Monday, July 24, 2017

Kryptonuptials - Part 1

by Mark Alfred

Part the First

            What was once unthinkable became established fact.  In Superman (volume 2) #50, December, 1990, Clark Kent and Lois Lane became engaged; in Action #662, February, 1991, he revealed his Superman identity to her.  Within the span of a few months, DC Comics has breached a formerly sacrosanct barrier, unbroken since Superman #1 in 1939, when Lois characterizes Clark as “a sob story,” but marvels over his alter-ego, “Superman!  What manner of being are you?”  With visions of a red-blue-and-yellow streak filling her dreams, past-days Lois had little time for the Caspar Milquetoast at the next desk – except for those times when she was trying to prove he was Superman.
            In 1991 we saw Clark and Lois working as a super-team, as Lois covered for Supes while he dashed away to save someone’s day.
            In the mind of an old fan like me, the thought rose unbidden:  Is this new set-up a dream?  Induced by Red Kryptonite?  Acted out by Kandorian doubles?  Then I figuratively slapped myself, exclaiming, “No, no, no – that was the OLD continuity.”       Still, although the events following Superman #50 were epoch-making – and eventually wiped from existence by those spoilsports at DC – the concept of a Lois-Superman marriage had been often played with before.  Like C C Lewis’s suggestion that earlier legends of a dying-resurrecting god were but foreshadowings of the reality of Jesus’s life, the reality of Mr and Mrs Superman was an earlier era’s plot twist, to be suggested then explained away.
            Here are some of my favorite super-marriage adumbrations from the past.

The Marryin’ Kind?

            Like many longtime bachelors, Superman of yesteryear nevertheless harbors a secret yearning for home, hearth, and a little woman.  When Red Kryptonite makes his face turn colors to match his emotional states in Action #317 (October, 1964), he turns green with jealousy when he and Lois document the marriage of an astronaut.

 “How I envy them, too!” he thinks.  ‘If only I could be married some day ... our own home ... quiet evenings together ... Oh, how I wish I could enjoy wedded bliss like that lucky guy!”  In Lois Lane #81, after rescuing Lois from a convict’s clutches, he ruminates, “My darling ... If only you knew the secret dream I’ve treasured all these years.  How wonderful it would be to take you home to my Fortress ... as Mrs Superman!  But if we were married, I’d constantly be afraid that some vengeful super-enemies would endanger your life while I was away!”
            In November, 1965, in the letter column of Action #330, a reader asked why our hero couldn’t marry Lois in front of the whole world – but “as Clark Kent, because his foes don’t know his secret identity.  Right?”  “Wrong!” came the editorial sneer.  “The Phantom Zone villains and the Superman Revenge Squad know the Man of Steel is Clark Kent.”
            As longtime super-readers know, there have been plenty of others who learned that secret.  But that can’t-marry-for-wifely-safety argument was often invalidated by DC’s own stories.  The above-mentioned tale from Lois Lane #81, featuring a convict kidnapping Lois, arose because the crook thought Superman’s “girl friend” was the perfect hostage.  How much more dangerous could it have been to be Superman’s spouse?
            The post-1986 continuity avoided such dilemmas by making sure that the public came to know Lois not as “Superman’s girl friend,” but only as Clark Kent’s fiancĂ©e.  To the general world, the reporter is only an acquaintance of Superman, all the more-so because she’s engaged to his buddy Clark Kent.
            For decades the Superman titles teased us with the question:  Will he or won’t he marry?  But editorial assurances appeared in letter columns like Lois Lane #75 or Action #329 (October 1965).  The latter teased, “We don’t know yet WHEN he’ll marry or WHO the bride will be, though.  For proof that he WILL wed and have children, see the November issue of Superman, which features the first in a series about his descendant, the superman of 2965.”
            Sure enough, Superman #181 introduced that in-continuity super-descendant  The editors were quick to offer Klar Ken T-5477 as proof that Kal-El would someday take a bride and engender offspring.  We had previously been assured in February, 1963, in the letters column of Superman #159, that:  “Inasmuch as it is a basic law of genetics that dominant characteristics are inherited, it stands to reason that any offspring produced by Superman and Lois would have super-powers.”
            In the 1950s and 1960s, we youngsters came to grow weary of such coy games as the “competition” between Lois and Lana Lang for Superman’s eventual affections.  Even me, a super-idolizer par excellence, began to wonder whether the Man of Steel would wed before I entered the Social Security rolls.  In the letter column of October, 1960’s Action #269, one brave reader suggested that a marriage for Superman would enhance, not weaken, his appeal.  A similar adventurous soul wrote a letter that appeared in issue #76 ( August, 1967) of Lois Lane, asserting, “Can’t you see that you’ll GAIN, not lose readers, with the most publicized, spectacular wedding comicdom has ever produced?”  The editorial reply reminded us that Superman couldn’t just up and ask the gal.  “He ask to ask the editors and publishers, too.”
            A letter in Lois Lane #87, cover-dated October, 1968, contained an interesting speculation:  Since Bizarro No. 1 is married to Bizarro-Lois, then it’s logical that Superman will never marry Lois.  Bizarros do the opposite of their Earthly counterparts, get it? 
            Apparently yours truly is the only person who took the opposite tack.  I’ve always joked that when Superman and Lois tied the knot, Bizarro and B-Lois would have to get a divorce.
            An editorial tease from February, 1969, in Lois Lane #90, sniffed, “But don’t figure you can always have a safe bet that the wedding won’t take place.  One of these days we might just spring it on you.”
            A few years prior, in May, 1964, this letter and response appeared in Lois Lane #49:  “When will you marry off Lois Lane and Superman?  My mother tells me that when she was a girl she faithfully followed every Superman story, hoping to see Lois become the Man of Steel’s bride.  She was amazed to learn that he still hasn’t married her.  Will Superman ever marry anyone?”  The letter’s reply was, “Be patient, friend, If you don’t see Superman make the Great Decision while you’re still a reader, we promise you that your daughter will see the big event.”
            Let’s see ... I was eight in 1964, a typical reader.  I have daughters born in 1983 and 1990.  I guess that you could say that the 1996 marriage happened in the time frame projected in 1964.  Pretty sneaky, eh?  All that time, in the 1960s and 1970s, we thought it was all a tease!
            Despite the desires of Lana Lang’s fans, it’s always been evident that Lois is the one for Superman.  As he says in two different stories of Lois Lane #73, in April, 1967, “We make a great team!” and “Lois, when the time comes, you won’t need a magic wand to win me.”  In January, 1970’s Lois Lane #98, Superman shows Lois (and we voyeurs) some changes he has recently made to the “Lois Lane Room” in his Fortress.  The main attraction is “The Lois Lane Honeymoon cottage,” complete with fireplace and windows opening onto a (fake?) blue sky.

