Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Retro Review: Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #17 (1960)

Blood In, Blood Out

Cover By: Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, Stan Kaye 
Edited By: Mort Weisinger 
Cover Price: 10 cents 
Cover Date: May 1960
Publisher: DC Comics


Alright, I know I’ve been remiss with my usual Tuesday reviews of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. I’m gonna level with you: these things take a whole lot of time. I enjoy the heck out of the results, but boy it’s some meticulous stuff. So from here on out, I think I’m going to do Lois twice a month, every other Tuesday. BUT––I am going to do my best to review another series on alternate Tuesdays. Those reviews might not be as intricate as these, but I think they’ll be a lot of fun. Hokay? Having dispensed with that housekeeping, let’s check out my review of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #17 from 1960, beginning below!

Explain It!

“The Girl that Almost Married Clark Kent” 
Written By: Robert Bernstein 
Art  By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
The world’s richest heiress, Doris Drake, is having a holiday in India where she delights in outing phony Hindu fakirs. One such entertainer admits to using rubber spikes on his bed of nails, but he owns an amulet that really gives him the power to read others’ minds! Doris must have it, but the fakir will not sell the amulet. Until he does. 
"Oh, I didn't know we were talking rings, here!"
Wearing the amulet, Doris tests its veracity by outing her housekeeper as a thief. What a fun trip this has been, so many opportunities to humiliate the locals! 
"And you can be sure I'll be down-voting your thievery skills on Yelp."
Happy with her newfound power, which could change the fate of the entire world if she so desired, Doris figures the best thing to do with it is go read Superman’s mind. Luckily, he’s going to be in the area that very day! 
"What, I'm gonna read the mind of some egghead scientist? Get real."
While Superman does some stunt or another for the Indian folks, Doris reads his mind and learns that his secret identity is Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet. Knowing this, Doris decides to trick Superman into marrying her––these are Doris’ words, not mine––and sets a plan in motion that will put her in the vicinity of Clark Kent. 
"This scoop was totally worth not reporting on the triple homicide downtown."
When Clark has to excuse himself during an interview for the Daily Planet, Doris knows that it’s because he has to change his togs for cape action. Mentally, Doris chides Lois for not having discerned what should be plainly obvious. 
Revenge is a dish best served randomly.
Ms. Drake drops the bombshell that she only has eyes…for Clark Kent! Like he would ever date a cigarette smoker. But this does start to rope Lois into her little scheme. 
Cobblepot Tobacco. A smooth taste that won't leave you "awk"-ing.
Doris lays it on thick about her spark for Clark, and as expected, Lois is enthusiastic about getting the two of them together as well. 
"The last time Clark had a 'tumble,' Harry Truman was Vice President."
After being bribed with a fur coat, Lois arranges for Clark and Doris to be seated next to each other during the opera. So the plan must be to make Clark fall asleep, then Doris can abduct him? 
A night at the Opera, acting like absolute Philistines.
The heiress comes on strong with the seemingly milquetoast Clark…you know, let’s face it: whether he’s wearing a cheap suit or a costume made from Kryptonian bed sheets, this is a guy just waiting to be dominated by a headstrong, grabby woman. 
"Is that a Kryptonian memory crystal in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
Later, at a space-themed amusement park, Lois is working the Doris angle by questioning Clark’s heterosexuality––and therefore, his patriotism! Hold on a second… 
"Maybe in a 'Russian Bride' situation, I'd consider it."
Uh, slide down a “real” moonbeam? Way to obliterate a kid’s trust. 
Kids! Experience real disappointment.
After hanging out at this Park of Lies, Clark heads back to his car and finds his tire has been slashed! Using super senses, he detects that Lois is the one that stranded him. While Clark attempts to fix his flat, he sees Doris in her sports car, bombing towards him!
"And what's this? Jimmy Olsen cut my brake lines! They're all out to get me!"
Clark gets so agitated, he huffs a puff of super-breath into his tire, blowing it out completely.
"The pimp that sold me these whitewall tires said they were indestructible."
Now he’s forced to take that ride with Doris. On the way to Ms. Drake’s yacht––I guess she’s taking the long way back to Clark’s apartment––Doris reads Kent’s mind and learns that he’s on to her little games. Now it’s time to execute the final, master stroke of the plan: throw herself at Clark and beg for his affection like a lovesick teenager!
"While I'm down here, I could do something else...hem your pants! What did you think I meant?"
When that doesn’t work, Doris moves quickly to Plan B: blackmail Clark into submitting to her love! A gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do! 
"That was my second guess!"
Still, Clark refuses to bump uglies with the wealthy Ms. Drake. Incensed, she just starts throwing shit at him, all of it busting harmlessly on his face. Frankly, if I knew someone wouldn’t get hurt from it, I’d probably chuck vases at their head, too. All of her histrionics lead to the amulet slipping off Doris’ wrist and flinging through a porthole and into the water, which means it’s time for Clark to make his move. 
"I don't regret booking the Breakables Suite on this yacht."
Clark Kent wipes the memories of his secret identity from Doris Drake using super-hypnosis. Let me state that again: Clark Kent wipes the memories of his secret identity from Doris Drake using super-hypnosis. If you thought Bill Cosby was the worst kind of predator, Clark has gone a step further. While Doris is a mindless slave to Clark’s whims, he cleans up the place so there is no evidence that she just threw a hissy fit. 
"Funny, normally I use super-hypnosis to get laid, not the other way around!"
Having trained his new concubine to believe she hates him, Clark proposes to Doris in front of Lois Lane, securing the proof that the heiress and the reporter are not an item. 
"So that's a 'no,' then?"
As Lois and Clark leave, no one wonders what kind of amulet exists that could make its wearer manifest psychic abilities for goodness sakes.
"Sorry about the bondage daydream I was having."

