Saturday, June 08, 2013

Nostalgia Review: The Man Of Steel 2

(NOTE:  This review is for the similarly-titled 1986 comic book mini-series.  It's NOT for the 2013 movie, which, as of this writing, has not yet opened in theaters.)

As I feared would happen with a bi-weekly mini-series, given my haphazard ability to pick up comics on a regular basis, I missed this issue when it first hit the stands, ultimately adding it to my collection some months later when, to my great delight, a comic book store opened up in Marquette and I was able to find it among the back issues.
Sure, it was 100 miles away, but we traveled there on a pretty regular basis, so I was like having a comic shop right in my backyard.
In any case, this particular issue, much like this Nostalgia Review, is focused almost entirely on Lois Lane.


The Man of Steel, “The Story of the Century!”
Written by John Byrne
Art and Cover by John Byrne and Dick Giordano
Edited by Andy Helfer

I’m not actually going to spend a whole lot of time recapping this particular issue, as there really isn’t a whole lot that happens in it.
That’s not to say it’s not significant – it is – but there are other things to discuss beyond the “and then this happened and then this happened and then…” aspect of the story.
So, to provide a brief recap, shortly after the events of the previous issue, Superman makes his official debut in Metropolis, flying around town stopping various crimes and rescuing people and doing all of the things that Superman typically does, and just generally making a name for himself.
Lois Lane, meanwhile, who actually provided said name for him in her story about his rescue of the experimental space plane, spends a lot of time trying – and failing – to track him down to get an interview.
Unwilling to acknowledge defeat, Lois catches a lucky break when her car spins out of control and ends up in the harbor and Superman flies along to rescue her. 
Though she’s initially a bit awestruck by the man, after he brings her to her apartment she gets him to stick around for an interview:

"I know where everyone lives."  Yeah, that's not creepy at all, Superman.

At the end of the interview he reveals that he was perfectly well aware of the fact that Lois had deliberately driven her car off the pier in an effort to get his attention (and that she had scuba gear tucked away in the car just in case).
Even so, Lois has her story, and she rushes back to The Daily Planet only to discover that some rookie reporter has beaten her to the punch, walking in off the street with an exclusive Superman interview in hand.  Said rookie reporter is, of course, Clark Kent.
In terms of some of the important bits I glossed over, at one point when Lois is chasing after Superman she finds herself summoned by a man driving a car for a mysterious “Mister. L,” whose employer is about to go out of town for an extended period of time and wishes to speak to Lois.  Unfortunately, Lois has no time for “Mister L,” who, though we don’t get to see his entire face, is clearly none too pleased about being ignored.  It’s not exactly a spoiler to say “Mister L” is Lex Luthor, given that Lois identifies him as such some time later in her internal monologue, deciding that he is a “situation” she must address, and even though he’s the most powerful man in Metropolis – or maybe now it’s was the most powerful man in Metropolis – she’s not particularly interested in what he has to offer.
During the interview sequence, Byrne lays on the whole “Yuppie” thing pretty thick, having Lois and Superman discuss the relative merits of trendy cheeses.
Also, Lois sets aside a bit of her professional demeanor when commenting on the color of Superman’s eyes.
As for the interview itself, Superman doesn’t reveal much – after all, he doesn’t even know that he’s an alien himself at this point – but he tells her that he thinks of himself as an American and that he pinky swears that he’s here to help.
So that’s the basic story, which I actually spent more time talking about than I intended to, but oh well.
In any case, let’s talk Lois.
I like Lois.  She’s one of my all-time favorite characters, and, if I’m honest, Lois, or at least my personal conception of her, is sort of the model for my ideal woman.  She’s smart, tough, determined, independent, caring, brave – and also more than a little reckless – and beautiful.  What’s not to like?
For his part, in interviews John Byrne stated that he always thought that Lois had been presented as “kind of a bitch,” and it was his intention to change that characterization.
Honestly, while he had a pretty good handle on the core concept of the character, I don’t think he pulled that off, as his version of Lois proved to be one of the bitchiest I’ve ever seen, at least on the surface.  Underneath that tough exterior, of course, beat the proverbial heart of gold, but on the surface?  Yeah, she was kind of a bitch.
And I don’t say that in a “When a man does it…” kind of way.  The whole speaking her mind and not backing down thing wasn’t what made Byrne’s Lois bitchy.  That was always one of the things I really liked about her.  No, her bitchiness made her come across as bitchy.
Of course, to be fair, most of that bitchiness was directed at Clark, and deservedly so.  After all, he was just some bumpkin who wandered in off the street with her story in hand after all the trouble she went through, including risking her life, to get it.  One can hardly blame her for holding a bit of a grudge.
And while she didn’t know it, she was even more entitled to hold a grudge, given the way that Clark managed to get the “interview.”
The dynamic of her relationship with Clark over the course of Byrne’s run, and in the post-Byrne run, would largely be defined by that rocky start.  For his part, Byrne was a fan of TV’s “Moonlighting,” and structured the relationship to be similar to that of the show’s main characters.
The thing I liked most about Byrne’s Lois, though, was that she felt an undeniable attraction to Superman, it wasn’t really a defining characteristic.  I’ve been reading a lot of 1960s’ Lois Lane comics, and in addition to just being kind of ridiculous and generally offensive, the monomaniacal obsession with one day becoming Mrs. Superman just gets really old really fast.
That particular characterization of Lois, by the way, is rather at odds with how she was originally presented.  In the earliest Superman stories, she was much more like the version Byrne presents, although her bitchiness towards Clark was based less on a resentful grudge and more on general disgust for how weak-willed and cowardly he was.  And while she did frequently need to be rescued by Superman, she was at least a little more capable than she would later be presented as being.
For my part, I grew up reading a more modern version of Lois that, while most likely kind of quaint in its attempts at presenting her as one of those “Women’s Lib” types, at least presented her as being something other than a perpetual damsel in distress waiting for her Prince Charming, which is probably why this version of Lois was acceptable to me.
And while it’s jumping ahead a bit, there’s a story later in Byrne’s run in which he demonstrates that he understood exactly where Lois ranked in the “LL Hierarchy.”  The context would take too long to explain, but there comes a moment in which Lois walks around a corner and sees Superman having just finished embracing that other LL – Lana Lang, not Lex Luthor; sorry CLex ‘shippers – and this happens:

