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CSBG Archive

When We First Met #30

Each day in June you’ll get an entry showing you the first appearance of seemingly minor characters, phrases, objects or events that later became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!'” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of what I’ve featured so far.

Today we examine Lois Lane and her obsession with proving Superman is Clark Kent!

Enjoy!

First time Lois Lane showed an interest in Superman’s true identity

Oddly enough, for the first TWO YEARS of Superman’s existence, Lois Lane never seemed to show any interest in what Superman’s “true identity” was. This changed in 1940’s Action Comics #25, where she is interested enough to go to a hypnotist to find out…

The hypnotist, of course, is a bad guy. By the end of the issue, Lois has forgotten all about her initial interest in Superman’s identity.

Later that year, though, in Superman #7, she once again expresses an interest in knowing who Superman really is…


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First time Lois Lane considered Clark Kent was Superman

In 1941’s Superman #11, Lois thinks about Clark as possibly being Superman for the first time, and oddly enough, it is CLARK who gives her the idea!!

Later in the issue, when Lois has basically moved on, once again it is Superman himself who tips her back on to the scent!


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First time Lois set out to prove Clark Kent was Superman

1942’s Superman #17 finally set up the familiar plot situation we’re all so used to nowadays, Lois trying to prove Clark is Superman.

It all begins with an incident in the subway…

The answer, caption box, is no, she will not!

When she goes home that night, she thinks about it…

(this goes into a TWO AND A HALF page spread of just Superman highlights. It is like the comic book version of those TV clip shows)

The next day, Lois awakes to find some unsettling news, which basically makes up her mind for good…

Superman is forced to do a bunch of tricks in the issue to keep Lois from discovering his secret (including making a dummy version of Clark out of rags)

but as you’ll see, even some super speed trickery doesn’t fully get her off of his scent…

and by the end of the issue, we have pretty much introduced a new status quo for Superman comics.

A status quo that would last the next three decades, really.
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Feel free to send in ideas for future debuts I should feature here to bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

49 Comments

It’s great to see Superman using super-speed to conceal his identity so early. The trick I always loved seeing him do back in the Silver & Bronze Ages was when he’d change clothes back and forth at super-speed so that Clark and Superman appeared to be standing in the same room having a conversation with each other. (The Flash probably did that sort of thing too, but I particularly remember Superman doing it.)

I sure hope Dan DiDio isn’t trying to bring this schtick back.

Oh, and I’m sure a lot of folks have seen this already, but this is a good time to mention that Kate Beaton’s take on Lois Lane’s constant attempts to uncover Superman’s identity is pretty brilliant: http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=305

I may be crazy, but I seem to recall a Golden Age Superman story where Lois and Clark go to see a fictional movie about Superman. In the movie, they show Superman changing to Clark Kent and back several times. Clark kept having to find ways to block Lois’ view of the screen during those parts.

Which means that everyone in the world EXCEPT Lois knows his secret identity.

That can’t be right, can it?

Mutt, I remember that too actually.

Regarding the last panel, is Kent on a last name only basis with Perry White. “Here’s the expose, White”, “Here’s your coffee, White”, “Let me move your radiator by myself…White”. Seems confrontational.

Seriously does working in a busy newsroom really a good cover for Superman? Seriously!

It’s daft. And can Superman get some brains this time in the reboot?

The Mutt: It sounds like they may have been plugging either the live-action movie serial or the Fleischer cartoons., depending on when that comic came out.

Astro City had a particularly good take on this as well; it’s called Shining Armor. Google tells me it’s issue #2 of the Astro City: Local Heroes miniseries… and my memory tells me that stories like it are why I love Astro City so much!

[…] get an entry showing you the first appearance of seemingly minor characters, phrases, objects or events that later became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance […]

I miss seeing so many words in a comic book.

Fnny I’ve been going through the Superman Chronicles noting the first time different cliches popped up.

I’d love to see an article showing the first appearance of different powers and abilities. Sure we have strength and toughness in Action Comics 1, but charting the appearances of X-ray vision, flying in space, time travel etc would be fun.

Movie about Superman with his identity: That’s from Superman #19, “Superman, Matinee Idol”, reprinted:
in Superman (DC, 1939 series) #183 (January 1966) [retitled there as “Superman, Cartoon Hero!”]
in Superman from the Thirties to the Seventies (Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971 series) #nn (1971)
in Superman from the Thirties to the Eighties (Crown Publishers, Inc., 1983 series) #nn (1983)
in Superman Archives (DC, 1989 series) #5 (2000)
See http://www.comics.org/issue/2494/#31893

In the first of those reprints it was labeled as “Our very first imaginary story”.

Thanks, Allen. It must have been the 1966 reprint I’m remembering.

I love the internet.

Aha! Well, Superman #19 came out in 1942, and the Superman cartoons ran in movie theaters from 1941 to 1943. So it’s probably a reference to those, his first appearances on the silver screen.

- Clark calls the desk to give them the scoop on Superman’s rescue of the train, but what about the actual story? He just gave the headline…

– It’s not like Superman’s not guilty for driving Lois into suspecting his secret, with all these clues.

