Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Retro Review: Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #15 (1960) Review and **SPOILERS**

Super Birds Do It, Super Bees Do It

Written By: Otto Binder 
Art By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
Cover Artists: Curt Swan, Stan Kaye 
Editor: Mort Weisinger 
Cover Price: 10 cents 
Cover Date: February 1960 
Publisher: DC Comics


One of the most frustrating things about reading issues of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane is that theirs is a romance forever unrequited. Oh, there are plenty of “imaginary stories” and other switcheroos…not to mention the actual marriage that they did have decades later. But for a hundred-some-odd issues of this series, Lois and Clark never do get hitched. Until now! Read on and find out about the time that A Super Man would marry his brunette dream girl (wink, wink) in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #15, commencing now!

Explain It!

There’s only one story in this issue, told in three chapters, and it’s titled “The Super-Family of Steel!” Indeed, right on the title splash page, in true Silver Age fashion, we see this Super-Family revealed, and it sure looks like Superman and Lois, in matching Superman costumes, watching lovingly as their kids destroy some stuff. It looks legit to me, and this promises not to be an imaginary story, so let’s see how this scene came together! 
"Has it been five years? Feels like five-hundred."
One day, a woman that looks alarmingly like Lois Lane takes off incognito to the Metropolis docks, where she boards a cruise liner and has to share a room with a smoker. Which is absolute bullshit. 
"I specifically requested a room on the 'no assholes' berth."
Laura Barton tells her new roomie that she’s a stone cold looker for famous newspaper reporter Lois Lane, but the Lois-a-like swears that she’s Jane Brown, one of the Brown girls.
"Let's have dinner together tonight, I can harass you more there."
Lois keeps a low profile for much of this trip, mulling over some romantic problems she’s having, and about which we’ll surely learn more. Seems she’s fleeing one gentleman, and hoping to find another one on this cruise…one that wants to start a serious relationship with a lady who won’t even use her real name. While considering which fella to jazz, Lois trips and falls over the side of the ship! 
From the truncated version of James Cameron's Titanic
Lois is pulled underwater by the wake of this massive boat, and then a familiar red-and-blues streak is seen in the sky! Superman appears to save the day for Lois, by ruining the days of several others! 
"I'll save you Lois! Right after I finish playing with this boat."
Superman lifts the stern of this gigantic cruise ship from the water so Lois can float to safety. I mean, what the hell, man? Just grab her and fly away, for cripes sakes. And he’s all, “Oh, I’m not gonna disturb any passengers holding the ship at this angle and whatever.” First of all: have you ever heard of motion sickness? Some people are very sensitive to those kinds of rapid changes in position, especially aboard a boat. Second of all: how the fuck do you know, Jack? Did you ask the passengers? Most of them are in bed, so what’s probably happened is a few of them rolled out of the miniscule beds in their staterooms and fell on the floor. This all seems very irresponsible, is what I’m saying. 
Come on, man. That ship is at least at a 30° angle.
Back on the deck of the yacht, Lois is grateful to Superman, and he in turn reveals his secret identity. Wait, what? If you think that’s something, next he gets on one knee and proposes to Jane Brown, of the Brown girls! 
"I mean, now that I know you make a journalist's salary, there's just no way."
Lois is nobody’s fool, and she’s definitely mighty suspicious of this impromptu proposal. She says Superman has to prove his intentions by courting her, which means he has to bring her presents. Hey, at least she’s up front about the requirements. 
"And bring me back a latte from Starbucks while you're at it."
The Man of Steel flies to Egypt, where he uses his X-ray vision to find an undiscovered pyramid beneath the sands of the Sahara Desert. Then, without alerting Egyptian authorities, he bores into the pyramid and removes an item belonging to the last leader of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra. This item, a ring from the finger of the actual Cleopatra’s mummified finger, is then given to Lois like something found in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. 
The next day, Superman discovers an ancient shipwreck. On that ship is the severely deteriorated dress of Helen of Troy, the woman for whom the Trojan War was fought. No matter, the last son of Krypton uses his “super-weaving” power to fix it right up. Hey, there are lots of people that need clothes on Earth, Superman. You wanna use your super-weaving power there? No? Don’t wanna maybe super-weave some decent shoes for like a hundred million indigent kids? Fine. 