“Lana Lang, Superwoman” 
Penciled By: Curt Swan 
Inked By: Stan Kaye 
The DC Wikia claims this was drawn by Curt Swan, but I’m not so sure…looks pretty crummy for a Curt Swan job. In fact, it looks like something you might see in a municipal pamphlet about venereal disease. Maybe this is early on in his cartooning career, or maybe Stan Kaye screwed the ink job, or the DC Wiki is wrong––however you cut it, the art ain’t great. So here we see the first time that Clark Kent’s childhood Girl Friend, Lana Lang, has visited the Daily Planet. Perry White is glad to receive her, if only to get loads of dirt on Superboy. 
"Start with the dirty stuff. Then move on to the really dirty stuff."
After Lana finishes talking shit about Superboy, she finds Jimmy Olsen wrestling with the handle to a safe. She tries to help but––c’mon, she’s a girl––and then Clark wanders over and offers his assistance. 
When you are positively not cut out for a life of crime.
He plays it up like he’s hurt his back while wrenching the safe’s handle, then takes off so Lana and Jimmy can poke fun at him without feeling guilty. 
"Oy! I sprained my glasses and agitated my sciatica! Oh sweet lay-dee..."
Clark returns, as Superman, and now opening the safe is a breeze. Lana is so impressed by his super powers, that Superman asks if she’d like some of her own. No kidding! All she needs to do is undergo a blood transfusion with the Man of Steel. 
"After I give you a blood transfusion, you are legally my daughter."
Back at the office, Jimmy Olsen tells Lois that Superman and Lana are to be blood-siblings, and she’s apoplectic. 
"Though when I say it aloud again, it does sound kind of like a joke."
If Superman is willing to swap bodily fluids with Lana, surmises Lois, then he must like her better! Of course, Lois knows nothing of what goes on during the many hours that Clark spends in Turkish bath houses. 
"Excuse me, ma'am? I don't know how you got into this highly-guarded room, but you'll have to leave."
Lana’s new super powers manifest immediately, when she uses her X-ray vision to vandalize hospital property. 
"I can't wait to find more crap I can break!"
Superman gives Lana her own costume, and she decides to go out and do some of what the do-gooders do. And not even just to get Superman’s attention, but because she believes that it’s her responsibility to do so. How about that? A dame that isn’t motivated solely by dick. 
"You should worry about your county's public education budget. Seriously. It's pathetic."
Lana continues to help folks, including plowing some farmland…which may have been a bridge too far. 
"Thanks Super-Lana! Now if you will super-sprinkle some fertilizer on these cannabis seeds, we're all set."
It’s not all work and helping people for Lana Lang, however: she also likes to throw huge bulls-eyes in front of lightning bolts for some reason? I guess this is one of those things you can only understand once you can do it. Lois is positively distraught over the fact that Lana has such cool powers and an even cooler costume, when Superman approaches her in the park. 
"I would have been happy even with super-herpes."
He’d also like to give her super powers, because Daddy knows not to show favoritism to his girls! Yecch. 
And that's how Facebook gets your personal information.
Lois gets some blood and a comparable costume to Lana’s (though Lana’s is cooler), but she doesn’t want to fuss and feud with the red-headed girl from a hick town. She says there’s plenty of room in Metropolis for two Superwomen! And considering the high traffic of gigantic zoo animals in the area, she might be right. 
"Until extra people gain super powers, these animals sit in storage for weeks and months."
After doing some good deeds, Lois and Lana part ways to…what do you do after a day like this? Just go home and hop into bed? “Ho hum, I’m invulnerable and can fly now, I wonder what tomorrow will hold?” At any rate, both women are compelled to enter some abandoned mill, which explodes once they’ve arrived! 
When Lois and Lana bring down the house, they reaBA-ROOOM!
As luck would have it, both Lana and Lois are invulnerable and survive the blast. But that still begs the question: what the fuck just happened? Superman shows up at just that moment to provide some clarity. 
"The idea came to me while I was watching 'Monty Python.'"
This whole to-do began due to one of evil Brainiac’s schemes! Who is Brainiac, you ask?
"That, and the fact that my costume is way more awesome than yours."
He would have been a new character to the world of Superman, in fact this is his second appearance, the first being Action Comics #242 (July 1958). Superman provides some background for Lois and Lana: it was a whole thing, Brainiac had shrunk a bunch of cities from planets around the galaxy, then he took a 100 year-long nap and Superman rescued all of the cities while he was snoozing. He also took the Kryptonian city of Kandor, stolen before it went kablooie. Since Krypton doesn’t exist anymore, the city stays in a bottle at the Fortress of Solitude. Brainiac also had a weird space monkey back then.
"And to think: it all started with a solitary Ant Farm."
Anyhow, Brainiac is back, and he’s gonna blow up the planet Earth. Unless Superman will acquiesce to a little proposition… 
"Er...several conditions, really. One big condition with a bunch of corollaries. It's fun, you'll see."
A very weird, convoluted proposition. Brainiac says he’s going to compel Lois and Lana to go somewhere to be blown up, and Superman must not warn anyone that it’s about to happen, and he must be off-world at the time. This is like one of those grade school morality questions about whether you’d rather be dunked in lava or hacked by a machete. If Superman will agree to these strange conditions, then Brainiac will spare the Earth—and kill Lois and Lana, eventually. Or so he thinks! 
"Also, you must wear a t-shirt that says 'BRAINIAC RULES' next time you're on patrol."
That’s why Superman came up with the idea to give the ladies their own powers without giving them any good reason, and also to give Lana her powers first, and also to basically leave both of them to their own devices for days on end while an assassination attempt was imminent. Oh, and those powers? They just wore off. Sorry, gals. 
"Sorry to traumatize you ladies, but you know how I do."
After Superman heads off to break Brainiac’s balls for losing, he comes back to Earth to spy on Lana and Lois––who sure are pleased with their new duds. Women! Always looking for something new to wear!
Yeah, but who gives a shit about Supergirl?!

