I’m not a big Lois Lane fan. I never was. Try for the life of me, I could never see what attracted Superman to her. Oh, sure, every once in a while would come a story in which she was a true and helpful friend to the Man of Steel. But far more often than not, she was a genuine pain.
She snooped. She pried. She violated others’ privacy. And I’m not talking about in her professional rôle as a reporter. These things she did to dig into the personal secrets of her friends and co-workers. She was vain, overconfident, insanely jealous, superficial, and manipulating. And I haven’t even gotten to the really bad stuff, yet.
She claimed to be in love with Superman, yet what did she spend at least half of her waking hours doing? Attempting to ferret out his secret identity---his most private, most closely guarded secret. Something which, were it revealed, would completely upend his life. And unlike Perry White or Jimmy Olsen, either of whom could be reasonably trusted to keep the Man of Steel’s civilian identity to himself, Lois was sure to blab it---that is, if she didn’t have the Daily Planet run it as a 72-point-type headline.
The other half of her time was devoted to getting Superman to the altar, by hook or by crook. She cajoled, bargained, plotted, and extorted, all to try and get a proposal from the Man of Steel. She dated dozens of fine fellows whom most women would give up a kidney to have on their arms. But for Lois, they were merely props to make Superman jealous, and they were dumped as fast as yesterday’s garbage as soon as she saw that her scheme wasn’t working. Sometimes she got so desperate that she even married some of these beaux of convenience. She had no trouble walking down the aisle if it, somehow, got her an inch closer to snagging the Metropolis Marvel. Lois had more annulled marriages than I have socks in my dresser drawer.
Inevitably, Superman would thwart Lois’ identity snooping or matrimonial finagling. And she would respond with a slow burn or a stamp of her foot and promise to never ever do it, again. Rarely did her promise last longer than the next issue.
“Oh, come on, commander! Lois had her unpleasant moments, but she wasn’t that bad! You’re exaggerating.”
Not by a gnat’s eyelash I am. Exhibit A for the prosecution: “Superman and Batman’s Joke on Lois Lane”, from Lois Lane # 59 (Aug., 1965). I chose this story because it has gained a minor reputation for showing not Lois, but Superman, in a bad light. Comics bloggers love to pull this one out as an example of how much of a jerk the Man of Steel was back in the Silver Age. What a rotten trick, they say, he and his bat-buddy pulled on poor Lois.
But, friends, I tell you---she had it coming.
“Superman and Batman’s Joke on Lois Lane” opens with Lois taking a dive into Metropolis Park Lake after receiving a tip that the loot from a bank robbery has been stashed on the bottom. Just as she finds the water-tight box containing the stolen money, she suffers a severe cramp.
Now, I’m no Dane Dorrance, but it seems to me that if you’re diving and wearing the proper scuba gear, as Lois is, then a cramp is no big deal. You can still breathe---that’s what the big honking oxygen tank is for---so all you have to do is wait for the pain to subside. True, the panel depicts the mouthpiece slipping loose from her teeth. But instead of calmly grabbing it and putting it back in her mouth, the “intrepid” girl reporter panics. Just as she is about to pass out, she sees Superman swooping down to her rescue.
What we readers quickly discover is that Lois’ rescuer is not Superman. It’s his old pal, the Batman, disguised as the Man of Steel. The real Superman is away from Earth, on one of those vague “space missions” he goes on whenever it’s convenient to the plot to have him out of the way.
Before he left, Superman asked the Masked Manhunter to take his place and keep an eye on Lois, expecting something just like this to happen. To aid the Batman’s impersonation, the Man of Steel gave him an anti-gravity belt. Batman uses this to whoosh into the lake and haul Lois out of the drink.
“She’s unconscious from shock! But she hasn’t swallowed any water!” figures Batman. “I’m sure she’ll be all right soon!” So he dumps her on the shore and ducks behind a near-by bush. There, he removes his Superman make-up and changes back to Bruce Wayne. From his thoughts, we learn that Wayne is not nearly as taken with Lois as his invulnerable super-chum is.
“She’s a cute girl, but I’m glad she doesn’t stay up nights scheming to trick me into marriage!”
As Bruce drives off in his car, he has no way of knowing that he’s jinxed himself. You see, Lois revived while he was removing his Superman mask and buttoning his shirt over that big red “S”. Once Wayne is gone, Lois picks herself up out of the dirt where she was playing possum.
“I can’t believe it! Bruce Wayne is Superman!” gasps the conclusion-jumping newshen. “Lois, you lucky girl, you’ve just stumbled onto a bit of information that’ll change you from Lois Lane into . . . Mrs. Lois Superman!” The look on her face is maniacal enough to make the Joker take a few steps back.
That night, in her apartment, Lois plots. If she can’t entice Superman into proposing directly, she’ll catch him off-guard by seducing him in his Bruce Wayne identity. He won’t suspect a thing, and during their honeymoon, when he reveals his identity to her, she’ll pretend to be surprised. She practically sits in front of her vanity mirror and practices her wide-eyed look of amazement.
The next day, she puts her plan into action. Lois arrives at Wayne Manor and introduces herself to Bruce. She tells him that she is writing an article on his many philanthropic activities. This would, of course, require several interviews. Since it would be a convenient way for him to keep an eye on Lois, as he promised Superman, Bruce agrees. And to keep close to her after working hours, he turns on the playboy charm and schmoozes her into a dinner date. Lois, naturally, views it as the other way ‘round---that Bruce is falling for her wiles.
