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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Mort Weisinger.
Inexpensive paperbacks of some of the Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane comic books, are now available in the Showcase Presents: Superman Family series. Showcase #10 and Lois Lane #1-7 are in Showcase Presents: Superman Family, Volume 2. Lois Lane #8-16 are in Showcase Presents: Superman Family, Volume 3. Lois Lane #17-26 are in Showcase Presents: Superman Family, Volume 4.
Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane (the magazine) first appeared as a 1957 two issue run of the tryout magazine Showcase. The Showcase issues had as filler little comic panels dealing with the history of newspaper reporting, such as "Odd Newspaper Items!" and "Newspaper Talk". These were similar to educational, one-page features that appeared in the newspaper comic book Big Town, and might have been reprinted from that magazine. Since Lois was a reporter herself, there was definitely an affinity between the two books. Lois Lane's reporter job frequently had her functioning essentially as a detective, just like the newspaperman hero of Big Town.
The Sightless Lois Lane (1957). Writer: Jerry Coleman. An accident causes Lois to go blind. This is a touching tale, emphasizing Lois' courage and decency. The accident occurs in a nuclear lab; a similar Lois accident will open Coleman's "The Ghost of Lois Lane" (Superman #129, May 1959). People in Coleman's stories bear their afflictions gracefully. Coleman characters are often forced to confront new environmental circumstances.
Lois Lane, Working Girl (1958). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois Lane continues her acting aspirations in this second 1958 story. Mainly this story is about Lois' going to work in a pretzel factory to research an acting role. It rings every possible change on the theme of pretzels. The Superman family often did this, pick a subject, and then see what ingenious story ideas they could develop from it. Pretzels perhaps seem prosaic, but they emerge as unexpectedly interesting in this tale. Chesterton said that mystery stories reveal the hidden poetry of everyday life. This is a good example of his dictum, where an everyday object like a pretzel is looked at for the plot ideas it might suggest. (I've been resisting saying that this story about pretzels is full of twists!) Lois Lane's super-baby son had twisted a floor lamp into a pretzel shape on the Al Plastino cover of Showcase #9, and both Jimmy Olsen and Lois will twist themselves into pretzel-like knots in tales in which they get elastic powers. So pretzel imagery was common in the Superman stories.
The tale has a nested construction: an acting story frame, the pretzels in the middle. An episode near the end, about a TV show, includes both subjects, acting and pretzels. Meanwhile, the inner section about the pretzel factory is constructed as a "challenge and response": the foreman keeps trying to achieve a goal, Lois and Superman keep trying to oppose his efforts. All of these "challenges" involve the pretzel assembly line.
The TV game show is a version of a popular real-life show of the era. It reflects the Superman magazines' interest in media. A similar real-life TV game show appears in "The Three Secret Identities of Superboy" (Superboy #67, September 1958), written by Otto Binder. This tale appeared almost simultaneously with "Lois Lane, Working Girl".
Alias Lois Lane (1959). Writer: Robert Bernstein?. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. While journalist Lois is already undercover in a new role, crooks hire her to impersonate Lois Lane! The crooks have no idea that they have actually hired the real Lois. Much of this tale involves acting training Lois gets, to perform in her new role, as "herself". This has nothing to do with any professional aspirations Lois has an actress, though.
The central section of story mainly consists of a series of "challenges and responses", a familiar plot structure in the Superman magazines. The challenges: the crooks try to train her in some new aspect of her Lois role. The responses: Lois finds some mild way to stymie their attempt. The attempts also focus on another Superman magazine standard: "sustaining a character". Here, the crooks are trying to get Lois to project the character of Lois Lane.
Bookending this challenge-and-response at the story's start and end, are scenes involving two different gimmicked-up cameras. Cameras frequently play a role in the stories about Daily Planet reporters such as Lois and Jimmy Olsen. The CGD identifies the writer of this tale as Robert Bernstein. Bernstein sometimes begins his tales with prologues having little relation to the stories that follow. The opening of "Alias Lois Lane", detailing Lois' undercover role as a journalist and her trick camera, might be an example.
Also Bernstein-like: the crooks are leaders of the Anti-Superman Gang. Bernstein often included such groups of Anti-Superman outlaws in his tales.
All three stories in this issue of Lois Lane involve the flying parts of the US military. In "Alias Lois Lane", this mainly involves a moon flight, which occurs "off-screen" before the tale opens. The military only rarely appears in the Superman magazines, and when it does, it is usually linked to astronauts. The story immediately following in the same issue, "The Shocking Secret of Lois Lane", has a brief reference to proposed woman astronauts, something that would not occur in real life in the United States for many years.
Schaffenberger includes a mansion with an interesting Art Deco exterior.
Lois Lane's Soldier Sweetheart (1960). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Lois Lane dates a soldier. This was the last story in which LL aspired to an acting career. In some ways, it turns the plot of "Lois Lane in Hollywood" inside out. The Superman family comics frequently used the word "Sweetheart". It was a wholesome term that implied affection.
The Superman comics had an interest in media. They especially liked public expositions, like museums and World's Fairs. Wrestling in the 1960 era has some resemblances to these, centering around public displays (wrestling matches) put on by costumed characters with flamboyant personalities. This tale is not so much a satire, as a straightforward evocation of the bizarre world of professional wrestling. The story has touches of humor. Its opening and closing sections form a gung ho, comic look at antics of wrestlers, and are irresistibly fun.
The Ugly Superman himself is not really comic, or a fully endearing character. This is especially true of the middle sections of the tale, which forms a sketch of his character. He often seems more intimidating and brutal than appealing. His treatment of Lois and attacks on rivals are deplorable, and the story condemns these rather than try to defend them. He and his behavior seem frightening.
"The Ugly Superman" is an odd story, that does not fit in in obvious ways with Superman magazine traditions. It is skimpy in plot in a way untypical of the magazines. It also has an often unsympathetic character, who is neither a villain, nor a man from whom one can draw moral lessons.
The Ugly Superman returns in Bernstein's "Elastic Lad's Wrestling Match" (Jimmy Olsen #54, July 1961). Two Golden Age tales with comic looks at wrestling include the Balbo, the Boy Magician tale "The Wrestling Cheese" (Master Comics #43, October 1943) and the Flash "Winky Turns Wrestler" (Comic Cavalcade #4, Fall 1943).
The "Superman - Lois" Hit Record (1963). Writer: Jerry Siegel. This is an unusual tale in the series. During the early 1960's, one of the most popular real life comedy records was The First Family, a gentle, affectionate spoof of President Kennedy. This story suggests a similar comedy record is made about Lois and Superman.
This story is much more similar to the stories in Jimmy Olsen than to a typical Lois Lane tale. It is comic in tone, as in Jimmy, and the entertainment subject matter of "Record" also seems Olsen-like. Its Imaginary Tale aspects are discussed in the article on Superman. Siegel had a real flair for comic spoofs of the entertainment world: see "The Super-Star of Hollywood" (1960) in Adventure, and the "private monster" (1960) stories in Jimmy Olsen.
Superman, Matinee Idol (Superman #19, November-December 1942). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Joe Shuster. Clark Kent and Lois Lane go to a movie theater, where they watch and comment on a new Superman cartoon. Even at this early date, Siegel was showing his interest in spoofing the media. It also anticipates such later Pirandelian tales by Siegel as "The "Superman-Lois" Hit Record" and "Superman's Rival, Mental Man" (Action #272, January 1961), in which Lois encounters fictional characters in other media who resemble herself. The tale is much more awkwardly written than Siegel's Silver age works, however. Another difference: it depicts a real life Superman cartoon, one produced by the Max Fleischer studios, whereas Siegel's Silver Age media tales all deal with fictitious works of art created by Siegel for the stories.
The New Lois Lane (1957). Writer: Otto Binder. Art: Ruben Moreira. Lois decides to stop trying to find out Superman's secret identity. There are plot ideas concerning Superman's secret id here that recall "The 1,000 Lives of Superman" (Superman #99, August 1955). This tale is milder than some of the extremely clever stories that will later appear involving Lois search for Superman's id. But it is still pleasant. The story also brings in some welcome humor, gently spoofing Lois' long standing search for Superman's id.
The story has Binder's typical challenge plot, in which one character (Superman here) keeps trying to achieve some goal, which is ingeniously frustrated repeatedly by circumstances (here inadvertently aided by Lois Lane). The challenges are not static: each one also considerably advances the story. They have a contrapuntal effect here: Superman does one story element, then circumstances do another story element moving in the opposite plot direction. The tale has the same formal feel as a piece of music.
It has a nice finale, which puts some personal meanings for Superman into this search. Like many Binder tales, this one ends with the protagonist thinking, a mood of calm reflection in which he learns some positive new truth from his experiences. As in other tales as well, Binder's Superman gains new sympathy to Lois. See "The Old Man of Metropolis" (Action #270, November 1960) for another Binder example.
This is Binder's first script for Lois Lane. Right from the start, he depicted Lois as a dynamic larger than life person with a vivid personality. He also regards her as essentially kind and decent.
This story depicts a Superman trophy room at the Daily Planet; this is similar to Jimmy Olsen's collection of Superman souvenirs in his apartment that Binder created in "The Man of Steel's Substitute" (Jimmy Olsen #1, September-October 1954). The tale also features a coin-operated machine on the street that gives you your weight and fortune. Similar machines popped up frequently in Superman family stories. Today they seem like relics of the distant past. One wonders if such a machine existed in real life near the DC headquarters in New York City.
The Man Who Was Clark Kent's Double (1958). Writer: Jerry Coleman. In a small city, Lois meets a man who looks like Clark Kent, but who is far more courageous and confident. Intricately plotted tale, with mystery elements.
The Superman stories are always having their heroes meet characters who parallel the main situation of Superman and his friends. Sometimes these characters are on other planets, or met while time traveling into the past. But such parallel characters also appear in non-science fiction tales like "The Man Who Was Clark Kent's Double", which has a realistic setting in an ordinary modern city. The fact that the hero of "The Man Who Was Clark Kent's Double" looks like Clark, is mainly used to start off a series a parallels between him and Superman.
However, aside from these parallels, the similarity in looks between Clark and the hero unexpectedly plays no role in the plot. For example, the two men are never confused with each other, never switch places, and share no common history or blood relationship.
Superman briefly plays Cupid. This anticipates "Lois Lane's Secret Romance" (1960), in which Supergirl more elaborately plays Cupid.