“How Lois Lane Got Her Job” 
Written By: Otto Binder 
Art By: Kurt Schaffenberger 
Hey, have you ever wondered how Lois Lane got the job as Girl Reporter and Metropolis’ premiere newspaper, the Daily Planet? No? C’mon, you’re not even a little curious? Where are you going? Look, I promise this story is quick and head-scratchingly stupid. Lois shows up to her job at the Daily Planet one day to find that the staff has thrown a surprise party, in celebration of Lois’s hire date an unspecified number of years before. A bulletin board displays some of Lois Lane’s greatest headlines, and Jimmy, ever the prick, points out that most of them are Superman-based. 
"Frankly, if you're not bribing him already, you owe him a few bucks."
For once, Lois’ boss Perry White stands up for her, and says that he hired her [redacted] years ago because she delivered three scoops in three days, without help from Superman! Wow! Can you imagine? She actually did her goddamned job like a capable human being, and not the squeamish waif that she is. Clark, who doesn’t know when to shut up, asks Lois to reminisce about those very scoops. 
"I said 'I never heard,' not 'I'd like to hear,' understand?"
The first one came when Perry told Lois about a year-long bank-robbing spree that’s baffled the Metropolis Police Department. Minutes of research turns up the fact that all of these banks' safes came from the Metropolis Safe Co. 
The Metropolis Police fail wherever reading is involved.
Lois disguises herself as a cleaning woman in order to gain surreptitious entry to the offices of Metropolis Safe Co., which is also something that apparently hadn’t occurred to the police. There, she finds someone taking down some combination numbers, doubtlessly for later resale. For some reason, Lois then makes a call to the office from a pay phone, disguised as some two-faced mob connection, telling this guy that the fuzz are on to him. This leads him to shred the evidence and toss it in a wastebasket. 
"I can't wait until my first after hours office tryst!"
Lois comes in with a vacuum cleaner, looking to hoover the evidence, but wouldn’t you know it? There’s a sudden blackout. It lasts only a few minutes, though, and soon Lois is gathering her evidence. I love this guy’s “innocence” pose here. Is he actively praying? 
"He does look very innocent...and overpaid."
So that’s how Lois got her first scoop, but Clark remembers another detail about that very evening: he jump-started the local power plant with a copper kite. He did it for some dying kids in a hospital or whatever, but hey! He wound up helping Lois, too. 
"In order to save lives, I had to fly is totally awesome kite in a thunderstorm! Being Superman is the BEST!"
Next, Perry gives Lois an assignment to photograph some Indian guy that has never before been photographed––because he wishes not to be photographed. Why make yourself a nuisance to this guy? Just abide by his wishes and draw a picture. Finding out that this beleaguered guest of America owns two black panthers, and that he greatly desires a white one, gives Lois a terrible idea! 
"Maybe I can hire one of the panthers to take a flick."
She calls in a favor from a circus animal trainer, borrows a trained panther, and then Lois fucking paints the thing white to gain access to the Rajah. For crap’s sake, I don’t think Perry asked Lois to put a panther in peril for this assignment. 
All animals were harmed in the making of this comic book.
Anyway, the poor painted panther gets Lois into this guy’s compound, but when she meets up with him, he’s wearing a veil that hides his face! Now her illicit photo will be worthless!
"I haven't yet shaved today. You understand."
That old Lane Luck shines again, when a wayward breeze lifts the Indian fellow’s veil, exposing his face for a surreptitious photograph. Having discerned her deception, the Rajah ejects Lois from the property, but she doesn’t care––she got her scoop! And when she gets back to the Daily Planet, Perry tells her that he put her life in mortal danger because the Rajah is also a dangerous jewel thief. 
It's a good thing that the staff of the Daily Planet picks up the Metropolis P.D.'s slack.
