Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Hiatus

Now that the lead story in Lois Lane 106 is complete (see below), Comic Books Revisited will be on hiatus during the holidays. But fear not, dear reader, it will be back with a brand new adventure in the new year. So until then, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwality Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year!

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 7, Finale): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read: Lois donated her handy-dandy color-blind O- blood to a wounded Dave. She sat tensely waiting, praying he would open his eyes. Will he? It's time to find out in the thrilling conclusion to I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Miraculously, Dave opens his eyes. Who knew that a pint of blood was a cure for a gunshot wound to the chest? It's not like anyone operated on him. (Dave looks like he's never seen her before in his life. Either that or he sucked on a lemon.)

Now that Dave is okay, it's time for Lois to confront Superman, so that we can tie all this into the splash page. She asks him if he'd marry her even if she remained black.

Superman is so upset that one of the parts of his S emblem is not inked. Now that's upset! He reminds her that he is an alien -- the universal outsider -- and that his skin is tougher than steel (funny, him mentioning his skin. Almost sounds like a set-up for a retort. Nah, Lois wouldn't take that bait). Lois says, "But... your skin is the right color!" (So is yours, Lois, or have you forgotten that you've only been black for a few hours?) (I kept waiting for him to say, "It's pure coincidence that Krypton was populated only by white people that wear headbands! Don't you see the irony, Lois? I could be wearing a headband right now -- Would you marry a man in a headband? Well, would you???")

So Supes goes into his 'my enemies, blah blah, deadly danger, blah, blah..." until Lois accuses him of being a broken record (This was back in the days when they had records instead of CDs, so that the saying makes sense, unlike nowadays!).

But before she becomes a broken record about being black, she suddenly begins to change. She's black. She's Hispanic. She's whitey, once again. Apparently, it didn't last the usual 24 hours this time. (She says she feels like she's shedding her skin. So the color was like a lizard's scales or something? That's just weird.)

The nurse comes in to tell her ol' Dave has been asking for her, but gosh golly, the nurse sure gets a shock. Some white girl stole that sister's clothes! Nah, she somehow immediately grasps that Lois, whom she had only known as black, had suddenly turned into a white woman. I guess we have to chalk this one up to living in a world where people can fly and burn things with their eyes. It's tough to surprise the ordinary Joe and Jane for long.

Lois is torn. Does she really want to see him now? Now that she's white? "He called me whitey! His enemy! What will he say now?" Superman says, "You must see him, Lois, or you'll never find out! If he still hates you... with your blood in his veins... there may never be peace in this world!" (No pressure or anything. The fate of the world rests on this moment, but don't be nervous.)

The last page has no captions or dialogue. Here it is:

There is hope after all! Peace can prevail! Dave was also able to figure out that Lois is the black woman who gave him blood and now she's a white woman and hey, isn't that the same woman who passed by on the street, but what does it matter since we're all brothers and sisters under our skin. Or something like that.

And that, my friends, is the inimitable, incredible, completely relevant, now, today truth!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 6): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read: Dave had just been shot in his purple shirt by two racially harmonious bad guys. Lois is still black and now her cool new friend may be dying and the thugs are still armed and dangerous. Let's get back to the good stuff in part 6 of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Out of the sky come two beams of red-hot heat vision, melting the guns "to taffy" (Taffy? How gangsterlike). In the background, we see Lois carrying Dave's injured body. Lois, you Amazon! You've been working out! Not even a fireman's carry, she's holding him like Rhett held Scarlett when he raced up the stairs for some hot southern comfort. (I can only imagine what Lois is saying. "You want to see man's work? I could bench press you, ya pansy!")

Superman makes short work of the 'hoods', and then flies Lois and Dave to a nearby hospital. Lois is very worried about her new friend. The doctor tells the nurse to get Dave's blood type fast because he's fading. (So... anything think blood type is going to be a key to this story?) Things are very tense. Lois is very worried (and I think her babushka is tilting).

"Tense minutes tick by like spurting heartbeats..." (ewww) He's O negative! But oh no! The hospital doesn't "have enough funds for all [blood] types".

Now just hang on a golldurned second here. O- is the universal donor. If you don't have O-, you might as well not have anything. So if you're buying blood, you make sure you get that one first. Not A+, not B-, not even O+ -- you need O-. So why in the Wide, Wide World of Sports would this hospital decide not to order O-? It isn't like they're out of it. He distinctly says they can't afford all the blood types; i.e. they choose to buy some and skip others. So hey, I've got an idea, let's not buy ANY of the universal donor!

Sure, I realize that it's a set-up for the next panel (raise your hands if you've figured out that Lois is O- and rolling up her sleeve?) but COME ON PEOPLE!!! This is lazy writing! Find some logical way to make the donation necessary, not this golldurned, idiotic, "we need to prove we're poor again so we'll let common sense fly out the window" and "we need an excuse for Lois to donate" shinola!!!!! For crying out loud, it isn't like Lois's blood type is part of canon (or that DC cared about canon in those days). Make her a different blood type! Make her A- or B+ or even the rarest, AB-. I can see why a hospital wouldn't stock AB- because of its rarity and that would prove the "we're poor" point, but the universal donor? Give me a break.

Okay, I've calmed down now. And by pure coincidence, a week ago I was lying on a Red Cross table filling up a bag with my own O- blood. Yes, I'm the universal donor, and the Red Cross adores me. Every 54 days, I drop some reddies on the Crossers. If you ever need blood, I'm your gal.

Back to the story. Superman wishes he could volunteer to give blood, but needles break on his arm. (Lois looks bored. Most likely she recognizes the stupidity of a hospital that doesn't stock O-.)

Suddenly, out of the blue in a completely unexpected story twist, Lois announces, "I- I'm O Negative! Just like him!" Shocking! Pardon me while I retrieve my jaw. (Okay, I'm still upset about the lazy writing. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate contrived events in storytelling).

And then we get some dramatic blood donation panels. (Blood donation as a thrilling climax! You don't see that every day.) It almost looks like Lois is being told by ground control how to land a pilot-less plane. "Open and close your fist slowly... slowly... till I tell you to stop!" (Doctor, her fist! It's opening and closing too fast! We're all going to die!) As the tense blood donation continues, Lois worries about Dave's survival.

