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CSBG Archive

I Love Ya But You’re Strange – Superman will murder a guy if it gets Lois off his back

Every day this August I’ll be spotlighting strange but ultimately endearing comic stories, one a day (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of past installments of this feature.

Today we look at the lead story of Superman #139 from 1960. It was written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye. Has Superman become a Super-Merman?!?!

The issue opens with Clark and Lois going on an interview with a rich man who Lois knew back in school (first off, I love how 1970s Clark’s outfit is – you were ahead of your time, Boring!)….

Clark, as he is wont to do, then decides that he knows what is best for Lois, including who she should be in love with.

Things begin to heat up when Lori Lemaris stops by.

Even knowing it is an act to make Lois think he is into Lori, the whole pictures thing is awfully creepy. “Oh yes, thank you Lori, yes, yes, these will do me good on those long, lonely nights in the Fortress of Solitude.”

Anyhow, Lois checks in with Jimmy to see what’s up with Superman. Jimmy shows her a monitor Superman gave him where he can check in on Superman and they see Big Blue visit Lori and her people and…oh man!!!

I love how quickly Jimmy plants the thought in Lois’ head, “Hey, maybe Superman murdered the guy.”

And sure enough, Superman is soon SuperMERman…

You’d figure this would open things up for Brett, right? After all, if a woman is single then she’s obviously willing to marry some guy she hasn’t seen in years, right? Brett agrees with your solid, solid logic and proposes…

Traffic schools will often teach you that the best thing to do when your car goes into a spin is to throw your arms in the air and scream.

But wait…

Oh, Lois. “He went through an insanely elaborate plan just to get me off of his back, this must mean he wants to marry me!”


For some reason “I don’t want any pity — oh no, my car’s skidding!” really makes me laugh.

Wait, if Jimmy is in on it, why would he bring up the possibility that Superman murdered the guy?

To make Lois think that’s how badly Superman wants to be with Lori, that he could even conceivably murder her husband.

@Sean: This whole damn story makes me laugh, from the the dialog to all the poses Curt Swan does. I love that “If I can’t have Superman, I don’t want anyone!” pose of pure rejection.

These old Superman comics are a sociological goldmine.

It’s Wayne Boring this story, Jeremy, not Swan.

I love how all that drama is unfolding on the screen…the tragedy of a man has just freakin’ DIED, the guilt and angst of Superman willingly volunteering to make himself a merman and marry a woman due to a deathbed promise, the shocking revelation that the previously heroic Superman may be the type of guy who would murder an innocent rival just to marry his wife, meaning everything we knew about Superman’s moral character so far was a fraud…and Lois’s only response?

“This means the end of Superman and me!”

What a narcissist! That’s all she can think of after all that? She can’t even fake any empathy for appearance’s sake? Why do people think Iris West was the worst girlfriend of the Silver Age again?

By the way, this is great and all, but it’s missing one of my favorite Weisinger staples, the “CHOKE!” whenever a character cries.

I love the confidence of the Skipper. “Shall I order the men to stop him?” This guy doesn’t lack for ego.

“If I can’t have Superman, I don’t want any man.”

Could this possibly be a new storyline that the editors of Superman were considering where Lois hopelessly pines for Wonder Woman?

Wow, this stuff just never ends. The Lois and Superman marriage storylines seem like such a huge chunk of these old stories. I had no idea it was that bad. Kids in the 1950s and 60s really went for this stuff, huh? I wonder, could the whole womanless geek culture be traced back to boys in the 50s watching Superman act like the worst thing in the world is getting married?

It has surprised me in the last few years learning about how many of these stories there were. Especially considering how these days people seem to consider Lois some great progressive character. Sure she was a star reporter, more back in the 40s it seems to me, but she spends like 15-20 years doing everything she can to trick a man into marrying her.

