Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Retro Review: Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #45 (1963) Review and **SPOILERS**





He’s the Superman, I’m the Lois

Cover By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
Edited By: Mort Weisinger, probably 
Cover Price: 12 cents 
Cover Date: November 1963 
Publisher: DC Comics

**NON SPOILERS AND SCORE AT THE BOTTOM**

We’ve seen many different sides of Lois Lane and Superman in the past several weeks: they’ve been dicks to each other, they’ve been assholes, they’ve ben jerks…but rarely have we seen the two of them get along as the “friends” that the title implies. Well...you’re not really going to see them being super chummy here. But you’ll still get three stories that read like they were written under duress! Have a look at my review of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #45 and see what you think!



Explain It!

“The Superman-Lois Hit Record!” 
Written By: Jerry Siegel 
Penciled By: Curt Swan 
Inked By: George Klein 
This story requires a little context: novelty records are, as the name implies, song parodies or some other kind of audio comedic bits produced for public consumption. They’ve been around since the late 19th Century, when recorded music appeared, but they had a big surge in popularity in the 1950s and 60s. In 1962, comedian Vaughn Meader released “The First Family,” a record poking fun at then-president John F. Kennedy and his Massachusetts-borne accent. It became the fastest-selling record to that point, pushing 1.2 million copies during the first two weeks of its release, and ultimately selling 7.5 million copies. In 1963, Vaughn released “The First Family Volume Two” which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Point is, novelty records could chart pretty well, so it’s not unreasonable that a bunch of yokels would be sitting around listening to one—even at this hillbilly-themed party that is being attended by Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Yes, you read that right. A hillbilly-themed party. 
"Next week I'm having a Chinese wizard-themed party."
The record in question is a comedy routine by comedian Don Weeder and an unnamed woman, pretending to be Superman and Lois Lane. Everyone thinks this bit is hilarious, except for Lois Lane who doesn’t like being portrayed like the lovesick dope that she is. To increase her embarrassment, Perry White sends Lois down to Weeder’s studio to interview him about the record! Once there, she’s surprised to find that he’s very gracious and thrilled to meet her. He’s also proud of some signed photos on his wall: one from the U.S. President; one from Winston Churchill, who hadn’t held office in the UK for ten years; and one from USSR Leader Nikita Kruschev, who was playing nice with the U.S. at the time of this publication, but who had fomented the Cuban Missile Crisis just two years before. Frankly, I’d find these signatures more threatening than impressive. 
"I also have a signed photos from Pol Pot and Idi Amin, but it seems in poor taste to display them."
Lois is easily placated, so she wishes Mr. Weeder the best of luck and figures that the record will be a flop anyway. The next day, Lois finds it’s anything but! 
And yet no one will listen to my mixtape.
Everywhere she goes, Lois hears the comedy record playing. Even her classical music station plays it by popular request, which is pretty strange. Lois gets the bright idea to put in ear plugs, which will help her avoid both the offensive novelty record and Jimmy Olsen’s incessant yammering in the office. 
"Plus, these stifle my genetically-inherited 'ear farting' trait."
Because she’s oblivious to noise, Lois is nearly run over by a motorcycle! Superman flies in to save her, then chastises her in broad daylight with some of the phrases from the very album Lois hates. She runs away, mortified (and pissed off.) 
"I repeat anything I hear. Remember that month I couldn't stop singing 'Yellow Polka Dot Bikini'?"
This record is so popular, that Don Weeder and his nameless colleague set to recording another one. Clark and Lois are sent down to Don’s studio for the Daily Planet again, and this time Lana is also on hand to report for WMET-TV, because there’s nothing really newsworthy happening in the city of Metropolis at the moment. 
"We gotta wrap this session up, they have to convert this back to an interrogation room in an hour."
That just tears it for Lois, who has had enough of being made a laughing stock. She tells Superman off and gives him a slap, which is something she often does to Supes despite having hurt her hand every time. Later that day, Perry White gives Lois the assignment to cover the Steve Allen show, and she’s thrilled to go! 
"And I need something to take my mind off the fact that I broke my hand on Superman's face."
Steve Allen was the original late-night talk show host—literally, he was the first host of The Tonight Show before Johnny Carson. Lois goes to the show to find that Steve has a substitute...Clark Kent? Steve picked mousy ol’ Kent because they look alike, which is about as good a reason as any. I mean, do you really need talent or training to sit at a desk and let celebrities wax about their latest gimmick? 
"Steve asked Buddy Holly first, but it turns out he died,"
And speaking of gimmicks, Clark has something swell to open the show: a new Superman and Lois record! But this one isn’t Don Weeder and what’s-her-name, but the actual Superman and Lois Lane—in fact, it’s a recording of the very same disagreement that Lois and the Last Son of Krypton had earlier that day. 
Clark Kent would go on to become a world famous disc jockey.
Now that they see what a bitch Lois can be, everyone has newfound respect for her. But what about the recording? How did Superman make it? Well, just read below for the answer. 
"...I call it the 'Bullshit Machine.'"
That’s right: Superman developed a machine that could somehow overtake the speed of sound and capture sound waves from the past. How did they record? Was there a sonic boom? We don’t find out. But it does look like Steve Allen and Clark Kent are friends, so that explains one thing.
"Er, you will be coming through with that case of amyl nitrate, right?"

