The Never-Ending Battle: A Superman Triangle Era Retrospective #3 – Red Glass by Cori McCreery

Red Glass

Action Comics #665-666, Superman #56, Adventures of Superman #479; Triangle Numbers 1991 – 15-18

Writers: Roger Stern, James D. Hudnall; Pencillers: Tom Grummett, Ed Hannigan; Inkers: José Marzan, Jr., Will Blyberg; Colorist: Glenn Whitmore; Letterer: Bill Oakley

The last two sections looked at two common sequences that occurred during the Triangle Era. First was the loosely connected stand-alone issues, that would work their way to a bigger arc. Second was the sprawling multiple month multiple title ongoing story. Now we’re going to take a look at the third common sequence: the fill-ins. Occasionally during this era a guest creative team would pop onto the books to either give the regulars a little rest time, or more likely to allow them to work on something bigger in the near future. In this case it was the latter. All three ongoing creative teams would be helping to launch the fourth monthly Superman book, Superman: The Man of Steel in July, so James D. Hudnall, Ed Hannigan and Will Blyberg took on all three of June’s books to give the teams that little bit of extra time. 

But before the three part “Red Glass” arc, Roger Stern had one more issue of Action Comics to deliver. As was customary for this era, this issue just flowed from the end of Adventures of Superman #478, reinforcing that these books were all a single narrative. The issue served as a coda for “Time And Time Again”, delivering on the reunion between Clark and Lois that had been percolating for those seven issues. While still not sure of the future that they were set to build together, this showed how deeply Lois loved Clark, and did it in a series of sweet gestures. The sequence of Clark falling asleep while getting a neck rub from Lois is just absolutely heartwarming. 

Which brings me to my other talking point about this issue. The story itself is nothing to write home about, just Superman fighting voodoo zombies, but the art is a hint of something special to come. This is the first crack that Tom Grummett takes at the Man of Steel, and even here it’s clear that he’s one of the all-time greats. For my money, Tom Grummett is the definitive Superman artist of the era, and his Superman and Lois are the ones I picture in my head when I’m thinking of them. 

Now as for “Red Glass” itself, it serves its role as a fill-in, but not a particularly good one. Hannigan’s art is stiff and stuck in a DC in the Bronze Age rut. His faces are exaggerated and cartoonish, delivering a tonal whiplash from the story’s subject matter. The only thing to make this short arc feel like it belongs in this era is the coloring by Glenn Whitmore. While doing my research for this project, I discovered that Whitmore had colored more than 80% of the issues that came out in the entire Triangle Era, and very nearly all of them between 1991 and 1999. This is important because it’s a point of consistency across the books. You know the colors are always going to look the same, no matter how drastically different the art styles may be from series to series. Jon Bogdanove’s Superman looks different from Tom Grummett’s, but they both look like they belong because of Whitmore’s colors. 

I talked about how the art is tonally off from the story, and that’s because the story is one that is depicting yet another dark future where Superman has lost control. In itself this is not a trope that I really enjoy, but the timing of “Red Glass” makes it worse. The 1991 “Armageddon 2001” annuals are outside the scope of this project, as they don’t technically fall within the Triangle Number system, and don’t much even interact with the continuity (this will be different for the 1992 annuals, which will get their own section later), but this arc came hot on the heels of the first of those annuals, Superman Annual #3 came out the same month as “Red Glass” and told almost the same exact story, only it told it better. 

In the annual, Superman loses control due to insurmountable tragedy. That Superman is one that lost all his friends and loved ones in Metropolis, and in the process went over the edge. The one we see in “Red Glass” didn’t have that excuse, and we find out that it’s a sentient telepathic crystal life form that triggered his greatest fears. Facing those fears helped to free himself of them, as he also freed the lifeform.

“Red Glass” serves as the era’s first fill-in arc to allow bigger and better things to come in the near future, and if I didn’t know what the next arc has in store, I might be disappointed in this. As it stands, it serves its purpose, but is not something I’d come back to often outside a complete read through of the era. 

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