And guess what? Lois still got a boost from Superman, because he was nearby blowing at a plane or something, and that gust trickled to the breeze that pushed the criminal’s veil. Can you just let this poor woman have something, for crying out loud? Even if you did create the breeze, she took the picture! 
"I also wound up blowing the roof off of the local high school, but that's a whole other thing."
The next one is…really weird. Perry gives Lois an assignment to cover an archaeological dig, and she’s on hand when they find a new dinosaur fossil––belonging to the biggest dinosaur yet discovered! She needs to get this story to the Daily Planet right away, but doesn’t have any way to do so…did Perry White not consider this when he sent Lois on this task? Or was this just meaningless busy work to get the dizzy dame out of his office? 
"Then I'll have to wait for the next edition, an hour later!"
After a picnic lunch on the banks of a river, Lois determines that the fastest way to get her report into the newspaper is––remember, this is the fastest way––put her report in a bottle with five bucks pinned to it, and then throw it in the river. That empties into Metropolis Bay, where she hopes someone will snag it and file the story. 
"I'll also attach all of my hopes and dreams to this bottle."
I can think of a few faster ways: you could tie the report to a lizard and set it in the direction of the Daily Planet. You could also fashion the article into a paper airplane and throw it in the air, hoping to catch a random jet stream that might land it on Perry White’s desk. Barring that, you could chuck it into a hole and hope for some kind of paranormal event to occur. Of course, the most implausible scenario actually does transpire. So Lois got her three scoops in three days––and the last one without Superman’s help! But what’s this…? 
"And that's when we dropped the United States Postal Service, in favor of Bottle Express."
Clark remembers that, on that very day, he was fiddling with a submarine at the bottom of the Metropolis Bay, when he noticed the bottle floating by. It was so unusual, I suppose, that he remembers it years after the fact. 
"I noticed that bottle because it's not a condom, syringe, or dead body."
That bottle is, indeed, picked up by a very destitute ship’s captain and rushed to the Daily Planet, and…just what the hell did Clark have to do with it? Just because he saw the damned thing, he somehow intervened in its fate? Get over yourself, dude. 
"My youngest daughter will have a cup of milk tonight, boy!"
In the end, Clark reminds us that no matter how successful Lois is at her career, he still lords a secret over her that, if revealed, would make her look like a total idiot. Wink!
EXTRA! EXTRA! Superman makes a chump outta Lois Lane again! EXTRA!

This is not one of the liveliest issues of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. The best story is, arguably, the first one, and not just because an amulet bestowing psychic powers is used as a party favor. It’s the most “complete” story, despite concluding with some good ol’ “super-hypnotism,” which is a Hail Mary gimmick if I’ve ever seen one. The cover story is enjoyably stupid, but the art is unusually stiff and anemic looking, especially for the team of Curt Swan and Stan Kaye––who eventually would do a lot of covers for this series. Super-Lois and Super-Lana would go on to have other adventures that I’ll probably get to, eventually. The final story is really dull, the equivalent of a clip show of an exceedingly boring television program. Superman suppresses being a dick to Lois in public, though, so that’s nice.
"I learned to do this when I dated an Italian guy."

Bits and Pieces:

Some pretty flat and formulaic stories make for a fairly forgettable issue, though keep in mind that the "formula" for this comic routinely involves Lois marrying space aliens and developing temporary new appendages. A second story drawn by Curt Swan looks unusually rigid, and the final story is something worked up during a lunch hour. Still, it's the first appearance of Super-Lois and Super-Lana, so you can take that to the bank.


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