“The Girl With the Golden Arm!” 
Written By: Feels like this might be Bill Finger 
Art By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
This story opens with Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane…at the racetrack?? And she lost $700 of the Daily Planet’s money? What goes on here? It turns out that this is all in aid of an anti-gambling article that runs on the front page of the newspaper because nothing else of remote interest happened in the world that day. 
Other headlines: CARRY AN UMBRELLA and MAN READS NEWSPAPER, AGREES
Turns out this is all a stunt by Perry White to show that gambling is a sucker’s bet. To further prove his point, he’s going to send Lois Lane with a bunch of money to Las Vegas, then Superman will fly her to Monte Carlo to lose some more money. Why do I get the impression that Lois is the one that pitched this article? Superman gives Lois a necklace with Kryptonian gems as pendants for luck. So…Kryptonite? He gave her a necklace made of Kryptonite. 
"I'll give this necklace back to Mrs. Roper when I'm done with it."
As they pull up to the Las Vegas resort, Lois sees Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope golfing, which is as good a time as any to remind you to purchase The Adventures of Bob Hope and Adventures of Jerry Lewis comic books, available at fine newsstands every month! Lois then sets to losing all of the Daily Planet’s dough, and make some poorly-conceived point. 
"You know what I like about you Jerry? Nothing."
Problem is, Lois is having the ride of her life! She wins so much at the roulette wheel that they have to shut the table down. Then Lois cleans up in Craps, throwing a record twenty-seven consecutive winning rolls. Anyone think to check those dice out, at any time? No? Nothing suspicious here, then? That’s fine. Mr. Bower from the casino takes the dice to display in the on-site museum, which is probably a really shitty museum when you think about it.
"So far, the museum has a two-cent stamp and some of my lucky marbles."
Lois winds up winning $100,000 at the resort, contrary to what she hoped would happen. Mr. Bower knows about her publicity stunt, and wishes Lois bad luck when she gets to Monte Carlo. 
"When you get back to Las Vegas, I'll introduce you to my brother, Robert Goulet."
Superman flies Lois over there, and it’s the funniest thing: Superman streaking across the ocean, Lois on his shoulder, while he hangs on to a couple of well-worn suitcases. Why didn’t he just shove her sundries in his cape? When they get to Monte Carlo, Lois meets Princess Grace and Prince Ranier of Monaco, which was a big deal back in those days. 
"...Now she's just a lame old princess."
Superman ditches Lois and she heads into the casino, where she’s shown a safe hidden behind a picture, and there she can keep her valuables. What is the point of hiding this thing behind a picture? Is this safe for any guests, or just for Lois? Because if people that have previously stayed in that room know about this safe, then I’m guessing the secret is out. 
"In case you forget it, the combination to this safe is on the back of the picture."
On the gambling floor, Lois gets to work when a bald man sidles behind her and presses a gun into her back. He walks her back to her hotel room and forces Lois to open her safe, where she’s kept that $100,000 in Las Vegas winnings. Turns out it was all a scam from the beginning! 
"Yeah, I got my teeth from a donkey. What of it?!"
The money she won in Las Vegas was from a heist, and so the serial numbers are all being watched for by the authorities. Bower then used Superman’s flight to Monaco to get the cash out of the country because it happened, presumably, without the usual security and Customs checks. So wait…if that casino in Las Vegas had the dirty money to dispense, wasn’t it already laundered? Does Bower own the casino? I don’t get how they were able to guarantee Lois would wind up with these hot bills. 
A plan as daring as it is idiotic.
Fixing the games, however, was simple: some loaded dice, an electromagnet, a puff of air near the roulette wheel, and Lois seemed to be blessed by the luck of a Kryptonian necklace. Okay, so does Bower own this casino or what? Why didn’t any of the hotel security notice these obvious efforts at cheating? 
"You've gotta let me borrow these dice for Dungeons & Dragons Night this Friday."
Lois is pissed off at having been used in this way, so one of the thugs shoots her point-blank in the chest and she crumbles to the floor! Just then, Superman smashes through the window and finds the tragic scene. 
"Uh, I mean we found her like this! Yeah, that's it. I'm the bellhop!"
After he beats the ever-living shit out of everyone, Superman goes to Lois’ body, and…she’s awake! She’s okay after all, the necklace that Superman gave her having deflected the bullet. I guess it was a good luck charm, after all! Because that’s what all bullet-proof vests are, in essence: good luck charms.
"I came to tell you that necklace has given you breast cancer."