As much as I love the Silver Age goofiness, if I look at these stories as a rational sourpuss, it’s REALLY hard to think of Superman as any kind of hero impressionable children should emulate. With all his powers he spends most of it dicking around with Lois: presuming life choices for her and casually manipulating her emotions with a wink and nod. Silver Age Superman kinda-sorta reminds me of a stereotypical fratboy: he’s really a good boy at heart and his crappy behavior should be excused since he’s doing it all in good ‘fun’. Might want to check into Lois’ childhood family life, though, ‘cuz she’s got that whole enabler/domestic abuse mindset going on: “on he MUST really care about me because he’s taking the time to cleverly hurt me.”

Then, I realize, yeah, stop being that rational sourpuss and enjoy it for what it’s worth. At the very least, some great unvarnished snapshots of 1950s/60s values shared with children in a disposable fiction. I like that in the Silver Age, the Comics Code Authority might have controlled sex, horror, and violence but goofiness was unbridled.

Golden Age Lois was awesome. Sure, Superman had to rescue her a lot, but that’s because she was completely fearless to the point of recklessness and would constantly run toward danger to get the scoop. You can see that in the old Fleisher cartoons as well. But yeah, I know this was written by her cocreator and all, but by this point she was a whole different kind of crazy, and stayed that way for a long time.

Might want to check into Lois’ childhood family life, though, ‘cuz she’s got that whole enabler/domestic abuse mindset going on: “on he MUST really care about me because he’s taking the time to cleverly hurt me.”

I’d do a different take on her. I think she’s a self-sabotaging manipulative narcissist herself, which is why she chases Superman so much, but passes up so many other more reasonable, loving choices. Superman fulfills two needs for her: he’s the ultimate status symbol to land, even moreso than a wealthy tycoon, because you can find more than one of those. There’s only one Superman however. Narcissists love trading up and love being associated with high-status people. The second need he fills for her excuses, what’s called self-handicapping. By claiming that she only has one true love available in her life, Superman, who is apparently a commitmentphobe and enjoys toying with her, she has an excuse for relationship failures that protects her ego. She can say, it’s not my fault none of these other relationships never go anywhere. It’s because there are obstacles getting in the way of being with my one true love, Superman. If these obstacles were cleared, I’d have a storybook life ever after. Superman’s her delusional excuse for getting out of real-world, mature relationships. The problem is never her, it’s always outside forces, supervillains, Superman’s pledge to protect the world, etc.

If she gets with a perfectly normal man with no apparent flaws, the problem is twofold: first, he’s not the best catch. As a narcissist, Lois is always looking to trade up and she knows no matter how rich and awesome a man she gets, Superman is the ultimate prize and suffering from grandiosity, that’s what she knows she deserves. Second, if she gets with a man totally devoted to her and nice and no visible flaws like commitmentphobia or supervillain enemies interfering or a pledge to protect earth, if she gets with that guy when it goes wrong, and it inevitably will as she’s a schemer, a snooper, pushy and unreasonably entitled (look how casually she expects to be saved by Superman no matter what trouble she gets into for example), she will have absolutely no one else to blame but herself. It will force her to admit that there’s something wrong with her, and as a narcissist that’s too hard for her ego to take. An unattainable goal like Superman allows her to keep blaming outside sources for her relationship failures while maintaining her grandiosity, entitlement and magical thinking issues (all hallmarks of narcissism).

Also, narcissists tend to idealize and admire most people who treat them the way they treat other people. Because on some level, the person who is the bigger narcissist is their ultimate role model, and Weisinger Superman is a supernarcissist himself.

By the way, this is specifically Weisinger Lois Lane I speak of. I think Golden Age Lois Lane and Superman have a very different dynamic, although superficially it seems similar. From what I’ve read myself, Weisinger seemed like a malignant narcissist himself and through his position of influence I think his personality and worldview ended up trickling down into the books’ worldview.

Was Lori from a different Atlantis than Aquaman? (Or did Atlanteans from the south side not have legs?)

Are you serious, Mark? They’re publishing fiction, not documented history. Different stories present different conditions on different worlds. If not, all stories would be montonously alike. The Atlantis AQUAMAN’s mother came from has a different set-up than the Atlantis presented in the Superman story. If writers didn’t use their imaginations to vary conditions, all comic book stories and science fiction movies would become so repetitious you’d soon lose interest.