The costume party is a favorite comic book setting. Costume parties allow for the visual imagery that is so important in comics. Costume parties also show some similarity to media often seen in comics, such as museums and statuary. They all allow the presentation of visual information about historical figures.
Superman's Greatest Sacrifice (1958). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Lois meets a woman who is her double. This story is loaded with plot twists. It bears some resemblance to Otto Binder's "Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Ex-Pal" (Jimmy Olsen #2, November-December 1954). Bernstein loved stories about doubles and impersonations, frequently using them for complex and ingenious plots.
The Amazing Superman Junior (1959). Writer: Jerry Coleman. Superman and his friends plot to convince Lois that she has traveled into the future on a rocket ship, and that she is meeting all of them as old men. Their plans go awry in unexpected ways, and there is a mystery story concerning what is causing this, and how. Jerry Coleman often included mysteries in his plots, and this one is solved in a way that recalls other Coleman mysteries of the late 1950's. This hoax / counter-hoax construction is typical of Coleman. After one person stages a hoax, another stages a counter hoax to pay them back. Both characters tend to be astonishingly resilient; neither bears the slightest grudge at anybody for having fooled them. Instead they treat it as a good joke, something that entertained them and that they enjoyed
Lois Lane's Kiss of Death (1959). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Lois literally becomes a femme fatale: every man she kisses dies. The tale shows Bernstein's raucous humor and gusto, as well as considerable plot ingenuity. The tale evokes archetypal images. This story is in the tradition of "The Witch of Metropolis" (#1, March-April 1958), written by Otto Binder. In both tales Lois is frightened when she seems to develop supernatural powers. I prefer "Kiss of Death", partly because the imagery seems much more gripping. Also, this second tale is more plausible.
Jerry Coleman wrote several tales in which Superboy is paired with another youthful hero, most importantly "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" (Adventure #275, August 1960). Here he is creating another team, Lois-Lana, which is far more antagonistic. Lana is consistently more selfish and more mean-spirited than Lois.
The rivalry in this tale for Superman's affections, and the attempts by the women to set "traps" that will reveal which one of them Superman prefers, will become permanent traditions in the Superman family. This tale seems to be the origin of these plot ideas. Coleman's characters often dig relentlessly, trying to uncover the truth. Lois' and Lana's attempt to learn the truth about Superman's affections is in this tradition.
The story treats Lois and Lana in absolutely symmetric fashion. Everything that happens to one, happens to the other, in exact parallelism. This is an interesting formal pattern. It also has a satiric, comic quality: the two are exactly balanced in Superman's affections.
Lana gets a job in Metropolis here. There is perhaps an element of satire in her choice of profession: she is a TV broadcaster, and there will be suggestions in later tales that this is more superficial than Lois' job as print reporter. In this story she does commercials; in later tales, she will be a TV news reporter.
The Girl Who Stole Superman (#7, February 1959). Writer: Jerry Coleman. The grown-up Lana Lang makes a permanent re-entry into the lives of Lois and Superman. The Superman family introduced several other major female characters in 1959, notably Supergirl, Lois' sister Lucy Lane and mermaid Lori Lemaris, so there was a major push during this era to increase the female content of the stories.
The story is also notable for artist Kurt Schaffenberger's depiction of Superboy in Revolutionary War costume, during a flashback sequence.
During issues 8-16, Lois Lane published a series of tales which were of poor quality, and which did not treat their heroine very well. Perhaps typical was "Lois Lane's Signal-Watch", in which LL gets a Signal-Watch from Superman and uses it for idiotic purposes, such as fixing a broken heel. (This story is not to be confused with a completely different, and much better story with the same title, which appeared in issue 38 of January 1963.) This truly terrible piece show Lois as a stereotypical irrational woman, a common sexist caricature of the period. Clearly the editor realized a change had to be made. Starting in mid 1960, and tales like "How Lois Lane Got Her Job", he published a set of stories in which LL was shown to be an outstanding reporter, skillful and courageous at her job. This was something of a new image for LL. It persisted, and became the standard characterization of Lois over the next five years. (One can see indications of this new trend in the previous issue's "The Mystery of Skull Island", which shows Lois working seriously as a crime reporter.)
The Star Reporter of Metropolis (1960). This story, like the previous one, shows Lois Lane's daily life as a reporter. It is not a great story, but it does serve to build up the portrait of Lois as a character, showing what she does on her job, and how she does it. It also shows Lois as kind hearted and generous, an important element of her characterization.
A brief passage in the story has comic elements, describing the casting of a film about the Daily Planet staff with big stars of the day: Perry White would be played by Clark Gable, Clark Kent by Rock Hudson, and Jimmy Olsen by Dwayne Hickman, of Dobie Gillis fame. This would have been terrific casting, and one is sorry that no such movie was ever made in real life. All of the characters are plainly thrilled to be played by such big stars, and are having a comic ego trip. Lois is to be played by "Dolly Day", a fictional blonde bombshell of the time, who seems a little like Marilyn Monroe. The Superman series often spoofed Hollywood, but it also treated it as a universal American aspiration. (Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead also wants to have a film based on his life, with Tom Cruise in the lead role!)
The Sleeping Doom (1960). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Lois needs to stay awake, in order to prevent an alien invasion of Earth. This story is most unusual. It shows Lois single handedly battling a science fictional menace, one with elements of such sf films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Lois shows real courage and presence of mind in this story. The tale has many surrealist elements. It centers on Lois' attempt to stay awake, itself a genuinely surreal subject for meditation. The story is unusual in that much of it takes place within Lois' mind - she needs to stay awake to save humanity - and it has that quality of "interiority" that is so important in the symbolic Romance. We also follow Lois as she does her daily routine as a reporter, so the tale is interwoven with her career activities. The tale benefits from touches of humor, a humor that also reinforces the surrealistic character of the piece. Humor flows through the whole Lois Lane series. Lois Lane has the status of Everyman, someone that every human can identify with, a non super-powered person who works hard at her job. Humor aids this characterization, and the general tone of a wry portrayal of daily life.
Bernstein wrote several stories in which humans were threatened by aliens. He created "The Superboy Revenge Squad" (Superboy #94, January 1962), a group of powerful alien beings determined to destroy Superboy. Bernstein's aliens tend not to be the marauding monsters of 1950's sf movies. Instead, they are sophisticated, humanoid beings of advanced scientific capabilities. They have the ability to monitor Earth and Earth creatures with high tech surveillance devices. They can see everything, or nearly everything that goes on on Earth, and often they also can read the minds of Earth creatures. Because of this, much of the struggle of humans against the aliens actually takes place in the minds of humans. How can human beings organize their thoughts so that they can evade the mind control and mental surveillance capabilities of the aliens? This is the challenge that our protagonists face. Humans are often driven to schemes of extreme deviousness and ingenuity in this quest. It makes for imaginatively plotted tales.
Bernstein's alien stories have formal similarities to his undercover reporter stories. When Jimmy Olsen or Lois Lane go undercover, they tend to enter the turf of a bad guy. He controls everything in this domain, and they are in constant danger after they enter this region. In the alien stories, all of Earth becomes the domain controlled by the aliens. So do the minds of humanity. The whole of Earth becomes the "domain" of the aliens, and his protagonists are in constant danger in it, just as they were in a gang hideout run by a human crook in undercover tales. Another similarity: in the alien tales, the protagonists often have to do things to disguise their minds or thinking, in order to evade the aliens. This sometimes involves taking on new personalities and behaviors. This has similarities to the undercover tales, where Jimmy or Lois will disguise themselves, adopting a new persona to infiltrate some gang of crooks. A difference here is that while Earth gangsters can only see the outward appearance and behavior of the disguised Lois or Jimmy, the aliens can often look right into the protagonist's mind, or they can monitor all conversations in which the hero takes part, or both.
Lois Lane's Darkest Secret (1961). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Reporter Lois works to break up a blackmail ring, which discovers and exploits people's secrets. The tale's dual subject matter - the gang works both to unearth secrets in the first place, then blackmails people - gives the plot heft, and allows much incident.
The story has another sympathetic actress character, once again treated as a decent human being and Hollywood professional.
Bernstein's tales sometimes turn on unearthing of secrets, especially his tales in which Pete Ross discovered the secret identity of Superboy. These blackmailers in "Lois Lane's Darkest Secret" are far more malicious, however.
The Madwoman of Metropolis (1961). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois disguises herself to follow up a mystery lead. Jimmy Olsen often disguised himself while solving mysteries as a reporter detective. Here Lois does the same thing. The disguise certainly is a doozy. Robert Bernstein also wrote such Jimmy Olsen in disguise detective stories as "Jimmy Olsen, Juvenile Delinquent" (1959) and "Miss Jimmy Olsen" (1960); this tale is related to these.
After the opening with its disguise, the tale changes course. A series of incidents convinces Lois she is going mad. This main body of the story has the "series construction" popular in the Superman family comics. SPOILERS. The incidents evolve "sustaining an illusion": making it appear that Lois is hallucinating. "Sustaining illusions" is a standard type of "series" tale in the Superman family books. The story and its construction bears some resemblance to Bernstein's "Lois Lane's Kiss of Death".
The opening with its disguise, has only a little in common with the rest of the story, about madness. Such a "prologue" preceding the main story, and largely separate from it, was fairly common in Robert Bernstein scripts. It also shows up in Superman family comics as a whole.
Criminals seeking revenge are a Bernstein motif. Another Bernstein image: Lois is reading Ben-Hur, consistent with Bernstein's interest in Ancient Rome: see his "Lois Lane, Slave-Girl".
Lois is made to look like either a liar or deluded in front of the police. This is fairly common in thrillers: see the film North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959).
The School for Scoops (#29, November 1961). Writer: ?. Art: Curt Swan. Lois is asked to teach a journalism class at the local University on getting scoops, to a class of news professionals. This OK story never develops into a really good tale. Its various episodes of Lois recounting her scoops lack unity, and do not move the plot of the tale as a whole forward. And the plot ideas of these scoops sometimes seem derivative and unoriginal. The title perhaps derives from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The School for Scandal (1777), but there is otherwise no resemblance in the story itself.
The tale builds up Lois' professional credentials: Lois and Clark Kent are depicted as prize-winning journalists.
Lois is also depicted as one of the country's leading women reporters, and there is likely a feminist dimension in her fame. Most of the reporters who are students are men, but we see some women too.