– If Clark was trying so hard to keep his secret identity by not rushing into Lois’s aid, why not just let her die right there and then, save himself lots of trouble? Oh, right, the writers are going to make Lois a dummy for the next couple of decades.

– “If anything happens to Lois, I’d have to join the ranks of the unemployed!” WTH? Didn’t Superman do all of this superheroing for free? Surely he didn’t mean that Clark won’t have a job, because he would’ve become the Planet’s leading reporter after Lois was gone.

I would love if more people burst into rooms and asked if the occupant dabbled in amateur theatricals.

So when didn she find out his identity?

Lois (the Earth-Two one anyway, that is, the one seen in the comics above) found out Superman’s true identity in the story where they married (I think it was a special issue of Action Comics from the 70s but set in the 1940s). I’m sure Cronin can give you the exact issue.Ironically, she found out AFTER she had married Clark, since he had amnesia (courtesy of The Wizard) at the time and didn’t remember his own secret identity!

I love that interaction between early Lois and Clark; while she spurned him, he still hit on her agressively, unlike the more timid versions of Clark’s attempts later on.

I too would love to see the first uses of some of Superman’s powers. First flight is obvious, but I think Heat Vision was first him using “the heat of my X-ray vision” for something. Superbreath may have been him just using his regular breath to cool something by blowing on it. And there’s a rumor of a story where he CHANGED his face (!) but if it exist it must be truly obscure!

Nobody draws Clark or Lois like Joe Shuster, man.

Funny you should say that, PJ, since each of the four stories above are drawn by different artists – none of which were Joe Shuster. ;)

Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, Leo Nowak and John Sikela drew them, respectively.

Really? I knew the later ones weren’t Shuster, but I figured the first entry was.

I don’t see Boring’s style there, however, I’m sure everyone was ghost drawing to emulate Shuster’s style for the sake of consistency.

Let me restate then: The simplicity of the lines always works best for Superman. Haven’t seen too many others outside Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke accomplish the same beauty.

More or less, after the first two years of the series, Shuster did not do a lot of artwork himself for the comic books.

And sadly, it wasn’t because he was a rich man kicking back on the royalties. :(

And sadly, it wasn’t because he was a rich man kicking back on the royalties. :(

No, it wasn’t quite that insidious at the time yet. He simply had an army of ghost artists working in his studio.

“Superman, Matinee Idol” was a comic book sort of-sequel to the first Fleischer Brothers Superman cartoon, featuring the Mad Scientist character from the toon (the only time one of the created-for-cartoon characters appeared in the comic books)
Metafiction before the phrase was coined!

No, it wasn’t quite that insidious at the time yet. He simply had an army of ghost artists working in his studio.

Even then, though, he was having eyesight problems, so it wasn’t like he just didn’t feel like doing the work.

But yeah, he was being taken care of pretty well, financially, back then (you could argue he should have been making even MORE money, but he WAS doing well). He just couldn’t devote the time to the comic books due to his eyesight (plus they had to put out a LOT of Superman comics), so he eventually chose to spend his time on the comic strip instead, which he felt was more prestigious.

Travis Pelkie

June 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Yeah, just look at that sweet angle of Lois on the page where Superman makes the rag dummy of himself. Wow.

So, where does that (never printed/discovered by Mark Waid) story that Siegel and Shuster did that revealed the ID to Lois fit in? I thought that was from about 1940, but a lot of this doesn’t show up until after that, it seems.

The Mutt… That story you’re referring to where Lois and Clark watch a movie was an “Imaginary Story” so it doesn’t count. It was reprinted in the Superman From the 30s to the 70s hardbound book that came out in the early 1970s, I think. I was around 8 years old when I first read it, and I thought the same thing, too. Even the ones who made the movie knew Superman’s real identity before anyone in the theater did!

Speaking of which, When was the first time a story was referred to by DC as an Imaginary Story?

I’m glad I’m not the only who was reminded of that great Astro City story.

Even then, though, he was having eyesight problems, so it wasn’t like he just didn’t feel like doing the work.

Yeah, I’m glad you added that. Hope it didn’t sound like I was accusing him of being a Bob Kane.

I also immediately remembered the Astro City story with “Atomicus” that deconstructs the Clark/Lois/Superman dynamic into a tragedy of miscommunication. Brilliant, brilliant story.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Siegel & Shuster intended to reveal Superman’s identity to Lois in Superman #8. If I have the chronology right, then the first item is kind of a set-up. The items after would be a work-around after their preferred story was rejected.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that Siegel & Shuster intended to reveal Superman’s identity to Lois in Superman #8. If I have the chronology right, then the first item is kind of a set-up. The items after would be a work-around after their preferred story was rejected.

Yeah, that sounds quite possible, Dean.

Lois (the Earth-Two one anyway, that is, the one seen in the comics above) found out Superman’s true identity in the story where they married (I think it was a special issue of Action Comics from the 70s but set in the 1940s).

Action Comics #484, the 40th anniversary issue.