"Now, what size do you suppose Lois is? 14? 16? I'll make it flag-sized and we can trim it down."
Of course, the dress is also given to Lois. Then, Superman heads to the Garden of Eden—you know, that place in the Old Testament that is probably allegorical—and grabs some flowers for a special bouquet. On the way back, Superman explains how he avoids having the flowers burst into flame from friction, and this is one of a few times this story seems preoccupied with the friction that would be caused by super-speed. I mean, did you not see him super-weaving like three panels back? I don’t think the reader can be too preoccupied with the science of the thing. 
"I went too far in asking for that latte."
Lois was already feeling like she might have pressed the issue too much, and is elated to see ol’ red boots come back with a bunch of posies. Flowers that are, quite frankly, pretty underwhelming. 
"By the way, don't let these flowers touch your skin. They're highly poisonous."
Having accepted the marriage proposal, there’s a weird montage of smooching where Lois thinks about how good she’s got it. I guess you can imagine the love song of your choice playing in the background. I picked “Can't Get Enough of Your Love” by Barry White. 
🎵Oh I don't know why, don't know why, don't know why, can't get enough-a your loove...🎶
They decide to get married by some local tribesman because they don’t want to draw attention, and honestly I don’t think their hearts are really in it. Lois worries that something might happen to stop the ceremony…but it goes off without a hitch! Whew. And they live happily ever after. 
If you come to this village, you must try the gigantic soup dumplings.
Whoa, wait a minute! There’s more story yet to come! Now that they’re husband and wife, the two lovebirds go on a honeymoon—in space! This is to avoid prying eyes and because, well, Superman is the husband here. I mean, spending a week in Pittsburgh just wouldn’t do. He’s even set up a spaceship just for the occasion! 
"I hope you brought a book, because 99% of outer space is super boring."
They go look at some falls consisting of molten metal, and then Superman is feeling so good that he decides it’s time for Lois to meet his parents. Or, at least, images of his parents with which he vandalized an asteroid. 
"What's that, dead parents? You want me to murder my new bride?"
Sensing that Lois is feeling jealous, the Man of Tomorrow quells her negativity by firing space rocks into some nearby moons, plastering profiles of their faces on their surfaces. So that’s nice for the people from the planet below that have never met these two assholes. 
Three civilizations died for this gesture.
Eventually the honeymoon is over, and it’s time to embrace the shitty reality of life. Superman tells his bride now that she’s going to live on Venus, he’s even built a nice cottage not far from a giant mushroom. He says that it has an atmosphere similar to that of Earth’s, which is a complete falsehood that could have been easily researched in any high school Astronomy textbook. 
I'll bet he's got wives on every planet in the solar system!
The lady isn’t too keen about living on Venus, despite her penchant for mushroom soup, and suggests they move to the Fortress of Solitude. No can do little lady, explains Superman, for the place is being fumigated for termites or something. Strangely, this is the same premise used in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #21, which I reviewed right here! Lois also mentions moving to the Bottle City of Kandor, which Superman nixes by patronizing Lois and explaining what it is. She’s the one that brought it up, dude. 
"Yeah, the Fortress of Solitude is sort of my 'man cave.'"
His wife mustn’t worry about being lonely, however, because Superman is going to leave a robot named Miss Jingles to hang out with her, plus she’s gonna get a signal watch like Jimmy Olsen has. And tell her what else she’s won: a brand new car! And…an all-expenses paid trip to Honolulu! See? Being the only intelligent, carbon-based life on Venus will be swell. 
"Just try to coordinate your perils with Jimmy Olsen, okay?"
As soon as he dumps the watch on his wifey, Superman takes off. 
"I've got to distribute novelty watches to my other girlfriends."
And not even one minute later, a Venusian bird steals the signal watch! While Lois runs after it, a craft of hostile aliens lands on Venus and they immediately threaten everyone. Boy, things sure move fast when Superman isn’t around! 
She'll never get the laundry done today, at this rate.
The aliens say they plan to hold Lois hostage and force Superman to do crimes for them, then they fire on her anyway when she makes a break for the signal watch. Her loyal robot, Miss Jingles, that she’s known for only one day, leaps in front of the blasts to save Lois. She scrambles for the watch, then calls for her husband who shows up right quick, and he's madder than hell. “Super-mad,” even. 
"I know the ray guns are useless against him. But I have to try."
