This was another issue of SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE that I got in my Windfall Comics purchase of 1988 and for which I paid 33 cents–more than three times the original cover price! This was another good example of where the series was at this time–it’s worth keeping in mind that all of the Superman family of titles were the best-selling books in the industry throughout this period, often selling two or even three times as much as the competition. (In fact, no Marvel title throughout the decade sold as many copies as this issue of LOIS LANE–not the Galactus Trilogy, not Spider-Man No More–nothing!) So while this approach to a super hero series seems quaint to modern eyes, editor Mort Weisinger had a good grasp on what he was doing, and in how to reliably separate his audience of little children from their dimes.
The Lois Lane stories of this period had a definite formula to them, one that was reused and reconfigured time and again to get a pleasing result. Rather than a dynamic go-getter of a reporter, Lois was typically depicted as a bit of a shallow ditz, obsessed with marrying Superman (and by extension, to proving that her co-worker Clark Kent was really the Man of Steel in disguise) though not so in love with him that she couldn’t become attracted to other super-powered men who crossed her path. In essence, Lois in her solo strip was the Lucy Ricardo of the comics, whose ambition and antics would get her into absurd situations–situations that Superman would often have to get her out of, while often humiliating her in the process. It’s psychologically a batty, almost woman-hating strip. But for the audience of the period, it connected, largely because Weisinger keyed the emotional responses of all of his characters to the level of the kids themselves. Not only Superman but everybody in his circle responded to suspicion, jealousy, fear, anger and shame in a very juvenile manner.
The first of the three stories in this issue was the cover feature–a change from the usual protocol, as Mort typically ran the cover story at the end of this issue. In this one. Lex Luthor is able to follow instructions given to him by the 30th Century outlaw Cosmic King to build a time displacement ray in his prison cell, which he uses to project Superman into the future. For no reason that is ever explained, this isn’t the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes, where Cosmic King is from, but rather a different interpretation of it. There, Superman encounters his and Lois’s descendant, Lois 4Xr. Like all of the inhabitants of this future world, Lois has the same powers as superman, but she proves to be a bother and a nuisance as she attempts to help him with a few super-crises while he’s visiting. He also gets to see a fragment of an old Daily Planet story about him marrying Lois Lane. But when he returns to the present (under his own power, something that Luthor knows he can do–so this whole trap was a bit of a boondoggle) it turns out to be the wedding of some other Planet reporters that they were both attending. The story was written by Superman’s creator, Jerry Siegel and illustrated by John Forte, who did a lot of work on the Superman titles in this period, but whose work is kind of dull.
Time after that for an intermission featuring one of Henry Boltinoff’s disposable half-page gag strips. The real appeal of this page was the Coming Super-Attractions ad, which showcased three of Mort’s other titles which were then on sale. You can see from this ad just how Weisinger and his creators played into the ongoing mythology they were building on a regular basis. Just in these blurbs alone, you get Mr. Mxyzptlk, Brainiac, and the Bizarro World, along with mentions of Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Supergirl and Superboy.
The second story in this issue was also written by Jerry Siegel but illustrated by the more attractive Kurt Schaffenberger. In fact, Schaffenberger’s approach to the character became so iconic that he was occasionally called upon to correct the likenesses of Lois and Lana Lang and other female characters in other titles and on covers, including on some penciled by the great Superman artist of the era, Curt Swan. It’s another story in which a rich and powerful man shows some romantic interest in fickle Lois, and Superman takes it upon himself to teach her a lesson. Clearly the best, most altruistic use of his great super-powers.
On the other hand, Lois kind of deserves it in this story. She’s not really at all interested in the Rajah who proposes to her, she’s simply hoping to make Superman jealous. And at the same time, she tortures the poor Rajah by making him perform five impossible tasks to prove his love for her. Of course, Superman is on hand to find ways that the Rajah can lift an elephant in each hand (Superman shrinks the elephants to tiny size using a shrink ray) and lose 100 pounds (Superman flies him and Lois to the moon, where the gravity is lesser.) And in the end, the Rajah tells Lois that she’s too demanding, and rejects her for admission into his harem of 50 wives–which was a part of the deal that neither Lois nor Superman were aware of. So basically, everybody in this story behaves like a jerk, and entertainment is had!
Next came the letters page for the issue, which was just slightly more girl-oriented than other such pages. Or at least, a larger percentage of the letters run were from ladies. Apart from that one difference, this was as usual a collection of relatively basic likes and dislikes presented by readers on the younger end of the audience, whose interest was Weisinger’s meat.
The final story this time out was also illustrated by Kurt Scharffenberger, but it was written by Bill Finger. Finger wasn’t a typical contributor to Weisinger’s titles, but he did do the occasional story here and there. He was an imaginative writer who build a number of his stories around gimmicks that he’d think up–little bits of trivia about science or history that would form a turning point for a given story. He also liked oversized props, which feature prominently enough in his many Batman stories that they became ubiquitously attached to the character.
In this story, a crazy inventor comes up with a Jekyll/Hyde ray that will turn good people evil (why is that even a thing you’re trying to make? ) and Lois volunteers to test it. As you’d expect, Lois is turned bad–she steals from the Daily Planet, adopts the evil identity of the Leopard Lady, throws in with criminals and even marries Lex Luthor! But Superman eventually works out that this isn’t the real Lois at all, but rather a robot created by Luthor in order to hurt Superman emotionally. The Man of Steel is able to rescue the real Lois, take down Luthor, and even explain how he worked the whole grift out based on a ridiculous and implausible detail (the robot Lois didn’t flinch away from the flame of Luthor’s cigarette lighter.) There is a fun moment where Superman burns the Lois robot to a puddle–before anybody realizes that it’s only a robot. It’s about as close to an action-adventure story as this issue features, and it’s still relatively bloodless–all of the damage done is of the emotional variety.