First things first: I’m enjoying the whole Rebirth thing. Batman, Detective Comics, and New Super-Man are really good books. New 52 was the worst. I’m so happy DC decided to retire the whole “Remember this thing you liked? Now it’s completely different and also sucks” mandate of 2011-2016.
Now, down to business: I’m here to talk about Split.
I can hear you saying/thinking, “Who?!?” Don’t worry: I said/thought the same thing.
A few days ago, I was perusing the Teen Titans section of TV Tropes’ What Could Have Been – Comic Books page and noticed Split’s name. A villain who appeared in three issues of Steel in the mid-’90s, which, now that I type that…is a bit of a stretch. In Steel #6, he shows up for one panel:
And in Steel #19, he’s in two panels:
He’s all over Steel #0, though, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Now, why am I rambling on about a character who, in the scheme of things, is about as relevant as Rebel from The New Titans?
Because, as that TV Tropes article points out, it’s likely Split was intended to be a member of the Teen Titans at one point, due to appearing as a member of the group in Skybox’s 1995 DC vs. Marvel trading card set.
And, sure enough, there he is, as one of nine cards that combine to create this curious picture:
The back of the card doesn’t give any further info (it’s a quote from Cyclops, of all people, that reads, “A young transporter with too much attitude and too little sense, Split could benefit from a lengthy session in the X-Men’s Danger Room.”) So…what does it mean?
The DCU Guide entry for Split indicates he was created by Marv Wolfman, though I can’t find any concrete evidence to support that claim. The DC Wikia entry for Split says his creator is Louise Simonson, which, since Simonson wrote Steel #6, I’m more inclined to believe.
Complicating matters is the fact that Wolfman and Simonson occasionally worked together (and in fact co-wrote the New Titans Elseworlds annual in 1995), which means it’s not entirely impossible that Wolfman created Split and gave him to Simonson to use in Steel before introducing him into New Titans (which Wolfman had been scripting for a long time). Or maybe Simonson created Split, Wolfman took a shine to the character, and intended to add him to the Titans roster. Chicken? Egg?
That dang Skybox trading card...it can’t be an accident, can it?
Maybe? Matrix Supergirl, also featured on that Skybox trading card, was a Titan for what felt like a hot minute in 1995 (less than a year in total). Similarly, Impulse was a member for less than two years. And why is a de-aged Ray Palmer Atom in that shot with them? He wouldn’t become a Titan until a year later, when he took on a bunch of unknowns (Argent, Prysm, Joto, and – prior to getting both his arms ripped off by Superboy-Prime – Risk) and ushered them into one of the Titans’ most short-lived and poorly-received books: Teen Titans, cancelled after 24 issues to make way for Devin Grayson’s bizarre Titans.
So why are Impulse, Matrix Supergirl, the Atom, and Split battling the X-Men on that card? If two were fairly recent members, one was a future member, and one hadn’t set foot in a Titans book and never would?
My theory is that those four were going to be a new Titans team at some point, but for whatever reason those plans were shot down like so many wealthy Waynes in Crime Alley.
It makes sense: Impulse and Supergirl were already part of the team, DC obviously had plans to add the teenage Ray Palmer to (some version of) the team, and if we examine Split’s appearance in Steel #0, he’s less the grown-up villain from Steel #6 and more of a misguided kid (I should point out that Steel #0 came out after the release of Steel #6, in case that numbering is confusing to you):
And while Split’s powers would’ve knocked the socks off the Legion of Super-Heroes like they were mistaking a time-displaced Bluejay for a teleporter in Justice League Europe Annual #2…
…perhaps Impulse’s presence rendered the idea of having another mischevious redhead on the team redundant.
Whatever the case, Split was clearly intended for bigger things at a certain point. He’s got an entry in the DC Universe Encyclopedia for cryin’ out loud:
They don’t hand those out to just anyone (with apologies to Rebel’s girlfriend, Riot).