Supes pummels the aliens stupid, the shoves them back into their flying saucer—noting, again, that it is designed to withstand the friction of flight—and then decides that the only thing that will keep Lois safe is if she gets super powers just like he has! This comic book was brought to you by the National Rifle Association. 
A serum that makes you feel invulnerable...so, whiskey?
While Superman takes the time to devise a serum that will give Lois the requisite powers to fling space ships, she becomes preggers. Though she is a human being from Earth, the couple decide to use a hospital floating in the orbit of a planet named Urth. Do they take our planet’s insurance? 
"This way, our child will have no citizenship."
The big day finally arrives, and Superman is a wreck wondering if he’s gonna have a boy, a girl, or one of those plant-human hybrids that also occur among certain Kryptonians. So this high-tech space hospital couldn’t even determine the gender of this child? And then it turns out they get one of each: a boy and a girl. There was nothing that could determine Lois was carrying twins? Superman couldn’t use his X-ray vision? Is anyone listening to me? Hello? 
"But that's impossible! I have only one penis!"
So these kids get born, and like all children they are immediately hellborne nightmares that endeavor to make their parents’ lives miserable. Worse yet, they’re super babies, so Lois can’t even punish them correctly. Which is to say, by beating them. Soundly. Because they deserve it, the little jerks. 
"If this doesn't work, I'll build a Kryptonite playpen."
Luckily, the super power serum is finished, ready for the first round of testing on microbes and bacteria aaaaaand Lois already drank it. It will work only on people with blood type A, but that's fine since it’s just her flavor. 
Side effects may include: constipation, fatigue, clumsiness.
Now that she can pummel the crap out of her kids, they fall right in line. One day, they’re all spying on daddy as a family unit, and watch him save a sunbathing woman from a toppling smokestack, which is as clear an indictment of urban income disparity as I’ve ever seen. 
For some, gentrification will not come quickly enough.
Then, Lois sees this sunbathing hussy plant a smooch on her husband! And it’s not just any sunbathing hussy, but Lana Lang, who has a long history of being Superman’s sunbathing hussy! 
He looks so into that kiss, too!
Superman’s wife is furious when he gets back to Venus, and she hurls everything to hand at him as he approaches the house. Lois throws them so quickly, however, that they burn up before they can reach Superman—another weird reference to friction. It’s like Otto Binder just learned about it, or something. Lois is hopping mad, and takes off with the kids to Urth—that’s right, not her home planet, Earth, but the frustratingly similarly-named planet Urth. Before she goes, however, she defaces the moon that Superman riddled earlier with an image of his profile, by giving it a black eye! 
This bit of spite cost that moon a natural geological wonder.
After burning a final goodbye message to her husband into the side of a meteor, then smashing their home with said meteor, Lois leave with the kids and their super-marriage is concluded. The end. 
"I sure wish I'd gotten my Playboys out of the garage before she smashed it."
Whoops! That’s not the end, it’s on to chapter three of this novel-length tale. On Urth, Lois talks to her kids about having seen their father being a filthy cheater, but they explain that they saw him merely taking out some space trash circling the very planet they’re on. 
Superman: Space Janitor
After chastising her son for lying, Lois asks one of Urth’s denizens about it, and he confirms that yes, Daredevil and Per Degaton would eventually steal the insignia on his uniform. 
Fashion shows on this planet must be the absolute worst.
But more importantly, when she saw Superman kissing up on Lana Lang, he was actually within Urth’s orbit, doing just as the stupid little kid said! Acknowledging her error (but without a hint of remorse), Lois returns to Venus and the home she destroyed, ready to take Superman back with open arms. Even better, now that she’s super-powered, they can move into the Fortress of Solitude, just as she’d wanted to when they were first married. 
"Let's put the fact that I destroyed our family's homestead behind us, huh?"
When the Super Family reaches the Fortress, they find the door open and…Superman waiting for them?! He addresses the married fella as Van-Zee, and says everything is prepared for him to safely move into the Bottle City of Kandor. What in the…? 
Superman interacts with self-made robots and replicants so often, this isn't even an unusual scene.
And the woman we’ve known as Lois Lane is really named Sylvia? And now she’s meeting the real Lois Lane??? Just what in the ding dong kablooey is going on around here?! 
Well someone is a little under-dressed for the occasion!