I'm going to leave Lois donating all weekend just to tease the heck out of all of you. Bwa ha ha ha! You have NO idea if Dave will live or die. There's no way to possibly know – what's that? It's a 70s comic about bigotry and not one of the Lois is in love so we better kill him off comics? Oh. Well just pretend you don't have a clue so you'll come back Monday for the thrilling conclusion of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 5): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read: White Lois goes to Little Africa and is shunned, so she becomes Black Lois. BL meets SL (slum lady) and learns about tenements and poverty. Lois, still black, continues her exploration of Little Africa. Let's now return to I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

There appears to be a problem with schooling, as kindergarten is held in an empty lot with the kids sitting on crates, listening to a man tell them that black is beautiful. He says it several times. He makes them repeat it. He looks a tad... demonic as he says it. The kids don't appear to be afraid of him, but that wild look in his eyes chills me a bit (Black may be beautiful, but demonic possession never is). Am I discovering a heretofore unknown prejudice or am I remembering being in school with wacko Miss Herzog and her Hitleresque learning techniques? (a shiver goes down Joanna's spine). Definitely the Herzog effect.

(Social commentary: I've often heard the argument that if white people shouted the slogan "White is Beautiful" it would be deemed racist and bigoted, yet the whole "Black is Beautiful" thing was cheered in the late 60's/early 70's. This is a specious argument because society always allows the downtrodden to say what the ruling elite cannot when it comes to a struggle for equality. That's why there can be a women's lib, yet a 'man's lib' is laughable -- liberated from what: higher pay, higher social position, being the ruling class? "Black is beautiful" worked only because history had deemed them "unbeautiful" for centuries. To climb the ladder to equality, the non-ruling class has to fuel itself and the ruling class is not allowed to steal that fuel. The two panels that have the "Black is beautiful" kindergarten class is, therefore, a wonderful representation of the system at work. Tell small children who fear their futures that they are beautiful. That they can have pride and hope. That they can achieve. Tell them often enough and they will grow up believing it. That belief, more than anything else, will fuel the social change. Despite the crazy look in the teacher's eyes, I really like these two panels for what they represent in the mirror of 30+ years ago. I think they are far more powerful than the falling plaster, or the whitey is bad stuff.)

A hand touches Lois on the shoulder and she turns to see Angry Black Man from the day before. Only now he's Handsome Black Man (or because he actually has a name: Dave Stevens). He feels that he recognizes Lois and tries to pin down from where he knows her. Lois is speechless (we must assume she remembers him and his purple shirt and therefore knows that he saw her earlier as a white woman). He looks nice. I no longer hate him.

Before they can explore this further, Dave sees some teenagers heading for an alley. Not only are they skipping school, Dave knows they're up to no good. He immediately turns into a crusading hero, ready to take on the baddies who threaten the youth. He also turns into a male chauvinist pig (I'm using me some 70's lingo, baby!) by telling Lois to stay out of it because "...this is a man's business!" (He could have said, "Stay here, there might be trouble" or warned of danger or something like that, but instead he had to get all Archie Bunker on her and proclaim it a man thing). Let's see, he's racist and sexist. Oh yeah, real swoon material. He doesn't look nice anymore. I'm starting to hate him again.

Lois -- who has never run from danger in her life -- follows him. She's a reporter. Danger is her life (and no man is going to tell that feminist where she can and cannot go!).

As they run toward the end of the alley we see the teenagers talking to two guys (Isn't that nice? Black and white, working together in harmony) dressed as mobsters/crooks. (Hello, teenagers? I'd like you to meet Bad Influences. Bad Influences? Teenagers.) The teens have been stealing so that they can buy drugs. Dave is very upset about this, as he should be. Unfortunately, the crooks are also upset at Dave, thinking he's probably "the fuzz". They shoot. Lois escapes injury, but Dave is hit (ruining his favorite purple shirt)!

Oh no! Dave is going to die! Lois is black! The hoods are more racially harmonious than the good guys! What a world! What a world! Could I really leave you hanging like this? Sure can. Come back Friday for part 6 of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 4): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read: Lois turned herself into a foxy black woman so she could experience the slums for herself and win a Pulitzer. Immediately, she begins to feel the chilling effect of prejudice. Benny the Beret won't pick her up in his cab. People in the subway stare at her (well, they would've if the artist had drawn it that way). It's very disconcerting for Lois but she soldiers on, determined to get her story. And now here's Part 4 of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

What will Lois do now that she's a black woman in the 'hood? What she did the first time -- she wanders into a tenement to find someone to interview. But oh no! She sees smoke behind the stairs. Quickly, she beats the flames down on a pile of trash stashed under the stairs.

A woman comes out and, seeing the heroic black Lois beating down the flames, decides to chat. I'm pretty sure it's the same woman white-Lois tried to talk to when she got a door slam as an answer. Looks like the same dress. (Lois can change her entire race, but this woman can't even change her clothes. An indication of poverty or a shortcut to clueing us in that she's the same person? Okay, they're not that deep – it's the shortcut thing.)

She tells Lois that the place is a firetrap and people leave trash there because the "slumlord" doesn't want to pay for a janitor. (Apartments have janitors? My apt. doesn't have a janitor. I have to haul my own trash outside, down some stairs, across a patio, down more stairs, through a hall, and into the garage where the bin is. My slumlord sucks! She also refuses to heat the swimming pool! Dirty, rotten slumlord.)

Slum Lady invites Lois into her apartment and offers her a cup of coffee. She makes a joke about hoping Lois isn't a bill collector (the fact that she lives in a tenement and has a slumlord wasn't proof enough. We needed more clues that it just might be possible that she's low on funds).

Okay, so Slum Lady has obviously told us everything we need to hear. Trash in the hallway, slumlord, bill collectors, no money, we got it. Who's next?

