Comic Book Legends Revealed #310
Welcome to the three hundredth and tenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, we discuss how DC forced the Superman creators to make Lois Lane a “tasty dish,” how Daredevil #1 being late led to the Avengers being born and learning whether Howard the Duck made a dent in the 1976 United States Preisdential Election!
Click here for an archive of the previous three hundred and nine.
COMIC LEGEND: DC forced Siegel and Shuster to “prettify” Lois Lane in the early 1940s.
I have spoken in the past about how much more involved editorial got with the Superman books as time went by (and the character became more and more popular).
An interesting (and somewhat embarrassing) example of this is the following letter that Whitney Ellsworth wrote to Jerry Siegel in February of 1941 in reference to Lois Lane.
Murray and I have gone over the magazine stuff, and we find that a great deal hasn’t been done to make Lois look better. The roly-poly hair-do is still the same way we complained about, and why is it necessary to shade Lois’ breasts and the underside of her hair with vertical pen-lines we can’t understand. She looks pregnant. Murray [presumably Murray Boltinoff, longtime DC staffer – BC] suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be. She is much too stocky and much, MUCH too unpleasantly sexy. Please call it to the attention of Joe and his lads that the better artists in this field draw their heroines more or less by a certain formula that makes them look desirable and cute. This they do by having the hair prettily done instead of making it look like a rat’s nest. On top of this they make the face pretty – and they try to draw it in the same way every time. Then, by drawing the shoulders wider than the hips they give the girl a lisesome quality that is absent when the accent is on hips. Also, the waistline is drawn higher thant it would be in real life, and the legs are longer and slimmer. There is usually no attempt to prove pictorially that the female tummy has a certain roundness if not confinded within a girdle, nor that bosoms cast teriffic shadows by virtue of their outstanding quality. While the dames in SMILIN’ JACK may be very tasty and exciting, I certainly do not approve of them for exploitation in publications like ours. You know as well as I do what sort of censure we are always up against, and how careful we must be.
Since writing the first page of this, Mr. Jack Liebowitz has seen the artwork in question, and is extremely dissatisfied with Lois. He says that in addition to making Lois look like a witch, you have apparently dressed her out of a Montgomery Ward catalogue. He suggests Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar as likelier spots for dress-research.
Here are some samples of Lois Lane from the time period (from Superman #6)…
Ellsworth actually attached in his letter a depiction of what he thought Lois should look like (he notes that he is a better critic than he is an artist in the letter)…
And soon enough, here is what Lois began looking like (from Superman #19)…
Thanks to the Uncivil Society for hosting these intriguing historical documents (which came out during the case between DC and the Siegels).
Check out the latest Baseball Legends Revealed to learn the strange tale of how Cy Young and Amos Rusie changed the life of Zane Grey, whether Deion Sanders played professional football and baseball on the same day and discover the time Rick Honeycutt oddly hurt his forehead in a game (thereby revealing that he was cheating).
On the next page, learn how Daredevil #1 being delayed led to the creation of the Avengers!