Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Retro Review: Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #21 (1960) Review and **SPOILERS**

Light in the Super Loafers

Cover Artists: Curt Swan, Stan Kaye 
Editor: Mort Weisinger 
Executive Editor: Whitney Ellingsworth 
Cover Price: 10 cents 
Cover Date: November, 1960 
Publisher: DC Comics


First, everyone’s crying about how they want Lois Lane back. Then, I review an issue of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane—a comic book which is all about Lois, mind you—and people complain that they didn’t like it. “The comic was misogynistic,” you said, “the stories don’t make any sense,” you said. Fine! I’ll take another stab at it and review an issue that features a more headstrong and independent Lois Lane. See what you think of this honey of a firecracker in my review of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #21, just below!

Explain It!

Just like the other issue I just reviewed, this issue of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane has two stories: the cover story, tucked at the end, and a longer, two-chapter story that opens the book. Let’s read first things first.

“The Lois Lane Doll” 
Written By: Mort Weisinger, probably 
Art By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
One day at the Daily Planet, a toy manufacturer named Cyril Madison—the “Doll King”—drops by to show off some of his wares. What he’s got is the prototype of a female doll he wants to manufacture—in the likeness of superstar (girl) reporter, Lois Lane! Hey wait, that’s her! 
"We thought about making Superman dolls, but who would possibly want them?"
Lois is very flattered, and all but accepts when Cyril offers Lois a royalty on every doll with her likeness that is sold. Then she really accepts, and very quickly, at that! 
"Wear something coquettish."
Cyril shows that this doll has functions controlled by a bank of buttons on the back of the doll. For that reason, the doll cannot wear a bra and its boobs will sag over time. Cyril shows off the speaking function of the future Lois Lane doll, and it says “LOVE THAT SUPERMAN!” over and over. For god’s sake, why won’t you have the doll say “I’M SUPERMAN’S PAIN SLUT!” since it’s practically the same thing! 
Other phrases: "I'm a silly girl!" "Can you help me with my math?" "Aw, I'm on my period!"
Cyril shows off the doll’s other features: sleeping, crying, and…sneezing. 
Every little girl loves to make their dollies expectorate.
The next day, despite Lois’ low expectations, there’s a rush on the toy stores for a new Lois Lane doll. A rush that is so fast and violent, it lands Lois on the ground, disheveled! 
"A couple of those kids grabbed me where a doll shouldn't be grabbed!"
A little while later, Lois is gleeful over her royalty check for allowing her likeness to be used, probably because it bumped her salary up to that of a newspaper boy. But Lois should temper her enthusiasm, because it looks like she’s been had––by the Anti-Superman Gang!
Formerly the Pro-Nixon Club
Cyril Madison’s award-winning plan is to create a life-sized Lois doll and present it to Superman as a trophy. When he brings it back to the Fortress of Solitude, it will explode by radio control and destroy Superman’s comic book collection! 
"He'll never expect something so petty!"
Cyril demonstrates the power of this bomb, which is enough to blow a massive crater in the ground. One would think such an explosion would draw some notice from the authorities, but not today! Cyril points out that, though such an explosion won’t hurt Superman, it should destroy his other trophies and collected junk that he keeps in the Arctic. 
Exploiting Superman's greatest weakness: his hoarding tendencies.
Superman is late to this, uh, toy presentation ceremony, so the owner of the department store hosting the event decides to have the life-sized Lois doll toddle around for the gawkers. When the winding key breaks, this man cajoles Lois into doing the exact thing you’d expected she’d be doing eventually, the second you read the third panel of this story. 
"I mean, you're not a famous newspaper reporter or anything. You couldn't be busy."
Not only does Lois Lane have to walk stiffly and proclaim her love for Superman, but the store owner demands she perform the other life-like functions of the Lois doll. What is the big deal here? Making a small toy realistically cry or sneeze is one thing, but a life-sized replica of a human doing that is just a robot. And we know that, in Silver Age Superman stories, realistic humanoid robots are about as common as dust. 
Dames! Always givin' us guys trouble!
The owner helps Lois to sneeze by dumping black pepper on her, and helps her to feign sleep by throwing a sleeping pill into her open mouth. I am not making that up. He literally just chucks a pill in her open maw while she’s talking. Once she’s knocked out, Cyril’s goons accidentally crate the real Lois Lane for Superman to receive, because of course that was going to happen, what in the world did you think? 
"Don't look now, but I think this toy just farted."
So Lois wakes up in the Fortress of Solitude, hilariously with a turnkey in her back. And the hoodlums let us know that they won’t pop the doll bomb until Superman gets back to Metropolis. So we have a little time before panicking. 
"I really like your transparency, boss. That's why I'm proud to work for this crime family."
While she’s hanging around, Lois decides to take a gander at some of the many items Superman’s crammed into the Fortress of Solitude, including…a glass model of a Superman robot? Why would he make this? Do you get the impression that Superman spends a lot of time being bored? 
Do you think maybe those cages in the Interplanetary Zoo should have tops on them?