The revolving stage with its various sets is an intriguing idea. It is a bit too elaborate for its context in the story: a teacher would have a hard time developing such a fancy teaching aid. But it is a vivid device, and one consistent with comic books' interest in media that display and explain information, such as museums, planetariums and World's Fairs.
There are two clues that allow Lois to figure out the bad guys' scheme. Only one of these is shared with the reader before the tale's finale.
Curt Swan's art conveys realism, both in showing a typical university, and in depicting the adult, working newspaper reporters who are students. The university looks like a state school, not an elite, traditional Ivy League institution. The buildings are modern in style, although not ostentatiously modernistic. The school looks like the home base of middle class, active people with strong ties to the real world. The pro-education documentary film Decade for Decision (1957) dealt with such urban state universities, glorifying them in the wake of the support for education that swept over the USA in the post-Sputnik era. It shows the working men and women going to night school to enhance their professional skills, that we see in "The School for Scoops".
Lois' lessons actually focus on detective work she did in tracking down crime stories. They have little to do with journalism as a whole.
Batman became a criminology professor at a college in "The Man Behind the Red Hood" (Detective Comics #168, February 1951), and his partner Robin in "Operation 'Escape'" (Star-Spangled Comics #124, 1952). Newspaper editor Steve Wilson teaches a journalism class at Big Town University in "Underground Trail of Peril" (Big Town #46, July-August 1957): a class which also fails to teach anything substantial about journalism. (The movies did a little better: journalism prof Doris Day actually seems to be teaching her students how to be reporters in Teacher's Pet (1958).) The earliest detective hero that I know of in any medium to become a college teacher was sleuth Ellery Queen, who taught a class in criminology in "The African Traveler" (1934). This prose mystery short story could have served as a model to the many works that came after.
Lois Lane's Other Life (1962). Art: Curt Swan. While Lois is undercover in the new identity of reporter Shelia Dexter, she gets amnesia, and starts believing she really is Dexter.
This tale has two interlocking aspects. One shows Superman keep trying to shock Lois out of her amnesia, and make her remember she is really Lois. This part of the story is a "series of challenges, each one of which fails due to some circumstance": a standard plot construction in Superman family comics. Here Superman's repeated attempts to shock Lois' memory forms the "series of challenges". This part of the tale is OK, but not brilliant. A more satisfying tale has Perry White with amnesia in "The Man Who Betrayed Superman's Identity" (Action Comics #297, February 1963).
Better is the other aspect of "Lois Lane's Other Life". This is satire: Lois, who thinks she is Sheila, is unimpressed with everything she learns about Lois, and offers acid comments on Lois' life and attitudes. Sheila also takes different approaches to work and life than Lois did. The result is a funny self-satire on the world of Lois Lane.
This tale is hard to classify. It is perhaps closest to stories which explore the world of Lois Lane as a reporter. Much of it takes place at the Daily Planet, and it concentrates on Sheila working as a reporter, and discussions of Lois' life and work. Also, it has art by the archetypal Superman artist, Curt Swan, which makes the portrait of the Daily Planet seem very authentic. However, the tale's satirical tone differs from the other stories of "Lois as reporter", which tend to be highly laudatory of Lois and her work.
Lana Lang, Superwoman (1960). Writer: Jerry Siegel. In 1960-1961, Lois Lane published a series of tales in which the heroine, and other women, got super powers. The first of these showed how Superman gave Lana Lang superpowers. Lana Lang uses her powers well, with intelligence and morality. The story describes this as a "dream come true" for Lana Lang. Lois behaves with extreme decency, too. This tale is clearly part of the mid 1960 upgrade to Lois' character. The tale is also an sf mystery. Lois and Lana are puzzled as to why Superman gives Lana super-powers. The solution, as is typical of Siegel's mysteries, draws on the Superman family mythos. Siegel was one of the biggest boosters of the mythos, and employed it whenever he could in his stories, especially his mystery tales.
The Battle Between Super-Lois and Super-Lana (1960). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Both Lois and Lana become super after bathing in a legendary Indian cave. This is a sequel to Siegel's "Lana Lang, Superwoman" (1960). Like many Siegel sequels, it is more comic than the original. There is no mystery plot. The story is the one of those tales in which Lois and Lana duke it out for Superman's affections; even better is the later "The Lois Lane - Lana Lang Truce".
The story shows several Siegel themes. Lois Lane decks herself out in green Egyptian make-up a la Cleopatra to impress Superman; this is one of many instances of color imagery in Siegel's work. Lois and Lana indulge in super-cooking, some of which takes place in the air; there are similar scenes of super-chefs in Siegel's "The Ghost of Jor-El" (Superboy #78, January 1960). The story also shows Siegel's predilection for rocks and caves.
The artwork for the cave is beautiful, and everything related to the caverns comes across with great atmosphere. It gives the tale a romantic glow.
The explanation for the super-powers at first seems as if it might be magical. The heroines bathe in a lake, where an old "Indian legend" claims that such bathing grants super-powers. The story does not discuss this situation further. However, the reader can easily speculate that there are chemicals in the lake that produce super-powers, and that the Indians simply recognized the fact of the lake's properties, thus forming the basis of their legend. This would make the tale's events be grounded in science, and the story science fictional. In real life, several folk cures from plants have turned out to be based on the plant's real medical properties.
The Ten Feats of Elastic Lass (1961). Writer: Otto Binder. Lois uses Jimmy's Elastic Lad serum to become Elastic Lass, a woman who can stretch her body into any shape. This super power story is well done. It was written by Otto Binder, who had created the Elastic Lad series of tales in Jimmy Olsen. There are hints in this tale, that to become a reporter-detective, that Lois has to assume or usurp the powers of men in society. She has to wangle the formula for becoming Elastic from Jimmy Olsen, and faces opposition from him. Her final feat, the one that solves the crime, is also one with phallic connotations. Lois is proud of her work, but tries to conceal her appearance from Superman, feeling it will hurt her romantic chances. The whole story has a feminist undertone.
The Curse of Lena Thorul (1961). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Lois investigates a woman who seems to have supernatural powers. This is one of the few Siegel tales with a female mystery-guest. Siegel wrote around a dozen mystery tales for the Superman family, in which a strange, super-powered being shows up and menaces the continuing characters in the Superman saga. Lena Thorul is the only mystery super-being I can recall who is female. Lena will go on to be a continuing character in the Supergirl stories in Action. This too is unusual for Siegel's mystery characters: usually they are one-shots. One notes Lena was reintroduced in Action by Leo Dorfman, not Siegel himself.
Despite her reputation as a snoop, Lois does not actually do anything in "The Rainbow Superman" to pry into Superman's identity. Superman merely fears that Lois will catch on to his ID, due to his rainbow aura. Lois behaves completely classily throughout. She and Clark Kent are merely thrown together due to work assignments.
Lois does not get superpowers in this tale. But so many of the later stories involving Lois' superpowers also concern Superman trying to conceal his secret identity that there seems to be a link between the two themes.
Binder keeps the rainbow transformation simpler than many of his other transformation concepts. There is no antidote: Superman soon learns the transformation will expire automatically all by itself at sundown. And the rainbow transformation is not used by Superman to perform any feats, or get Superman involved in situations related to rainbows. It is simply present as an oddball side effect. The transformation is quite beautiful. It is linked to crystal and jewel imagery throughout the story.
The restaurant with its Superman theme, is like a simpler example of the Superman museums that run through Binder.
The yo-yo aspects at the start perhaps link this to the Superboy tales Binder wrote in the 1950's, which get the hero involved with different kinds of games.
The Tricks of Lois Lane (1959). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois tries to prove Clark Kent is really Superman. This tale is simply a loosely structured series of four episodes, in which Superman has to guard his identity from Lois' investigations. It is minor, but it has elements of charm. The third episode (at the garden show) is the best plotted. It has brief elements of a nutty parody of traditional Superman imagery. Also, moments of surrealistically unexpected plot developments.
The first episode shows working woman Lois getting unwanted attentions from a male customer in a barbershop. The story makes clear that this is a bad thing, and unwelcomed by Lois. Movies, such as Warner Brothers movies from the 1930's about working women, frequently had similar scenes. While these films and "The Tricks of Lois Lane" don't recognize that such harassment is a political issue, they do recognize and condemn such behavior, and show it is something that women have to put up with on a regular basis.
The tale takes reporter Lois to both an art museum and a garden show. Museums and public expositions were a big deal in comic books. Their format, a mixture of text and graphics, gives them an affinity to comics as a medium.
Kurt Schaffenberger's art is fun. The first episode (at the barber shop) has an interestingly drawn photographer character. This thin, angular guy seems to have a real personality. Also good in the art: the giant magnet used in the fourth episode, and in the splash panel. It has a real "mad scientist" look, and forms a nicely surreal contrast with Lois. There are perhaps elements linking Lois to a phallic symbol, with the magnet.
Lois Lane's X-Ray Vision (1961). Writer: Robert Bernstein. When Lois gets X-Ray vision, she uses it to help her work as a reporter, and to determine Superman's secret identity. One of the best Lois stories. In it Lois uses her new powers to solve mysteries, and is a tale in which Lois is seen as a reporter-detective. It is also a tale in which Superman has to protect his secret identity from Lois' suspicions. Everything works just perfectly in this ingeniously plotted story.
Lois Lane's Wedding Day (1962). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois and Clark are tricked into marriage, while trying to expose a Lonely Hearts club operator. This is an unusual twist on the standard plot of "Superman guarding his secret identity from Lois". Here, Clark Kent tries to reveal his secret identity as Superman to Lois, but she won't believe him. The plot is structured as a series, like so many other Superman family tales, with Clark making repeated attempts to tell Lois the truth. Each time he does, events cleverly intercede to make him look like a liar. This specific structure, "a person tries to tell the truth, but keeps getting made to look like a liar, by strange coincidences and events", is not uncommon in Superman family stories.
The Invisible Lois Lane (1963). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Curt Swan. This tale is modeled on "Lois Lane's X-Ray Vision". In it, LL once again gets super-powers, and once again discovers Superman's secret identity with them. The challenge for Superman is to cover up this discovery. This piece is also well plotted. It is a bit too bad though, that in these stories, it is not Lois, but Superman, who serves as the "thinking" character in the story. "Elastic Lass" is more satisfying than these tales, in that Lois serves as a genuine detective in it.
