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CSBG Archive

Drawing Crazy Patterns – Who Are You REALLY, Superman?

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Here is an archive of all the patterns we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today and yesterday spotlight patterns involving Lois Lane. Today, we examine Lois’ famous obsession with finding out Superman’s secret identity. Here are five examples!


Lois Lane #11 was my best friend. I could have done this feature on JUST that issue, as Lois Lane tries five different times to prove Clark Kent is Superman (or maybe just four times, I forget). I decided to just go with three of them.

Here is the first…

I especially love how precise Lois is with her explanation for what Superman did. I guess she DOES have a pretty good deductive mind!

Next, we have a pretty disturbing scene…

“I’ll just knock you guys out so I can keep my privacy.”

And I love how Lois and Clark are caught in this high stakes game of chicken. Poor Jimmy! It’s like, “Shut up, Jimmy, Lois and I are mind-screwing each other! Sorry you got caught up in this.”

And, finally, once again, Lois figures out EXACTLY what Superman did.

After that tension, the issue ends on a pretty lackluster resolution…

A balloon? Seriously?

And I love how Superman ends the issue basically, like, “Oh Lois, how I enjoy messing with you.” That was actually a fairly healthy part of Lois and Clark’s relationship back then. They “burned” each other a lot.

In Lois Lane #22, Lois gets X-Ray glasses.

She then figures she has to PROVE it to herself…

I love how the stuff with the glasses was just total superfluous stuff just for Clark to mess with Lois’ head. His excuse the whole time was “Superman lent me his costume” and yet he goes through this elaborate routine where he steals her X-Ray glasses just so that he can fool her into thinking she’s totally outed him as Superman.

In Superman #128, we see Lois be the bigger jerk. She wins a contest that involves a movie company doing stuff for her. She uses this prize to pull a total mind-screw on Superman.

Really, Lois? REALLY? You’re going to mess with the guy’s head and get his hopes up just to learn his secret identity? Man, that’s messed up.

It continues for awhile until it works…

Of course, Superman fools her, with a little help from his ol’ Bat-buddy…


I love that Golden and Silver Age electromagnets were always giant horseshoe magnets.

This is why I never liked Lois Lane, until Erica Durance played her on Smallville. Too much of a snoop.

Good deductive but deeply disturbed mind.
The first part did bring to mind the Dr Manhattan bit about causing cancer to your nearest and dearest, if he is bombarding the scissors with x-rays of such intensity that it fuses metal, there’d be some major radiation damage on the pretty hand that holds them…

Great stuff, Brian.

I am always amazed at how many people miss the fairly obvious subtext to this stuff, which is that Lois and Superman are flirting. I feel badly for poor Jimmy. It is always awkward to be the third person in that conversation. He pulled that thankless duty for a few decades.

Some people complain that Superman was a dick back in those times. But come on! Here you are keeping the world safe, all you ask is for some privacy, and the very woman you love constantly tries to expose you!? I’d punk her too indeed!

Btw, I see that back in those stories Superman was still using “the heat of his X-ray vision” to heat things up; later on Heat Vision would be a power of its own for him (less radioactive maybe?)

Also, what kind of “ultra sonic” waves were Jimmy’s watch suppose to emit that not only they could get out of an AIRTIGHT vault, but reach Superman anywhere on Earth?

Of course, these stories were aimed at kids, they weren’t meant to make any more sense than Archie’s zany plots to date both Betty AND Veronica at the same time. Still, even as a kid I called shenanigans on many of them! Good fun anyways! :)

There was a fun story in one of the more recent issues of Astro City, where the Superman-analogue grows so tired of his companion attempting to expose his secret identity that he just up and leaves.

Alas, we could have used the Spectrum People during Blackest Night …

Yeah that astro city story was good. I think it was in the local heroes mini-series. Plus lets not forget in Irredeemable how the Plutonian reacted when his secret identity got out!!

Wait just a damn minute. Is Lois seriously going to a masquerade ball dressed as a blind woman?

The next year she was planning to rent a wheelchair for the ball but then compassion was invented.