“Dear Dr. Cupid!” 
Written By: Won’t even bother to guess 
Art By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
The usual person that writes the “Dear Dr. Cupid” advice column for the Daily Planet has broken her leg, so Perry White asks star reporter Lois Lane to take over the desk for a while. You’re not busy, are you Lois? What’s that? You’re working on a blockbuster article that will take down organized crime in this city? I’ll give that to Clark. I need someone with delicate “lady sensibilities” to handle this task. 
"The column must be written using feet. So you see my dilemma."
Lois gets to answering some letters, and of course she dispenses the worst advice ever because she chases an indifferent super-powered alien who is almost certainly gay. 
"Dear Bad Temper: Pretend to marry a Martian to make him jealous, and make sure he's not a robot!"
After a few days of doing the “Dear Dr. Cupid” column, Lois gets a package from a listener, and luckily for her it's not a bomb. Instead, it's a slice of wedding cake from someone who took Lois’ advice and consequently got married…in a few days? Must have been one of those quickie Green Card marriages. 
"Odd...this cake is drenched in Spanish Fly."
Lois receives a letter, typed on the typewriter of someone that is clearly a psychopathic murderer, asking how a fella that signs as “Stuck-in-the-Mud” can get noticed by a gal he likes. Lois suggests that he give her a bunch of flowers, and the next day, Lois finds some carnations in a vase on her desk! 
"I don't mean to make everything all about 'me,' but it is."
Even stranger, Lois notes that Clark Kent is wearing a carnation in his lapel. Could he be “Stuck-in-the-Mud?” Lois answers another letter from the same scribe requesting more advice, and she says that the admirer should wear a flashy necktie. The following day, Clark Kent does just that! Lois, remembering that she was once a reporter, does a little snooping, and learns that the unique letters from “Stuck-in-the-Mud” are from Clark’s typewriter, which is pretty sad. Is business that slow, Perry? You can’t fix this poor guy’s manual? 
"Now to return this magnifying glass to my neighbor, the Pink Panther."
To put her theory to the test, Lois answers the next letter from “Stuck-in-the-Mud” with a suggestion that the guy take off for a week and play hard-to-get. Clark does just that, taking an assignment out of town, and talking about it within earshot of Lois! Who should stop eavesdropping, really. 
"My skin belongs to Dr. Zizmor."
Lois thinks Clark’s crush on her is sweet, but he should know that she only has eyes for Superman. She decides to let him down easy, so for Lois' final bit of Dr. Cupid advice to “Stuck-in-the-Mud,” she suggests that he get his objet d’amour alone and propose marriage, which is totally not an insane thing to do to a woman that you barely know, to the point that you’re trying to get her attention with wacky neckties and spontaneously appearing flowers. 
"Propose marriage to her on the spot! And if she gets lippy, you belt her one!"
Conveniently, Perry sends Lois and Clark to the opening of a new amusement park because, again, nothing interesting ever happens in Metropolis. She thinks this must be the moment Clark will propose, so Lois agrees to the assignment. She even goes as far as to hop in a boat and ride through the Tunnel of Love with Kent. There is such a thing as leading someone on, Lois! Clark turns, seemingly to pop the question, but Lois stops him, revealing that she knows all about his secret identity and how he’s tried to curry her favor with gifts and garish clothing for the last week. 
"Well now you've ruined the story of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony for me."
Clark is stunned by this revelation—though he’s probably relieved when he realizes that she hasn’t found out about his actual secret identity of Superman. Clark says he didn’t write any letters to Dr. Cupid, and explains away the subsequent coincidences as…well, coincidences. 
"By the way, don't read too much into it when I wear that Christmas sweater you knitted for me."
Lois asks Clark why these letters were typed on his office typewriter, and he takes off in a hurry! That probably happens to Lois three times a day, though, considering he’s always jilting her in order to shuck his wash n’ wear suit for the blue-and-red tights. 
"Or maybe my breath stinks."
The next day, the mailman that’s been dumping letters to Dr. Cupid on Lois’ desk all week asks her out to some kind of jug band concert or something. He’s “Stuck-in-the-Mud,” and he’s the one that’s been vying for Lois Lane’s attention! And because he's a lowly worm of a mailman, Lois ignored him completely. 
"I even opened your personal mail and rubbed it on my genitals."
It just goes to show you that one shouldn’t jump to conclusions, thinks Lois, as the man whose heart she’s shattered walks out the door and probably to the icy waters below the Wayne Boring Bridge. So…is Lois just the love advice columnist now? What ever happened to that original one with the busted foot? Anyone know? Hello?
"So does this mean I'm nothing more than a mail carrier to Superman?"

Here’s another batch of stories written by idiots on heavy doses of barbiturates. Kurt Schaffenberger’s art is as clean and sterile as always, though I expected more from Curt Swan’s art in the first chapter. Perhaps it was the inking, perhaps I’m being a stickler, but I feel like his other work on Superman titles was more crisp and exacting. This also may be earlier in his career, when he didn’t quite have the faces down pat—still, much more lively and interesting than what Schaffenberger capably produces. The stories are stupid and barely worth discussing, though it might be notable that the cover date to this issue is November 1963—the month President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This comic not only has a mention of JFK in the first story (in the form of a signed photo at Don Weeder’s studio), but the novelty record itself is (as mentioned) a nod to Vaughn Meader, who produced a funny record himself, about Kenndy and his family, that very year. His career, incidentally, died with Kennedy. Maude tried his hand at other comedy ventures, including a record with Rich Little in the early 1980s, where he resurrected his Kennedy impersonation along side Little’s own Ronald Reagan impression, but it flopped. He had a pretty good career as a bluegrass guitarist, and a documentary about him was made two years after he died.
"Then I'll pretend to sweat my balls off and pant like a sheepdog."

Bits and Pieces:

Lois behaves like a moron in this issue, but to be fair, everyone behaves like a moron in this issue. If you like your stories to have internal logic, then you've come to the wrong place. But if you're a gamblaholic whose endorphins will release upon reading a story about someone winning big in Las Vegas, then this is the issue for you! 


4/10

For more Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane action, be sure to check out Bob and Barbara over at A Gal Walks Into a Comic Shop. They do a radio play and check out a letter column every week!

2 comments:

DanielB said...

I laughed a lot reading your review. I don't know why you are so harsh on these stories. Sure, they are incredibly silly, but in a wonderful way.

Reggie Hemingway said...

Oh I love 'em! But for their inconsistencies, not despite them...however these same inconsistencies get bad marks from me when I review current books, so I try to apply the same thinking when it comes to the score and final thoughts.