EDITED TO ADD NEARLY FIVE YEARS LATER: The joke here is that I quoted Mort Weisinger’s response to a fan who had the same reaction Mark had. I e-mailed Mark back when I first wrote this comment to let him in on the joke, but it occurs to me now upon re-reading these comments that I probably should clarify the joke now for everyone.

Whoa there–this discrepancy was actually addressed in the comics, both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, and it turned out that yeah, basically they’re from different cities in the old sunken continent of Atlantis. Aquaman ruled in Poseidonis, where folks have legs, and Lori was from Tritonis, where they don’t. Sure, when these stories originally ran they were unconcerned with the different versions of Atlantis, but subsequent writers soon tried to reconcile them. (It was a plot point in an early issue of DC Comics Presents, f’rinstance.)

Ah, I just looked it up. It was DC Comics Presents #5 from 1979 that finally addressed the two Atlantises, “The War of the Undersea Cities!” And it wasn’t a plot point so much as the entire plot of the issue. I was 8 and had only been reading comics for a couple of years when that came out, and I never missed an issue of DC Comics Presents, so that would explain why the Lori/Aquaman dichotomy was one of those things that I feel like I’ve “always known.” The continuity nerd in question was Len Wein, by the way.

I didn’t know Superman was telepathic. Did he use that power very often back then?

Superman could do whatever the heck he wanted back then. Sticking to one power set would have stifled creativity.

Seriously, though, it was actually Lori who was telepathic, and I guess by then Superman knew that if he thought loudly enough at her, she’d pick it up.

Banks and steelmills? Brett needs to diversify his portfolio.

Mark, around the time of these stories DC didn’t have a tight, linewide continuity. Each family of books basically existed in their own world, with little overlap. The Jack Schiff Batman books had their own house style and universe, the Weisinger Superman books the same, the Julie Schwartz books, etc, etc. So if one line of books had its own version of Mars, the other line of books didn’t feel beholden to honor that same version. Same for Atlantis.

After Marvel came along and starting making inroads on DC’s sales dominance, DC started trying to fight back by adopting what was one of Marvel’s big draws: linewide continuity. So all the different families of books gradually began to become more and more integrated, and a lot of continuity fixes and retcons were introduced over the decades to explain the earlier “discrepancies” like what buttler described above. (Although technically they’re not really discrepancies because at the time the families of books were not considered to be sharing continuity).

People mistakenly believe based on the current state of DC comics that linewide continuity was always the norm for DC, so they see these old stories and understandably get confused.

Seriously, though, it was actually Lori who was telepathic, and I guess by then Superman knew that if he thought loudly enough at her, she’d pick it up.

Either that or between Lana Lang and Lois Lane he was just really used to (or worse, drawn to) snoopy women. Maybe that was just his “type.”

interesting that superman would have jimmy help him make Lois think he would kill some one not to mention superman deciding Lois needs to marry some other guy in the first place. talk about trying to run Lois life.

Good God I love the classics. I for one LOVE this. It’s stories like this and the Supergirl story which was recently featured in which Superman firmly states he will never marry, that have always soured me on the Clark/Lois marriage. Superman never wanted to marry Lois, sure he fell in love a couple of times with a couple a chix, but when was it that Lois became his true love? After the Chris Reeves movie? Never caught when DC made that shift. I mean this story was written by Jerry Siegel for CHRIPES SAKE!!! Ever since they got involved Superman has become superneutered. Sure he might have been a super dick but thats better then what he is now, which is a superpansy!!!

Essentially these are “Romance” comics starring a guy who flys.

Brian, your response to Mark’s seemingly innocuous comment comes across as a bit harsh. Im sure it’s not meant to be, but it’s one of those hard to interpret tone in written form things.