The fact that the mystery in "The Mystery of Skull Island" involves a murder is a bit unusual, for both Superman comics, and children's entertainment in the 1960's as a whole. Kid's mysteries were more often about non-violent crimes such as theft. "The Mystery of Skull Island" treads very lightly in this area, with the crime occurring before the story opens, and not directly shown.
One might note that Lois is not the person who actually solves the mystery. And that this tale is therefore not a direct ancestor or pure example of the later series of tales which feature Lois as a reporter-detective.
"The Mystery of Skull Island" has a plot structure common in the Superman family:
The scheme also reflects Superman traditions, in that it is about "sustaining a character". Here, it is the wife whose character is seemingly sustained by the hoax.
In "The Mystery of Skull Island", this is also combined with a whodunit murder mystery, and a thriller about a spooky mansion.
A further subplot is another kind of situation that recurs in the Superman family: Clark Kent's dealing with work assigned to him by the head butler, echoes other tales in which Superman uses his powers to cope with tough bosses. See "Superman Joins the Army" (Superman #133, November 1959).
The Widow in Black (1962). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. This is the pilot work in which Lois Lane solves a non-sf mystery. It shows her going undercover as a reporter; essentially this involves her taking on a secret identity, one of the basic themes of the entire Lois Lane comic book. It is structured as a formal puzzle plot mystery; the reader is even challenged at the end, to go back over the tale and look for clues embedded in the story.
Lois Lane, Foreign Correspondent (1963). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois gets involved in sinister, menacing events when working as a foreign correspondent. This tale is in a fairly well-defined subgenre of suspense tales: "a heroine is menaced by strange and often puzzling events that seem creepy and dark, meeting romantic men who might be either heroes or villains". Such stories appeared in Gothic Romance novels, and in prose mystery fiction by writers like Mignon G. Eberhart and Helen Reilly.
Lois does some sleuthing. But she also gets caught up in the events, as a frequently bewildered damsel in distress. Such a combination of roles is not uncommon in gothic-style suspense. It makes Lois less of a pure sleuth, than in the other tales in which she functions as a reporter-detective, however. And this tale less of a pure detective story.
The fact that the foreign country has a well-developed monorail system is striking. Monorail was touted in the 1960's as the "transportation system of the future". It appeared in Disneyland's Tomorrowland, for example. The use of a monorail gives a futuristic, almost science fictional touch, to what is otherwise almost a gothic suspense tale. The "wonders of the future" is a typical Superman Family theme. It also reminds us that we are in the present-day, not some historical era. It also reminds us that the United States has much to learn from other countries: a widespread view throughout most US history, but one less popular today, especially among right-wingers.
The diplomatic party, anticipates the party at the United Nations in "The Girl Who Mourned for Superman" three issues later. Both show the distinguished-looking men in white tie and tails.
Dear Dr. Cupid (1963). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. When Lois temporarily becomes the Daily Planet's "Advice to the Lovelorn" columnist, she suspects that anonymous letters she is receiving are actually from Clark Kent. This is not a crime tale. But it does present Lois with a mysterious situation, one in which she finds many clues that need to be investigated. Like the other stories of late 1963 - late 1964, it deals with a non-sf mystery, and one in which Lois is mainly seen in her role of a Planet reporter-detective.
Siegel's plot is very complex. It involves recursive elements: Lois starts out thinking that she is corresponding with the general public; then she suspects that she is getting letters from Clark Kent that involve her personal life right at the office. The story seems to double back on itself, with Lois' replies influencing events at the Planet.
The story is consistent with the way the media are generally portrayed in the Superman family. The idea of broadcasting to a large number of people is not the center of the stories' interest. Rather, each TV broadcast, each article in a newspaper, is a one on one communication between its author and one viewer/reader. This communication becomes another link in the plot. Here, what starts out as advice to the general public soon focuses on communication between Lois and the sender of the notes.
The Incredible Delusion (1964). When Perry White's face is bandaged and hidden from view, Lois becomes suspicious. This is one of the best plotted mystery stories in the Superman family. It is full of unexpected twists and turns. The Lois Lane stories tend to be short, compared to the longer Superman tales. Many are trivial and mechanical, but some show real inspiration. This story shows real artistic economy: every panel counts, and it packs a complex plot into only eight pages. The atmosphere of this story vaguely recalls 1940's mystery movies. So do many other Lois Lane stories. Many of the best Lois Lane tales show her working as a reporter-detective, trying to obtain a crime story. In these tales, Lois will track down a gang of crooks, and meet both thrills and genuine mystery puzzles along the way. This is just like the heroes of such B movie series as the Falcon or the Saint. Lois Lane also shows real gutsiness in these tales. It would be good to see Lois Lane added to lists of female detectives, and included in feminist discussions of the history of women sleuths.
Lois Lane's dream in this tale recalls sf imagery found in Bernstein's "The Sleeping Doom" (1960). This is the only sf passage in the tale.
Lois Lane's Pen Pal Romance (1964). This tale has a classic construction. Every time Lois thinks she has solved the mystery and thinks she knows what is going on, some new clue contradicts what has gone before. Such a story is very difficult to write, and shows plotting ingenuity.
Lois is investigating pen-pal romance clubs that victimize women with phony suitors, swindling them out of their savings. She goes undercover, and is faced with such a suitor herself, an apparent cowboy rancher. She has to decide a mystery: is he a crooked impostor, or a real rancher? This story follows the central Superman family theme of a mystery about "sustaining character". Many of the "character" mysteries involve someone claiming to have super-powers. This one, by contrast, involves simply the possible impersonation of a rancher. Similarly, "The Incredible Delusion" concerns the possible impersonation of Daily Planet chief Perry White. These tales, while being about non-science fictional subjects, show the full gusto of those Superman family tales concerning super-powered beings. Years of enthusiastic practice in constructing such stories have made the writers virtuosic.
Superman's Hometown Sweetheart (1964). Lois tracks down several of the women who dated Superboy as a teenager, with surprising results. There is no crime in this story. But it does have formal similarities with other stories, with reporter Lois investigating a mysterious situation.
Lois Lane's Great Houdini Trick (1965). Writer: Otto Binder. Lois Lane investigates a phony medium. One of the last stories of the Weisinger era, this little mystery is not as inventive as its predecessors. The Superman family was deeply opposed to superstition, and was always exposing it.
Schaffenberger's cover shows Lois Lane as Cinderella, and says that Superman took Lois into the past to relive Cinderella's story. This is indeed quite different from other Lois time travel tales, which typically find Lois meeting a Superman-like hero in some fairly realistic historical era. Instead, here Lois takes on the life of a well-known character. There is no sign of the "challenge" or Lois doing detective work to solve it, on the cover: those features were likely added by the writer.
Lois was put through a series of hoaxes in a number of stories. These stories fall into roughly the same chronological period as the Jimmy Olsen "Fantastic adventure" and "Jimmy Olsen as puzzle creator" tales, and have some formal similarities to them, involving strange, elaborate mysteries undergone by the protagonist. However, the Lois Lane hoax stories are nowhere as enjoyable as the Jimmy Olsen tales, or as central to Lois Lane's history. While some of these Lois Lane stories show imagination, the whole approach has an unpleasant or even distasteful side. For one thing, In some of the tales Lois is being hoaxed by Superman, the man she loves. In others, Lois is hoaxed by gangs of crooks, who usually play on her love for Superman. In either way, Lois' deepest feelings are being exploited. By contrast, Jimmy is usually attacked in a less personal way by a gang or villain. Another difference: in most of the Lois stories, we are in on the plot at the start, or at an early phase of the story, so there is less mystery than in the Olsen tales.
The Fantastic Wigs of Mr. Dupre (1962). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Wigs related to people in history seem to be cursed and cause disastrous events; Lois investigates. The various events involving different wigs form a "series": a common plot construction in Superman family comics.
Mr. Dupré has an accent on his name, everywhere in the story but the title. He seems French, as beauticians and men in related professions often are in the world of Superman family comics. This is not a comment on French people at all: just employing a convention as a way of making hairdressers seem more colorful.
Two favorite "Superman family" settings appear: a stage play and a costume party. Both allow the story to make reference to characters out of history: history also being a favorite subject in Lois Lane and Superman family comics in general. Both the theater and costume parties are also glamorous, and involve a mixture of words, ideas and images that are closely allied to comics as a medium.
SPOILERS. The apparent "curse" on the wigs turns out to be a hoax. This is not too big a surprise: the Superman family stories were deeply opposed to superstition, and apparently supernatural events generally turn out to be hoaxes. See "The Witch of Metropolis" and "Lois Lane's Kiss of Death". Such a fake-supernatural hoax is less personal to Lois than some of the other hoaxes of the era. It involves the wigs, not Lois' relationship to Superman or Lois' character. This makes the story more relaxing to read, and more sympathetic to Lois.
Lois winds up working with Supergirl. The pair also team up in another hoax tale, "Lois Lane's Signal Watch". There is perhaps a feminist subtext in the two being allies and sticking up for each other. In both stories, Supergirl only shows up towards the end, fairly unexpectedly.
Lois Lane's Signal Watch (1963). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Crooks convince Lois that a gang member (known as "Muscles") is really Superman; the Superman impostor also gives her a signal watch.
This is another Superman family tale set in a cavern, a favorite locale. See "The Battle Between Super-Lois and Super-Lana" (1960).
SPOILERS. The signal watch is not just a hoax. It also helps the crooks keep track of Lois' location: something logically connected to the plot. Later, it has unintended consequences, that are also inventive. Crooks do something different-but-related in Binder's "The Stolen Superman Signal" (Jimmy Olsen #13, June 1956).
The tale is full of crime elements, that add to the richness of the storytelling. The crooked plastic surgeon is a staple of crime fiction: see the movie Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947). And the scoop not-to-be-opened for five years in the newspaper safe, is an intriguing concept, one that really interested me. All these "newspaper reporters versus criminal gang" aspects are fully developed, linking this to the tales with Lois as a reporter-detective. However, this is not a mystery puzzle, unlike most of the reporter-detective tales.
The Devil and Lois Lane (#41, May 1963). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Lois apparently meets the Devil. This story recalls "The Forbidden Box" in general terms. This tale also uses elements reminiscent of Jimmy Olsen stories to solve its fantasy-mystery. Stories involving deals with the Devil were common in popular culture of the period, both the sf magazines, and such TV shows as Father Knows Best and Twilight Zone.
The Fake Superman (#44, October 1963). Lois again meets a crook posing as Superman. This not bad tale is an instant replay of "Lois Lane's Signal Watch". One odd sidelight: years before, Superman had published a famous surrealist story, "The Night of March 31st" (1961), which deliberately created as many errors and goofs as possible, in its treatment of the Superman mythos. One of the tale's strangest conceits was the bottled city of Kandor appearing not in the Fortress of Solitude, where it belonged, but in an ice cream cart. This story recreates the same concept, but "rationalizes" it as part of the plot.
Otto Binder was the author of many of the first Superman family time travel stories. Binder had Jimmy Olsen travel into the past in "The Feats of Chief Super-Duper" (Jimmy Olsen #14, August 1956). Superman took Superboy's place in early Smallville, meeting his parents again in "Superboy's Switch in Time" (Superboy #53, December 1956), a story whose authorship is not known. Two issues later, Jimmy Olsen went back to early Smallville and met Superboy in "A Visit From Superman's Pal" (Superboy #55, March 1957), and "The Kid From Krypton" time traveled to the same era, meeting Superboy too (Adventure #242, November 1957). Both of these fairly minor tales were written by Binder.
Then come the major Binder time travel classics. He sent Jimmy Olsen to the future in "The Boy Who Killed Superman" (April 1958), and Superboy to the future in "The Legion of Super-Heroes" (Adventure #247, April 1958). He sent Superboy to the past to meet Hercules and Samson in "The First Two Supermen" (Adventure #257, February 1959). This story is directly ancestral to "The Superman of the Past": not only does it star Samson, but it has the same kind of plot: Samson and Hercules have secret identities, and their lives parallel Superman's. Then Binder sent Jimmy Olsen to the past on Krypton in "How Jimmy Olsen First Met Superman" (April 1959). All of these Binder time travel stories are some of the most important early works in the Superman family saga.
Then Binder sent Krypto to the past in the short but delightful "How Krypto Made History" (Superboy #75, September 1959), and Supergirl to the prehistoric past in the fun "The Cave-Girl of Steel" (Action #259, December 1959). An unknown author sent Jimmy Olsen to the Old West in "The Gunsmoke Kid" (June 1960). Binder sent Lois back to Biblical times in "The Superman of the Past" (August 1960). Jerry Siegel sent Superboy time traveling in "Superboy Meets William Tell" (October 1960) and "The Impossible Mission" (December 1960), and wrote "Superman's Return to Krypton" (November 1960). From this point on, time traveling was fair game for any Superman family author.
Sweetheart of Robin Hood (1961). Writer: Robert Bernstein?. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois goes back to Sherwood Forest.
Different Lois historicals choose different elements of the Superman mythos, to parallel in the past. This tale comes up with equivalents for the Green Kryptonite that can harm Superman. Such equivalents will also be pursued, and extended, in a later historical, "The Immortal Lois Lane". Both tales emphasize the color green as part of this: one of many examples in which the Superman family comics underscored that they were a full color medium.
The story's end includes a surprise twist: this gives the tale a simple mystery puzzle aspect.
The tale opens in modern times at a Robin Hood museum. Comic books loved museums: their mixture of text and visuals makes them a close relative of comics themselves, and ideal to present in a comic book story. The educational aspects of museums, are also something that the pro-education Superman family comics wished to support.
The GCD scholar Bob Hughes speculates that the writer of this tale is Robert Bernstein.
Kurt Schaffenberger's version of Robin Hood is quite handsome.
Lois Lane, Slave-Girl (1962). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois travels back to Ancient Rome. Bernstein also wrote a "time travel to ancient Rome" story for The Fly, "The Fly Versus Taxus the Tyrant" (September 1960).
This tale differs from some of the other Lois historicals in its hero. He is a made up character for the comics, rather than a well known one like Robin Hood or Da Vinci. Perhaps more importantly, he has a made up role in the nature of his heroic activity: he specializes in freeing slaves. The hero is also explicitly a champion of the "poor and oppressed", giving a left wing dimension to the tale's politics.
The time travel rationale is among the most science fictional in the Lois time travel tales.
SPOILER. The tale has a mystery puzzle, the best in the Lois historical series.
The Immortal Lois Lane (1962). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois time travels to Renaissance Florence, where she meets Leonardo Da Vinci.
This story is a bit different from others in the series, especially in its treatment of the central figure. Many of the other historicals have "action heroes", men whose physical activities fight against oppression. Da Vinci is shown trying to buy prisoners out of the Borgias' cells: a less physical approach. As Lois points out, he uses his "artistic powers" to raise the money, which Lois posits as a parallel to Superman's super-powers. Da Vinci is still very much fighting against oppression, but he is using his art to do it, not his physical strength.
The tale is also designed to educate readers about Da Vinci's real life achievements, such as designing flying machines and painting the Mona Lisa. This too makes this story different from the other historicals. The praise for Da Vinci is consistent of the admiration for scientists constantly expressed in the Superman magazines.
Another difference from the other historicals: while Da Vinci has a secret identity, Lois discovers it right away, and by chance. Less is made of the secret identity, than in some of the other historicals.
Perhaps because Da Vinci is more removed in character from Superman, compared to the action heroes in the other stories, the author has come up with an extra link between Da Vinci and Superman. The two are depicted as doubles: men whose faces are alike. This is the only Lois historical with such a double.
The story opens with that comic book favorite, a costume party. There are educational aspects to some of the costumes and party discussions, as well. Many of the Lois historicals have such an elaborate modern-day "frame" sequence, from which Lois travels back in time.
The Lana Lang of 500 B.C. (1963). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois time travels back to Ancient Greece, where she meets Achilles. This is one of the most fantastic and least science fictional of the Lois time travel stories. The time travel mechanism is magical, not scientific, based on the Greek mythology magician Circe. And the characters such as Achilles also have the fantastic powers they have in mythology.
The text of the story itself highlights structural features. First, it notices that Lois regularly time travels back into the past. It thus positions the tale as one in a series: while it doesn't self-referentially describe or acknowledge these travels as comic book stories, it does implicitly recognize that the time travel tales form a series.
Secondly, it points out both that Lois keeps meeting figures resembling Lana Lang in the past. And how different the behavior is of the current Lana Lang figure from those of Lois' previous time travels. Here, the Lana figure tries to help Lois get her man, while always before Lois and the Lana figures were romantic rivals for the hero.
SPOILER. The tale eventually develops a mystery structure, with the behavior of the Lana figure treated as a mystery, and given an ingenious explanation at the tale's end. Several Superman Family tales start out as merely including odd or puzzling events, and eventually develop into full mysteries, with solutions that explain these events at the finale.
There are previous tales in the Superman family in which Lois was romanced by heroes other than Superman: Jerry Coleman's "The Bride of Futureman" (Superman #121, June 1958) and Robert Bernstein's "The Man Who Married Lois Lane" (Superman #136, April 1960). In all three stories this glamorous super-hero is from another time or planet, and wants to marry Lois and carry her off to his own home, away from everyone she knows in 20th Century Earth. All three heroes are garbed in futuristic costumes, and all three are men who can romantically rival Superman on his own turf, as noble super-heroes. Siegel's tale is closer to Bernstein's, in that his hero is eventually shown to have feet of clay.
Dolls of Doom (1960). Writer: Edmond Hamilton?. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. A toy manufacturer comes out with mechanical dolls that look and talk like Lois Lane. This is a strangely constructed story, which unites very diverse plot elements. The first half involves comedy in daily life in Metropolis, without science fictional elements; the loosely related second half winds up in Kandor, forming a sequel to "The Super-Family of Steel" (1960). Despite this disconcertingly strange construction, the story is great fun. The constant stream of strange, surprising imagery also perhaps creates a surrealist charge.
It is unclear who wrote "Dolls of Doom". The anthology The Bottle City of Kandor (2007) ascribes it to Edmond Hamilton. If this is so, one can see traces of that Hamilton theme, "people switching roles". In the first half Lois takes on the role of a doll. In the second half, she takes on the role of a woman in the Van-Zee family in Kandor.
Both Edmond Hamilton and Otto Binder regularly wrote tales of Cosmic Engineering, in which heroes manipulate or engineer astronomical objects to save worlds. There are small scale aspects of this in "Dolls of Doom". Notably the artificial moons inside the bottle, and the use to which one is ultimately put. This is quite pleasant and imaginative.
The scenes where the store manager tries to get Lois to display various emotions, such as crying, recall the acting tale "Lois Lane in Hollywood" (1958).
The doll sections might have been inspired by an Adam Strange tale written by Gardner Fox, "The Dozen Dooms of Adam Strange" (Showcase #18, January-February 1959). There are plot similarities, as well as the word "Doom" in the title.
The Super-Surprise (1961). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Has Lois gained super-powers? This is a science fiction mystery. Lois seems to have suddenly developed super-powers, and Superman would like to find out how. This mystery is set forth right on the splash panel, at the tale's start. The splash also suggests that the mystery's solution will be based on the Superman mythos - the splash considers and rejects as a solution, the idea that "Lois" might actually be Supergirl in disguise. This "failed solution" is grounded in the Superman mythos, and it encourages readers to think about how the mythos might enable the real solution to the mystery.
While the mystery is science fictional, the tale plays out against a realistic, non-sf background, of Lois investigating racketeers in her job as a reporter. The science fiction mystery and the realistic crime background, make a pleasant contrast to each other. The eruption of science fictional events out of a realistic crime scene is fairly surreal.
Lois Lane's Super-Brain (1961). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Exposure to a scientist's equipment gives Lois a giant brain and head, like a "person of the future", and she tries to conceal this from other people. This is a "transformation story": a kind of tale that was popular in the Superman Family as a whole, especially Jimmy Olsen, but which only occasionally appeared in Lois Lane. Indeed, such giant brains seem to have first occurred in the Superman Family magazines with "The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen" (Jimmy Olsen #22, August 1957), in which Jimmy gets involved with a similar big-brain transformation, also caused by a scientist's machine.
Like many transformation tales in the Superman magazines, "Lois Lane's Super-Brain" is a "challenge and response" tale. Events keep threatening to expose the fact that Lois has a super-brain (the challenge); Lois keeps coming up with clever ways to conceal her large head (the response). Occasionally, instead of Lois devising a method of concealment, pure chance and odd turns of events cause Lois' secret to be preserved. There are five full cycles of "challenge and response" in the story. These episodes are fun, and offer the wide range of "interesting backgrounds of modern life related to the challenges" that often give color and intriguing subject matter to the "challenge and response" tales.
Episodes include favorite backgrounds that appear in many Superman Family tales. One is a costume party. Another has a television game show, a kind of spectacle that runs through a surprising number of Superman stories. Likely, such game shows allowed for interesting plot premises and situations for the characters. Sometimes such shows are thinly disguised versions of real game shows. But in "Lois Lane's Super-Brain" we see I've Got a Secret, an actual game show of the era.
There are mild elements of sexism, but probably not enough to ruin this story. Lois is obsessed with the idea that her large brain is ruining her looks, and thus her romantic appeal to Superman. By contrast, Jimmy Olsen never worried about his appearance when he got a big brain in "The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen". And the last panel has a groaner of a moral offered by Lois, that big brains and looks don't go together. Ouch!
A subplot offers an anti-gambling moral. Gambling was widely disapproved of in 1961 America. This subplot seems designed to teach young readers about the dangers of gambling.
The science fiction premise at the tale's start, involves a "brain bank": a collection of knowledge transcribed from people's brains. This is a good idea, and one wishes it were developed further.
Kurt Schaffenberger has an exceptionally handsome medical man (p 1), and a good looking astronaut on the cover of a magazine (p 3).
The Super-Suitor of Soomar (1963). Lois goes to another planet, where she meets a woman who looks just like her, and a superhero called "Super-Male" who recalls Superman. This comic story is in the Supermen family tradition, of meeting people from other planets or eras whose live parallel those of Superman, Lois Lane, and other Superman family regulars.
Artist Kurt Schaffenberger does a good job with both Super-Male's costume, and with his "Clark Kent" secret identity clothes. Super-Male's appearance suggests almost a parody of male gender ideas, a exaggeration of masculine imagery for comic effect.
Other planets with characters recalling Superman and his friends were a standard feature in Superman Family comics. But they were uncommon in Lois Lane. Lois was more likely to time travel into the past, to meet characters that paralleled Superman.
The Girl Who Mourned for Superman (1963). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. This little tale is fairly minor, but it has an original science fiction idea. It is part of the UN sequence. Schaffenberger's ambassador is also well drawn. The story shows the Superman family's fondness for maps and globes. A favorite scene in the Legion of Super-Heroes series: the globe room in the Legion clubhouse, where there are globe maps of all the inhabited worlds. The Lois Lane stories also included frequent positive references to the UN. Superman was seen as being friendly to all nations.
Today, women know that their value comes from what they do themselves, not what sort of man they can attract. A tale like this reminds one of how bad things were for women in the 1950's, when their social standing was entirely bound up in their spouse. One longs for the heroine of this tale to break free, and do something on her own. Such an option was not explored in this story. DC Silver Age comics were full of accomplished women: reporters like Lois, Lana and Iris West, business managers like Carol Ferris, not to mention Supergirl, Saturn Girl and other super heroines. It is unfortunate that these possibilities were not raised here.
Super-Courtship of Lois Lane (1958). Writer: Otto Binder. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Superman performs a full scale courtship of Lois Lane. The most interesting thing about this story is its art. Superman was rarely shown in the comics wearing anything other than his Superman costume. But in this tale, he is dressed in white tie and tails, and other civilian clothes. The story itself points out how unusual this is. Other scenes show Superman at the beach, in a swimsuit. By the way, the dialogue refers to Superman's formal wear as a tuxedo. It is not: it is the dressier, full white tie and tails.
The construction of this plot is unusual. It involves not one but two different "series": a framing series about Superman's courtship, and an inner series about Superman in clothes other than his uniform. Each series has exactly two events in it: shorter than the typical three used for a series that takes up a whole Superman story. The framing courtship series is pure "challenge and response": Superman tries to achieve a goal, here courting Lois, in response, Lois rejects him for various reasons. The inner series is not quite purely "challenge and response", although it might be a loose variant. The inner series has Lois specifying some costume for Superman; in return, Superman finds a way to perform a super-deed while wearing that costume. Lois does indeed hope these costumes will inhibit Superman's deeds, so perhaps this is not too far from "challenge and response".
The splash panel shows Binder's careful tying of stories to the standard background mythos of the Superman tales. Jimmy Olsen's dialogue spells out exactly the two things that have changed in this story, from their typical status in the world of Superman. Both of these elements are key features of Curt Swan's original cover.
Lois Lane's Super-Perfume (1959). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. A perfume manufacturer claims his product makes women irresistible to men, and asks Lois to try it out. This light-hearted piece is fun, both for the romance elements, and its plot complications. The splash shows Lois surrounded by adoring men, and anticipates in imagery a major story two years later, "The Irresistible Lois Lane" (1961).
Superman family stories often feature a "series of related events". In "Lois Lane's Super-Perfume", this consists of a series of three suitors.
Two of the suitors involve Lois in favorite subjects of the Superman magazines, as well: one is a movie actor, another is a scientist. There is much scientific machinery. Later one meets the chemist who makes the perfume. This is a scientific world.
"Lois Lane's Super-Perfume" has puzzle plot elements, acknowledged right at the start in the splash panel: what is the secret behind the perfume? Such a puzzle links the tale to other Lois works, such as "Lois Lane's Kiss of Death" and "The Irresistible Lois Lane". The solution is believable in motive, and admirably supported by a solid clue in the story. However, the solution is more conventional than that of the wildly imaginative "The Irresistible Lois Lane".
A second clue shows why the bad guys should have realized their ideas were mistaken. It is pointed out by Superman.
Lois Lane's Secret Romance (1960). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Supergirl secretly tries to play Cupid, trying to bring Lois and Superman together without their knowing. Charming, light-hearted tale. It resembles "Super-Courtship of Lois Lane" in showing Superman and Lois in many pleasant romantic situations.
The tale has elements of the "challenge and response" structure. Supergirl keeps launching her various schemes, much as in the regular "challenge" tale. Unlike a true challenge tale, there is not steady antagonist to fight back with a response that defeats the schemes. Quite a few of Supergirl's schemes actually work. Others are defeated by chance, or through a lack of full romantic feelings in Superman, or through miscalculation on Supergirl's part.
The initial billboard scheme is brilliant. It also reflects the Superman comic books' interest in "media that are public exhibitions involving both text and graphics", such as museums, world's fairs, public statues and memorials, etc. All such media show formal affinities to comics themselves, as a medium.
The Perfect Husband (1961). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Lois meets an ideal man, Roger Warner - who also happens to be a double for Clark Kent. Mainly, this is a pleasant tale of romance, as Lois and Roger Warner fall in love.
The aspect of the hero being a double for Clark Kent seems odd, at first. It plays no role in the story, not affecting anything in the couple's relationship. Nor is it much emphasized, after Lois' original surprise at meeting such a double. One suspects the double aspects are mainly there, to "rationalize" the cover. This cover shows Lois having a romance with a man who appears to be Clark Kent. Instead of writing a story about a Lois-Clark relationship, the author cleverly decided to make it a romance with a man who just happens to look like Clark.
The TV game show and host are thinly disguised variants on the real life People Are Funny and its host Art Linkletter. Both were hugely popular and widely known in the USA. The Superman family loved TV game shows. The show appears on the cover, and early in the story, but then it disappears from the plot. It is one of the "initial impetus" devices that often set up a Superman family story, but which then are not involved in its development or outcome.
The story is decently characterized throughout. A shrewd moment: Lucy lures her sister Lois on the TV show, by suggesting Lois can get a newspaper story out of it. This is consistent with the characterization of Lois, as a determined reporter who will go to great effort to get a story.
Computers in the Superman family comics are often treated as all knowing devices, who can make astonishing predictions, reconstruct hidden reality, or create accounts of alternative life paths for people. These abilities are still beyond the reach of computers in the 2000's. Such abilities made good stories in the comics, but they seem completely divorced from reality. The computer in "The Perfect Husband" is not this extreme, restricting itself to computer dating and match-making - something that has become common in real life.
The Irresistible Lois Lane (1961). Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Lois becomes romantically irresistible to members of the Justice League: Batman, Aquaman and Green Arrow. If many Lois stories recall B detective movie series, this one is closer to film noir. Lois becomes a sizzling femme fatale. This is a genuinely surrealistic piece. It opens with a flying dog skywriting a giant L in the sky, and just keeps getting stranger. The whole story reads like an eruption from the subconscious.
Still, this piece has a formal mystery puzzle plot. The cover shows Lois Lane being attractive to men of the Justice League. The splash panel shows the same thing - but also asks a question: "Why is Lois so irresistible?" This treats the tale as a mystery, with something that needs to be explained. The premise of the tale being a mystery is something new in the story, and is not present in the cover. We also soon wonder why the classy Lois is behaving in this way. The mystery elements are excellent.
The splash panel also modifies the cover in its depiction of relationships. The cover shows Lois kissing the Justice League members all at once, as a group. More tastefully, the splash shows Lois kissing the men one by one, separately over a period of time.
The splash panel contains a thought ballon that shows not text, but pictures: memories of Lana Lang. Pictures in balloons are an unusual technique in comic books. Balloons almost always contain words: text.
SPOILERS. Repeated imagery shows people ascending or descending vertically: on a ship's side, on a movie marquee, up a cliff. The cliff scene is especially enjoyable.
WHO WROTE THIS STORY? The author of this tale is not known. A guess: it recalls Robert Bernstein.
The monitoring in this tale relates it to the work of Robert Bernstein. So does the setting among public locations in Metropolis, its affinities with mystery fiction, its dynamic, unusual exploration of romantic situations and images, its rich mix of plot elements, and the way a non-super-powered person likes Lois aids a super-being like Superman.
The Jealous Lois Lane (1962). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Lois struggles to control her jealousy, while she is wearing one of Professor Potter's emotion meters that displays her feelings. This comic story is one of many in the Superman family, in which the protagonist ingeniously tries to meet a series of challenges.
It has good cover art by Curt Swan showing colored rings radiating out of the emotion meter. This recalls Swan's Superboy #99 cover for "The Kryptonite Kid" in which green radiation is coming from everything.
The Unforgettable Superman (1962). Lois Lane tries to forget her love for Superman, and date an astronaut instead. The Lois Lane magazine had many stories about Lois Lane's love life, hopeless passion for Superman, etc. Many of these tales date badly today. They sometimes turn on sexist assumptions about relations between men and women - unlike the many detective stories with Lois in the lead, which treat her seriously as a detective-reporter with an equal status to men. This is one of the better romantic tales.
