Ahhhh Triangle Era Superman comics. This is a real sweet spot of quality books. Whenever anyone talks about Post Crisis Superman, they inevitably bring up the Byrne run or The Death & Return of Superman but I always feel like the vast majority of the Triangle Era is never really talked about or dissected. Its such a long period of time with arguably excellent quality throughout.
So just what the hell is the Triangle Era? Its the common term for the long time on all of the Superman books published from roughly 1991-2002. By 1991, there were four different superman titles being published, but rather than having explicitly different stories for each title, the books would segue into one another at a usually weekly pace. With so many books and readers being confused how to approach them in a semblance of order, they introduced triangles with numbers on them indicating the proper read order for the whole Superman line. They debut in 1991’s Superman 51.
Superman 51 also features the first apperance of a rather unspectacular superman foe, Mister Z – an alleged immortal man blessed with hypnotism who had a mystical gem that he would absorb people’s souls into it. Superman defeats him and apparently destroys his gem while Mister Z perishes. The end of the issue reveals him waking up in the morgue and departing for parts unknown.
I bring this up because Superman: Blackout is Mister Z’s return to enact his revenge on Superman. I LOVE this story. Whenever I think of the Triangle Era I think back on this story. Its no huge continuity landmark. Its no masterclass in how to make a comic. Its just an extremely charming, fun story by a huge collection of talented creators. One such creator is Dennis Janks, longtime inker on the titles with Jerry Ordway and then with Jon Bogdanove on The Man of Steel title. This story is actually plotted by Dennis Janke. These books were so great because literally every member of the team got some type of say in the ongoing line’s story. I love that he got this chance.
Our story starts in The Adventures of Superman 484 by the team of Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Tom Grummett, Doug Hazelwood, Glenn Whitmore & Albert DeGuzman. During this era Superman was publicly friends with Professor Emil Hamilton who would cook up various inventions & help Supes when he could. Mister Z hypnotizes his way into Emil’s lab and sees Emil is working on a helmet that will allow Superman to see images broadcast from a satellite. Mister Z forces Emil to work on changing it to peer into Superman’s mind itself. This is the catalyst to our entire story. We then shift scenes to Lois & Clark, newly engaged & moved in together in an extremely cute scene I love. Besides Pete/MJ and Kyle/Donna, Lois & Clark are my fave comic couple. I love the domestic normal scenes of them in these comics.
From here Superman is lured into Mister Z’s trap when he assists the Professor and puts on the helmet. Seeing into The Man of Steel’s brain, Z sees his gem is reconstituted and in the Fortress of Solitude. Mister Z uses the blanked out Supes as a slave and has him take them to the Fortress. Lois eventually comes to the lab wanting to know where Clark is and its only then Emil pops out of his brainwashing. He attempts to force load power through the helmet on Superman by connecting directly into Metropolis’ power grid. This in turn blacks out all of the city’s power and maybe even kills Superman and Mister Z with the feedback.
Our story continues into Action Comics 671 by Roger Stern, Dennis Janke, Kieron Dwyer, Brad Vancata, Glenn Whitmore & Bill Oakley. Im always astonished by how much talent they had on each of these books back then. Anyways we find Superman carrying the lifeless body of Mister Z into a French research expedition’s base in the Antarctic. We also find out Superman has lost his memory and heres where the story really starts to take off! SUPER AMNESIA HI-JINX!!
You get a lot of good Metropolis supporting character stuff as Gangbuster and Thorn help during the blackout, while Lois and Emil try to find Superman. Meanwhile Supes tries to get back to civilization with the research team but gets separated from them and ends up on a lifedraft, adrift at sea with the corpse of Mister Z.
Mister Z however is immortal and cant die, so he wakes up in his body bag, also suffering from amnesia. Its an amnesiac odd couple!! They eventually find their way to an island where they strip down and try to find food. Its extremely fun to see Superman start to realize he has powers and Mister Z’s haughty bossy personality shine through. The best part about this storyline is the bizarre decision to force these two characters together as a comedy troupe basically. The issue ends with a whole big host of Dinosaurs bearing down on our survival friends
And now my favorite issue of Blackout!! LOOK AT THAT COVER!!! BARE CHESTED SUPES MACKING ON SOME ISLAND GIRL ABOUT TO BE WED!?? If this Silver Age-esque cover doesnt make you want to immediately read this comic, I dont know whats wrong with you. Superman The Man Of Steel is the latest Super book to be added to the line and its one of my favorite titles. The team of Louise Simonson and THE BOG – Jon Bogdanove absolutely do work and throw their talents around like a wrecking ball on this title. To this day its some of the most incredible, stylistic art you’ll ever see on a Superman book. The Bog’s Lois is one of the alltime best renditions of her. The Bog just floors me with that cover. The rest of the team on this issue is Dennis Janke, Bill Whitmore & Bill Oakley. Superman & Mizter Z’s Abbot & Costello routine continues here in some hilarious Dinosaur shenanigans until were introduced to the woman on the cover, the island native Lola-La.(Classic Superman character initials!!!)