I am crying out for one of my fellow cultural studies scholars to do a cultural biography of Mort-Weisingerian ideas about gender, sexuality, and marriage. There is a freaking gold mine in there somewhere about how a particular kind of masculinity saw the whole world and boiled it down into a repeatable story premise.

randypan the goatboy

August 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

These stories are jaws the revenge bad…They are just awful, but i cant turn away. What ever am I going to do when august is over?…CHOKE…All i could think of when he was supermerman was how Clark Could get around that without lois catching on. great ceasars ghost…both Clark kent and Superman are mermen…is this story out there? I also loved the bit when lois said to perry…”lets ask superman’s pal jimmy olsen”..like anyone refers to him that way at the office? ” hey superman’s pal jimmy olson..lets go have lunch..awesome in its awfulness

And just think, all this was done to justify a cover with Superman as a merman.

Superman had telepathy? That’s hilarious.

Nice Silver Age story. It’s ridiculous, of course, but that was par for the course back then. They really make no sense.

Interesting analysis, T.

Yeah, it’s pretty amazing how much dysfunction is hiding not much below the surface of the “goofiness” of Silver Age Superman. In its own way, it’s as weird as some of the relationships you’d see in, say, Uncanny X-Men, with Scott and his harem of telepaths.

The difference is, Superman is supposed to be for truth, justice, and the American way…

By the way, the reason I prefer Lois to know Superman’s secret identity is precisely this. It’s hard to make them both sympathetic when she doesn’t know. I also can’t stop myself from considering Peter Parker an asshole for hiding his identity from Aunt May. JMS’s run on Spidey had some truly awful bits, but one good thing was opening my eyes for the fact that Peter should have told her years ago.

@T: I actually agree with much of your take on Lois but I wouldn’t quite go so far to say she’s a narcissist.

Pre-Crisis Lois comes across as such a nosy, manipulative harpy because she’s a product of her time written by men that are a product of their time… i.e. all versions of Lois are smart and ambitious women but are defined by the norms of that time. Prior to the concerted feminist movement of the 1960s, Lois bought into the idea that when she finds the right man to settle down with, her duty as a good American woman was to give up her public career to take care of their private home and family life. Superman was the only person worthy and unique enough for her to give up the things that made her successful in a man’s world. Her relationship with Clark was particularly strange. She never seemed to henpeck the other guys in the office or even other men she was dating in an issue (until it got too serious). She often calls him out on his cowardice. Why would she even care how manly he acted unless he was actually someone who had a viable chance with her? Her badgering of Superman/Clark Kent was a weird and distorted foreplay: if Superman/Clark really WAS all that special, he would ALWAYS come out on top in their cat-and-mouse game and thereby continue to prove that he really is the One for her. This, of course, was written by men who weren’t concerned with actively questioning the status quo and written for kids who tended to think of the opposite gender as icky with cooties. So, of course, the girl’s actions are cast in more negative tones. When Lois schemes and lies she often has the smile and angry brow of a supervillain whereas Clark/Superman has the more relaxed and patronizing smile when he does his lying (Truth and justice, indeed.)

It made sense, however, for post-Crisis Lois to NOT come across so shrewlike and to do away with the cliche of Lois seeking to prove that Clark and Superman are one and the same. With feminism more established, the default idea that marriage means the end of a woman’s public life. Love was not as much of a danger to Lois’ career and competence so she didn’t strive to prove Clark was worth the sacrifice. She could write novels and win Pulitzer Prizes instead. Her marriage was a nice demonstration that it was just as possible for a woman to be in a committed relationship and still be an effective contributor to the greater society.

I think Kurt Busiek’s story in Astro City Local Heroes with Irene Merryweather and Atomicus standing in for Lois and Superman was a great exploration of that idea and I was particularly touched by all the stuff that happened after she messed things up with Atomicus: her subsequent marriage and the people she inspired and was a hero to.

“To make Lois think that’s how badly Superman wants to be with Lori, that he could even conceivably murder her husband.”

I understand what his saying it does, but what I’m asking is, why? They’ve already got a plan setup whereby Superman is fake-marrying the mermaid; they don’t actually need Jimmy to make the preposterous (and immediately dismissed) accusation.

Unless it’s there to try and fool the reader; I don’t know what’s in the missing pages — I’m assuming from the text summary that it’s explicit that Clark is doing *something* to get them together, but not specifically what he’s doing until the reveal at the end.

Does “Brett Rand” have a chaffeur named “Cato”? And an uncle who was the only Texas Ranger left after a shootout?