During their time together, a number of events occur, situations which, in typical Wiesingerian fashion, get misinterpreted. When Wayne finds a diamond that accidentally fell into his pocket (long story), Lois is certain that he used “his” super-strength to make it from a lump taken from a near-by pile of coal. Other such misreadings the lady reporter takes as evidence of Bruce’s X-ray vision and invulnerability. Lois is secretly oh-so-smug at spotting this “proof” that the millionaire socialite is really Superman.
Lois ratchets up the charm. She laughs at Bruce’s jokes. She oohs and ahhs over his sophistication. She gushes over how manly he is. It’s O.K. with Wayne; as long as she stays with him, he won’t have to worry about her getting into a jam someplace else. But as far as Lois is concerned, she has him wrapped around her little finger.
Late that night, after Lois returns to Metropolis, Wayne tracks down a thieves’ hideout. On a lark, he goes into action masquerading as Superman, flying in from the skylight, and is amused when the crooks immediately throw down their guns and surrender.
In her apartment, Lois gloats over her cleverness. The manipulative minx can’t keep from boasting to her sister, Lucy. “By marrying Bruce Wayne, I’ll be Mrs. Superman!” she says triumphantly.
You folks caught that, right? Now, we all know that Superman is Clark Kent, not Bruce Wayne. But Lois genuinely believes that Wayne is the Man of Steel, the guy she supposedly loves. His deepest, most valuable secret, and does Lois keep it to herself? Does she protect the privacy of the man she loves? No. She has that information for less than two days and she blabs it to her sister. It wasn’t tricked out of her. She wasn’t coërced into revealing it. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue. She freely told it to Lucy while bragging on how her sneaky, underhanded ploy was working.
O.K, if you’ve followed me so far, then you see that Lois Lane has proven herself to be a conniving, manipulative, self-serving, betraying little sneak. Superman would be better off having Dracula’s daughter as a girl friend.
Since we are up to page eight of a nine-page story, it’s time for a dramatic turn, and it’s not a good one for Lois. Superman---the genuine article---returns from his space mission and checks on Lois with his super-vision, right at the time when the scheming little minx is spilling it all to Lucy. With his super-hearing, the Man of Steel learns the whole tale. He is not amused.
The next morning sees Lois receiving candy and roses from Bruce Wayne. While she is still reeling from this bum’s rush of romantic gestures, the millionaire himself arrives at her doorstep.
“I haven’t been able to get you out of my thoughts!” he says. “I realize . . . I love you! Please say you’ll marry me, Lois!”
Lois can’t say “yes!” fast enough, while mentally congratulating herself on how swiftly she was able to enamour the wealthy playboy into a proposal.
The next scene takes place “presently, on Lois’ wedding day.” In the chapel, a morning-frocked Bruce Wayne waits at the altar as Lois is walked down the nave by her father. (Poor Sam Lane must have gone bankrupt paying for all of his daughter’s weddings.) Then, the nuptials are interrupted by the late arrival of---Superman!
“He’s going to be my best man,” Bruce announces.
This is a big “hold everything!” for the dumbfounded bride-to-be. She drags Bruce into an anteroom and demands an explanation. An explanation for what, he responds. Then Lois admits to her whole scheme, revealing what she saw and how she was sure that Bruce was Superman.
Oh, that, replies Bruce. Then he tells her how it was all a stunt. In exchange for a fifty-thousand-dollar donation to charity, Superman allowed the socialite to play “Superman-for-a-Week”. The Man of Steel provided him with the disguise, the costume, and the anti-gravity belt to pull it off.
That’s when Lois shows the stuff that she’s truly made of.
“I can’t marry you if you aren’t Superman,” she tells Bruce flatly.
Wayne makes a display of being crushed. It’s sincere enough to reduce Lois to tears. She feels guilty---but not guilty enough to go through with the wedding.
Later, at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Superman enjoy a hearty laugh. When the Metropolis Marvel informed him of Lois’ subterfuge, they concocted a plan to hoist Lois on her own petard. By luring her into marrying Bruce, and having Superman show up at the ceremony, Lois’ perfidy was revealed, in front of her family and friends, at her own wedding.
“Lois will never know she almost married . . . Batman!” says the Man of Steel.
Yeah, well, better you than me, pal, Bruce is probably thinking.
I’ve never understood why many reviewers see Superman and Batman as the “bad guys” of this tale. To me, it’s impossible to feel the least bit sorry for Lois.
Not once in the story did she exhibit a positive quality.
Once she reasonably believed she had learnt Superman’s secret identity, she promptly reveals it to someone else. Moreover, she doesn’t use her newfound information to help Superman (as Pete Ross, who discovered the Man of Steel’s correct identity did, since they were boys) or at least, decide not to impede him with it. Instead, she uses it to lay a snare to get a ring on his finger.
Nor does she once consider the consequences of exploiting Bruce’s feelings, if she is wrong. Instead, she dumps him, once she discovers that he isn’t Superman.
At Wayne Manor, Lois is left alone when Bruce excuses himself to take a telephone call, and she uses the opportunity to snoop through the mansion, looking for further evidence that he is Superman. A clear betrayal of his trust and courtesy.
Even her feelings of guilt over toying with his emotions, once Lois learns that Bruce isn’t Superman, seem insincere. She’s like the thief who isn’t sorry that he stole, but he’s very, very sorry that he’s been caught.
She set herself up for her wedding-day humiliation, and frankly, she got what was coming to her.