lois bates

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copy of this particular issue of SUPERMAN FAMILY whose cover wasn’t miscut. I wonder if this wasn’t the result of the switch-over from a squarebound binding to traditional end-staples–if the cover has perhaps been set up for the former, and so without that additional bit of space, shifted the trim on the right side further inward on the printed covers. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that this issue was originally bought for my brother Ken rather than me, though as usual I ended up with it in the end.

SUPERMAN FAMILY represented the final stop on a long road for the solo careers of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Supergirl. Each had been a headliner previous to this, but with sales and interest waning, all three characters had been brought together into a single publication that would feature them all. This did mean that you only got one new story of each character every six months or so, as they rotated in the lead-off “new” spot. But that was better than the grim specter of cancellation.

The new Supergirl story in this issue featured wonderful artwork by the often-underrated Kurt Schaffenberger. He drew in an appealing, open style that conveyed a certain sense of whimsey and charm. In this case, the writing team of Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin gives us an adventure in which Supergirl is stalked by Ranar, an alien who was born at the exact same moment that she was, and who desires her as a mate, as the stars indicate that their union will make him all-powerful. 

Ranar’s people have no concept of right and wrong, and their lives are ruled by astrology, a hot topic in 1976. So Ranar journeys to Earth with the intention of subduing Kara and taking her as his bride, imperiling all of Stanhope College where she works as he’s doing so. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to bat away Ranar’s affections, Supergirl creates a massive planetoid and positions it in the cosmos such that it blocks out one of the stars, thus changing Ranar’s star-charts and her own desirability. This seems like an imperfect solution to me, as Ranar is going to figure out the deception when he returns home, and as the galaxy continues to move through space–but no matter. The tale is done.

This is followed up by the first reprint, a Lois Lane story, also illustrated by Schaffenberger several years previously. As so many of the Lois stories from this era do, this one revolves around matrimony. While on an international flight, klutzy Lois accidentally triggers the ejector seats, trapping herself, Clark Kent and rival Lana Lang in a lost valley filled with barbarian tribesmen. By the laws of the valley, all women must be married.

In order to avoid a death sentence, Lois agrees to marry Clark Kent. Then, Clark changes to Superman–but rather than, you know, flying the girls out of the valley to safety, he instead agrees to marry Lana in order to spare her life. This leads to a lot of jealousy and some secret identity snooping, but eventually, the trio is rescued by a search party guided to the spot by Superman, and everything goes back to normal. So there’s a lot of emotional drama, but all of it is pretty false.

The issue pauses at this point for the regular letters page, and as with other recent books, it ran the yearly Statement of Ownership in order to maintain its second class mailing permits. This lets us see that SUPERMAN FAMILY was selling 149,005 copies on a print run of 350,446, for an efficiency of 42.5%. That’s not a great percentage, but ti is better than most of the other recent titles we’ve seen, and the higher cover price on SUPERMAN FAMILY also likely meant that the margin on it was better as well.

Finally, the issue closes with a Jimmy Olsen reprint drawn by the always-reliable Curt Swan, here embellished by one of his best inkers, George Klein. It’s the first entry in what became a series of stories in which on-again/off-again couple Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane each adopted disguises, unbeknownst to the other, and became attracted to each other once again as “Sandra” and “Magi”. 

It all works out about as you’d expect, with both Jimmy and Lucy proving to be secretly faithless to one another, and the reader in on the gag. Along the way, there’s the capture of a wanted felon by Superman, an emergency landing of the plane that Magi and Sandra are on, and other shenanigans. And at the end, both Magi and Sandra have lost sight of one another, and resume their regular routine–all the while pining for the mysterious stranger they had met on the flight who is even then sitting right across from them. Oh, the irony! What’s interesting in all three of these stories is that the stakes are very small and personal, almost non-existent. It’s hard to imagine stories like these appearing in theoretically super hero comic books today.

Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #121 (April 1972)
Written by Cary Bates, art by Werner Roth and Vince Colletta

In this first issue of Lois Lane’s brief feminist revolution, Lois quit her job at the Daily Planet to become a freelance reporter. She was no longer interested in doing what other people told her to do; Lois was ready to be her own woman, and write the stories that she was passionate about. Perry White and Jimmy Olsen were flummoxed, but Lois was adamant. It was the dawn of a new era for Lois Lane, that lasted until editor Dorothy Woolfolk got fired seven issues later.

**Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter is on sale March 1, 2016**

Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #123 (June 1972)
Written by Cary Bates, art by John Rosenberger and Vince Colletta

While the bulk of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane consisted of romantic hijinks and patronizing lessons from Superman, in the early 1970s Lois got involved in women’s lib and branched out on her own. She dedicated herself to destroying The 100, a criminal organization that had killed her sister, and in this outing she chased them all the way to space, where she proved herself to be a capable zero-G combatant. Going after Lois’ oxygen tank did work for the goon, but once captured aboard The 100’s spaceship she disabled the crew and took over the ship.

**Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter is on sale March 1, 2016**