Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Episode #109: Showcasing Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane!

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #1, cover dated March/April 1958, was published around January 14 of that year. This was not the first issue to feature Lois Lane as the main character. That honor went to the story
Lois Lane, Girl Reporter, the third story published in Superman #28, May/June 1944, published around March 3, 1944. That story featured Lois covering the story of a man who was standing on a building ledge, threatening to commit suicide. As usual, Lois climbed out on the ledge to get the story. When the man told her the silly reason he wanted to kill himself because his affection for a woman was spurned, Lois stamped her foot in anger at him. The ledge cracked under her foot and she fell off the ledge. Lois broke her fall by grabbing an election banner hanging from some lower floor windows. It ripped, and her fall was further slowed by awnings that she fell through until she landed on the catch hoop held by policemen on the ground. For her trouble Lois was rewarded with another front page story and the affection of the love-sick man who had now set his affections on her. This story was reprinted Superman Archive vol. VII and Showcase Presents: Superman Family vol. I.

At the end of the last episode I had mentioned that Lois Lane #1 would be the topic of this episode. When I began researching this topic I discovered that I did not have a copy of that issue in reprint. However the same Showcase Presents edition that contained the first solo Lois Lane story also contained the first silver age title featuring Lois Lane as the main character, which was Showcase #9, July/August 1957, published around May 23, 1957. Showcase was a title began by DC Comics during the lean years of the 1950's. Editors took turns on the title, trying out new features and characters each issue. Some would reappear for two or three issues. It was an audition book, to try out new characters without going to the work and money to start a new series with the risk it could flop. If the character sold well enough then DC would begin a new series for the character. The first such success from Showcase was The Flash, who, after some unremarkable features in the first three issues, was published in issue #4. This marked the beginning of the silver age of comic books and the return of the superhero genre. The Challengers Of The Unknown was the next hit, although to a lesser degree than the new Flash. Lois Lane was next, appearing in issues 9 and 10, and edited by Superman editor Mort Weisinger. That is why Showcase #9 is the topic of this episode. Showcase #10 and Lois Lane #1 will be the topic of future episodes.

The cover to Showcase #9 was drawn by Al Plastino. The issue contained 32 pages and three stories and sold for ten cents. The first story in the issue was the eight page The Girl In Superman's Past, written by Jerry Coleman and drawn by Al Plastino. This was the second appearance of the adult Lana Lang, the first being in Superman #78, September/October 1952 issue (reprinted in Superman From The Thirties To The Seventies). The story began with Lois surprised to see a red-haired woman kiss Clark in the Daily Planet offices. Clark introduced Lois to Lana Lang. Lois was immediately interested in Lana because she remembered Superman also talking about Lana, especially when Lana asked Clark if it was a coincidence that he and Superman left Smallville on the same day. Clark was left sweating buckets.

Lois took Lana to dinner, where Lana talked about trying to prove Clark was Superboy in Smallville. Lois had also arranged an interview for Lana to audition for a job doing TV commercials, and offered to let her stay in her apartment until Lana could get established on her own in Metropolis. The next day Lois interruped Superman while he had lunch with Lana. Lois asked Superman for help getting to an interview appointment on time. Instead of flying her there he built a giant kite and tied Lois to it, using his super breath to blow her to her destination. (I guess it would have been rude of Superman to use super-speed to fly Lois there during his lunch date with Lana.)

The next day it was Superman's turn to have lunch with Lois. Lana returned Lois' favor by asking Superman to show some moral support by being near her as she auditioned for her TV job. Instead of interrupting his lunch with Lois to be with Lana, he built a platform and tied to to the outside of the building where Lana's audition was, where he finished his lunch with Lois. That evening Lois and Lana dedcided to pretend to put themselves in danger to find out who Superman would save first, in order to find out who he loved more. They borrowed a remote control steamroller and glider. Lois pretended to be in danger of being runover by the steamroller while Lana pretended to be about to crash her glider. Superman knocked a meteor to the ground in front of Lois while a gust of wind lifted Lana's glider so that it could land safely. Lois and Lana are left to guess if Superman saved both of them or not.

The second story was the eight page The New Lois Lane, written by Otto Binder, pencilled by Ruben Moreria and inked by Al Plastino. Superman turned down Lois Lane's offer of tickets to the Daily Planet dance. Lois wondered if Superman's rejection was because she was gaining weight. She weighed herself on a public fortune telling scale, and her fortune said, "To win the man of your dreams, adopt a new strategy." So Lois pledged to stop trying to discover Superman's secret identity. Later she saw Superman perform for some Metropolis orphans and leave, but resisted the temptation to follow to discover Superman's secret. She took a shortcut through an alley and discovered some footprints through some spilled ink, and surmised they were Superman's footprints after he changed his disguise.

