Lois Lane 106

Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane #106, November 1970

In the late 1960s comic sales were once again on the downturn following the brief interest in the revitalised Marvel Comics (not to mention the Batman tv show), and comics publishers were forced to look for a new trend to exploit. DC, in its infinite wisdom, decided to try appealing to a slightly more mature audience by tackling serious themes pulled from the headlines of the day. Yep, DC went ‘relevant’ — and while Denny O’Neil’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow material is fondly remembered today, I’m betting very few want to remember Lois Lane #106.

‘I Am Curious (Black)’ kicks off with Lois Lane trying to get an exposé of life in Metropolis’s ghetto area, Little Africa, but she comes up against a wall of silence. The black kids run from her, doors are slammed in her face, and she’s humiliated in the street by being called ‘whitey’. Finally, an old woman willingly talks to her – but it turns out she’s blind!

Despairing that she’ll ever get her story, Lois turns to Superman for help. He flies her to the Fortress of Solitude and uses ‘the Transformoflux Pack’ on the reporter. A minute later Lois stands before him transformed into… a black woman! And not just any old black woman, oh no, Lois has become one hot momma!

Lois on a train

Returning to the ghetto, Lois is shocked to find that white taxi driver Benny the Beret now ignores her hails, and she is stared at by all the white folk on the subway. Invited into the apartment of a young African-American woman, Lois is disturbed when a lump of plaster falls from the ceiling into her coffee, and recoils in horror as a rat attacks the baby in the room next door! Finally Lois’s eyes well up when the young woman asks her how she can help. This proves too much for a tearful Lois: “She lives in misery… yet she asks if she can help me!”

Back out on the street, Lois comes across a makeshift school where Dave Stevens, the young man who called her ‘whitey’ earlier (as opposed to the artist of The Rocketeer), is teaching the neighbourhood kids that, “Black is beautiful! Say it loud and clear! Proud!” A minute later, he is shot by some nasty white guys in a nearby alley who are caught teaching black kids how to steal to pay for drugs (no I’m not making this up!).

Superman shows up just then to despatch the villains, but the local hospital doesn’t have enough funds to stock all types of blood and so Dave Stevens is fading fast. Superman can’t help because a needle can’t penetrate his Kryptonian skin, but luckily Lois is “O-Negative! