Monday, June 10, 2013

It Did Have This Going For It

I mentioned in my most recent Nostalgia Review that the old Lois Lane comics were pretty much terrible.
Granted, a lot of that is the result of the changes in social mores the push for equality, and the outlandish notion, by early 1960s’ standards, of treating women like *GASP!* actual human beings, but I still maintain that even at the time they would have been correctly viewed as nonsensical at best.
That said, they do have one thing going for them, in the form of one of my favorite panels of all time, which comes from a story in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #19, an “imaginary story” in which we find Lois and Clark married with the clever title of “Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent.”
In terms of the set up of the story, Superman revealed his true identity to Lois, and the two were wed, but the rest of the world was unaware of the fact that Lois was actually married to Superman, and there was a somewhat pitying assumption that she had settled for marrying Clark because she couldn’t land the husband she really wanted.
During some sort of press event in which Superman was participating, and which Lois was attending, a beautiful young starlet impulsively throws her arms around Superman and kisses him passionately, which leads to this:

Supermans Girlfriend Lois Lane 019 - 30
Art by Kurt Schaffenberger

The look on her face just kills me.  You can practically hear the vein throbbing in her forehead.
Beyond this single panel, which in itself almost justifies the existence of the Lois Lane comics, the “imaginary stories” featuring Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent are kind of interesting for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, while not exactly spectacular, they tended to be better than the “real” stories.
Certainly they had a little more depth and conflict, given the need for Lois to keep her husband’s secret, even though doing so came at great personal cost at least in terms of her pride.
And they weren’t required to return everything back to the status quo by the end, so there could be something more than just the illusion of progress.
The other interesting thing was that they were, by most accounts, overwhelmingly popular stories.  There was a clear demand for stories that focused on Lois and Superman as an actual married couple, with all of the narrative possibilities that such a pairing opened up.
And yet DC remained resistant to the idea of making them anything other than “imaginary stories,” steadfastly refusing to change the actual status quo.
Indeed, it took another 37 years before they took the step of having them actually get married, and all the while there was a strong internal push to undo the marriage, which finally did happen in 2011.
Instead, DC just pushed out the occasional “imaginary” sequel, all of which seemed to try – in vain, for the most part – to make it seem as though having Lois marry Superman was a lose-lose situation all around.
Eventually, prior to the marriage in the late 1990s, we did get some continuing stories about a married Lois and Clark that was actually canon, although this particular Lois and Clark were inhabitants of Earth 2.  Their stories appeared in Superman Family, a comic that incorporated the former solo titles of Lois, Jimmy Olsen, and Supergirl.
The “Mr. and Mrs. Superman” stories were actually one of my favorite features of that particular comic, and I remain convinced that having Lois and Superman together as a couple is the ideal situation, one which opens up more narrative possibilities than any other approach.

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