Although if she doesn’t see anything wrong with constantly trying to out her city’s hero, she wouldn’t have a problem with a blind woman costume.

And lest we forget, she was also curious (black), so maybe she was again going for a new angle to get the life of different people.

Other ideas Lois had were to dress as a homeless guy or maybe as that missing little girl on all the milk cartons–the kid’s parents are going to be there, so she thought it would be a hoot.

I don’t know people just assume Superman even HAS a secret identity. He doesn’t wear a mask or anything; who’s to say he isn’t Superman 24/7?

Did Lois order those X-Ray glasses from an ad in a comic book? I always wondered how well those worked.

I wonder why Batman is so comfortable being carried around by Superman. Makes you wonder what they discuss mid-flight.

“So…been hitting the gym?”

Lois’ blind woman costume WAS definitely weird, but they at least explained it in the story. She was chosen to a model for promotional posters for the event (as Lois IS quite the catch). So she went dressed like that as part of the campaign. Why they couldn’t find an ACTUAL blind model, well, that is not explained.

Yeah, Dean, and actually, I think people are slightly misremembering the Astro City story. Busiek was not knocking the Lois Lane character. In that story, the Superman character literally did not understand the concept of flirting, which is why he freaked out. So Busiek was not blaming the Lois character in that story.

not that it necessarily applies to Lois, but I really like the idea that no one even thinks Superman has a secret identity – where did that take originate exactly?

Byrne’s Superman, I believe.

sequential fart

July 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Terrific stuff. The Weisinger era of Superman reminds me – of all things – of Krazy Kat in its formal variations on the endlessly repeated theme of erotic blockage.

PS – Thanks very much indeed for posting these. I’d like to poiltely suggest though that any work reproduced like this should be prefixed with artist / writer credits. Thanks.

Most people understand well enough that Superman and Lois are flirting. I think what gets people to raise eyebrows is Superman and Lois being locked into the oneupmanship of the flirting stage of the relationship for 10 years or more. It stops being humourous and becomes dysfunctional. But that is superhero comics for you: when you can’t change or age the characters too much, you end up with this kind of stuff.

Astro City wasn’t a cricitism of Lois or Superman, but it perhaps illuminated the whole unhealthy nature of their relationship, by exaggerating the negative aspects.

@ Brian Cronin:

I wasn’t actually referencing ASTRO CITY, since I got a little lost on the reading order during my sabbatical from comics. It sounds terrific. Do you know where I could track it down.

Brainy Pirate

July 30, 2011 at 7:23 pm

It never occurred to me until I saw the one with the volcano that these attempts to out Clark as Supes are great ways for writers to show off their own cleverness: How will Clark save the day without revealing his identity? The plot device allows writers to show how smart Clark is and adds real suspense to a story that might otherwise lack it.

Great stuff!

I wasn’t actually referencing ASTRO CITY, since I got a little lost on the reading order during my sabbatical from comics. It sounds terrific. Do you know where I could track it down.

Oh yeah, I know that, I just found it interesting that your point perfectly explains what Busiek was going for in his issue (which was quite terrific – it was Astro City: Local Heroes #2). And I think people often miss Busiek’s take on the dynamic when they re-tell the story (often it is re-told as “What if Superman got sick of Lois’ constant attempts at finding out his secret identity.” That is certainly present in the story, but it is nowhere near that level of “Boy, Lois sure was annoying!” that it has been remembered as having).

Considering how often she endangered herself and others, Lois should’ve tried a simpler approach. How about “accidentally” pricking him with a pin or ripping open his shirt? If Superman managed one of his extemporaneous solutions–e.g., “The pin didn’t break my skin because I happened to be wearing flesh-colored steel gloves”–it would be no harm, no foul. She’d be free to “accidentally” assault him again, and again.

I wonder why Batman is so comfortable being carried around by Superman. Makes you wonder what they discuss mid-flight.

“So…been hitting the gym?”