In his civilian disguise Superman used his x-ray vision to check on Lois, who was covering up the footprints. It turned out that Lois was right. what she didn't know was that Superman wanted her to follow him and discover his identity as Allen Todd, for a special purpose. Superman changed back to his normal guise as Clark Kent and went back to his apartment. He was met by "Con" Conners and his criminal partner, who stalked Clark's apartment building to take a picture of Superman flying out of Clark's window with a high speed camera. In his apartment Clark saw another building on fire. As Superman he lit a rug on fire with his heat vision to let the smoke cover his flight out the window. After dousing the flames he flew to another apartment he rented as Allen Todd. He used his x-ray vision to follow Lois. She was at the Daily Planet offices and noticed one of the Superman trophies was cracked and had a photo hanging out of it. Lois took it out and read the message to the 25th century, that Superman's secret identity was on the other side. Instead of peeking Lois ripped it to shreds, to Superman's disappointment.

Allen Tood met Lois at her Planet office and squeezed his fingerprints into the door nob to leave her a clue about his identity. Later, she noticed the fingerprints pressed into the knob and used a hammer to destroy the impressions. Superman met Lois at her office as himself to find out why she was covering for him, and she told him about her pledge. The Man of Steel left Lois to write two letters, one to her and the other to Conners. Lois opened her letter, which was "from" a dying man who knew Superman's secret and wanted to tell it to her. Conners' letter was "from" an underworld informant who tipped Conners that she had a tip to Superman's identity.

Conners kidnapped Lois and went to the apartment, which wasTodd's apartment, not Kent's. He shot Todd but the bullets bounced off him. Lois regretted allowing Superman's identity to be discovered, but he simply said he would create another one, and took Conners and his henchman to the police for firing a deadly weapon. Later, at the Daily Planet Lois told Clark she was anxious to learn Superman's new secret identity.

The final eight page story was Mrs. Superman, written by Otto Binder and drawn by Al Plastino, another in a series of stories where Lois had a dream she was married to Superman. It began with Lois inviting Clark to join her and Jimmy at the beach, which he declined citing an apointment. Lois recalled that Superman also had an appearance later that day at an orphanage. Clark asked Jimmy to help him move his heavy desk closer to the window, and Jimmy almost moved it by himself. Lois scoffed at herself for suspecting Clark. At the beach Lois and Jimmy heard a swimmer yelling for help. Lois jumped in but hit her head on a rock in the shallow water. Superman saved the swimmer, and took the unconscious Lois to the hospital, where she began to dream and talk in her sleep. The doctor was concerned that if she didn't wake up he would be concerned for her health but she seemed to be having a happy dream. The doctor left Superman with her, and he decided to whisper in her ear to plant suggestions in her dream.

Lois was dreaming she had a secret home on Mt. Bliss with Superman and a young son. To shock her awake Superman whispers in her ear that he was really Clark Kent. In her dream Superman decided to reveal his identity because his enemies had never found their secret home. At first Lois was disappointed, because Clark was the man no girl would want to marry (which was a real boost to Superman's morale). But it didn't matter because he was still Superman.

Next Superman suggested annoying incidents and Lois dreamed that her super husband used his x-ray vision to discover his gift before unwrapping it, she had to clean Superman's uniform with a blowtorch, and Superman had to leave her alone at dinnertime to handle an emergency. But her mood was boosted by all of the trophies that had been given to Superman by a grateful world. Superman then planted suggestions about a bratty son, who, in Lois' dream, threw toys against the wall in a tantrum because he didn't want to take a nap. He had created holes in the wall. He then flew out of the window without permission and brought back a grizzly bear to play with. Lois hurt her hand spanking him. When Superman returned he helped her feed a very hungry boy, who ran Lois ragged filling one super bottle of milk after another. Her mood was lightened thinking about how he would replace Superman one day.

Finally Superman pulled out the big guns. After his suggestion Lois dreamed that Superman heard the cries of Lulu Lyons (another LL Superman aquaintance). Lois watched on TV as Superman rescued her form two robbers, and then carried her back to her home. An angry and jealous Lois greeted her super husband with some very sharp questions about Lulu. He informed her that Lulu replaced her at the Daily Planet when they married. Lois realized Lulu filled her shoes, getting herself in trouble and needing Superman's rescue. Later Superman mistakenly called Lois Lulu, which caused her to throw a vase at Superman, making him duck. (So it wasn't just George Reeves who ducked.) Her heartbreak made Lois wake up from her dream, and she told Superman it was silly to suspect he was Clark Kent. As Superman flew away Lois wondered if she would have a happy or sad life as Superman's wife.

These three stories were typical of the many, but not all, of the stories edited by Mort Weisinger, where the characters tried to manipulate each other. After reading about his tight control of the Superman titles and his treatment of the creative talent that worked for him, these types of stories seem to say a lot about his character and personality. And that's pretty sad.

Next week: Happy Birthday, Alex Ross!

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