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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – “Superman Says He Loves Me…So What’s the Catch?”

Every installment of I Love Ya But You’re Strange I spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories. Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

Today, we take a look at a hilarious case of Lois being genre-savvy enough to figure out that something must be wrong if Superman decides to marry her…

In Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #22 (from 1960), Jerry Siegel and Kurt Schaffenberger deliver a delightfully odd comic book story that is built around Lois Lane being so used to things not working out between her and Superman that she just naturally assumes that their must be a catch when he proposes to her.

The issue begins with Superman trying some experiments to come up with a kryptonite antidote using red kryptonite. It doesn’t work and there’s a minor explosion…

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You have to love how jaded Lois is by this point. “Yeah, this is great, but come on, what’s the catch?”

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She’s very quick to use that robot. But anyhow, she brings up an interesting point. Is there any way that you can calm her worries? Preferably something involving time travel…

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Oh man, how much does Schaffenberger NAIL Superman’s look of “Come onnnnn, Lana!” in that last panel? Clear sign that the dude is not in his right mind. Well, that and him offering to give her super-powers as a payment. Gotta give Lana some credit for going through with helping him out. I don’t think the whole “getting super-powers” thing even factored into her decision. She’s just a good egg.

But, of course, there’s a catch…

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Yikes, stay classy, Lois!

Overall, that was a cute story by Siegel taking advantage of the by then already well established tropes of the series.

If there’s a strange but awesome comic book story that you’d like me to feature, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

31 Comments

Honestly, I thought it was another defect Superman robot.

Wow. As someone who never really read golden age superman I must wonder: why would someone be so obsessed with a guy who obviously does not want to marry her at all? Whaat kind of a happy ending can such a relationship have? Borderline psychotic behavior shown by every character – obsessed women drooling over a macho unfeeling “super’man.

The title of this column would make a good title of this issue of “Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane” :)

I love you Superman… but you’re strange!

So he fell in love with the robot and ends up flying off with it for some solitude time? Seduction of the inanimate!

Schaffenberger’s Lois and Lana could sell me any ridicolous and convoluted plot anytime. :-)

What’s strange is the idea that comic book writers and editors have that the heroes can’t have normal relationships, a social life or a love life…because, y’know, readers can identify with that.

Fisk –

“Borderline psychotic behavior shown by every character – obsessed women drooling over a macho unfeeling “super’man.”

It was not just Superman comics. It’s 1950s sexual psychology. Very Freudian, very strange, and almost pathological by today’s standards.

I’ve recently re-read Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man, and it has a bit of the same dynamics. The protagonist is a highly competent superman that is always running away from the very capable woman that is his equal, and she is obsessed with getting him. But the woman he DOES fall in love with is a childlike damsel in distress that enters into a ersatz father-daughter relationship with him.

“Sick” does not begin to describe it. And yeah, when folks say that people are “degenerate” now and what we need is some old-fashioned values, I roll my eyes.

Rene –
Pathological was the word I was looking for. What really gets me about these comics that they were supposedly aimed at children. This is really what they wanted to teach them about ‘healthy’ relationship?
BTW, for me it is also not funny at all but kind of sick, annoying and creepy all rolled into one (like those e.g. offensive Dennis the Menace strips, just in a different way).

Gorgeous art by Shaffenberger. I love the sad Superman head looking in on the Kandorians who just ignore him.

Superman: “I walked by the Lois Lane statue in my Lois Lane room.” Odd that’s not the strange part of the story.

Fisk, those comics werent supposed to be teaching kids about “healthy” relationships. Instead, the idea was that little boys thought girls were “icky” and, therefore, wanted to read stories about their hero feeling the same way.

Hank –
written by adult writers. I envy their wives.

…yet another instance of SuperDickery. But the Schaffenberger art more than makes up for the moral ambiguities and the red kryptonite trope.

Bernard the Poet

January 13, 2016 at 9:16 am

@Fisk
The past is another country, they do things differently there.

No doubt, some of today’s comics are going to seem “pathological” to future audiences.

What is Spiderman’s marriage going to look like in 2066?

“Without any preliminaries (like dating or kissing or saying ‘I love you), Marvel rushes through a story, in which Spiderman marries Mary Jane. They then almost immediately regret the decision and try to think of ways to dissolve the marriage. John Byrne has them separate, but that doesn’t stick. So they reveal Spiderman is really a clone, but that doesn’t work either. So finally, they decide the best way to end the relationship is for Spiderman to make a deal with the devil.”

That’s as screwed-up as anything Superman did to Lois.

Oh my. How romantic!

@Bernard

I’d love to see what happens when Spider-Man is published in 2099. What kind of mess will occur when Peter Parker grows up in the same timeline as Miguel O’Hara!?