Lola-La is the island princess and the pair is taken back to the Chief. Lola-La is super into half naked Clark and Mister Z, the ass that he is, thinks they are some primitive people and keeps misreading the situation hilariously.
While I absolutely LOVE the art and I get its just hyper stylistic Bog work, I dont love how he draws most of the islanders very much like neanderthals. I love how Weezy writes them as extremely intelligent, fun people but that art kind of clashes with that subversion. It could and should be better. A Triceratops then rushes the group and Supes steps in to save Lola-La before he’s yelled at for hurting her pet “Fluffy”
Not sure what to make of this flying stranger, the village chief has them restrained but Lola-La is way too intrigued by this mystery man and starts laying on the moves, to which her father opposes and drags her away. Superman, thinking shes being attacked leaps into the fray before it dawns on him he doesnt quite get whats going on here and realizes this is her father and relents. Lola-La then expresses how she wants him so bad and a wedding ceremony is started!
While all this is happening, Lois and Emil have teamed up with Metropolis’ Guardian and they are on their way to track Clark down. They better hurry as at the same time Lola-La leads Superman to the honored cave where she starts to seduce her would be fiancee. We dont see what happens but its implied Clark’s unconscious love for Lois keeps him from getting too hot and tawdry in the cave.
Mister Z thinks theyve finally accepted them as God but it turns out everyone is just congratulating Clark for his good fortune in getting Lola-La as a bride. clark is led to the altar where finally it dawns on Mister Z, that Clark is one word short of being hitched!! HURRY UP LOIS!! Man, what an issue. Its SO. MUCH. FUN.
Our story continues into Superman 62 with an equally outrageous and great cover. Another one that DEMANDS you read this comic. Lois and Lola-La locked in combat while shirtless, amnesiac Superman hovers there watching patiently. Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding do some of their best art work in this one. The rest of the creative team is Glenn Whitmore and John Costanza. Look at this opening splash of Clark and Lois. God thats good work
Lois and her team fight past the dinosaurs and crash the wedding ceremony. I love Mister Z saying “Who’s Superman? Me or you?
Lois ends up fighting with Lola-Lo over Superman while Hamilton insults Mister Z. Angry at being judged for something he cant even remember, he storms off casuing another dinosaur stampede. Lois tries to get Superman to remember his powers and leap into action. We also get a fun Gilligan’s Island joke.
We then come back to Lois after all of the trouble is quelled (Damn, thats a great hair blowing in the wind Lois by Jurgens & Breeding there) and Lois thinks about fairy tale kisses and thinks what the hell, what do I have to lose. In trademark Lois Lane strong fashion she plants one on him and they kiss. Hard. Like teenagers making out. Shut up Emil, were kissing!! That 4 panel kissing scene is so fun. What a great comic. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
One more issue left – Adventures of Superman 485!! WOW-Look at that Jerry Ordway cover! The team for this issue is Jerry Ordway, Dennis Janke, Tom Grummett, Doug Hazelwood, Glenn Whitmore & Albert DeGuzman again. Supes still hasnt regained all of his memories but he senses he knows Lois and the rest and must go with them. A thing I love about this issue is Superman thinks of Mister Z as his friend and doesnt care to hear anything bad about him. Whoever he may have been he has a chance to be happy here on this island. Z does just that and stays there to forget who he ever really was. He gets a happy ending. (As far as I know, Mister Z and this island only ever show up one more time in Superboy Annual 4)
The team then takes Clark back to Metropolis where they get the help of Jack Kirby creation, the telepathic Cadmus creation Dubbilex. He enters Superman’s mind and attempts to guide him past the walls that are put up to restore his memory.
Battling phantoms of his past in his Superman guise he’s led to the Fortress of Solitude where he relives his precious Clark moments. Its these moments which bring back his humanity and let him reconcile the two identities in his head. Experiencing this, hes made whole again and brought back to reality where Lois and he can go back to their lives.
With that Blackout ends with more continuing Triangle Era plots. On to the next issue!! This story is just a slice of an absolutely amazing time for Superman comics that happened almost every week in a huge sprawling, interconnected continuity run by a braintrust that was composed of unquestionable comic excellence. This story matters because its FUN. Its a reminder of a time in comics when an inker of a creative team was highly involved and could suggest and plot a story they wanted to do. Its a reminder of when comics, ESPECIALLY DC, didnt always take it self too seriously and could tell a continuing story but also stop along the way to do some silly, non essential stuff full of love, charm and skill. I love this story and think everyone should check it out or check out the entire Triangle era and find your own personal Blackout!