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!


Jim Perreault said...

It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that the artist simply did not draw what the story was supposed to be.

Despite having the subtlety of a sledgehammer, I think it is telling that some of the issues this story is addressing are issues that we are still struggling with today.


plaidearthworm said...

I've heard about artists and writers who did their own little takes on issues in the comics, rebelling just a tiny bit because they couldn't go against the assignment, especially if they wanted to eat that month. I wonder if this was the case.

And I thought of you when I went through the Bargain Books catalog and found all these great titles like 500 Comic Book Villains and the Batman Dailies collection. Thanks for creating this blog, because I can enjoy being a classic comic fan without the typical fangirl guilt. ;)

Joanna Sandsmark said...

Jim, yes, that's the most likely reason but I take everything at face value since these stories were written for kids, who are often literal. The art really undercuts the message in this series of panels.

As for the problems outlined, yes, unfortunately, there are still many race issues in this country that haven't gone away.

Plaid -- I know what you mean about fangirl guilt. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. Support from people like you and Jim means a great deal to me.

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.