Then Lois spies the Bottle City of Kandor, a Kryptonian city stolen and shrunk by Brainiac years before the planet exploded. In Action Comics #242 (July 1958), Superman got the planet back, and he’s been nursing it in his Fortress ever since. Indeed, thanks to the Exchange Ray, Lois, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark have all had adventures in Kandor! 
Sea Monkeys™ are hours of fun for the whole family!
See? Using a magnifying glass, Lois spies the familiar faces of…er, lookalikes of herself and Clark, hanging out with their kids at the zoo. But before Lois can focus the magnifier to obliterate Van-Zee and his family, a strange, murderous gas is released in the Fortress of Solitude! 
"I can appreciate the need for maintenance, but I don't see why he named the gas 'Lois Begone!'"
Lois cannot escape this routinely-released death gas, and seizes on the idea to use the Exchange Ray. Then she can breathe the sweet, bottled air of Kandor. 
"They laughed at me when I insisted on 7000 thread count handkerchiefs."
Holding a kerchief over her mouth, and therefore temporarily immune to killer gases, Lois peeks back into Kandor to find a non-breathing beast at the Kandor Zoo—one that exists without lungs! 
It's actually a misnomer–the creature has lungs, but can inhale only the dankest sticky-icky.
But uh-oh—Van-Zee and the clique are hanging out right in front of the cage holding this lungless beast! If Lois doesn’t aim the Exchange Ray just right…
As long as it's an even exchange of life, balance is maintained.
So anyway, Lois murdered Van-Zee’s wife.
Eh, one brunette's as good as another.
Ha ha! Just kidding, Sylvia is fine because Van-Zee gave her a vitamin or something? These guys are Kryptonian, just say her invulnerability kicked in once she entered Earth’s atmosphere. Whatever the case, Sylvia’s fine, so it’s just a simple matter of firing the Exchange Ray again and…
"It's a man's duty to drug women without their permission. You know that."
Whoops! It’s broken! And, of course, the only person that can fix it is Superman, so there’s nothing to do except wait for him to get back from his space mission or whatever. Does anyone else feel like they’re being a little too blithe about this? Lois Lane has a life and a job to get back to, and I’d guess Sylvia has better things to do than fart around some man-child’s secret, gas-filled fort. But no, we’ll just dally around until Superman gets back, we can’t do anything without him around! 
"I think I gave the ray gun cooties."
So Van-Zee takes Lois back to his house, where the kids are watching the heroic exploits of Superman. And not pre-recorded, either, but some live feed of what he’s currently doing: rebuilding some far-off alien society. Just then, Van-Zee’s twin brother, Dik Zee strolls in, and he’s a dead ringer for Superman! I mean, he’s even wearing Superman’s costume and everything! 
Great, looks like Comic Con is in town again.
It’s nothing weird, Uncle Dik wears the blue-and-red tights at all times because it entertains his niece and nephew. Isn’t that sweet? It probably also gets him some premium pus-say, if you ask me. 
"I don't mind you wearing that costume for the kids, Uncle Dik, but I do wish you would wash it."
While Lois is in Kandor, she’s got to get a job for some reason. Just her luck, the city’s newspaper has a temporary reporter’s position for her to fill. It’s fundamentally just like her job at the Daily Planet, except the typewriters have no keys! Also, we never hear about this temp job for the rest of this story. 
Later, Dik Zee shows off Kandor’s fake moons, and then he takes Lois to the Mental Movies, which is when you strap on the helmet from Lazer Tag and smoke Angel Dust. 
On Kandor, everyone is free to look like a dork.
Tonight’s Mental Movie is about the “Seven Wonders of Krypton,” which included a waterfall that ran hot lava, and a volcano that spewed molten gold. And did you know their hamburgers had two patties and one half of a bun? And folks wore hats on their feet! 
Hey, that's the same Scarlet Jungle referenced in DC Comics Presents #85 by Alan Moore and Al Williamson!
Later that evening, a fissure is discovered in the jar that contains Kandor, so Dik Zee drops the fake crescent moon on it to plug it up temporarily, leaving the difficult work for lesser beings. Instead, they head over to some flowers that sound like breaking glass in the breeze, which already has my brain cranking with potential prank fodder. 
"For people that live in a bottle, you guys sure are casual about the sound of glass breaking."
The scene is too romantic to be denied, and Dik Zee pops the question! This has Lois’ mind reeling…for one thing, this guy is just as good as Superman in a pinch. But almost as important, if Lois stays in Kandor, Sylvia can never return to Van-Zee and her family!
"I mean, what if I see Van-Zee and the kids in the Kandor supermarket? I'll have to wear a disguise."
Luckily, Lois is saved by the Exchange Ray! 
Cock blocked by the Exchange Ray!
Lois takes a minute to peek at Sylvia through a magnifying glass, tearful at her being reunited with her family because of innate human selfishness. And oh yeah, that thing about the exploding life-size Lois Lane doll. I’d forgotten about that. 
Oh right. The doll bomb. That's still in play, huh?
Superman and Lois head back to Metropolis, where Superman examines the doll and disarms the bomb contained within. Seeing that he’s back, Cyril flips the switch, but there’s no boom! Looks like they better get to skedaddling! 
Frankly, this plan sucked from the start.
Superman catches them pretty handily, with the help of some bad weather. The next day at the Daily Planet, Clark points out that Lois was a big help in the case—because the hurricane that downed the criminals’ plane was named Lois! Also, she sort of started the whole scheme by allowing her likeness to be used by a crook, but let’s not dwell on such things.
"See? You were almost useful, Lois. Buy yourself something pretty today."

“The Battle Between Super-Lois and Super-Lana!"
Written By: Jerry Siegel 
Art By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
Hey, one of Superman’s creators wrote this story! Specifically, the writerly one. We can be sure that this is a story that will get right back to Superman basics, just plain ol’ heroism and damsels in distress and maybe a locomotive engine will get walloped…oh. No, it looks like this is going to be a catty fight between romantic rivals. Telecaster Lana Lang and newspaper reporter Lois Lane have both been assigned to cover the launch of “Missile X,” which is probably an improvement from “Missile W.” While being sneak bitches to one another, Lana shows off a necklace made from space gems, gifted to her by her childhood BFF Superman don’tcha know. 
"Of course, the trip took him five seconds, but it's the thought that counts."
Likewise, Lois shows off some gaudy earrings that Superman made from rare metal he found burrowing in the earth. Is this stuff safe, ladies? Has anyone passed a Geiger counter over it? I’m concerned, is all. The experimental missile launch is delayed, so Lois suggests that she and Lana go see “The Cavern of 1,000 Lakes” nearby, despite the fact that these two women clearly hate each other. 
"Wouldn't a series of underground lakes be ideal to hide a body? Oh,dearie me! I do go on."
See the cavern they do, and there Lois tells the reader Lana of some old superstition that says they’ll get super powers if they bathe in the underground lake. Which they do. Is there any security on this tour? Hello? Two women are swimming in this roadside attraction, is that legal? The next day, presumably after drying the cave funk on them, Lois and Lana attend the missile launch…which involves looking at a television screen. They could have stayed home and did that! 
"Later on, you girls can watch us play Grand Theft Auto."
The missile goes haywire, so both Lois and Lana run to get their breaking news in to their respective newsrooms—and find they have super speed! Simultaneously, they test a theory by, in Lois’ case, lifting a car with one hand, and, in Lana’s case, uprooting a fucking tree. How about you temper those super powers with a little respect for the environment? At least respect the gardener’s job! Well, there’s nothing else for it: Lois and Lane got super powers from that dumb lake in the stupid cave! 
"Think of all the random acts of vandalism we can commit!"
Lana and Lois head home to don some specially-made costumes that they already had…from the last time they were temporarily bestowed super powers. What? They had super powers a time before this? How often do people just randomly get Superman’s abilities in this universe? I’d like to think everyone’s closet has at least one superhero costume, just in case. And yep, it happened in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #17 (May 1960), wherein Superman gives Lois and Lana a blood transfusion, so they can withstand a bomb blast. After they get into their cheerleader uniforms, it’s time for Lana and Lois to go out flying and performing heroic feats, which they screw up immediately. 
It's important to have a dress for every occasion.
Superman gets them down from the clouds, then the ladies point out that his prior fear in marrying one of them (because one of his foes would get back at him by murdering Superman’s puny wife) is moot now that they’re invulnerable. There’s nothing more to it than to have some kind of hare-brained competition for his love! Amazingly, they come up with this plan right in front of Superman, who doesn’t seem thrilled at the prospect. 
Today definitely isn't a good day to come out of the closet.
First, Lois and Lana save a girl from falling off a horse, which is pretty dull. Then, they decide to exhibit their super-wifely duties by making Superman something to eat. Lana is first to Superman’s stomach with an oversized pizza pie—I mean like the size of a city bus oversized, here. 
Great, pizza made by a Midwesterner: Wonder™ bread and ketchup.
Why would Superman want a gigantic pizza? Wouldn’t he prefer to eat a good pizza of normal proportions? Does Superman have to eat the same as twenty men in order to stay alert? Not to be outdone, Lois flash-squeezes maple syrup from a tree, then makes a bunch of humongous flapjacks on a mesa or something. Again—why so much food? Are they trying to fatten up Superman so he can’t escape easily? 
