I have a lot of things to do. I have this copy of Ulysses next to my bed that I have told myself I will finish in the next three days. I have plans for the year. I got to do things. I have to keep moving. I can't just sit around in a pile of Dollar Tree cookies and ironic, kitschy entertainment. I have to do something productive and I can't just keep on piling up random stuff in my room...
Such were the reasonable, cautious thoughts that ran through my mind for all of 20 seconds when I saw a Lois Lane comic on the dollar rack of my local book store. But upon looking at the cover, which has a smiling Superman flying away from a bound and gagged Lois Lane, tied to a truck that was plummeting to its fate. What was going on here? Obviously something. Obviously something that I had to find out about, and share with you. But of course I have so many other things to talk about: since last December, I have been planning this epic write-up where I extend Martin Heidegger's concepts to explain about ontological priority, and how it explains to how we relate to space and time. It was going to be both profound, yet personal and relatable. That is what I want to be known for, not just as some guy who reviews dumb comic books. Maybe I am wearing out this schtick? But it is only a dollar. Of course, I don't want to just go in and buy a single old issue of a silly comic book, so I have to buy some other things at the bookstore. I walk out of there with 10 dollars worth of comic books. And I go home to find out just how Lois Lane got herself tied to a truck.
If you are familiar with the concepts of Superdickery, and misleading comic book covers, you can probably guess that Superman didn't really kill Lois Lane. Oh, but first, more about that cover: while some of the excesses of Silver and Bronze Age covers could be put down to the innocence of an earlier era, it would be very hard to find a way that the people involved in making this cover were not aware that Lois Lane, wearing a red leotard, and spread eagled, did not have some type of prurient interest. This makes my prior experience of seeing Lois Lane tied up seem downright cute. (Incidentally, both of the issues I have come across are in the top 3 google image search results for "Lois Lane tied up", and now I have that phrase on my Google history). But just as soon as we are done contemplating that cover's erotic lies, we find the splash page, which shows Lois Lane, ready to die in a totally different way: she is a brain washed cultist, walking through fumes of gas, into a suicide chamber! So already, we are aware that Lois Lane is going to die two different ways, but also that she probably isn't going to. The story goes backwards, and explains how Lois Lane and Superman find themselves in this situation. There have been three deaths of wealthy people, who all converted to a cult before they died. Lois Lane decides to infiltrate the cult. But to do that, she needs to get rich. So Superman goes to Africa to dig up a diamond. While in Africa, a gorilla that has been irradiated by kryptonite attacks him, and he spends the rest of the issue going off/on with kryptonite poisoning, which means he can not save Lois, which is good because it allows the issue to focus on our scrappy reporter. When Lois Lane feigns that she has been brainwashed and walks into the suicide chamber of the cult leader, she is unaware that Superman is depowered. Luckily, the suicide chamber wasn't really designed to kill her. Unluckily, Superman doesn't know that she isn't really dead, and even more unluckily, Superman is still full of "Green Fever" and ends up getting brain washed by the cult leader, and (we have finally reached our cover), ties Lois to a truck and flings her to her doom! But luckily, Superman was not really brainwashed, and him and Lois had planned out the entire thing. The cult leader gets arrested, and Lois and Superman continue onwards.
So having, at some length, described this lengthy, ludicrous plot, two related things stick in my mind. First, is the intersection of silly silver age plots with more serious 70's plots. Several people have mentioned the odd preponderance of apes and gorillas in silver age comics, and this issue injecting an ape that has somehow been imbued with kryptonite is a stereotypical example of the type of odd plot devices that were in use in the silver age. But in its treatment of the issue of cults, brainwashing and manipulation, it is presenting a realistic and socially relevant plot. (Within the confines of telling a 20 page comic book story). This comic book was released in 1973, three years after Hard Travelling Heroes, so it was clear DC could put together serious stories. However, they still had one foot planted firmly in the gorillas-and-silly-covers of the early 1960s. This brings us to our second topic, the gender depictions of this issue. Who were the audience for a comic book like this? Young boys, young girls, teenagers? There are several parts of this issue that could be seen as depicting sexists stereotypes, including the sexually titillating cover, Lois needing Superman to rescue her, and Lois acting manipulative to get her story. On the other hand, Lois ends up saving Superman, and Lois also is determined to get her story. And, in general, Lois is the smartest person in the story, much more then the cult leader or the sickened Superman. So whether the story presents sexist stereotypes of Lois, or whether it portrays her as an intelligent, independent character, is just as up in the air as whether this is a 60s story, or a 70s story.