The cover to my copy of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106

Of all my finds during my stay in Virginia, this may be the crowning gem.

Ah, 1970 DC Comics. I’m sure you intended great humanitarian things with this issue. I’m not going to even attempt any social commentary here and just get on with my summary…you can draw your own conclusions regarding the material and its place in American history. Please note – anything in “quotes” is directly pulled from the text of the comic.

The book opens with a spread on Page 1 with Lois, as an African-American woman, asking Superman to marry her. As Supes stumbles for an answer the text boxes scream out “This is not an imaginary tale! Not a fantasy! Not a dream!”

Yeah, maybe this cold-open turn of events would have been a little more shocking if you hadn’t plastered the exact process and time limits of Lois’ transformation on the cover. Sort of detracts from the “Bwah?!”-factor that I’m certain Page 1 was suppose to instill upon an unexpecting audience when you completely inform them of what is happening before hand.

But I digress.

Page 2 starts a little undenoted flashback where a primping Lois is telling “Clark (Superman) Kent” that she’s going to “get the inside story of Metropolis’ Little Africa.” Lois leaves and takes Benny the Beret’s taxi cab to “Metropolis’ black community” while Clark decides he’s going to secretly follow her – as Superman, of course.

Lois’ enthusiasm for the story is quickly shattered when every African-American in every street, slum, alley, and Coffee Spot ignores her, turns away, slams doors in her face, or removes babies from her vicinity. Even a blind woman on a park bench walks away when she hears Lois speak and determines the reporter’s skin color from her voice.

As Lois wanders the streets she encounters a “street meeting” where an African-American man on a platform points her out and says that while she is “young and sweet and pretty” the man’s audience should “never forget…she’s whitey!” The man goes on to describe white racism and Lois walks away, silently acknowledging that while she does not agree with racism there are plenty of white people who do think like the man described.

Sometime later Superman finally shows up to check in, and Lois convinces him to take her to the Fortress of Solitude and use the Plastimold (a Kryptonian transformation device apparently introduced in Lois Lane #90) to make Lois black so she can infiltrate Little Africa. As Supes throws the switch we see Lois transformed from the pale-skinned bob-haired brunette into an African-American woman with something of an afro.

Whisked back to Metropolis Lois dons her “beautiful Afro attire” and tries to hale Benny’s cab once more…only to be passed by for a white man. On the subway Lois can’t decide if everyone is actually staring at her because she’s “conspicuous” or if she’s just being paranoid.

Once in Little Africa Lois puts out a garbage fire in one of the slum-houses, and the same woman who earlier slammed the door on the reporter’s face invites her in for coffee. The woman starts monologuing – without being asked a question – about the squalid conditions she lives in, going so far as to have to fight off a rat with a broom. Her diatribe on the situation feels a little forced. At one point the woman literally says, “But I don’t have to tell you about that!” after complaining about the old decaying decor when plaster falls into Lois’ coffee. Finally done her rant the woman asks a tearing Lois what her name is and what she can do for her. The reporter apparently leaves without answering.

Outside Lois watches a group of children being taught “Black is beautiful” when she is approached by Dave Stevens, the man who was the center of the “street meeting” earlier in the issue. He asks Lois if they have ever met before, as she looks familiar to him.

Before Miss Lane can muster a response Dave spots three school dropouts duck into an alley, and he follows to stop a transaction between them and some mobsters.  The criminals assume Dave is a plain-clothes cop and open fire, shooting Dave who falls into Lois’ arms. Superman finally shows up, knocking out the mobsters after melting their guns.

Supes grabs Lois and Dave and flies to the nearest hospital, where it is revealed the unconscious victim needs an O-Negative Blood Transfusion and the hospital is not funded well enough to carry “all types.” Superman matter-of-factually states that he could’t help even if he had that blood-type, as “no needle could penetrate my skin!”

Fortunately, Lois Lane is O-Negative and the blood transfusion is a go. Mid-operation Dave opens his eyes and sees his savior in the next cot.

Afterward Lois and Superman meet privately in another hospital room, where we catch up with the events of Page 1. Lois continues to ask Superman if he would consider marrying her if she was stuck permanently as African-American. Supes tries to dodge the question by pointing out he’s a fricking alien and therefore the ultimate outsider, however Lois counters with “But…your skin is the right color.”

Not to be cornered in any conversation Superman dodges the race-portion of Lois’ question again by saying that placing Miss Lane in such a public and dangerous situation is something he could never do regardless of her race. Before Lois can reply she is momentarily disorientated as her skin and hair revert back to their Caucasian heritage.  When the nurse comes to say Dave is asking to see her she is startled by the white girl’s presence.

Lois fears confronting Dave, but Superman assures her that “If he still hates you…with your blood in his veins…there may never be peace in this world!” Good one, Clark.

The last page of the story has no dialogue. Instead we just see Lois enter the room. Dave sees her, is shocked at first, then smiles and puts out his hand and they shake.

So…that was the main portion of the issue.

There are three supplements in the back of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #106.

The first is a Wonder Women of History piece on Martha G. Kimball, volunteer nurse pioneer during the Civil War, and the reason we have Memorial Day. It’s an interesting bit of bio-history.

The second supplement is a short about Rose and the Thorn that starts right out of the gate at 100 mph of tragedy. Basically Thorn beats the shit out of a bunch of bad guys, who then try to kill her by-the-day-personality Rose by poisoning roses (the plan is foiled when Rose’s poodle licks the flowers and dies)  and then Thorn wreaks prickly revenge. If you’re unfamiliar with the character(s)  you can sort of piece together everything that’s going on through dialogue, but everything moves so quick that by the time I was like “okay, yeah, I get what’s going on now” the short back-up was already at its next “to be continued.”

The final supplement is a one page peice honoring four “Women of Distinction” – Mrs. Harriet Maxwell Converse (first white woman ever made a Native American Chief), Blanche Stuart Scott (first woman to fly a solo flight), Susanna Salter (first woman in the US elected as a mayor), and Hannah Adams (first professional woman author). A sort of flat piece, with two attempts at jokes that fail.

THE FINAL VERDICT: What? Do you really need me to tell you to buy it if you see it?

Whether you find the main tale in this DC comic offensive or just a product of its time, can you seriously tell me you wouldn’t pick it up if you saw it? My copy is far from perfect and I happily paid $10 for it. It’s a piece of comic history. I can’t say that the main story is great literature, but the Rose and the Thorn bit is interesting super-hero soap opera and Thorn isn’t a bad looker. You’re not missing out on any great story-telling by passing it up, but you are denying yourself an education of comic book race-relations history.