One could give Lois the benefit of the doubt, and say she was just smart enough to realize that something was wrong with the circumstances under which Superman proposed, and, deep down, she new taking advantage in that way was wrong. I realize that that characterization of Lois is contradicted by the way she was written in plenty of other stories around the same time, but, face it- both Lois’ intelligence and her integrity varied a lot from story to story, anyway.

Does anyone know when Lois went from being the courageous, tough, intelligent, capable reporter who was the entire reason why Clark had to act like a wimp, because she was easily smart enough to figure out who Superman was if given half a chance, from the very early stories to the comic-relief character she had become by the time of this story? Was it a sudden change at some point, or was it gradual?

Well, by then Miguel will the the star of Spider-Man 2199, of course!

Bernard the Poet

January 13, 2016 at 6:26 pm

@Alaric
Feminism seems to be at a particular low ebb in the late ‘Fifties/early ‘Sixties. Perhaps after the trauma of the Second World War, everyone just wanted to get back to some imagined ‘Golden Age.’

I have recently been reading to my son, the Famous Five books. From 1941 to 1962, Enid Blyton wrote 21 books about four children and a dog solving crimes and having adventures. The really striking thing for me was how the female character, George, changed over the series. In the early books, she is a match for any boy. She can do anything they can do. But in the later books, she becomes increasingly ineffectual and the boys become more and more dominant.

Another clear example is the Hitchcock film, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much,’ which was made in 1934. The female protagonist is an Olympic-level marksmen, who gets to shoot the villain at the climax of the film. Hitchcock remade the film in 1956, but now the female protagonist is a former Broadway singer, who gave up her career when she got married. In the remake, her husband to defeat the bad guys, while she simpers in the background..

How creepy it must be for Kandorians to see a giant Superman face peering into the bottle at them, pining over the 2 citizens who just happen to be identical duplicates of Supes and Lois.

Bernard, while I’ve read the Fatal Five it’s been long enough ago I didn’t remember George becoming ineffectual. That’s depressing.

More generally yes, the post WW II years were seen as getting back to a nice, normal America where women stayed home and had babies and men went out and worked (which wasn’t true, as plenty of women worked, but that was the image). Stephanie Coontz’s “A Strange Stirring” looks at the state of women’s rights in the early 1960s and it’s very depressing.

Jules Feiffer wrote in The Great Comic Book Heroes that back when Superman began, the opposite of “wimp who can’t get a date,” wasn’t the guy who seduced all the women but the guy who could get all the women he wanted but was too busy doing guy stuff (I’ve seen this dynamic in thirties movies quite a bit). So that’s part of what we’re seeing here, I think.

Yes, on Schaffenberger. Like the shot of Lana’s crying face when she agrees to help Supes out.

Bernard, while I’ve read the Fatal Five it’s been long enough ago I didn’t remember George becoming ineffectual. That’s depressing.

More generally yes, the post WW II years were seen as getting back to a nice, normal America where women stayed home and had babies and men went out and worked (which wasn’t true, as plenty of women worked, but that was the image). Stephanie Coontz’s “A Strange Stirring” looks at the state of women’s rights in the early 1960s and it’s very depressing.

Jules Feiffer wrote in The Great Comic Book Heroes that back when Superman began, the opposite of “wimp who can’t get a date,” wasn’t the guy who seduced all the women but the guy who could get all the women he wanted but was too busy doing guy stuff (I’ve seen this dynamic in thirties movies quite a bit). So that’s part of what we’re seeing here, I think.

Yes, on Schaffenberger. Like the shot of Lana’s crying face when she agrees to help Supes out.

Fraser- The thing is, though, that America hadn’t really been like that (at least to the same extent) before the war. If you look at pop culture portrayals of women throughout the 20th century, the way women are treated in the 50s-early 60s is actually quite anomalous. I also get the sense that it didn’t start full-blown as soon as the war ended- I get the sense that the late ’40s transitioned into that period, rather than suddenly jumping.

All of which relates to the original question I asked about Lois Lane- I’d like to have a better idea of the way her portrayal changed over time.

Bernard –

Spider-Man’s marriage is not a good example, because it’s seen as bizarre and pathological even by today’s standards.

Though I am sure someone can make a good argument that writers running away from the marriage is symptomatic of males of the past 20 years being immature and wanting to remain teenagers (and single) forever.

Though what people sometimes considered “mature behaviour” in past decades (being an ambitious workaholic, having a thousand kids, neglecting wife and kids to stay at the bar with your buddies) is not very mature either. If anything, today’s manchildren are the same kind of men from past times, only more sincere, because now we live in times that allow people to be more open about what they really want.

