Lois Lane Archives Volume 1, DC Comics, $59.99
I've read just about all the stories collected in the first Lois Lane Archives (Showcase #9-10, Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #1-8), and fully expected to be bored re-reading them for the umpteenth time. And yet, I found myself enjoying them yet again.
First, I must address one of the funniest and most insightful Forewords I've read, by DC writer Tom Peyer. He writes brief synopses of each story, gleefully pointing out the "Signature Super-Motifs" that occur in one Mort Weisinger story after another; things I recognized like old friends but had never articulated even to myself: Routine science accidents, rubber face masks that fool everyone until ripped off dramatically, giant cakes with pink icing, etc.. (Seriously, what was the deal with giant cakes with pink icing? I can remember three or four of them off the top of my head.) It's funny -- and accurate -- stuff.
But also, Peyer shows great insight, especially with his explanation of why Lois Lane was such a shrew in the Silver Age:
"Weisinger developed one of the best answers yet to the question of 'What do you do with Superman?'," Peyer wrote. "How do you make an invulnerable character interesting? His solution: You don't, really. To Weisinger -- and to many of us -- Superman works best as the calm, rational center of a dizzyingly preposterous universe of Bizarros, bottle cities, Phantom Zones, teen Legionnaires and idyllic planets that worship his worst enemy.
"To be a part of Superman's wild periphery while carrying her own title was the weird burden of Lois Lane. The spotlight -- along with 1950s attitudes toward women -- magnified her impulsiveness, her neediness, her sneakiness and her childishness as much as it elevated her intelligence and basic goodness. Her personality easily spiced up the formulaic plots that were passed around the Superman Family like a plate of liver."
I would like to point out that the above also applies to Jimmy Olsen, whose buffoonishness and impulsiveness were emphasized in his eponymous title, so the "weird burden" Peyer mentions wasn't Lois's alone.
Anyway, I find the above spot on. As a kid, I wondered what on earth Superman saw in Lois Lane, who seemed too immature to date even a junior high school boy, much less the most powerful (and therefore potentially most selective) man alive. But as I read more widely in the Superman family of books, I began to understand at some subconscious level that Lois had to be a lunatic, just as Jimmy had to be an idiot, for A) Superman to remain the implicit star, and B) for the stories to be remotely interesting. At some point I stopped analyzing and turned off my suspension of disbelief, and then the Super-books were a great deal of fun.
But that process isn't universal, so sometimes I've had trouble explaining to younger fans just what was so much fun about the Weisinger-era Super-books. Lois, especially, is a bone of contention -- younger fans, like the younger Captain once did, take one look at this silly, selfish, capricious woman and get turned off. They don't read long enough for the magic to sink in, and begin to enjoy those qualities in Lois -- for, without them, there's really no story.
Which brings us back to reviewing these 30 tales, which I chuckled through for the umpteenth time. Yes, they're absurd. Yes, they're misogynistic. Yes, they're wildly implausible. Yet, they're also ingenious, outrageous,unintentionally hilarious and often just plain fun in an I Love Lucy kind of way.
And there's no disputing the quality, with tales by Silver Age stalwarts such as Otto Binder, Jerry Coleman and Leo Dorfman, and artistic contributions by Wayne Boring, Ray Burnley, Stan Kaye, Curt Swan and the Lois Lane artist supreme, Kurt Schaffenberger.
In short, Lois Lane Archives Volume 1 is dopey fun. And I wouldn't have it any other way.