No one. We're still at Slum Lady's (I'm tired of typing Slum Lady. From now on she's SL) apartment. A piece of plaster from the ceiling falls into Lois's coffee. ("I said cream, no sugar, no plaster."). SL tells Lois that around there you get used to falling plaster. And the place hasn't been painted in eons. "But I don't have to tell you that!" Yes, apparently she did. By Lois's shocked expression, she had no idea that some people were poor.

Surely that's enough, right? Nah ah! SL hears her baby calling. She grabs a broom and chases a rat away from the crib.

As she comforts the child, she says to Lois, "I haven't asked who you are, or what you're here for. Can I help you, sister?" Lois, tears brimming, thinks, "She lives in misery, yet she asks if she can help me!"

Let's sum it up again folks. SL has trash in the hallway, a slumlord, bill collectors, no money, falling plaster, old paint, and rats. The evidence is really mounting toward the conclusion that SL is poor. But she's nice to black women (she slams the door in the faces of white women, but gives a sister a cup of coffee and an offer of help). Has Lois finally learned what she needed to?

Yes and no. She leaves SL, but she still has plenty of experiences ahead of her. Being black isn't defined by being poor. Lois needs to keep exploring Little Africa.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 3): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read, Lois had finally gotten her fill of being humiliated in the ghetto. Her whiteness was an unbreachable wall to getting the truth, the now, the today. She decides there's only way to get her scoop and enlists Superman's help in achieving this goal. What is it? Read on, my friends...

Superman flies Lois to the Fortress of Solitude (chastising himself for going along with her hair-brained scheme) so that Lois can use...

The Plastimold*!

(*The Plastimold was invented by Dahr-Nel, a Kryptonian doctor. I had the Dahr-Nel Plastimold issue when I was a kid, and I always thought it was cool because my favorite babysitter's name was Suzie Darnell. I figured maybe she was a relative, and therefore of Kryptonian birth. Okay, I didn't think that -- I wasn't an idiot. But I still thought it was cool.)

For the uninformed, The Plastimold machine can remake you like one giant plastic surgery machine. Only not like real plastic surgery, more like movie plastic surgery where bad guys get their faces so completely changed they have to be played by a new actor. Or like the master villains who change their faces to look exactly like someone else and they take over that guy's life. Only The Plastimold does this to your whole body. It can change everything -- height, weight, hair color, race...

Lois steps in and waits for Superman to hit the transformoflux pack. You heard me. I'm not typing that word again, so just go back and read it. With a mightly Whummmm and Hummmmm, Lois is changed before our very eyes from a white woman to a sistah! (She's got her fro and is ready to go!)

Hooboy, I suspect there's relevance ahead!!!

Just in case we were worried, Superman reminds Lois that she'll only be black for a day. (Is that enough time to feel the entire life experiences of a persecuted member of the population? Is it enough time to win a Pulitzer? Does she have anything to wear? One of these questions haunts her.)

Lois asks Superman to take her home quickly so that she can find something to wear. I guess her current outfit is too whitey.

In the next panel, we see black Lois dressed as Foxy Cleopatra with a giant babushka on her head. Did she always have these clothes in her closet? Or did she run out to "Whites Disguised as Blacks Boutique" and do some shopping?

Whatever the answer, we see her trying to hail a cab in the pouring rain. She's in luck! Benny the Beret (you didn't think he was going to get all that play in the beginning without returning for a crucial "point driven home" scene, did you?) is there in his cab. (I think I can hear her yelling, "Taxi! Hurry! My head is tipping me over because I forgot to take the towel off after I washed my hair!")

But holy Archie Bunker, Batman! Benny drives right by her as if she doesn't exist! And then, to make sure Lois understands that it wasn't because his cab was full or he was on a break, he stops a few feet away from her to pick up a white guy. (I never liked that Benny with his suspicious beret and his broken promises.)

Lois realizes that she just got her first lesson in being black. From this we can predict that there are going to be a lot more lessons to come.

The next panel is surprisingly subtle. Lois is on the subway and thinks everyone is staring at her because she's black. Only no one is staring! They don't care -- they don't realize that she used to be white, or care that she's black. They're reading their papers, or reading someone else's paper. (Check it out for yourself: There are 7 people on the subway besides Lois. The 3 on the bench aren't looking at her. The guy in the green shirt isn't looking at her. The gay guy in the blue shirt isn't looking at her. The guy in the hat isn't looking at her. Only the guy in the orange jacket is looking at her, and he might just think she's Erykah Badu.) Lois is officially in Paranoiaville.

I thought this was a nice touch. It displays the same paranoia she had when she bought coffee (thinking they were staring at her with hatred when they really didn't look like they cared very much). Lois isn't comfortable whether she's white or black. She's projecting onto everyone. She needs to get this under control if she wants to write a balanced article.

The next panel shows that Lois is still thinking about her experience in the subway. What's bizarre about this is that her thoughts are basically a realization of how difficult life is to be black due to the suspicions of whites. All well and good until you remember that she wasn't being stared at on the subway. I'm afraid, "How dare 1 out of 7 people stare at me!" sounds a little less righteous than planned.

So what is the writer trying to say? Is he trying to show that Lois is paranoid or not? Were the people on the subway supposed to be staring at Lois but no one told the artist? Is the silent speech about the black experience supposed to be taken at face value? I am so confused! "Mommy... what does this mean? Why is Lois saying that everyone is staring at her when no one is? And why is she asking if that's how blacks are treated, when she was treated just fine? Shouldn't blacks be treated as nicely as she was? Help me, Mommy!" "Joanna, it's past your bedtime. We'll talk about this after I've thrown away this comic. Er... I mean I've put it away, honey. Go to sleep."

Comics can be so deep.

Perhaps we'll get more clues about what the writer and artist are trying to say when we read our next installment. Come back on Monday when Lois returns to the ghetto as a sistah instead of an outsider in part 4 of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 2): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

When last we read, Whitey Lois was in the 'hood trying to write an article that will win her a Pulitzer. Although cabs are eager to pick her up, the people in the ghetto don't have the same enthusiasm. Shunned by children, Lois carries on in I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Rebuffed but undaunted, our favorite journalist continues on her quest. She's Lois Lane, intrepid girl reporter, and nothing is going to keep her from her Pulitzer. So she knocks on a tenement door. (Really, Lois? You're just going to knock on some stranger's door and get the scoop on being black? Ooookay, let's try that). The woman who answers the door slams it in Lois's face.

