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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

LOIS, MANSPLAINED

Since I remarked in the previous essay that I thought Lois Lane was a more intrinsically "mythic" figure than Jimmy Olsen, I'll provide a little justification of that statement here.

In the first official "mythcomics" post here, I only touched upon the significance of Lois Lane in passing, but I've noted elsewhere that she's highly significant as the "chosen bride" of Jerry Siegel's "Christ with Muscles," no matter how far in the future their unison might take place. This 2014 essay provides a refutation to Noah Berlatsky's rhetoric of victimization-- i.e., that Lois was always being maltreated by the main hero-- and shows that, even though she had her share of faults, she was on the whole an admirable character, and something of a "tough cookie" for her time.




In the next day or so, I'll devote a mythcomic essay to one particular Lois tale, and it comes from DC's long-running LOIS LANE comic book, which presented a somewhat different version of the character. Whereas the comic-book Jimmy Olsen was strongly modeled on the radio/television character-- even if comics-Olsen showed some significant departures-- Lois seems to have been remodeled less with reference to the "Adventures of Superman" TV show and more in line with what editor Mort Weisinger thought would sell to his readers. There's a fair amount of anecdotal evidence to the effect that SUPERMAN'S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE was more oriented toward female juvenile readers, and even though all of the raconteurs on the title were male, it seems a safe bet to say that they re-modeled Lois in line with their perceptions regarding feminine soap-opera, albeit adjusted for a juvenile audience. If Lois had held on to any of her streetwise toughness and courage during the period when Jerry Siegel was drummed out of the DC ranks, that last remnant of that previous characterization was well and truly gone by 1958, when the magazine was launched (following a tryout in the SHOWCASE magazine, by the bye). Lois wasn't seen to slug anyone, as in the panel above, until about 1966.

Perhaps because Lois, unlike Jimmy, was viewed as a full adult, there are more adult concerns in the stories, albeit filtered through a juvenile lens. Many of the stories are just as silly as the ones in the JIMMY OLSEN title, but there is a greater propensity to allude to Lois as a mythic concatenation of womanly traits. This often reflected negative characterizations typical of men's humor, like accusations of overweening feminine curiosity-- but even these retain a certain larger-than-life quality. In the remainder of this essay, I'll briefly touch on some of these myth-kernels, though with the caveat that nearly none of them qualify as mythcomics.

Though the character of the Weisinger Lois was a little too hard-nosed to go in for occult matters, I find it symbolically significant that the first issue of her series attributes to her a "witchy" power. Note Superman's apparent fear of having his powers surpassed.




Here's the first of many issues in which Lois is "body-shamed" in some way. Some find these sort of tropes to be representative of the whole series, which is certainly throwing out the baby with the bathwater.



Though Lois isn't really any sort of tough jungle-babe in this story, it's amusing to see her take a leaf from the book of Sheena. Some will recall that Sheena preceded Superman in being the first major comic-book character published, even though the jungle-queen's sales didn't take off until after the Man of Steel became a superstar.





One of the first stories really condemning Lois for the sin of curiosity. The big giveaway? Lois has the head of a cat, or rather, she thinks she does, having been given a post-hypnotic suggestion to punish her for an act of intrusive curiosity. It's interesting that the hypnotist in this case is female, though.




Weisinger recycles a trope used by Siegel in an earlier story, in which Lois was supposed to get powers from a super-blood transfusion.




Jimmy Olsen's relationship with Superman never lent itself to stories like this one.




Second of a two-part story in which Lois marries Luthor and spawns an evil son. However, he later marries into the family of Superman and Lana. Ah, if only Weisinger had edited Greek plays!




"The Snoopiest Girl in History" reveals that Lois traveled in time and gave rise to the legend of Pandora.




Lois again travels in time, gets stuck on Krypton, and decides it's a good idea to steal Superman's father from Superman's mother. Only at the end of the story does she realize that she might have ended up becoming the mother of the man she always wanted to marry. Writer Otto Binder must have been digging into his Freud the day he scripted this one.



Lois has the distinction of re-introducing Catwoman to the DC universe after the villainess had been exiled for eight years, probably because of her being mentioned in SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Sadly, no actual catfight takes place between the two Golden Age icons, though Lois does get to take a walk on the wildcat side by assuming Catwoman's identity.




"Shock story of the year," indeed. It's hard to believe no one at DC knew that Joe Shuster had done not entirely dissimilar work for a 1954 skin magazine.




Aside from a reprint issue, here's the last issue edited by Weisinger. Appropriate, since she starts off as a witch and ends up as the bride of Satan.







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