Even if they were normal-sized, that would be a ludicrously high stack of pancakes.
If they are trying to fatten him up, it doesn’t work because Superman doles out his pancakes to the starving crew aboard a drifting freighter. This might be the more interesting story here. How did this happen to the ship? Why isn’t anyone else helping out? Superman also blows some super-breath to send the boat back shoreward, and folks are very grateful for his help…though he could have also just picked up the freighter and flown it back to port. Just saying. Not that we’re not thankful, it’s just that it’s still another four days until land, and all we have is pancakes. No, no, that’s fine, thanks for your “help” Superman. 
"No, Superman! We're all on the South Beach diet!"
For some bizarre reason, Lana decides that the best way to curry Superman’s favor is to dig up some sunken treasure and wear it like some kind of Las Vegas Showgirl. Superman tells Lana that she looks like “a hussy,” and I agree with Lois that it’s hilarious. She looks more like a knight in shining armor. 
There are some people fabulous enough to pull off a tiara, honey, and you ain't one of 'em.
Lois decides to do one better and dives underground to grab Queen Cleopatra’s garb from her tomb. Superman turns his nose up at it because it’s all green, the color of Kryptonite…and you have to figure that stuff probably stinks to high heaven, too. 
Superman comes up with a contrived reason to split for a little while, and in his absence Lois and Lana carve their faces into a mountain range…what do you think it takes to attract suitors, ladies? This just makes them look like a couple of narcissists. 
That was some nice protected Native American land we had there, once.
Not getting anywhere with their strange displays of egotism, Lana and Lois start having a cat fight in the air, which Superman is smart not to instantly stop. Soon after, Lois stubs her toe and feels it—her super powers have worn off! 
"I'll marry whoever kicks the other girl's ass!"
Then, Lana can’t lift a heavy boulder—her super powers have worn off, as well! Now Superman can’t rightly marry either of them—too bad, too, since he’d decided which of the women he was going to wed!
"My decision was also dependent on who would convert to my Pentecostal snake-handling church."
Lois insists that Superman tell them, and he breaks their balls by carving the initials of that person into a rock: L.L. Why, that could be any number of hussies from the Midwest region! So why don’t you ladies slip back into that cave lake to regain your super powers? Ladies? I said why don’t you just regain your super powers? Anyone? Is anyone going to examine that lake? Hello? 
He never did reveal that the initials stood for Lucy Lawless.
This is such a stupid comic and I loved every second of it. The first story is so overly-complicated, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t being written at the same time that it was drawn. Like, the story is titled “The Lois Lane Doll,” but clearly the interesting part was when she almost married some Superman fanatic in a microscopic Kryptonian city. The second story is more “normal” for this series, which is to say it’s batshit insane by any other metric. It’s interesting that both of these stories reference events in past issues, establishing a kind of continuity…two years before Marvel debuted the Fantastic Four and, it is said, introduced continuity to comic books. Food for thought. Perhaps the concept of a shared universe with consequences wasn’t so brand new when the Marvel Age began.
"Here ya go sister. Take yer 'shut up pills' now."

Bits and Pieces:

These stories are like the fever dreams of idiots, and they're awesome. Both of them reference events from previous issues in the series, which might be some early consideration for comic book continuity. The art isn't exactly dynamic, but you'll have no trouble understanding what's going on. I mean, you might have trouble, but not due to the storytelling or plotting.


No comments:

Post a Comment