Friday, May 5, 2017


"Time-travel balloon"

Reading and cataloging the assorted adventures of the Man of Steel for my comprehensive super-blog, The Chronological Superman (five years old as of last month!) has really engendered in me a whole new appreciation of the Silver Age. Not that much of it was new to me -- I'm already well-versed in the absurd Superman family adventures, the Bizarro World, Krypto's odd assemblage of canine mythos, and so on -- much of which has been documented on this blog.

The way she drifts off at the end makes it
sound like she's making this up as she goes along
For the most part, what newcomers to Superman's Silver Age usually find themselves immediately enamored of are the stories related in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, in which the ambitious cub reporter gets weird powers, weird girlfriends, and engages in byzantine schemes to help his grown-up super-pal fight a whole raft of unusual baddies.

But, for my part? I'm really into Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane* -- and not for the stories in which Lois is humiliated for trying to prove Superman's secret identity or falling in love with the wrong person or, you know, being a woman or whatever the impulse was in those issues. Nope, my favorite part of the old Lois Lane comic is Lois and Lana Lang trying to murder or exile or destroy one another for Superman's affections.

*Save it, smartass.

Lois and Lana do some things to each other that are objectively criminal. If Superman really stands for law and order, then both of these women should be in jail or the Phantom Zone. Which sometimes they were, but they did it to each other.

Take, for example, this story from Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane vol.1 No.50 (July, 1964) -- Lois Lane's Plot Against Lana Lang -- in which our eponymous heroine literally travels back in time to repeatedly drug a teenaged girl insensate.

Reeling from the double-whammy of a persistent toothache and a galling television interview with Superman's teenage sweetheart Lana, Lois storms off through the streets of Metropolis, itching for a fight. She explains her problems to the passing Professor Potter - a recurring member of the Silver Age Superman canon whose primary role was to invent stupid things that went wrong in even stupider ways. It wouldn't be comics without them.

"I got all kinds of drugs and guns and shit. Want some acid?"
When Lois sees the Professor's not-yet-perfected portable, inflatable, 24-hour single use (and gas powered!) time machine, she develops a legitimately unethical plan to insure Superman's sole affections. As Lana's interview had related the tale of the day the red-headed hometown girl had first fallen for Superboy -- having received a kiss during a school production of Sleeping Beauty*, a result of a Daily Planet-sponsored essay contest open to the girls of Smallville only -- Lois hatches a plan to rob Lana of that kiss! And all it requires is a time machine, and two kinds of stupefying narcotics!

*By the way, Superboy and Lana's first kiss being in a stage production of Sleeping Beauty might be the oldest piece of continuity in the Lana/Superman mythos, if there is such a thing. But it originally happened in a Superboy comic way back in the early 1950s, so it's neat that they kept it in canon all that time. Or, I think so, anyway. You guys probably prefer sports and cars.

Lois decks herself out in a seasonal mink coat and dark glasses (what a clever disguise!) and picks up a substitute teachers gig at Smallville High, teaching her future beau and rival a bit of English under the name "Louise Lemon." Oh, good, it's a lemon party now!

This gives Lois an insight into the essays being produced for the contest, including Lana's well-written and evocative one, or so I assume because when they show it to us, it's on a blackboard and the printing makes the whole thing illegible. For my part, I like to pretend Lana was the original lyricist for W.A.S.P. and her essay was the first verse to "Fuck Like A Beast."

Lois forges an unflattering essay in Lana's handwriting and submits it to the contest, only to find that Superboy appreciates the "frank honesty" of "Lana's" essay. What a backfire, Lois! Perhaps you should abandon your subsequent plan and its use of powerful drugs!

Yes, Lois -- a full-grown adult woman -- has backup plans which involve slyly administering drugs to Lana -- a teenaged girl. That isn't a plan, that's the top-searched category on PornHub.

"...or a dead one."

First off, Lois drops sleeping tablets into Lana's cocoa -- god, it's even the most innocent of the warm drinks! Lois roofied Lana's Ovaltine! That's not cricket! The plan had been to dope Lana so hard that she'd be unable to write the superlative essay, but the pills turn out to have a delayed effect, so probably she just passed out while riding her bike home and was hit by a passing car. Good plan, Lois!

The sleeping pills kick in during the production of Sleeping Beauty (now that's time-release!), which ends up giving Lana the benefit of a realistic portrayal, I suppose. I don't know how hard it is to pretend to be asleep on stage. I can't imagine there's a category for that at the Tony's. "Best Doze in a Musical or Comedy."

Lois' second drug-filled fight plan involves filling Sleeping Beauty's glass casket with nitrous oxide, which I am pretty sure would kill you. Maybe that's the blanket approach to securing Superman's affection, a scorched-earth policy of dead rivals stretching back through the decades. Lori Lemaris better watch her fish-ass.

Anyway, all the laughing gas does is wake Lana up (mental note: nitrous oxide and sleeping pills make for sound sleep followed by sudden alertness, got it, adding it to my sleep routine) and allow her to enjoy the fabled kiss all that much more. Oh Lois, what a screw-up. Only seppuku remains for you now.

Lois returns to the present having failed to drug her rival out of the running, but bragging that she got the "first kiss" of the two of them, by dint of standing under misteltoe when Superboy happened to be passing. That is thin gruel and sour grapes, Lois. You are a grown-ass woman, there is no excuse for this behavior.

What makes Lois' actions all the worse is that the story's artist, the great Kurt Schaffenberger, was so good at drawing Lana's ecstatic, adoring expressions. You definitely came away from these scenes believing that Lana Lang truly, deeply loved Superboy, and that his mere attention filled her with delight. So. That makes the whole "Eat these pills, darling, I'll finish your essay for you" routine seem even more evil.

Look at the beautiful thing you are destroying, Lois.

Still, it's not like Lana never got her own back. You wanna hear about Lana trying to strand Lois in the distant past? I mean, one of the times she did that? Stick around ...


BillyWitchDoctor said...

I'm only halfway through the article and my jaw has taken up semi-permanent residence on the floor.

Cheryl Spoehr said...

I remember buying this at a news stand in New York City,while my family visited the World's Fair. One thing I demanded,buying comics at a genuine news stand,like I had seen in a comic...took a while to find one,and its selection was small,so I got Lois Lane and Tales of Suspense,Iron Man new vs.Old. I still have that T.o S.,but coverless. I recall reading this story before going to bed and hating it,thinking that there must be something really,really wrong with Lois....and I was maybe nine....

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