Lois:  (Thinking)  She’s very pretty.  Is he in love with her?
Lana:  (Thinking)  She’s beautiful.  No wonder he’s in love with her.

That’s right; people who think that Lana is in any way shape or form a “rival” to Lois can suck it.
Speaking of rivals, in the current status quo, Superman is in a relationship with Wonder Woman, which is, many people think, the most obvious and sensible pairing.  Early in his run, Byrne even played around with that idea, though it was never taken so far as to make it an official relationship.
I suppose that, on some level, it does make sense.  The Superman/Wonder Woman ‘shippers could argue that there’s nothing that Lois, a mere mortal, could really offer Superman.
Those people, however, are wrong, and they have it completely backwards.
It isn’t that Lois is the right woman for Superman, it’s that Superman is the only man who’s good enough for Lois.
Up next:  The World’s Finest!

Some Thoughts:I pretty much covered what I wanted to cover, though to be honest, I could write a lot more about why Lois = teh awesome.
That said, I’ve never been terribly thrilled with the portrayal, or the casting, of Lois in other media, and that includes Amy Adams in the upcoming movie.  Just…no.
The exceptions to this disappointment are Erica Durance, who played Lois on “Smallville,” and was awesome, and Dana Delany, who provided her voice on the Animated Series.
On the topic of Lana Lang, so far we haven’t seen her at all apart from a brief appearance in the last issue after Clark wins the football game, which is fine by me.
As for the other LL, Lex, though we didn’t see much of him, it’s immediately apparent that this version of him is quite different from the Lex we used to know.  We’ll learn more about him in upcoming issues, but the version that Byrne presents is based, in part, on a pitch by Marv Wolfman.
When the monthly titles relaunched after this mini-series ended, there were three Superman-related books.
One was a brand-new Superman series, which started with #1, and was written and drawn by Byrne.  The other was Action, which picked up with the existing numbering, and was also written and drawn by Byrne.  The third was The Adventures of Superman, which inherited the numbering of the old Superman series, and was written by Marv Wolfman, with art by Jerry Ordway.
In any case, the idea that Wolfman pitched was for a Lex Luthor who was a billionaire businessman who lived just outside of Metropolis with his girlfriend…Lois Lane.  The idea was that Lois was drawn to power, and that she bailed on Lex as soon as Superman showed up.
Byrne didn’t like the starfucker aspect of Lois, but he did use at least some of the concepts, as we’ll see.

The Art:
It’s done by multiple award-winning comic book superstar John Byrne, so…

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