I like how Rand is bragging about his riches to Lois. “Yeah, that island? I own it. And I gots 5 banks, and and 10 steel mills, and and this really cool yacht and and cars and stuff…You should really marry me!”

No one’s brought up how Perry is willing to sell out and do an interview with the biggest advertiser. That’s a little ethically iffy, I’d say.

Of course, all these people were willing to help out with this elaborate hoax to “outwit” Lois instead of Superman just “manning up” and telling Lois what he tells her at the end, putting duty before love.

Superman is such a jerk but these old stories are really awesome are read now

No sacrifice is too big to get rid of crazy stalker silver age Lois Lane…

Superman had the best girlfriends. The home town honey, the street wise gal, and the mermaid.

“I think Kurt Busiek’s story in Astro City Local Heroes with Irene Merryweather and Atomicus standing in for Lois and Superman was a great exploration of that idea” Too true, too true. LOVED that story, it truly is one of my favorite Supermaqn stories.

Wow! I realize that stories such as this were published half a century ago. But I cannot help thinking that, by modern standards, Lois Lane totally comes across as an absolutely obsessed, delusional, mentally unbalanced stalker. If she was written this way today, well, um, she’d be Jean Loring!

Superman had telepathy? Yes, he was the Martian Manhunter in disguise.

My favorite line:
“Hmmm. I wonder how Lois will feel about a handsome multi-millionaire proposing to her?”

Good question, Clark. I wonder how the poor thing will hold up under such a difficult trauma?

Other thoughts:
“Different stories present different conditions on different worlds. If not, all stories would be montonously alike. … If writers didn’t use their imaginations to vary conditions, all comic book stories and science fiction movies would become so repetitious you’d soon lose interest.”
I can only imagine that this was written as a tribute to Silver Age goofiness. Mr. Cronin couldn’t *possibly* believe this to be true (or, even more disturbing, he has no knowledge of any literature, film, etc. that’s *not* genre because it deals with a world, our own, where conditions don’t vary and stories have yet to become so repetitious and “montonously alike” that the audience has lost interest.)

People here keep calling Lois a stalker. I don’t think they’re wrong but how close did Superman have to be following Lois to be able to stop the collision of her car with a truck *the next lane over*?

Loved Michael P’s comments about how all this was done to justify a cover with Superman as a merman. (Sorry, super-merman….) People look back with such nostalgia on the Silver Age stuff and I get that, I really do, but I think they forget, or refuse to admit, how godawful some of it is. This, to me, is an example of the worst offender. It really sticks out when you read, say, the World’s Finest Showcase books, that DC editorial’s favorite trick back then was to commission some kind of “shocking” cover and then come up with a contrived, silly, meaningless way to justify the cover. (“Why is Batman marrying Lois Lane while Robin has turned into a caveman? Oh, and Superman is, let’s say, 20 feet tall. And a kitten.”)
Looking back, it’s not that it’s hard to see how Marvel ate DC’s lunch, it’s more hard to see why it took so long for *someone* to do it.

People here keep calling Lois a stalker. I don’t think they’re wrong but how close did Superman have to be following Lois to be able to stop the collision of her car with a truck *the next lane over*?

Oh I agree, they’re both crazy.

Remember, there was a good reason these stories from the late ’50s through the late ’60s were ridiculous: Backlash from the fervor stirred up by people like Dr. Frederic Wertham and the creation of the Comic Code Authority. So the heavy use of actual crime and violence had to be cut back immensely.

Matty & T: I’m loving reading both your interpretations on Lois’ behaviour and character. I don’t think I’ve ever give her motivations quite so much thought. Some really fun thinking you’ve both put in here! I’m gonna keep some of your thoughts in mind when I read what are sure to be other Superman entries to this theme! Well done!

I remember reading some Silver Age Superman stories as a kid (library books). I remember hating his guts because he pulled crap like this. I found absolutely nothing amusing about a guy who uses his powers to play tricks on his friends to teach them a lesson or because it was “for their own good”. But viewed as stories about sociopaths (Lois and Jimmy are just as bad), they’re good for a laugh.

