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Lois Lane gets a papoose, and subtlety gets a 2X4 to the head – Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #110

April 3, 2013


Like Madonna, Lois Lane has made up her mind, and she’s keeping her baby. So Superman, don’t preach.

One of the most memorable comics from the early 1970s was the (in)famous issue #106 of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. It was a clunky, silly switcheroo masquerading as incisive social commentary, as Lois Lane switched bodies with a black woman and much stern moralizing ensued. Maybe its heart was in the right place, but it fell with a bit of a thud, with the historically lily-white world of comic books lecturing readers about racial rights and wrongs. Even if they were on the right side of the issue, arguing for equality and against racism, overdue as that might have been, it nevertheless dropped like a lead balloon. It certainly wasn’t impossible for Lois Lane to tackle the weighty issue of the day, but it was unlikely, especially coming off the silly track record of the book.

Lost in the shadow of Lois’ big race switcheroo is this issue, and it may be even more cringe-worthy. Yes, Lois goes native and straps a papoose to her back, igniting the rock-throwing ire of a central casting angry mob (fresh from karate chopping the Flash). Oy. She might never don the attire worn on the above cover, but she assaults our senses in a plot that touches every awkward base imaginable.

The story, written by Rober Kanigher with art from Werner Roth and Vince Colletta, begins when Lois is on assignment, doing a soft-news “People, U.S.A.” feature, searching for the Mother of the Year (being in the business for decades hasn’t kept her from getting jobs normally handed out to freshly hired cub reporters). For her troubles she gets a remarkably shrewy tongue-lashing from what has to be the iciest bitch ever to squeeze out a baby — and Clark Kent isn’t much help afterward:


The cure for Lois’ ills? Perry White sends her out to cover what’s been advertised as a Native American rain dance, on a parched, drought-ridden reservation near a dam — another peachy gig. Clark again tags along, and, after he gets in a smattering of mildly politically incorrect dialogue, we see antsy ticket holders morph into an angry, racist mob:


Two questions are begged here: Most importantly, who the hell buys a ticket to a rain dance? What, the arts and crafts exhibition at the local library was sold out? Second, who buys a ticket to a rain dance only to uncork witticisms like those seen above? Were they expecting a Klan rally rain dance?

I mean, really

It turns out the rain dance was just a bait and switch. A Russell Means-ish young man named Johnny Lone Eagle, who’s filled with spite for the white men who have taken his land (understandable, but he’s still an ass), leads a group of Native Americans in–well, in nothing. Just the lamest protest/practical joke ever. Get white people really desperate for entertainment to come out to a hot, sunny dam site, have them stand outside for a while, turning that delicate white skin a raw chicken pink, and then shove them back on the bus. A MLK Jr. Johnny Lone Eagle ain’t. In response, the white folks who’ve already made their injun-hatin’ proclivities clear, mainly the cigar-chomping construction workers, start a Braveheart battle to the death. Enter Superman, who separates the parties, and Lois finds herself alone with Johnny Lone Eagle and a squaw (his sister), the latter of whom brought her papoose to a sight of potential hostilities. (She is NOT the Mother of the Year.)

Johnny Lone Eagle gives Lois his stock Native American gripes (which are very much the old “Keep America Beautiful” ad put into words), including the nearby dam, which has contributed to the drought crippling his reservation. Lois tries to talk him out of his next course of action, which is detonating a bomb to blow the damn straight to hell. (Though this is unpleasant violence, at least it’s more direct than the “Trick Fat Tourists” gambit.) She fails, which leads to Natives vs. Hardhats II. And Superman once more flies in to save the day — and the dam.

But in the meantime, the squaw has fallen and mortally injured herself. (She fell on her face, which is good because she didn’t squash the papoose, but one gets the feeling that she would have dragged the poor baby with her to the dam explosion, so…) Her dying request is that Lois take her papoose, Little Moon, and raise him as her own, as the father, an Native American serving in the Army (this potential for irony is never explored) is missing and presumed dead. Lois agrees and takes Little Moon, despite Johnny Lone Eagle’s misgivings.

Now behold, Lois Lane: Mother:


I swear, when I read that “Little Moon will be shiny as a new moon” line, I wanted bury a hatchet in this book. AND NOW I’VE STARTED IN, JUST LIKE THE BOOK. THANKS, KANIGHER. (No word on whether Lois starts lactating.)

Long story short, Miss Lane adopting an Indian boy improbably leads to mass protests fer and agin, Little Moon’s father is actually alive, he accidentally almost kills Lois and his son, Lois sacrifices her life for the boy but is saved, and our last panels offer one last chance for tendentious moralizing:


We can all agree with the sentiment, but it’s understandable if some of us find the presentation more than a little off-putting. We can all applaud — or perhaps golf clap — the abandonment of the shallow, vapid “boy crazy” Lois stories that were the staple of the earlier romance-themed segment of the title’s run. But this is clumsy. Dumb. It undermines its own message with ham hands (Lois wearing full garb on the front doesn’t help). Though the art is some of the better than you’d see in Girl Friend, (it makes Lois, with her ’70s styles, look a lot like my mother, for whatever that’s worth), it’s caught up in the big MESSAGE OF THE DAY. Kanigher was more than capable of crafting a decent script — his war story work was always decent at worst — but here he laid an egg. The whole thing reeks of trying way too hard, and drowns in its own goofy earnestness.

After all this, what we really need is some Rose and the Thorn ass-kicking from the backup feature — you know, just to cleanse the palate. Why? Because THIGH-HIGH BOOTS (art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito):


There. That’s better.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2013 8:55 pm

    Great review, Jared. It’s just really interesting what passed for raising the social consciousness back in the ’70’s. This seems right in line with some of Denny O’Neil’s heavy-handed GL/GA yarns as well as some of Bob Haney’s B&B stories.


    • April 4, 2013 12:06 am

      You’re definitely right about the GL/GA angle. Something I probably should have mentioned, but fortunately I have folks like you kind enough to spackle over those holes in my Swiss cheese brain.

  2. Darci permalink
    April 4, 2013 12:24 pm

    Re: “Lois finds herself alone with Johnny Lone Eagle and a squaw (his sister)”

    Please tell me they didn’t really write that she was a squaw!

  3. Dave B permalink
    April 4, 2013 2:15 pm

    This does look like some typical 70’s DC social consciousness stuff, but not nearly as good as Denny O’Neil’s GL/GA stuff, though of course much of that had Neal Adams art to smooth over any overpreaching.

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