"Ohh...!" More shock. Dang those Pulitzers are hard to earn. (Perhaps Lois shouldn't have worn her "I've found Jehovah!" button today.)

Her day doesn't improve. She goes to a coffee shop and two men look toward her. "How can I break through this wall of suspicion? " (Personally, I think they're staring because she's sitting there staring at them, and she's not drinking her coffee. It's gonna get cold, y'know! That's pretty suspicious. Bet she ordered it black, too!)

She passes three guys playing dice in an alley and thinks, "No one will speak to me!" (She's just standing there staring at them, clutching her purse tightly, and looking superior. Why would they break their game to talk to her? What if they've already heard on the street that she orders coffee but won't drink it because it's black? Huh? Did you ever think of that, Lois!!!)

Not having any luck with kids or adults, Lois goes after a baby. She chucks it under the chin only to have the wee one wheeled away by her mother, as if Lois were the plague. Lois thinks, "That mother wheeled her baby away from me as if... as if I were the plague!' (Sure, Lois -- reference the black death. Betcha whitey gave it that name.)

"Wandering like homeless ghost..." (ghosts being traditionally depicted as white apparitions, of course. Doncha get it, Lois? You're going to have to turn black! Not yet? Okay, let's continue this rejection for another page or so). Lois sits on a park bench next to an elderly woman. The woman politely mentions the weather and Lois feels vindicated. Finally, someone is talking to her! (What Lois doesn't know is that the old lady also wants a Pulitzer. She's really a 20 yr-old who transformed herself into an elderly woman to research ageism.)

But as soon as she tells the woman that she's a reporter, the woman leaves. "The freeze is still on! The only reason that nice old lady spoke to me is because she's blind! When she heard me speak, she knew I was white!"

(That should be enough. The reader would have to be blind and not reading this story not to have gotten the point by now, right? Right? Well... maybe we need it spelled out a little clearer.)

A young, handsome black man is speaking to a crowd and, while pointing to Lois, says, "Look at her brothers and sisters! She's young and sweet and pretty. But she never forgets she's whitey!" (Actually, Lois had nearly forgotten she was whitey, but thankfully, he was there to remind her.)

(Please note that at this point, the only people who have shown rampant, outrageous racism are the blacks. They ostracize her, won't speak to her, and call her racial epithets. What is this story trying to say? That all black people are bigots? Maybe Lois should turn black, so we can get down to the truth! The now! The today!)

Mr. Black Man continues saying, "She'll let us shine her shoes and sweep her floors! And let us baby-sit for her kids! But she doesn't want to let our kids into her lily-white schools! It's okay with her if we leave these rat-infested slums! If we don't move next door to her ! That's why she's our enemy !" (Is she sad because of what he said, or because she sees her Pulitzer slipping away?)

Wow! We've got some genuine urban anger going on here, right in the same comic that used to deal primarily with doing silly things to get scoops and making up plots to trap Superman into marriage! I think the silver age is over, boys and girls. Comics are suddenly as bronze as Lois with a super-tan.

A very sad Lois thinks, "He's wrong about me... but right about so many others!" Oh man, Lois is having an epiphany. She's seen the slums and the tenements; she's seen the distrust and fear; she's seen herself in a black man's mirror and she's awakened to the now, the today and all that relevant stuff.

After several more hours of this (Lois is a tad slow getting the point) she is sitting on a park bench when Superman flies down. (He was watching over her, remember?) So, has Lois changed deep inside? Has this experience truly awakened her to the problems in the slums?

Nah, she's still worried about her story. She tells Superman that there's only one way she can get her scoop. What could it possibly be? Would I really be so cruel as to end today's revisit here? Why, yes, actually, I would. Come back Friday to find out what that "one way" to change things could possibly be (Don't peak at the cover or, um, the title of the story) in I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #106 (Part 1): I AM CURIOUS BLACK

This is an absolutely classic "relevant" DC comic from 1970, when social issues were the new fodder for stories in comics. In a nutshell, Lois Lane turns black, so that she can experience life in the hood. It doesn't get much better than that. Keep in mind as you read this it's a pop culture treasure, crystallizing many of the attitudes and outlooks of the U.S.A. close to 40 years ago. The civil rights movement of the 1960s was still in full swing in the year this comic was written. Segregation, prejudice, and bigotry were a deep wounds in the nation's psyche and it was more than time to expose that wound to the air so that it could have a chance at healing.

Comic books were a solid part of pop culture, still rooted in the dime store spinner rack and considered kiddy lit. One of the best ways to improve any social ill is to get the children thinking differently than the generation before them. In this way, comic books had an important role. This story made an honest effort to address the subject of prejudice. In hindsight these many decades later, it sounds dated and in places, downright funny (dare I say "comical"?). Enjoy the humor, but as the lighthearted Silver Age of comics ended and the darker Bronze Age began (1970 is usually considered the beginning of the Bronze Age), DC had some catching up to do.

Come along for the ride because son of a gun, gonna have big fun!

The splash page is a doozy. A black (not African-American, as that term is years away) Lois is confronting whitey Superman, daring him to say that he'd marry her even though she's black.

I haven't even gotten past the splash, and I must already pause. Lois has been wanting to marry Superman for a very long time. It's nearly all she thinks about, and a huge portion of her stories have this as a central theme. Why on earth does she think that he's suddenly going to marry her just because she changed her skin color? She's still vulnerable to his enemies (the excuse he always gives). She's black, not immortal. But the way she's laying into him you'd think he was on his way to the altar, saw her new skin color and flew away at superspeed.

This opening splash tells us very clearly that the point of this story is to bludgeon the reader about prejudice, not worry about little details like 40 years of continuity. It's about being oppressed by The Man! It's about reality and relevance and the streets and civil rights and getting a cab and not marrying Superwhitey! You dig? It's today! It's now! It's truth!

It's not really the beginning of the story.