But there is one thing that is really constant – 99% of time people making predictions about future trends get it wrong. So it’s hard to predict what people in 2066 will find pathological about us, and what they will think were great ideas. Maybe Satanism will become big and Peter Parker’s pact with Mephisto will be seen as a trailblazer…

Alaric –

True, it was a gradual transition. There were popular pictures with strong women as late as 1948 or 1949. By the dawn of the 1950s you could still see such depictions, but more and more with restrictions, such as the strong woman being unhappy or threatening.

Now, forgive me some bar table historical speculation.

I think one of the reasons for the 1950s to have turned so sharply on women was that nostalgia in the 1950s extended back unusually far. No one wanted to remember World War II and the Depression. And the 1920s were seen as the time of carefree excess that led to the Depression. And no one wanted to remember World War I either. So the desire to turn the clock all the way back to the Victorian Age was understandable.

@ Rene:

I think that is roughly correct.

First wave feminism came in with the progressive movement in the United States. It was heavily co-mingled with prohibition, eugenics and a general obsession with hygiene. The arrival of the automobile occurred shortly afterwards and Prohibition moved alcohol consumption from male-dominated saloons to speakeasys that had no restrictions on women, or race mixing. The industrial revolution also drafted for middle-class women into the paid workforce for the first time.

What resulted was the real sexual revolution.

Young women were away from their families, with their incomes and consuming alcohol in the urban core. This was before the Internet, TV or even radio as a mature medium. I am sure that it was an awful lot of fun for all involved. Those are the values that you see reflected in Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Black Canary and Hawkgirl. They are more modern in their original conceptions than female characters would be again for decades.

The Fifties were, in some senses, a backlash.

Women had entered the workforce in huge numbers during the war and were being displaced by returning veterans. The sexual revolutionaries of the Jazz Age now had teenagers who wanted the same freedoms. So, they tried to wind the clock back a half century in the suburbs. You can debate whether it ever really worked, or kinda worked until the advent of The Pill, or worked until Betty Friedan wrote her book. Whatever the case, it all fell apart pretty utterly.

Rene, the thing I always find funny about how marriage adverse comic creators seem to be is they weren’t the ones who were having glorious times as singles or teenagers. A lot of them were the same type of “geeks” or “nerds” who weren’t exactly fast with the ladies, and spent a lot of their non-geek obsessed time pining after some girl. Isn’t that central to the Superman/Clark Kent mythos? That I appear that I’m a dork but if you could only see I’m really Superman on the inside? So the whole “fantasy of how great being single is” trying to appeal to their fanbase falls as flat as the whole “there’s no drama in life after you’re married” other big excuse.

M-Wolverine –

You’re spot on.

I’m a married nerd, and I love being married. I don’t want to go back to the (pathetic) life I had as a single guy.

I think nerds, if they’re lucky, generally have a life story that is the opposite of other guys.

Extroverted, handsome, and macho guys supposedly have their best years when they’re in their teens and 20s, having a lot of fun, and marriage can be sort of “game over”, and then there is physical decline to look forward to, going fat and going bald, letting themselves go and settling down. Marriage can feel like a cramp in their style.

Now nerds supposedly have nightmarish and lonely teen years and awkward young adult years, but when they’re lucky they manage to parlay their intelligence into a good job, gain confidence, find the right girl (not necessarily in that order), and marriage is not only great fun comparativelly, but they also start taking care of themselves, so a married nerd will actually be more attractive, healthy and active when he is married.

Well, at least such are the general cliches. And it more or less happened to me. I was so lucky that I found an amazing woman to be my wife. Making a supernatural pact to lose my marriage? Damn, I would make a pact to KEEP it.

M-Wolverine, I think it’s less about what the readers want than what comics writers are used to. There’s a huge amount of plotlines available when a character is single—oh no, my girlfriend died!, oh no, my boyfriend is secretly evil, oh no, my girlfriend cheated on me! etc. that don’t work when the character’s married because the marriage has to stay in place. And there’s no sexual tension (will she kiss him? Will he fall for her? Will they get together) as we know the couple’s status.

Of course there’s lots of stuff that happens in marriage and life after you tie the knot, but that stuff isn’t as familiar to comics writers (storywise, regardless of personal life) so they wind up feeling writing single people is just more interesting.

Fraser –

The Marvel Comics formula introduced by Stan Lee is equal parts superhero comic, horror comic, and romance comic. I think writers and editors keep returning to the old romance comics tropes that are, IMO, so played out by now that it’s very difficult to get anyone excited about a romance in superhero comics. Easily the least interesting part of The Flash TV show is Barry Allen’s romantic live. Jessica Jones, on the other hand, has a successful romantic angle, because it isn’t tied so much to those tropes.

So it’s strange that they want to avoid married heroes, but single heroes aren’t being dealt with successfully either.

Schaffenberger was one of the GENIUS of the silver age. His faces were so expressive and animated. That sort of talent wasn’t rivaled until Kevin Maguire.

…. Kevin Maguire? Really?

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