A full panel of text reads: “Surprised, readers? Did you guess that this married couple as not the real Superman and Lois Lane, but only their exact doubles? If you didn’t guess the truth, you will see that all the clues were provided as we now turn the clock back and tell you the full story of Van-Zee and Sylvia, doubles for Superman and Lois Lane! It all began some time ago in Kandor, the tiny city in the bottle, where Van-Zee spent his youth and grew to manhood…” 
They didn't have to pay the letterer any extra for this panel.
From here on out, I’m going to show nearly every panel in the third chapter of this story, so you can try to understand the bait-and-switch that happened here. Because frankly, I’m not sure I understand it enough to explain it. As it goes, while Superman is looking in on the Bottle City of Kandor every day like some kind of insect hobbyist, they’ve also turned their fawning gaze at his massive face, probably in deference to the incomprehensible horror of its size. Chief among the members of Kandor’s Superman Fan Club is Van-Zee, a fellow that looks alarmingly like the Man of Steel himself. 
"Gosh, Van-Zee that's...rather unsettling."
Van-Zee is so stuck on Supes, he’s learned his language and his biography and has even fallen in love with Lois Lane, and now this story has gone from sweet to creepy in one stroke. 
"I almost fell in love with Superman's Ficus tree, until I saw Lois."
One day, Superman is idly handling an device that emits an enlarging ray (last used in Action Comics #245 [October 1958] in “The Shrinking Superman!” by Otto Binder and Wayne Boring), which has burned out the element that makes it work. Call it “Convenienconium.” While fiddling with it, Superman aims the machine at Kandor, when at just that exact minute Van-Zee is testing a new ray on his Superman cosplay costume to make the material invulnerable. 
"Well, it's a good thing I wasn't cleaning my shotgun next to Kandor."
I guess this cloth-strengthening ray contains some Convenienconium, because it combines with Superman’s ray or something? Whatever it was, Van-Zee is teleported outside the jar at full-size—and he’s wearing the same outfit as Superman! Awk-warrd! 
That unaired final season of Quantum Leap was going to be so weird.
Superman figures out what happened, which makes one of us, and explains that he can’t enlarge the rest of the Kandorians in the same way because he doesn’t feel like it. While outside the jar, Van-Zee has the same powers as Superman, and this proves to be instantly hilarious. 
That unaired final season of Perfect Strangers was going to be so weird.
They head into Superman’s “Lois Lane Room,” and the two Lois stalkers compare notes and compliment each other on their voyeur photographic techniques. Since Superman can’t marry Lois due to him thinking girls are smelly, Van-Zee asks if he can holler at Ms. Lane. Of course, Superman gives his approval, begrudgingly. 
"See what she says to a three-way."
Van-Zee surprises Lois one evening at the park, which is definitely some form of assault, and reveals his intentions immediately. Lois probably gets proposals from a half dozen guys in Superman costumes every week, so she gives Van-Zee the usual spiel: she only has eyes for the original Kryptonian. 
"I'll accept no substitutes for Superman, in this issue."
Lois has a splendid idea, however: since everyone on Earth has an exact body double, Van-Zee can just find that person and marry her! Putting aside this theory that we’ve all got doppelgangers, what if this woman is already married? Or what if she’s a complete bitch? Though if she’s somehow the opposite from Lois, then she’s probably pretty sweet. Van-Zee uses his creeper-vision to find the mystery woman that looks like Lois, and she is dressed very swankly. 
"If you can't find my doppelganger, look for Jackie Kennedy's."
He learns her name is Sylvia Dewitt, and sneaking in closer for better stalking, eavesdrops on Sylvia's father arranging a marriage to some English nobleman. Van-Zee is crushed and slinks off, maybe to spy on a Lana Lang look-alike. 
Look on the bright side: he can't live but another ten more years, maximum.
It turns out Sylvia is none too thrilled about marrying some old fart just for business reasons, so she steals off in the dead of night, which is where we found her at the beginning of this comic book! 
For Sylvia's selfishness, the music industry collapsed.
Obviously addicted to voyeurism, Van-Zee creeps in on Sylvia Dewitt once again to learn that she’s fled her father’s home, having no intentions of marring Sir Cornish Game Hen. So when she told her cigarette smoking stateroom mate that she wasn’t Lois Lane, she wasn’t lying! 
"And I am the Penguin, Gotham City criminal! Awk! Awk!"
And now we see the story we’ve already read, but with little bits filled in that would have clued us into the fact that Van-Zee isn’t actually Superman. Hey, how about changing clothes, man? Did you consider that? You could probably have borrowed one of Clark Kent’s suits, or at least a t-shirt and sweatpants. 
"It's not like I haven't heard your same story before!"