The story actually begins with a very smug (you know she's smug because she's looking at herself in a mirror -- a dead giveaway) Lois telling Clark about the Pulitzer Prize she's going to win for writing a story about Metropolis's Little Africa section of town. She's gonna tell it like it is, baby! Get the real nitty gritty about life in the inner city.

Clark decides to keep an eye on her as Superman, because he knows she's going to get in trouble. Either that or he's a white establishment pig who thinks all blacks are criminals. It's not really clear which of these he's thinking. Aw heck, any LL reader knows that Lois can get in trouble tying her shoes -- that's why he's going to keep an eye on her.

Lois hails a cab and is greeted by Benny the Beret (This is Benny. He is a beret). He's a hale and hearty fellow (just wanted to use both 'hail' and 'hale' to prove I know the difference). It's obvious that when Lois wants a cab, Benny is always there to help her out. He takes her to Little Africa, and offers to wait, but she sends him on his way. Lois is positive the residents there will welcome her with open arms.

She gets her comeuppance fast. She approaches some school children and finally has that smug expression (which she has worn from panel 1!) wiped off her face when the kids turn their backs on her and won't answer her questions. She is shocked!

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That should be enough to let Lois know that things aren't going to be easy for a white woman to get a good story in the ghetto. Surely she'll head back to the Planet and either choose another subject or figure out a way to become black. That's what most reporters would do, right? Well, it's not quite that simple. In order to find out what happens next, you'll simply have to come back on Wednesday to read part 2 of I AM CURIOUS BLACK!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (Story Three, Part 3, Finale): THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

When last we read, mayhem was about to break out as Lois sees Lucy heading into the cabinet. Without ado, further or otherwise, here is the next installment of THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

"In an instinctive rush to protect her sister, Lois plunges forward..." and Lucy, that rat, jumps out of the way so that Lois is the one who ends up in the cabinet instead of her. Sure, she looks regretful, but this could all be deep-seated sibling rivalry made heinously real through the use of a Kryptonian evolution cabinet. Just saying, is all.

Jimmy zeeeee's for Superman while explaining to Lucy as if she's never heard of the watch before, "I'm using my signal watch repeatedly to call Superman!" Ah well, as John Byrne always said, "Every comic is someone's first issue." Because we're running out of pages in this story, Superman actually shows up this time. And now we get the Superman thought balloon from the cover. "My X-Ray vision reveals that it's changing Lois into... but I daren't tell them!" (daren't? Superman thinks like a 19th Century romance novel? Interesting.)

And finally, the secret is revealed. Lois emerges from the cabinet and she's... no, I daren't tell you. Aw, what the heck. She's a giant cat. (That makes so much sense. Jimmy is turned into an old man, Perry into a baby and Lois into another species. That is one wacky cabinet. You can't even count on it to continue aging or digressing people. Now it's suddenly capable of switching species. Personally, I think it was because Jimmy gets to make that pun about Lana thinking Lois is catty. It's a long way to go for a pun, but not if you're high on goofballs.) Lucy pleads for Superman to change Lois back. Perhaps she doesn't want any pets or maybe she fears the enormous tuna bill that giant Loiscat would incur.

Superman reads the inscription with his microscopic vision and finds out it can't turn anyone back to normal. "This is the evolution cabinet of Zan Zoll, scientist of Krypton... which changed his victims in strange ways, but could not change them back! (Krypton, originators of the run-on sentence) Therefore, we sentenced him..." Rather than finish the quote, we get to see chunky Kryptonians wearing shoulder puffs, headbands, and underwear on the outside as they condemn the non-puffy-shouldered Zan Zoll to the phantom zone. (My, that must be one crowded zone). Then, instead of destroying the cabinet, they shoot it into space. ("Not our problem anymore. Let those damn Earthlings deal with our detritus yet again. I hear Jimmy Olsen speaks Kryptonian.")

So we finally have the answer to that "why wasn't it turned to Kryptonite" question. It was jettisoned prior to the big boom. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, Mxyzptlk decides to take that moment to make an entrance. Because this is Jimmy's comic, it's time for him to save the day.

Jimmy tells Mxy not to bother them because a greater magician has changed everyone in ways that no one, even Mxy, could reverse. And because the imp is a known idiot who can never see the obvious, he falls for it and instantly turns everyone back to normal. (The best part of this sequence is Perry White. If you'll recall, he was wearing baby garments at this point in the story so when he's turned back, he is not dressed for company. Granted, the baby clothes appear to be quite stretchy, so he's not entirely nekkid, but he isn't looking his sharpest. This continues through the next few panels.)

Picking up Jimmy's lead, Superman praises Mxy, telling him, "You can truly boast you're a greater magician than the one whose name is on this cabinet." (No, sorry, I can't see this one coming from 100 miles away. I am truly obtuse. I am convinced Mxy will denigrate Zan Zoll and continue to harass Superman.) "Of course I am greater than that amateur! Let's see, what's his name..." says Mxy, showing his enormous intellect. "...Kltpzyxm... oops!" Yes, that wacky sprite has done it again. Even as he poofs away, he explains that saying his name backwards is returning him to the 5th dimension ("Up, up and away in our beautiful balloon...")!

Just in case we didn't follow that, Jimmy tells Superman the trick Supes just used to make it happen. Then Superman continues the explanation by explaining that even though Mxy's magic usually disappears when he does, in this case, since they were all returned to normal, the magic stuck. (Okay, it doesn't make much sense to me, either, but there's only one panel left. Heaven forfend there not be enough room to push the Strange Sports Stories issue of the Brave and the Bold.) In the background, Perry says, "What happened? Why am I wearing baby clothes?"

Luckily, there's room enough to tell us the entire plot of the comic all over again, so we get a quick wrap-up by Lois (who wasn't even there!). Perry then fires everyone amidst a sea of happy smiles. Superman isn't winking at us (shucks) but he is smirking, so that's partial points.

Ah, Silver Age DC Comics. Oh, but I love them so.

