It’s hard to think about DC changing the status quo when they never let the old one settle. Eventitis in small and large doses, trade writing, and just general changes for shock value or personal writer goals has made the status quo the enemy in stories, rather than trying to find a story within those characters. It’s worse for Superman given how more and more writers reject the very concepts that have grown to be iconic about Superman, including his powers. Sure, his power set is practically the standard for powered superheroes now but somehow it’s hard for them to understand it’s not the powers that make us Superman fans become attached to the character. Syndrome was right: when everyone’s super, nobody will be.
The 1990s loved taking the status quo behind the wood shed, beating it to a bloody pulp, and Superman was no different. You had the death of Superman event, then the TV producers allowed him to get married because they were finally ready, and then you had the “Electric Superman” period, where for no particular reason Superman gets electric powers and a matching new look and logo. I can’t speak for anyone else during the period but I thought this was kind of dumb and unnecessary. In the following video by Owen Likes Comics, we get the full history of Superman’s electric period, the whole Superman Blue/Superman Red deal, and then I’ll go over why no matter how good the stories were or weren’t the overall concept was a mistake.
Let’s be honest, this was gimmick writing, something certainly not new to the 1990s. It drew in speculators and created a larger bubble before it finally burst. Sadly elements like variant covers still exist. They even say in the video that the goal was to draw readers into Superman stories, but there were five titles plus his appearance in JLA. Batman, Spider-Man, and a few other heroes also had multiple titles, and I’m not counting team books because that was the hero working with other heroes and maybe they take a storyline off for whatever reason. It doesn’t appear the gimmick worked, which is certainly nothing new with these attempts.
It also took what could have been a cool powerset and limit and damaged them by tying them to the strange point in Superman history. Strange Visitor…really, guys? That’s the best name you could come up with? It just screams desperation in trying to work in the S while Livewire was somehow able to change the logo. That’s not how her power worked. Livewire created her own “costume” out of ionized air molecules (science?) plus she had electric powers Superman didn’t during his electric phase. Anyway, Strange Visitor was tarnished with this connection and I’m not sure Lana even needed to have superpowers, though whether it’s better than her Silver Age “Insect Queen” powers is open to debate.
As for Jon getting these powers, well they already ruined him by aging him up to CW-friendly years and costing us the chance to see Superman raise his son (plus ruining Super-Sons for that story’s fans) so it would allow him to at least step out of dad’s shadow and be his own hero rather than Superman 2…must not make obvious meme gag…but what to call him? Shockerman would only be slightly better than Strange Visitor in that it at least sounds like a superhero name. Sparkman is already a Mega Man enemy so that’s out. It might save the power set but will still remind people of this period, which is not a good thing.
No, I’m not buying the idea that this was supposed to show there’s more to Superman than his powers. It feels like a weak attempt to protect the concept by ripping off Knightfall. The Death/Return Of Superman arc already showed that with the Cyborg Superman, The Eradicator, and Superboy while Steel represented the human side of Superman despite just being a dude in armor who never claimed to be Superman. There is no saving this idea at a time when they should have focused on Superman and Lois being a couple in the B plots and how that worked in the A plots as Lois and Clark tried to hide their real connection when he was Superman. This joke I will make: the whole thing was just for shock value but all it did was annoy people like that static zap you get when you touch a metal doorknob on the wrong day. They should have save these powers for an original character and showed him or her adjusting to new abilities. They didn’t refresh Superman, they ruined the electric powers idea instead.