             It’s all made very maudlin by the fact that, at this point in the story, Lois mistakenly thinks she’s going to die from a massive dose of radiation THE NEXT DAY!
            But, assuming that all parties are healthy and of sound mind, how to make those wedding bells ring, for true and for always?  That’s the question!  In some stories we see that Lois has resolved to win Superman’s heart fair and square, without deception or trickery.  For instance, that “magic wand” reference in Lois Lane #73 came about because Miss Gzptlsnz of Zrfff was the antagonist.  Masquerading as a girl named Dody, she posed as Lois’s fairy godmother and offered to use magic to make Superman marry her.  The motivation?  If Supes is off the market, then her fella, Mr Mxyzptlk, might spare some attention for her!  But the virtuous Lois will have none of it.  She deducts who Dody really is, sending the distaff magical troublemaker backwards via a sneaky Scrabble trick.
            Lois’s great flaw (aside from impetuosity) is the strange way that her devotion to Superman blinds her to the good qualities he displays as Clark Kent.  In July, 1951, he sighs in Superman #71, “The same old trouble!  She’s so smitten by my Superman identity that she can’t see me as Clark Kent!”  In August, 1958, in Superman #123, Lois dismisses a proposal from Clark with, “It’s sweet of you, Clark, but I could only marry you if you were really Superman!”
            For us constant and once-constant readers, though, it was plain that the road to matrimony for Lois and that super guy must inevitably wind through Clark Kent.  For example, this letter and response from Lois Lane #100, April, 1970:  “If Lois ever does marry Superman, will he wear the same costume to the wedding?”  “He probably will wear a suit and tie – plus a pair of Clark Kent glasses.”
            Yes, it’s Superman’s hope to win Lois’s heart in his Earthly identity.  This would prove it’s the man, not the power, that she loves.  When Clark is believed dead in September, 1968’s  Superman #210, Superman eulogizes him, “As Clark’s best friend, I know his dearest dream was to marry Lois Lane some day.”  He continues in silent thought, “After the wedding, Clark would have revealed his greatest secret to Lois.”
            We readers kept grasping at straws such as the one tossed to us by Superman in October, 1970’s  Lois Lane #105, when he thinks, “Won’t she flip one day, when she finds out I really am Superman!”  Note the hopeful use of “when,” not “if.”

 Tune  in the Same Time Next Week,
for the Next Installment in Our Saga!

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© by Mark Alfred