Now that we've had a Golden Age Wonder Woman comic and Silver Age Jimmy Olsen, it's high time we enter the Bronze Age. Starting next week is one of the most classic Lois Lane Bronze Age "look how relevant we are" comics ever. It's the inimitable SUPERMAN'S GIRLFRIEND LOIS LANE #106: I AM CURIOUS BLACK where Lois gets turned into a black woman so she can experience prejudice and the ghetto firsthand. Oh, but it is deliciously dated and an outstandingly good read. Come for the story; stay for the snark! That's coming on Monday. Until then... ::wink!::

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (Story Three, Part 2): THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

When last we read, Jimmy had just stepped into the mysterious big red phone booth scientific instrument from Krypton that shouldn't be tampered with in order to impress Lucy Lane. (Please don't ask me about the logic of that move. This is Jimmy Olsen for crying out loud.) And now, for the startling consequences that none of you could possibly see coming! Here's part 2 of THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

Jimmy comes out feeling weak and shaky. Although he can't see it, we now know that – shocker! – he's been turned into an old man! Jimmy looks in a mirror and thinks, "Yow! I'm an old man! The evolution cabinet aged me! I should have listened to Perry and not fooled around with it!" (Oh, Jimmy. Will you never learn? If something is called an "evolution cabinet," is from Krypton, has no obvious buttons or gadgets, and is big enough to fit a person, you might consider thinking about possible consequences as opposed to your date with Lucy Lane. Just saying, is all.)

How Jimmy deal with this harrowing turn of events? Will he tell Perry White what happened so they can make sure no one else makes the same mistake? Have you read no Jimmy Olsen comics at all? Of course he won't! He'll wear a disguise. Seeing a Christmas wreath, Old Man Jimmy gets an idea. He quickly rents a Santa costume so that his aged body and long white beard will look perfectly normal. When Perry questions him, he explains that (snicker) " this old-man make-up and Santa Claus costume I can investigate that stolen fur racket with no one suspecting I'm a reporter!" (Let me get this straight. In order to investigate some crooks, he goes undercover as Santa Claus? No one will notice him then, right? "Hey look, Mugsy, Santa Claus is wandering around, asking about our racket. Phew! For a second I thought he might be a reporter. Tell Santa whatever he needs to know. He's prolly just trying to get the goods on giving furs for Christmas. Every kid loves a fur coat. Yeah, that's it.")

Perry thinks Jimmy is "disguise-happy" (ya think?) and notes how well Jimmy is imitating an old man. But what's this? Jimmy left the notes on the fur racket in the evolution chamber. Perry crawls inside to retrive them, the cabinet glows and wham! Perry is now a baby! He's a baby wearing Perry's clothes and bawling. Childcare expert Jimmy puts a cigar in the baby's mouth yet oddly enough, the child is not happy about that. (Can you imagine in today's anti-smoking world what the outcry would be if one put a cigar into a baby's mouth?) The cigar thing proves to Jimmy that Perry is not just a baby in appearance, but also one mentally.

Just then Lois drops by. She takes one look at Santa Jimmy holding a baby dressed in Perry's clothes and to her credit, asks what's going on. (Things are strange at the Planet, but apparently there's a limit.) Jimmy explains his disguise and then says that the baby is a relative of Perry's and is dressed like that for a gag. Funny stuff. Dressing a baby in a man's suit. Lois doesn't question it so Jimmy asks Lois to babysit but she's on her way into Perry's office to check on a feature and hasn't the time.

Baby Perry is now happily playing with an ink bottle (my guess is that they needed to match all of the elements on the cover because DC covers often came before the stories). Jimmy cleans him up and while the baby makes a racket, Jimmy tells him he has to get on that racket story. (heh) Santa Jimmy buys a stroller and baby clothes and takes the baby with him to the racket story. (He's going to blend in even more now! An old, skinny Santa Claus pushing a baby carriage – who would look twice at that? It's a perfect disguise).

Santa Jimmy stares at some crooks about 10 feet away. The crooks do not notice the Santa who's got a baby carriage and is taking pictures of them. Apparently, ex-convicts are stealing furs and selling them in a store. Now that Jimmy's got the goods on the racket (phew! That MacGuffin racket plotline needs to be put away. We're interested in the Santa, baby, phone booth plot, not some stupid fur racket. When does Lois get in the booth? Huh? It's on the cover so it must happen. C'mon, Lois, get in there and get turned into something Superman dare not say).

Once finished with the racket, Jimmy hightails away because it's after 5pm. "Jeepers, it's time for my date with Lucy Lane... and if I stand her up, I'll be an old man before I get another date! What am I saying? I am old!" Let's just hope Lucy is suitably impressed by Jimmy going into the phone booth. That was supposed to be a turn-on for her, right?

But at a downtown nightclub (they're going to a nightclub at 5pm?) Santa Jimmy races in with baby Perry. Lucy isn't even sure it's Jimmy. He tells her it's a disguise and let's face it, no explanation is more acceptable than Jimmy is wearing a disguise since he puts a new one on every 5.4 seconds. They sit down to dinner and Jimmy orders a steak for Lucy and a soft-boiled egg with crackers for himself. (It's because he's old. Just in case you forgot. Jimmy is old. He eats old man food. Phew – it's a good thing they keep reminding us, huh?) He orders a bottle "for my editor... I mean, my baby" (just in case you forgot the baby was Perry Whi—oh, forget it).

Lucy is not amused by Jimmy's disguise and tries to pull off the beard. Uh oh! It's real! He spills the beans to Lucy, telling her the truth about the cabinet. He offers to take her to the planet to show her (she never got her steak! I'd like a steak. I'll eat it) the cabinet. "I'll come," says Lucy, "And if this cabinet of yours has done anything to my sister Lois, I'll... I'll..." She looks angry instead of turned on. Poor Jimmy blew it in so many ways. And now Lucy is worried about Lois (nice to see her getting protective of her older sister).

The two of them (and baby makes three) head to the planet. Jimmy gives her the abridged version of finding the cabinet (making sure to mention yet again that it wasn't converted to Kryptonite. Hmmm....) but Lucy thinks the story sounds fishy.

And now let the mayhem begin! Perry tries to crawl out a window, Lucy decides to debunk Jimmy's story by going in the cabinet (will no one show a single working brain cell and stay out of the flocking cabinet????) and Lois enters at that moment, still searching for Perry.