Lorrie, you probably know that there’s a whole website devoted to these kinds of Silver Age stories called, appropriately, “Superman is a dick.”
Let’s just look at some of the examples here:
– How about asking your ex’s husband to make a video where he pretends to die and *beg you* to marry his wife?
– Or putting on the fake merman tail (sorry, super-merman tail…) and saying with a straight face, “It is I, Super-merman, calling to you, Lori! Come to me!”
– To add to it, saying to a tearful Lois Lane, “Lori and I will often think of you in our *FORTRESS OF HAPPINESS* in Atlantis. [wait for it…..] You’ve been a good friend.” YES! Her sense of self-worth is super-crushed!!!
– Topping it off, he explains the whole thing. Doesn’t apologize for the trauma he causes. Explains.

There are rappers shocked by the misogyny in this story…

Looks like Steve Ditko at times… and not in a good way….

None of you noticed poor Lori doesn’t even get to speak.

Funniest panel to me: The one where Perry’s talking to Lois, wondering if Superman’s “up to something special,” and Lois says–to Perry–that *SHE* will check with “Jimmy Olsen–Superman’s pal” and Jimmy’s just walking in the background.

Now, how long had Jimmy been working for Perry? Did Perry not know about Olsen’s being “Superman’s pal” without Lois’s identifying him? Or did Lois do that so that Perry wouldn’t think she was talking about “Jimmy Olsen–the hot dog vendor?”

And with Jimmy walking in the background like that, you’d think the word balloon could’ve been split with Lois answering “I don’t know, Perry” in one part and “Hey Jimmy, do you know why Superman hasn’t been around?” in another part.

Matty, I recall one or two Lois Lane stories that showed she definitely had more feelings for Clark than she admitted.
Brett pulling strings with Perry? Not that radical (used to work in newspapers). And assuming he had a valid news hook (“Yes, I just bought another steel mill.” or whatever) probably even justifiable. Or it could be that the interview was in the works and Brett specified who he wanted to do it (Clark presumably came along to chaperone Lois and protect her virtue).

Perry White seems like the kinda guy who’d kick a rich brat down a flight of stairs for trying to pressure him into doing ANYTHING, least of all selling out his prize reporter.

Actually, compared with how women were depicted in most television series at the time, Lois Lane is an icon of feminism in these stories, and Superman loses control all too often.

In terms of women’s equality for the era, give me Lois Lane over the adult women in the Dennis the Menace TV series, Father Knows Best, The Danny Thomas Show, or The Donna Reed Show any day!

I’m sorry for that, but is Lois Lane stupid ? Or did love make her that way ? She sounds a little obsessed too.
Superman is a manipulator. How is she supposed to react once he told her that every thing is an act ?
How happy that marriage would become…
Did Superman even consider that Lois could be really in love with him, even if she is annoying and shows it the wrong way ?

These things are not presenting anything. They are meant to be romance to humour stories and it all makes sense. I’m shocked people are acting like they don’t work on their own internal logic. It’s like some people are willfully not letting themselves understand it and viewing it in their own context which doesn’t make sense. This is the biggest problems with americans. And they’re bad at it with their own culture.

you saw this same kind of plot on sitcoms. Obviously first and foremost they want the situation. But this one was very in line with where lois was.

If she had a chance to be happy… superman even explains it and it’s not unreasonable for him to have his own opinion. He didn’t want her waiting. The other guy seemed like a shot at happiness.

Honestly its the same way people act with japan. It might be funny, and sometimes that’s the point. Other than that its usually easy to understand the point and see why it’s there. But americans want this weird delusion that nothing makes sense.

whatever stereotype you believe in of people that bought comic books would have nothing to do with what is shown here. It had to do with the market shrinking, which meant only the most dedicated stuck around.

this would not create anything that didn’t already exist in the culture anyway. On top of that, you’d be missing the point of the artificiality of it. And ignore when superman wanted romance, as in when Lori chose another man over him.

If you read letter pages from these old comics, you’d realize people were pretty smart about it. Superman might have skewed younger than some other comics but these people were not idiots.

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