That’s funny…. I was thinking the exact same thing. I mean, could you imagine modern-day Batman (even in his Bruce Wayne identity) being flown around by Superman cradled in his arms like he is in that last panel? I wish Jim Lee would do that in the Justice League reboot… I would laugh my ass off.

On the “Astro City: Local Heroes #2″ thing — here’s my take on it.

As I recall, the Superman-analog in question (“Atomicus”) was literally just a few years old at the time of the big blow-up between him and that nosy young woman.

He’d been created out of thin air, as far as anyone could tell, or else was totally amnesiac (if he had existed as any sort of conscious entity, with or without a physical body, before making his big debut). The Lois-analog had totally failed to consider the implications of that situation, even though she was aware of his origin story (since she had been right there when it happened).

In other words, it had never consciously occurred to her that a guy with no previous life experience might, in effect, be a shy little boy with precious little in the way of social skills for romantic boy/girl interaction. The fact that he looked like a good-looking grown-up, and had incredible powers to let him do all sorts of things for the good of the general public, was irrelevant to his actual level of psychological development!

Atomicus, as we learned at the end, was consciously aware that he didn’t know everything a person needed to know in order to “be a man” — so he’d been planning to gradually ease into it over time in his hastily-invented secret identity as the Lois-analog’s co-worker at City Hall until he felt he had finally assimilated the ground rules of basic human interaction, etc. Then, and only then, would he be ready to explore what “love” was all about, although he was already very fond of the Lois-analog and wanted to end up with her when he had a clue what he was doing.

But the Lois-analog, who was a few decades older than he was, definitely was not “wiser.” She had never even considered that there might be a serious learning curve here, and that maybe she should try to be helpful and patient with what was really an innocent child at the moment — as opposed to assuming he wanted her to take a more adversarial position in constantly trying to “expose his secret identity” to prove how frightfully clever she was, and thus (I think) “be worthy of his love,” or whatever twisted mind games she thought he was playing.

I believe Busiek has actually said, on our friendly neighborhood CBR forums, that he figures Silver Age Superman was in a similar situation of “psychologically a prepubescent little boy who just happens to be trapped in the handsome body of the strongest man on Earth,” or words to that general effect. (I”m paraphrasing from memory; not quoting Busiek verbatim.)

A little boy who’s in the body of Superman . . . I know I’ve seen that somewhere before!

Tungsten Man — well, the concept of explicitly saying that a young boy is in control of the full-grown body of the world’s Mightiest Mortal goes at least as far back as Billy Batson, aka Captain Marvel, in the Golden Age. Was that what you had in mind? :)

[…] WHEN SUPERMAN WAS CRAZY FUNNY, NOT JUST CRAZY. goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/07/30/dra… […]

I love the fact that Lois doesn’t even bat an eye to the fact that Superman and Clark look exactly the same when Clark isn’t wearing glasses and has the costume on.

“I don’t know why people just assume Superman even HAS a secret identity . He doesn’t wear a mask or anything; who’s to say he isn’t Superman 24/7 ?”

Would you think his mother named him “Superman” ? I could turn your question around on you and ask “Why wouldn’t he put on a blue business suit and a pair of glasses and pose as a mild — mannered newspaper reporter ?”

Tore the peak off a mountain and corked an active volcano? Littering the skies with exploded balloons? Ripping up the landscape of the moon? Why isn’t Greenpeace all over Superman’s ass? He’s like a one-man ecological nightmare. There’s a Patterns topic for you: Superman’s Crimes Against Nature.

Issue 11 is Lois at her smug/crabby Lucy-Van-Pelt-iest; she even says “good grief”. I love “Wake up you fool!” Who talks like that? If I were Clark I would have sealed the deal after waking up with some BS about being awake when Superman came and opened the vault door. “Wow, what a great guy! He even played a game of checkers with me. Oh, you should have seen it, Lois, we had a grand old time! Jim, I think he’s got himself a new best pal. I let him win!” “Yeah, right. Do you EVER take that damn hat off, Clark?”

I LOLled quite a bit at “that old secret identity gleam”. That’s one of his powers we don’t get to see often enough: super-hanging-a-lampshade-on-it.

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