Sylvia is suspicious that this is all some elaborate scheme, perpetrated by her father, which is why she insisted that Van-Zee round up some baubles in order to court her. Not because she’s materialistic at all! Or, at least, that’s not the only reason. 
This is a worthwhile reason to pilfer artifacts from archeological dig sites.
Then, there’s another full panel of text where the writer appeals to the reader not to break his balls just because this story is senseless: “Readers, you must admit now that all the clues were given you! Did you notice that Van-Zee never called his bride ‘Lois’ nor did Sylvia call him ‘Superman’? And just as Lois loves Superman, it was hardly unnatural for Lois’ double to fall in love with Superman’s double after he had swept her off her feet with his super-courtship! But it was all done in secret, so that the ship’s officer was fooled when he saw the happy couple leave…” 
"It wuz a good mystery, right? You wuz fooled, yeah? C'maaan..."
And there’s more scenes of the pair’s duplicity: not explaining themselves to the ship’s captain, the weird fly-by of Superman’s memorial to his Kryptonian parents…feels like a very odd blind date.
"After this, I want to go see Jim Morrison's grave."
It turns out that Van-Zee’s job, the thing that took him away from his family on Venus on a daily basis, was to check on the shrunken city of Kandor while Superman went out on patrol. And on this fateful day, Superman used this opportunity to fly Lois to visit her parents in Pittsdale. Did he farm out his patrol duties to someone else, too? Seems like one of Superman’s lesser-known abilities is super laziness. 
"I'd buy a plane ticket, but I just can stand going through security."
Aha, but it wasn’t Superman! It was, instead, one of his hyper-realistic robots took Lois to Pittsdale, while Superman saved Lana Lang from a toppling smokestack. Sylvia didn’t know this, however, and assumed that this Superman was Van-Zee. 
How do we know the Superman that kissed Lana Lang wasn't a robot, too? Superman is so lazy.
And Van-Zee, remember, had been called away from Kandor to clean up space junk around Urth. See? It all makes sense, if you insert an eerily realistic Superman robot and Van-Zee’s almost pathological inability to take off the Superman costume he made. I mean, come on man. That could have solved a lot of the confusion here. Even if you wore the top inside-out.
This is a common result of drinking whiskey.
Superman uses his shrinking ray to stick the Super Family back in the jar, which has to happen…why? Why can’t they just live on planet Earth in some remote place? Sylvia Dewitt already lived on Earth for her whole life, I don’t see why she can’t just keep on going. And we already know about DC Comics’ penchant for secret identities, surely Van-Zee could be happy working an insurance salesman or something equally insipid for the rest of his life. While everyone else is distracted, Lois slurps down the rest of Van-Zee’s super-serum and is ready to impress the hell out of Superman! But it doesn’t work! The serum was calculated for Sylvia’s blood type, remember, not for the pure ice water coursing through Lois’ veins. In Kandor, Van-Zee and Sylvia are the picture of familial bliss, which probably lasted all of three minutes before one of the kids set the curtains on fire. 
"You're actually my third choice. First choice was Annette Funicello."
And so we conclude the tale of Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane that was totally not Superman’s marriage to Lois Lane by bidding obsequious respect to the terrifying faces that blot out the Kandorian sky, at their whim, and as is their nature.

Here’s a story that would probably have the internet going berserk today: a real switcheroo, promising one thing on the cover and delivering something entirely different. But isn’t that what we want from our fiction? Endings we didn’t expect? You must admit, no one could have seen this cockamamie finale coming. And that’s part of the problem: despite the promise that “all the clues” were provided, they really weren’t, and important facts were omitted in order to make the ruse work. Also, you have to take it at face value that Van-Zee would wear a Superman costume the whole time, and he’d want to move to Venus for some weird reason. Look, even a letter printed in this issue identifies a reader that was sick of this series’ shit, and presumes that Lois and Superman’s advertised marriage will prove to be a hallucination or stage play or something. 
"Dear Editor: How are you gonna yank our chains this time?"
This story takes the long way around to yank the reader’s chain, and that’s never a great idea. On the other hand, there’s that preoccupation in this issue with friction, so maybe it was more of a literary clue than I’d thought.
"This leaves me loads of time for my super day-drinking!"

Bits and Pieces:

I don't like to spoil the issue in this wrap-up, but suffice to say, Superman doesn't marry Lois Lane. What actually happens is so convoluted and forced, it has to be read to be understood. And even then, no guarantees on comprehension.


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