Whaddaya suppose is gonna happen now? Mayhem, I tells ya, pure mayhem! Be sure to come back Friday for the thrilling conclusion of THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (Story Three, Part 1): THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

Curiosity is a good quality in a newspaper reporter, but it can be carried too far! And Jimmy Olsen proves that when his curiosity drags him, and also Perry White and Lois Lane, into an amazing predicament from which it seems even Superman can't rescue them! Here is the tale of the strange doom that came out of-- THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!

Life is never easy for ole Jimmy, is it? Even when he's showing one of the qualities that put the rep in cub reporter, he still manages to get in trouble. I wonder how? Oh, look! A comic book and it appears to have all the answers. Let's find out together, shall we?

Our splash page shows Metropolis's rainbow Lego block skyline and Jimmy as an old man. You can tell he's old because he has a long, white beard down to his knees, uses a crooked cane, has his hand on his back, and puffs and gasps in his thoughts. I'll admit that I don't know if geriatrics puff and gasp in their thoughts, but I'm willing to take it as given. (Note that Jimmy's trademark 'red' hair has but a wee bit of white at the temples and is otherwise still full, lush and orange, as it always is. I guess when something is your trademark it won't do to lose it. How else are we to know it's Jimmy? Certainly not by his fashion sense. Everyone knows Jimmy only owns one suit and it's green. Apparently, once aged, Jimmy quickly went shopping at Geezer Gap.) Meanwhile, Superman flies overhead and helps the reader note that a) it's Jimmy – just in case that orange hair didn't clue us in enough, b) he's old, and c) he's having a tough time holding his job, most likely due to internal puffing and gasping.

I glance at the first panel and right off the bat, I'm proven wrong. Jimmy does own clothes that aren't green. I guess the bowtie is far more important than the color of his suit. The story begins with Jimmy shouting at a flying Superman. Apparently, Supes didn't answer Jimmy's signal watch's "zeeeee". Jimmy wants Supes to help with a deep-sea dredging story. Superman can't help with that fascinating dredging story, however, because he's on the tail of Mr. Mxyzptlk (helpfully pronounced "Mix-Yez-Pit-Lek" according to the editor).

So what is that wacky interdimensional imp up to now? (oddly, Microsoft Word does not recognize the word 'interdimensional'. Do they not read any comics over there? Shame on them. They are tainting the appellations 'geek' and 'nerd' for everyone.) Ole Mxy is causing havoc by reversing signs (i.e. spelling everything backward). Wow. That is... just... havoc-making. Obviously a job for SUPERMAN! The world would stop if a motorist can't make out that billboard for Burpsi-Cola (or Isprub-Aloc, as it now appears). Superman needs to make all new signs to avoid traffic jams. (Often I think about the things that happen in comics and what mayhem would be produced in the real world were some of the happenings within to occur in reality. The comic world needs superheroes just to deal with all that insanity. But reversed signs? Yeah, that's the end of civilization as we know it. No nation could recover from that. Armageddon.)

Recognizing the seriousness of the whole 'ngis' dilemma, Jimmy heads on over to the docks for the dredge report (heh). A crane lifts up what appears to be a red phone booth and it is a startling sight to Jimmy. "What in the world is the dredge bringing up now?" (Nothing political, I hope) The dredge guy doesn't know but guesses it's been sunk for a hundred years due to its excessive silty-ness.

Dredge Guy does not see it as a red phone booth. He thinks it is some sort of scientific instrument (have to admit, that would not have been my first thought.) Ever-helpful Jimmy notes that, "...this inscription on it is in the language of the perished planet, Krypton! I learned the language from Superman and can read it!" Wow, Jimmy's education in all things Superman even extends to speaking Kryptonese. That is simply amazing. I wonder how often that's needed? What am I saying? In Jimmy's life, probably every other day.

He reads it aloud. "This is the evolution cabinet of Zan Zoll (Kryptonians really love the letter "Z", don't they?), scientist of Krypton..." The rest is corroded and illegible. As Jimmy and the dredger load the cabinet onto the Daily Planet helicopter, Jimmy notes that, "for some mysterious reason, it was not changed into Kryptonite." You know, that alone would make me wary of the thing. A scientific instrument from Krypton. Not turned into Kryptonite. Zan Zoll. Yup, those all add up to a big yellow "Caution!" sign to me. But this is Jimmy "I'll do anything as long as it's against common sense" Olsen. He's taking it with him so Superman can have a lil look-see.

Later, in the Daily Planet office, Jimmy proudly shows Perry White his new toy. The ever-sensible Perry warns Jimmy not to "tamper with it." Sound advice, Chief. Just don't expect Jimmy to follow it. (that's a guess on my part. Perhaps I'm wrong and the rest of the comic is simply pictures of Planet employees walking past it without touching it.)

The next panel shows Jimmy opening the door to the big red phone booth scientific instrument from Krypton that shouldn't be tampered with. He thinks, "What does Perry think I am... a child? I'm not going to tamper with this thing... but it won't hurt to look it over... if I could find out what it does, I might be able to impress Lucy Lane tonight!" Brilliant thinking, sport. Don't tamper with it, but open it up, try to figure out how it works because there's nothing that turns Lucy Lane on more than a guy who tampers with, er, figures out how big red phone booth scientific instruments from Krypton work. Yeah, go on inside and see what happens.

"What's happening!" From my perspective, Jimmy, you're in a big red phone booth scientific instrument that is now glowing. What a startling turn of events! "I didn't touch any gadgets, but that force came on automatically when I stepped in! It's overpowering!" (I did NOT see this coming. I thought for sure opening the door and getting inside would be completely harmless. Wonder what happened? If only the splash page had given us a clue.)

Are you as curious as I am about what could possibly have happened to Jimmy in the big red phone booth? Are you completely clueless because the splash page and the cover of the comic book are too enigmatic? Then come back on Wednesday for part 2 of "THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON!"

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More comics!