In 1962-1963 the Superman family had many tales which referred to the astronauts, then heroes who had newly captured the American imagination. This story, in which both Lois and Lana date astronauts, has the most elaborate look at the astronauts of any of the Superman family stories. In some ways, the astronauts are oddly inconsistent with the world of the Superman comic books. After all, while the astronauts in real life were slowly, laboriously penetrating outer space, Superman in the comics was regularly traveling to other planets. There would be no need for an astronaut program in the world of Superman - he could just have built spaceships for everyone. Despite this, the Superman family included astronaut heroes, simply ignoring this contradiction. Also, the Air Force uniforms worn by the astronauts are virtually the only military uniforms ever shown in the Superman family. While uniformed policemen are omnipresent - the Superman stories often have elements of mystery and crime - the military is not often shown. Superman largely lived in a demilitarized world. Unlike sf of the 1990's, which often seems like a recruiting poster for interstellar war, the Superman family was pacifist in orientation.
Color imagery is again important, with a green necklace reminding Lois of Green Kryptonite.
There is a series construction to the plot, but it is not a "challenge and response", although it feels a bit like it. Lois keeps trying to go out on dates with men other than Superman (the first part of each element in the series), but things keep presenting themselves that remind her of Superman (the second part of each element in the series). While each element of a true "challenge and response" has the protagonist doing something clever to overcome a challenge, in this tale, fate or life instead is the victor, and in charge of the second part in each series.
SPOILER. At the end, we discover that hidden in the story, is a second, similar series with Lana. Although we were informed of everything that affected Lois as it happened, the series with Lana is a "hidden pattern", a bit like the hidden elements of a mystery whose overall pattern is only revealed at the solution.
The Phantom Lois Lane (1962). Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. A jealous Lana attacks her rival Lois. The romance stories in Lois Lane can seem a bit wimpy by today's standards. Stories in which the characters show a lot more guts are the tales of ferocious battles between Lois Lane and her rival Lana Lang for Superman's affections.
"The Phantom Lois Lane" shows a full integration with the Superman mythos. Elements like the Phantom Zone and Lori the mermaid play large roles. The Phantom Zone had been created the year before, and was spreading through all the Superman magazines. The brief appearance of Mon-El is especially involving.
"The Phantom Lois Lane" draws on elements created in a previous story, "Three Nights in the Fortress of Solitude" (Lois Lane #14, January 1960), written by Otto Binder. Both stories open with Lois touring the Fortress as Superman's invited guest; both have a similar puzzle about the letters LL, with an identical solution. Neither of these elements is at the core of "The Phantom Lois Lane". The LL puzzle is given an extra aspect in "The Phantom Lois Lane" that makes it a bit richer as a mystery.
Towards the end of "The Phantom Lois Lane", Superman performs a good piece of detection. He uses a clue embedded in the illustrations. Such "hidden clues in the pictures" play a role in a number of Superman magazine tales with detective elements. There are also such pictorial aspects to the LL puzzle: in fact, this is the new aspect added to the puzzle in "The Phantom Lois Lane", which takes it beyond the puzzle in "Three Nights in the Fortress of Solitude".
Lana's motivation re-uses ideas from Otto Binder's "Superman's Enemy" (Jimmy Olsen #35, March 1959).
The Girl Who Refused To Marry Superman (1963). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger. When Superman loses his powers due to Red Kryptonite, he gets a new perspective on his relationships with Lois and Lana. This story shows some of the most human depth, in its look at the affections between Lois, Lana and Superman.
The plot moves on separate tracks. One thread looks at what might happen if Superman lost his powers. Perry White plays a role in these events. Perry is the closest to an authority figure in the lives of Superman and Lois. He is a natural person to be offering guidance, and providing reliable information for decisions, in Superman's life.
The other thread shows how the loss of Superman's powers affects his relationships with Lois and Lana. This is the subject of the cover, and the center of the story.
Text on the cover compares this to "The Lady or the Tiger?" (1882) by Frank R. Stockton. Both "The Girl Who Refused To Marry Superman" and "The Lady or the Tiger" are "riddle stories": puzzles deliberately without solutions, that invite readers to decide which of two alternatives will be true.
The mechanics of how Red Kryptonite is mixed with ordinary red objects recalls "The Irresistible Lois Lane". In both, a few grains of Red K are mixed with red dyes: here, the red ink on a Valentine card.
Lois Lane's Romance with Clark Kent (1963). Art: Curt Swan. A doctor tells Lois she needs to find love with someone other than the unresponsive Superman, and she develops a romance with fellow reporter Clark Kent. Low key, pleasant romance tale, concentrating on the romance itself, without twists or complications. Lois has no idea that Clark is secretly Superman, and this secret identity doesn't play much role in the story.
"Lois Lane's Romance with Clark Kent" recalls "The Perfect Husband". Both are pleasant, believable, fairly realistic tales which show Lois Lane's happy romances with fine men other than Superman. Both tales depict quite a successful courtship, until final obstacles end the romances. These obstacles are only mildly believable: in real life, one suspects, both of these courtships could have proceeded on to successful marriages.
"Lois Lane's Romance with Clark Kent" also recalls "The Unforgettable Superman", in that both begin with Lois deliberately trying to forget Superman, by dating other men.
An episode shows the couple visiting a restaurant with a nautical motif, where the patrons are given pirate hats. A real-life restaurant chain actually did this some years later.
The Kryptonian Courtship (#39, February 1963). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Supergirl gives Lois a device that shows Jor-El and Lara courting on Kyrpton, so that Lois can get tips on how to woo Superman. Inoffensive but minor humorous tale, that lacks sparkle. Supergirl was Lois' ally, both in romance, and with Lois' work as a reporter-detective.
The idea of modern day characters witnessing events from the past on Old Krypton recalls the "Life on Krypton" series that ran in Superboy. See "Life on Krypton" (Superboy #79, March 1960) and subsequent works. Such ideas were a bit atypical for Lois Lane.
This tale has a standard construction popular in Superman stories. It consists of a series of events. Each events consists of Lois witnessing some courtship idea that worked on Krypton, trying it on Earth, and having it fail through accident or miscalculation. This is a form of "challenge and response", where the challenges are Lois' attempts, and the responses are the failures. Watching a series of what look like good ideas failing can be a bit discouraging. It makes what was intended to be a light-hearted tale rather downbeat. Furthermore, neither most of the ideas themselves, nor the reasons for their failure, are that ingenious.
"The Kryptonian Courtship" has one terrific concept. It shows scientist Jor-El lugging around his small personal computer, so that he can work at Lara's. Today, people constantly transport their PCs, but in 1963, this was a terrific science fiction idea. Most computers back then were huge, taking up whole floors of some buildings. The story also suggests that the computer is a practical help in Jor-El's scientific work. This is a realistic point of view, both in 1963 and today.
Also decent: the Kyrptonian "rainbow cake". The cake behaves humorously different under Earth conditions than on Krypton - a plausible scientific concept. The Amateur Scientist department of Scientific American published a famous article of the physics aspects of baking a cake. This story is like a humorous science fictional variant. It also fits in with other Superman family stories, about the super-cooking of foods. Such foods sometimes are made large in size, something that happens inadvertently to the rainbow cake.
Lois Lane - Volunteer Nurse (1963). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois occasionally works as a volunteer nurse, and she meets a Vietnam War veteran as a patient. Hard to classify tale that is part love story, but with both suspense elements and social background. The cover is pure medical drama love story, but the tale itself introduces both the suspense and social references.
"The Girl Who Refused To Marry Superman" from seven months before, had both a hospital room setting, and a big role for Perry White. Both return in "Lois Lane - Volunteer Nurse", with Perry hospitalized for minor problems, and playing a comedy relief role.
The mention of the Vietnam War is unusual, with the patient being depicted as a full war hero. This is early in United States involvement. In Praise of Pip (September 27, 1963), an episode of the TV series The Twilight Zone appeared just a little later than the August 1963 "Lois Lane - Volunteer Nurse". Both showed US casualties from Vietnam in medical wards. In Praise of Pip was written by Rod Serling, and directed by Joseph M. Newman.
The Lois Lane - Lana Lang Truce (1964). Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois and Lana bury the hatchet to work against a common enemy: a superwoman from space who has set her cap on Superman. It is a very entertaining episode. Lois uses especial intelligence in the story, showing her skills as a detective again. Lois always has an idealistic side, and it comes out here again. Another science fictional mystery story with Lois Lane as detective is "The Town of Supermen" (1962), written by Jerry Siegel. This work appeared in Superman magazine, not Lois Lane, but it fits in very well with other Lois as detective tales. In both of these stories, Lois uses her intelligence not so much to solve a mystery, as to find a way to counter a bad guy with super powers and an evil scheme.
"The Lois Lane - Lana Lang Truce" has affinities with some of Robert Bernstein's stories. "The Monster That Stalked Smallville" (Adventure #274, July 1960) also featured an alien who could turn Earth people to stone. These stories invoke the ancient Greek myth of Medusa: an interest in Greek mythology was common in Bernstein's stories, as well as Otto Binder's. In both tales, the alien with the stone-changing powers becomes a friend of Superman's and pals around with him. And Bernstein created the Superman Revenge Squad that shows up in this tale. The raucous comedy here also recalls Bernstein.
"The Super-Family of Steel" is structured as a full-fledged mystery story. The mystery: It looks as if Superman and Lois are marrying "for real", something we know the editors would be reluctant to have happen. How is the story going to get out of this? When I first read this tale, I was annoyed with the solution - it seemed cornball, unlikely to the point of unfairness, and a complete let-down. A re-reading years later, however, with the solution fully in mind, made the tale seem charming. It is hardly one of the best Superman stories, but it is enjoyable. It is not that that the basic idea of solution seems any fairer - but that one is now concentrating on the rest of the story, which is pretty decent.
The mystery elements are elaborate, stretch through much of the story, and as the tale itself points out, are generously clued, with multiple indications of the solution. These mystery elements and clues are in fact interesting and inventive, even if they are based on a cornball central premise. So are the tale's characters. The overall structure of the mystery puzzle recalls John Dickson Carr's prose mystery novel The Nine Wrong Answers (1952).
