymology Dictionary places the first common usage of the term within the realm of science fiction in 1954, writer John Broome’s usage of “mutant” in 1951’s Strange Adventures #9 is a strong candidate for the first in any form of popular culture, let alone DC. So, I’d say your sources are correct!
Collect Them All!
I was wondering how long Batman has been a part of Free Comic Book Day because I have decided I want to try and collect all of his Free Comic Book Day comics. Thank you for being here for the community to answer questions that are on everyone’s mind!
You’re very welcome, Silver Fox! As I always say, there’s no collection like an incredibly niche collection! But as with all collections, the answer depends on what you consider an FCBD Batman comic. Are you looking for FCBD titles starring Batman, or does it count if it even features Batman? Do you only want original material specifically released in conjunction with Free Comic Book Day, or if are you including the many reprints that DC puts out for the occasion to entice new readers? For the sake of completionism and to allow you to make up your own mind, I’m listing all of them. Here’s a full catalog of DC’s FCBD offerings since the annual occasion’s inception in 2002.
Justice League Adventures #1 (Reprint, Feat. Batman)
The Batman Adventures Vol. 2 #1 (Reprint, Starring Batman)
Teen Titans Go! Vol. 1 #1 (Reprint, Feat. Robin)
The Batman Strikes! #1 (Reprint, Starring Batman)
Justice League Unlimited #1 (Reprint, Feat. Batman)
Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1 (Reprint)
All-Star Superman #1 (Reprint)
Blackest Night #0 (New)
War of the Supermen #0 (New)
Green Lantern #30 (Reprint, Feat. Flashpoint Preview)
The New 52 Free Comic Book Day Special Edition #1 (New, Feat. Batman)
DC Nation Super Sampler (Reprint, Feat. Beware the Batman #1 and Teen Titans Go! Vol. 2 #1)
Teen Titans Go! Vol. 2 #1 (Reprint, Feat. Robin)
The New 52: Futures End #0 (New, Starring Batman Beyond)
Divergence (New, Feat. Batman)
Teen Titans Go! #5 (Reprint, Feat. Robin)
Scooby-Doo Team-Up #6 (Reprint, Feat. Batman)
Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #1 (Reprint, Feat. Harley Quinn)
DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis (Preview, Feat. Batgirl)
Wonder Woman Vol. 5 #2 (Reprint)
DC Super Hero Girls: Summer Olympus (Preview, Feat. Batgirl)
DC Super Hero Girls: A Date With Destiny (Preview, Starring Commissioner Gordon)
Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale (Preview, Starring Catwoman)
Dear Justice League (Preview, Feat. Batman)
Batman: Overdrive (Preview, Starring Batman)
Batman Tales: Once Upon a Crime (Preview, Starring Batman)
Batman FCBD Special Edition #1 (New, Starring Batman; Feat. I am Batman Preview)
Suicide Squad FCBD Special Edition #1 (Previews, King Shark; Get Joker!)
Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven (Preview)
FCBD Special Edition Flipbook (Previews, Batman & Robin & Howard; Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld)
No matter what kind of collector you are, there are treasures to find in DC’s twenty-year history participating in Free Comic Book Day. But whatever your parameters for a complete collection might be, you have plenty of reasons to clear your schedule on August 14th to celebrate this year’s belated Free Comic Book Day with your local retailer.
Red and Blue and Heroic All Over
What’s the deal with the red and blue Superman?
If you were around in the ’90s, you may recall that there were four major Superman stories in the news cycle: Superman’s death, Superman’s return, Superman’s wedding and Superman’s strange new costume and powers. Followers of this last story would learn that not only did the nature of Superman radically change, but he had also apparently split into two separate beings—one red and one blue. A publicity stunt? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s one with roots going all the way back to the Silver Age. For the origins of this concept, we need to go back to the year 1963.
One of the staples of Superman’s early years were “Imaginary Stories,” tales which imagined an alternate history of Superman or a possible future without gumming up the character’s status quo. One such story was “The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!” in Superman #162. In this Imaginary Story, a kryptonite-fueled lab accident at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude permanently duplicates the Man of Steel and the two wear different-colored Superman costumes to keep each other differentiated. With two heads better than one, the two Supermen work together to re-enlarge Kandor, eradicate both supervillainy and communism with an “anti-evil ray”, found a New Krypton and most importantly, resolve their storied love triangle by marrying one girl of their dreams each: Superman-Red settling with Lois Lane and Superman-Blue marrying Lana. And they all lived happily ever after.
In 1982’s Superman Spectacular, this curious effect was paid tribute in a non-imaginary story when exposure to red Kryptonite splits Superman into two beings temporarily once more. This concept was later revisited in episode 36 of the 2016 animated series Justice League Action, “Superman Red vs. Superman Blue.”
That brings us to the tale of the two “Electric” Supermen, reenvisioning the Leo Dorfman and Curt Swan concept for the radical nineties. In 1997, Superman found himself with a new emerging set of powers, mainly involving the control and manipulation of electricity. This was further complicated in the Superman Red/Superman Blue one-shot, where Cyborg Superman and Toyman capture the Electric Superman in a cage which has the unintended effect of splitting him in two—a state they remained in for, like, three or four months all told.
Why did it take that long for them to reunite? Well, frankly, because the two Supermen hated each other. Unlike the two identical Supermen of the Silver Age, this split had each colored Superman inherit different aspects of his personality. Superman Blue was cool and logical, where Superman Red was passionate and impulsive. The two began to see themselves as complete beings in their own right, not wishing to sacrifice their individuality. They eventually did, though, when uniting meant saving the world from the Millennium Giants in 1998’s Superman #135—an act which disperses Superman’s electromagnetic field, returning him to his old, non-electric self.
Since that event, the “Red/Blue” duality of Superman has been revisited conceptually a few times. The “Superman Reborn” story of 2017 sees Mxyzptlk unite the Superman continuities of the New 52 and pre-Flashpoint eras by color coding them as “Red” and “Blue” and in Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man, Kenan Kong’s distinct red costume stands in contrast to Clark Kent’s classic blues, perhaps granting us hope once more in that “Imaginary Story” where two Supermen can truly save the world.
That’s a wrap on our latest batch of featured questions! But the answers don’t stop there, you can follow me to the community where I take questions at all hours of the day, selecting a few to feature in this column each month. No case too big, no case too small. When you need help, just call to ASK… THE QUESTION.
Got something that's keeping you up nights? If you have a question about the DC Universe that you'd love to get answered, you can head on over to the DC Community and ask it here.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCItyQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.