Travis Pelkie

June 29, 2011 at 1:34 am

Just think if they had revealed the identity to Lois. Would she have become the Margo to Clark’s Lamont Cranston? Or the Nora to Clark’s Nick Charles? The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Is that story that revealed the identity (from the ’40s, that had been in the drawer for years) floating around on the internet anywhere? Be interesting to see how it handled the reveal.

Travis, I believe that is the same story that revealed the existence of Kryptonite in the comics. It has been known for years and is even featured in the excellent book Steranko’s Story of Comics.

I’m fairly certain that I saw it discussed recently in the internet, perhaps in a previous Comic Book Legend Revealed.

In another note, am I the only one seeing (and enjoying) a playful vibe from Supes in the strips above? It almost feels like he and Lois were teasing each other, pretending that they did not know / did not want to reveal the full truth just for the fun of it.

Travis Pelkie

June 29, 2011 at 3:46 am

Hmm, maybe you’re right, Luis. I know Cronin featured it on the Legends, but I don’t remember which one (cue Cronin with a link :) ) I do remember now that bit about Kryptonite coming to comics in it.

Maybe people knew about it for years, but the story itself was “lost” for years, because I *swear* I remember that Mark Waid was involved in actually FINDING the story, which would have happened after Steranko’s book.

taptaptap — cue that link, please?

@ Travis Pelkie:

The story is titled “K Metal from the Planet Krypton”. Someone tracked down Siegel’s script and had it illustrated. It is a terrific reminder that Jerry Siegel was a pretty terrific comic book writer.

@ Luis Dantas:

The original recipe for Lois and Clark is pretty great. They are by turns playful, competitive and flirtatious.

WOW! I had more fun reading these Superman snippets than I have reading any Superman story off the comic shelf in YEARS! This is the sort of Superman I want to read… I guess I’ll always have the old back issues to fall back on…

Reno – As I recall, that story with Clark & Lois at the movies (specifically watching one of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons) is billed as … “Our very first imaginary story!”

“And there’s a rumor of a story where he CHANGED his face (!) but if it exist it must be truly obscure!”

Yep, it exists, “The Case of the Living Trophies”. Superman #45, reprinted in Superman #251: http://www.comics.org/issue/5742/#59043 .

And the K-Metal from Krypton is here: http://superman.nu/k-metal/splash.php (newly drawn), with links to the known original pages here: http://superman.nu/k-metal/credits-1940.php . Some pages were known to exist by 1970 (when a small reproduction of four pages appeared in Jim Steranko’s History of Comics, Volume One), but Waid found the whole script in a file cabinet at DC in 1988.

That “Our very first imaginary story!” blurb wasn’t part of the story originally; it was first added to a late 1960s reprint. (The concept of the “Imaginary Story” didn’t really coalesce until the late 1950’s.)

[quote] I too would love to see the first uses of some of Superman’s powers. First flight is obvious, but I think Heat Vision was first him using “the heat of my X-ray vision” for something. Superbreath may have been him just using his regular breath to cool something by blowing on it. And there’s a rumor of a story where he CHANGED his face (!) but if it exist it must be truly obscure! [/quote]

First flight? That’s the hardest to figure out, most debated Superman aspect of all. The problem is that he didn’t just one day decide to fly. He was always leaping around. And sometimes his jumps didn’t make much sense. He could change direction in the middle of a jump. Is that flight? And he could leap in such a way that he was projecting himself horizontally. Is that flight? The stories never make it clear exactly what he’s doing to propel himself from place to place, so it is unclear if he’s leaping or flying. It is often implied that he is leaping, but often in ways that don’t make much sense unless he’s actually flying.

And, yes, he changed his face at least a couple of times in stories that are reprinted in Archives volumes.

First flight would make a fun column. I know that up through the 50s he was drawn as jumping but we can also look at caption boxes and lists of powers for a definite indication that he is now flying.

Brian interested?

On Superman flying, I have always preferred it when there was some nod toward the means of propulsion. The old George Reeves TV Series had him take a running jump, which (while a bit silly) at least explained how he was moving forward. The floating Superman has always bugged me.

I love these early renditions of the characters.

I grew up on Wayne Boring supes and Kurt Schaffenburger Lois and hated the art styles, particularly WB’s barrel-chested, disinterested-looking Superman.

These earlier stories show a much prettier Lois and a more dynamic, purposeful Clark and engaged-in-the-moment Superman.

I never understood Lois’s obsession with finding out Supermans “True Identity”. By that I mean, why she even assumed that Superman wasn’t his “True” and only identity. He’s an alien, with super powers, and doesn’t wear a mask. Why would you assume he has a secret “human” identity? I wouldn’t assume he needs a job to pay for an apartment, as he likely would just live in the fortress of solitude. If you knew about the fortress of solitude, if not you would figure something like that, or that he lives on the moon and watches the earth from above, or something.

Batman wore a mask and was assumed to be human (by most). It makes sense to assume he has a secret identity.

Did anyone ever wonder what Silver Surfers “True Identity” was? What human he pretended to be when he wasn’t Silver Surfering? No, because there’s no reason to believe he needed a secret human identity or a job.

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