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!


CAP_FFreek said...

Great story so far.

Can't wait for the next installment


Joanna Sandsmark said...

The best is yet to come, Cap!

Jim Perreault said...

That's an interesting hairdo on Lois. I've never seen her with one like that.

I'm a bit glad she got her comeuppance, since she was so smug. She seems more interested in get a pulitzer than helping those people out.


Cigars Buy the Box said...

Just curious, is this comic book worth anything? I've got the same one.

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I love when I have the opportunity to read blogs as interesting as this. really thanks and congratulations. is of great concern to me about
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Joanna Sandsmark said...

It's of great concern? Keep in mind that this comic is 40 years old and is a product of its time. And if you only read part 1, well, there's plenty more to come.

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a big fight in that years for the black people rights, inclusive the characters in the comics share they support to this fight, its true this character doesn't exist but the message in the comic book is so clear.

Joanna Sandsmark said...

Yes, the civil rights movement was still in full swing at this time. The comics tackled a number of social issues during this time, including making Speedy (Green Arrow's sidekick) a drug addict. Some good observations'

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