Just got a big box of coverless comic books from the 60s and 70s so I've got lots more stories to tell now. Remember to come back Monday for the final story in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #66: THE CABINET FROM KYRPTON!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Quick message

I'll be back Monday with the final story in this Jimmy Olsen comic. This four day Thanksgiving weekend will give me time to catch up. Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #66 (Story Two, Part 5, FINALE): JIMMY OLSEN'S LAST STAND!

When last we read, Jimmy was held captive in Sitting Bull's camp. He's guarded by an eerily familiar Indian. I don't know if you figured out who it is (no one left a comment so I can't tell) but his secret is about to be revealed by Jimmy "In my era..." Olsen. Ready? Then let's get to the thrilling conclusion of JIMMY OLSEN'S LAST STAND!"

Jimmy thinks several more exclamation points about the invasion plans he just heard and feels he must get back to Custer immediately to warn him (Lex is attacking at noon. So far Custer has seen every attack and met it, even the one at night, thanks to Jimmy. Why is it so deadly that they're attacking at noon? Will Custer and his men be distracted because they'll be picnicking and won't want to leave their egg salad sandwiches and potato salad?) Jimmy devises a plan that just might work!

He tells his guard to untie him because he's a powerful medicine man and will give the guard a magic talisman. The eerily familiar Indian (Is a mascot from Cleveland? No. Atlanta? No.) For reasons completely unknown to me, Familiar-guy cuts Jimmy free. He really wants that talisman, I guess. Jimmy pulls something out of his pocket and says, "Watch closely! By just squeezing my fingers together I will create your imagte on this bit of metal!" Hmm... a bit of metal. An image of an Indian on a small, round piece of metal. D'oh! The Indians portrait was indeed right on the money because Jimmy hands him an Indian-head nickel.

Man, now that is some coincidence that Jimmy's guard just happens to be identical to the portrait on the nickel down to the last detail. It's almost as if he was drawn using a nickel as a guide! It's uncanny! Quick, Jimmy! Go find the identical buffalo to the one pictured on the reverse so you'll have a set! (No, not Buffalo Superbill – the bison kind.)

Jimmy hands the Indian the nickel. "The simple savage is stunned by Jimmy's feat of 'magic', and..." Oh, my, nothing offensive there. 'Simple savage'. Please forgive me for even repeating that, but it's so indicative of the era and helps us understand how far we've come. There will always be things in these stories that don't jive with today's world. Still, there is value in seeing the past for what it was and not sitting in judgment on it. It is what it is and now is now.

The Nickel Man lets Jimmy go and has a neato souvenir of his future fame. Jimmy, meanwhile, sees that the Indians are heading off on their horses to attack Custer. For some reason, Jimmy thinks he can outrun horses and make it in time to warn the cavalry of the impending battle. He can not. By the time Jimmy gets there, we see our first real casualties. A dead soldier with an arrow in his back (was he running away? Heaven forfend! Not our brave white guys! There must have been some other reason) and a wagon on fire.

A distraught Jimmy doesn't hear the "stealthy footfalls behind him until..." Sitting Bulluthor grabs Jimmy by his bright red hair. "Har! It is the paleface medicine man! He escaped! But I have him now! His red-haired scalp shall be my finest trophy!" Lexbull holds a tomahawk above Jimmy's head, preparing to strike. "Sitting Bull! It's my finish! Yeeeaaaa!" ("It's my finish"? What odd final words. They're so formal. No 'I'm gonna die!' from Jimmy. Nope. Instead we get an "It's my finish!" Almost bizarrely cool in a way now that I roll the words on my tongue. Very melodramatic. Okay, I now approve. Let's move on, seeing as it's Jimmy's finish and all.)

Suddenly a big rainbow whoosh! And Jimmy is back in Frontier City with Superman! Holy plot twists, Batman! And what's this? He's got fingers growing out of his head! Oh, no! Something messed up in the time travel and his fingers ended up growing out of his ear while... his... oh. That's Superman's hand. Never mind.

And now, let's have the requisite "I'm going to explain everything that just happened in this story" moment with our host, Superman. "No, Jimmy, you weren't in the past! You see, Sitting Bull's pipe was stuffed with a dried plant resembling loco-weed, and when you smoked it, the fumes gave you hallucinations!"

Adding to the explanation and in a desperate attempt not to make the readers mutiny due to a plot twist that is despised by most writers, Jimmy says, "Then it was a nightmare! (note how he avoids saying the words, "Then it was all a dream" and opts instead for the 'nightmare', a form of dream but since he didn't use the exact word, perhaps you won't notice.) You wouldn't believe it! Sitting Bull looked like Luthor and Buffalo Bill looked like you!" (and the guy from the nickel was there, and you, and you, and you, and oh, Aunty Em, I'll never leave home again!)

Superman throws a final volley just in case there's one 8 year old left who doesn't quite understand. "No doubt it was your visit to Frontier City which caused you to have a dream (there's that word!) about Custer's last stand!" Ya think, Supes? Could Jimmy having just stared at a diorama of Custer and then smoked Sitting Bull's pipe have put those people in his psyche? I suppose it's possible...

The next day, a frustrated Jimmy tears up his story. He tells Clark that "no matter how I write it up, that pipe-dream doesn't make sense!" Heh. Pipe-dream. Clever, Jimmy. After a recap of the story we just read as proof that it doesn't make sense (roflol – what message is THAT sending?) Clark agrees that it all sounds far-fetched. Bwa ha ha ha. They're putting down their own comic for the silliness and it's all done with a 'straight face', so to speak.

The final panel has Clark staring at the torn piece of paper and noting that Sitting Bull ends with two 'L's so hmmmm.... "I wonder!" he thinks. But Clark, maybe Sitting Bull was really Lois Lane? Or Lana Lang? Or Lori Lemaris? Or...

Thanks for reading along, everyone! If you liked this story, let me know. And please stay tuned for the third and final adventure, THE CABINET FROM KRYPTON! Ooh, the cover story. This one looks great!

NOTE: Although I have been posting every day, I need to switch to posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. These crazy write-ups take a lot of time and my other work was suffering. I hope you'll stick with me, read along and have a good time here on Comic Books Revisited! If you like what you see, please consider linking to it on your blog.