"The Super-Family of Steel" benefits from its upbeat happy tone. Although the couple experiences a few problems, mainly this is a happy story with a happy ending. It forms a contrast with the soon-to-be published series of Imaginary tales in which Superman and Lois wed, and Lois suffers and suffers soap opera style through endless problems. "The Super-Family of Steel" is the best look at a possible Lois-Superman marriage the Superman magazines ever published.
"The Super-Family of Steel" certainly owes its subject matter to the previously appearing Imaginary tale of such a marriage, "Mrs. Superman" (1957). "Mrs. Superman" is a downbeat story, concentrating on possible problems in such a relationship. The two main such problems in "Mrs. Superman", trying to control a super-infant and the wife's jealousy of Superman, duly get repeated, as the main difficulties faced by the couple in "The Super-Family of Steel". They are given a more complex and developed plot treatment in "The Super-Family of Steel", however.
UNIFORMS. Wayne Boring had often drawn Kryptonians as wearing erect collars that suggested traditional military dress uniforms. Kurt Schaffenberger does this too, and goes one better. His Kandorians also wear stiff epaulettes that lay flat on the shoulder. This makes their costumes even more uniform-like.
This echoes another character earlier in the story. On board ship, a somewhat nebbishy officer is in a very good white naval uniform. It too features stiff epaulettes and an erect collar. The collar of the naval uniform is open at the front, while the more demanding Kandorian collar completely encircles the neck.
The naval uniform has patch pockets, like the Army uniform of glamorous Colonel Parkins in Schaffenberger's "Lieutenant Lois Lane, U.S. Army" (Lois Lane #6, January 1959) (page 1).
Another good illustration of naval whites is on the cover of Secret Hearts #63 (May 1960), possibly by John Romita. Both feature side views of the elaborate caps, precisely worn at an erect, jutting angle. The cap's peak in front sticks straight up, while the shiny black visor sticks out in front horizontally. "The Super-Family of Steel" appeared in February 1960, three months before this Secret Hearts issue.
The Day When Superman Proposed (#22, January 1961). Writer: Otto Binder? Jerry Siegel?. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Superman suddenly becomes romantic, and proposes to Lois.
The busy plot, full of diverse material, is not at its best with its romance elements. This makes the story fairly minor, as a whole. But some of its technology is interesting.
Superman shows his earnestness by creating a Lois Lane robot for Lois, an interesting idea. Superman and Clark Kent robots were a standard part of the Superman mythos, a Lois robot was not.
Also interesting: Superman experiments with Kryptonite remotely, watching these experiments through a television monitor. The story explicitly notes this monitor is a color TV screen: it shows both Green and Red Kryptonite in full color. This is another example of the interest of Superman family comics in color. The gang named the Scarlet Mob also perhaps reflects this color interest.
The GCD has replaced its original writer credit of Otto Binder, with Jerry Siegel. Binder had previous tales, though, in which Superman uses remote monitor technology and lead shielding to observe Green Kryptonite safely: see "The Kryptonite Man" (Action #249, February 1959) and "Titano, the Super-Ape" (Superman #127, February 1959).
SPOILERS. This tale has a different kind of solution, than most of the other Lois tales in which a super-being becomes mysteriously romantic. This solution is closest to that of "Lois Lane's Secret Identity": both involve psychological changes in Superman, triggered by outside forces. The plot solution in "The Day When Superman Proposed" is easily guessed, likely the easiest to solve of any of the puzzling romance tales. It is also the most fair in allowing the reader to guess the solution, considered as a mystery: the solution does not emerge out of left field, but is prominently hinted at early in the story. The solution is also simpler than most of the puzzling romance tale solutions.
The Battle of the Sisters (1961). Art: Curt Swan. Lois is shocked when her sister Lucy Lane seems to be stealing Superman's affections from her. While continuing character Lucy is immature and a flirt, she is hardly evil. So the reader is justifiably suspicious that some twist is going on. But what?
Lucy's would-be boyfriend Jimmy Olsen also gets involved. Jimmy has an unusually prominent role in a Lois tale, complete with one of his trademark disguises. The Jimmy episodes form a subplot in the tale, distinct from the rest of the story. They seem more like a typical episode of Jimmy Olsen's own comic book, rather than a Lois tale.
SPOILERS. "The Battle of the Sisters" eventually develops into a full-fledged mystery story, although at first it mainly looks like a romantic drama. It is a "disguised mystery story", a mystery tale masquerading as something else, in this case a romantic drama. The mystery: what is causing the apparent romance between Lucy Lane and Superman?
The solution at the end is elaborate. It has two structural features associated with the mystery genre. One consists of clues, giving indications of the real solution. There are two such clues embedded in the story, pointed out in the solution at the end. Second, the tale has a hidden pattern: apparently inconsequential elements that when highlighted and assembled at the end, indicate a hidden story has been going on of which the reader was not previously aware.
Both clues and hidden patterns show up in other mystery tales in the Superman Family. Their joint presence in "The Battle of the Sisters", and systematic development, are notable though.
Lois Lane's Secret Identity (#29, November 1961). Art: John Forte. When Lois adopts a secret identity for a news investigation, Superman falls in love with her new persona, not realizing it is Lois. This is another tale, in which Superman mysteriously changes and becomes romantic - Lois and the reader suspect something not-quite-right is going on.
Lois' new identity of glamour queen Lorelei Larue seems modeled on movie star Marilyn Monroe, then at the height of her fame.
A bad guy pushes Lois over a balcony, as in "The Mystery of Skull Island".
A bad guy is a Society Bandit, a jewel thief who mingles with and steals from the wealthy. Such Rogue characters are common in prose fiction, such as Raffles. This story gives a comic book incarnation to them. It would help young readers understand this storytelling staple. However, in "Lois Lane's Secret Identity", Bandit Tyrone Westmore seems to be an actual upper class socialite turned bad, rather than the sort of character most popular in prose stories, a thief who merely impersonates such wealthy men.
The men at the Society party are all good looking young macho males in elegant tuxes. Lois occasionally meets such groups: the astronauts in "The Unforgettable Superman", the UN diplomats at a ball in "The Girl Who Mourned for Superman". All of these groups are hunks in common clothes: the Air Force uniforms in "The Unforgettable Superman", white tie and tails in "The Girl Who Mourned for Superman".
The Silver Coin of Fate (1962). Writer: Robert Bernstein. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Superman proposes to Lois, under strange circumstances; Lana is suspicious.
This is one of several Lois Lane stories in which super-beings or their behavior are not quite right, and the reader is asked to explain what is going on. The stories are given logical explanations, within the elaborate frameworks of the Superman family mythos. They are a kind of science fictional mystery, one in which the reader is asked, not to solve a crime, but to explain a puzzling science fictional situation. Earlier stories in the same mode are "The Super-Family of Steel" (1960), written by Otto Binder, and "The Super-Surprise" (1961).
"Mrs. Superman" is historically important, as an early example of the Imaginary tale genre. It is also important as a pioneering look at what a Lois-Superman marriage might be like. But read today, looked at purely as a story, "Mrs. Superman" is not much fun. "Mrs. Superman" is relentlessly downbeat. Having Superman spoil Lois' dream also seems mean.
A key aspect of the marriage problems, the difficulty of a non-super-powered woman raising a super-infant, is already present in the cover.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent (#19, August 1960). Lois Lane's Super-Daughter (#20, October 1960). The Wife of Superman (#23, February 1961). Lois Lane and Superman Newlyweds (#25, May 1961). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. A series of Imaginary tales in which Lois Lane is married to Superman. These tales were strongly influenced by Binder's "Mrs. Superman" (1957).
Siegel also did the Imaginary stories in Jimmy Olsen, which similarly trace Jimmy's future marriages and their possible outcomes. These Lois Lane tales are much too sudsy for my taste, with Lois enduring endless contrived soap opera style suffering. Still, they do explore the possibilities of what marriage between Lois and Superman might be like, with a fair amount of imagination. I've discovered that, in retrospect, that these stories play a role in my understanding of Lois' character. They seem like a blueprint of plot possibilities for Lois and Superman.
The Bride of Luthor; The Son of Luthor (#34, July 1962). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Another Imaginary Tale series, in which LL marries arch-criminal Lex Luthor. Siegel had a continuing interest in tales in which Luthor reforms, or shows his good side. Lois' affection and support of the reformed Luthor is touching in the first story. Otherwise, this is pretty mediocre.
The premise has rough similarities to the film Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang, 1956), although the details are completely different.
Lois Lane's Anti-Superman Campaign (1966). Writer: Leo Dorfman. Art: Kurt Schaffenberger. Based on a cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger. Lois and Superman both run against each other for the same US Senate seat, in this book length story. Light hearted take that combines politics, satire, and many favorite characters of the Superman family.
The tale has some interesting feminist sidelights. Lois fantasizes about her future political career at one point. This segment is essentially an Imaginary Tale, embedded within the larger story. This episode is full of ideas about women politicians. It must have been very progressive in its day. Even today, when substantial numbers of women have entered politics in the real world, it is still an impressive segment. Like Dorfman's Imaginary tale about Superman, "The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue" (Superman #162, July 1963), this episode imagines great success and accomplishment in the future for its characters.
Other parts of this story poke fun at political campaigning. Dorfman shows ingenuity at incorporating both Superman and Mr. Mxyzptlk into this, depicting how their powers might be employed in a campaign. Dorfman often wrote stories that involved magic, especially for Supergirl tales in Action, and he is quite comfortable with Mr. Mxyzptlk here. There is also a nice time travel section.
Dorfman's protagonists often become involved in some institution, as the key subject of his tales. Here Lois gets involved with politics. They tend to be quite successful with this institution: Lois is surprisingly successful with her campaign here. Often they have to take on a series of opponents, just as Lois challenges Superman here.
I Am Curious (Black) (1970). Writer: Robert Kanigher. Art: Werner Roth. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Lois uses a science fictional machine to turn herself black for 24 hours. The story, scripted by Robert Kanigher, gives an outstanding look inside the prejudices faced by black Americans. Comics rarely get much credit among critics for the great mass of social commentary they contain. Kanigher had written tales with Civil Rights themes as far back as "Challenge of the Robot Knight" (1952), in Mystery in Space.
The title playfully refers to two 1967 Swedish films with intriguing titles, I Am Curious (Blue) and I Am Curious (Yellow) - blue and yellow are the colors of the Swedish flag.