Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Don't let the door to the Fortress of Solitude hit you on the ass on the way out

Since his debut back in 1938 there are countless scenes that define greatness in the stories that feature Superman. Smashing a car, breaking chains by flexing his chest muscles and juggling planets. When Superman executed the Phantom Zone criminals. When Superman and Wonder Woman made a skin flick. When a terminally ill Lois first declined Clark's marriage proposal because he wasn't Superman, when they married for real and when Superman died for a while.

But one of  my favorite scenes ever in comics wasn't a punch-em-inna-face. It was real story and had good drama. It is when Superman once and for all kicked Lana Lang to the curb.

While Lana was featured regularly in the Superboy stories she was absent as a character from his adult life in Metropolis. Lois Lane was firmly established as Superman's Girlfriend and except for the occasional manipulative heiress Lois had no real competition for Superman's affections. Enter: Lana Lang.

Cute and bothersome as a teen, Lana had grown up to be DC's glamorous vamp, an ambitious Silver Age Sharon Stone type. Well, not initially. As revealed in Lois Lane #7 (Feb 1959) while on a story in the Metropolis slums "pretty reporter" Lois discovered that Lana was homeless and living on the streets.
Since this is the DC and not Marvel and it is the Silver/Bronze Age, the comic did not go into detail about Lana's personal situation like it would today. No graphic details about drug addiction, prostitution or porn movies here! That was all subtext, baby. Use your imagination. With Lois's help Lana gets cleaned up and established and secures steady employment. At first, Lana was a good friend to Lois. Having put her childhood relationship with Superboy behind her she often assisted Lois in her crazy schemes to win over Superman. Eventually though, Lana proved to crafty and manipulative and was revealed to be shallow and selfish, becoming a serious rival as a love interest for Superman. They had a history, Lana was prettier than Lois and had red hair so you can't blame the guy for thinking with his Johnson-El.

Soon, Lana was making a name for herself in the popular media exploiting her personal history and friendship with Superman (nee Superboy), presumably in a far more lurid manner than Lois, Jimmy and Clark (in maintaining his secret identity) did. She wrote books, appeared on television shows and a went on a lecture circuit pandering to a public that couldn't get enough juicy celebrity gossip about the Man of Steel. Of course, Lana showing up and befriending Lois makes the issue of Superman's secret identity even more ridiculous and shows just how inept an investigative reporter Lois really was. You'd think they'd compare notes or something.

Superman himself was characterized as being torn between the two women and couldn't decide which one to choose from so he strung them both along for years.

The defining moment. Here's where the War Between the Girlfriends began.
From Lois Lane #7.

Not to be a Typical Guy, I understand that actually. Let's face the facts. Not many women could keep up with Superman and the craziness and media attention that comes along with him. The two women who could were also both major league ass-pains. Way back in the days before my own precious state of marital bliss I lived by the code of always having a Plan B in place. That is, if Plan A doesn't work out then you have to implement Plan B. So then if I broke up with my current girlfriend, she was mad at me or went to work I'd break out the Plan B, aka Reserve Girl. Now that may sound callous, but there isn't a man or woman out there alive then and now that didn't walk the same path I did when dating (and it is even more true today than when I was single, especially with women and their emasculating concept of the "Uhm-Friend") so save the self-righteous anger and focus on the comic books, OK?

For years Superman tolerated Lana and Lois' romantic shenanigans. During a great story arc in which Superman got more in touch with his Clark Kent persona (Don't forget that in is this era Clark was the disguise) the Superman and Lois relationship intensified and Lana was pushed to the sidelines. Lana became increasingly more desperate for attention and eventually Superman decided to put a halt to the relationship.

In one great scene, Superman finally makes it clear to Lana and the readers that he chooses Lois once and for all. All the comic noobs out here reading today's tales may not know it but there was actually a long-running controversy over Lana and Lois and who was better. It was a question nearly as great as the one about Ginger and Mary-Anne*.

From Superman #332 (Feb 1979). Click images to super-size.

Lana does not take it very well and proves Superman's assertions by raging at him instead of being saddened or accepting his decision. Cleverly, the reader's were not privy to her rants because of the thick glass but it is obvious that Superman could hear every word. Superman understood that while both Lana and Lois desired being "Mrs. Superman" it was only Lois who accepted the responsibility of the relationship. Lana was only seeking the next celebrity spotlight to stand in.

Fortunately for readers Lana didn't stumble upon the Eclipso gem next issue, because all us Silver and Bronze age fans can recognize a stupid cliche when it is shoved in our faces. Cheese we can accept, but don't insult us.

Since then Lois has been (kind of) portrayed to show that she isn't defined by Superman and doesn't require fame by association to make her way in the world. After a few reboots and because of the Smallville television program Lana was once again brought back into Superman's life. In a moment of editorial clarity she wasn't portrayed as a brunette Asian-Hispanic proto-Lois like in the show, but (in spite of her being the spouse of a powerful politician) DC did choose to make her a desperate loser once again as she was when she re-appeared back in 1959. Now that she is the CEO of LuthorCorp I expect that she is in a better position financially and emotionally to go after Clark again. Being CEO may be her forte and as her personal power and influence grows she might feel she is a match for Lois and Superman once again.

* Ginger.

2 comments:

  1. * Ginger, of course.

    Hold on. When you're debating Ginger vs Mary-Anne, the answer will depend on the answer to this question: for how long? If it's short-term, the answer's obviously Ginger. If it's long-term, Mary-Anne.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pfft. Farm girl or glamorpuss? I'll take millionairess FTW, thanks. She's old, but she ain't THAT old.

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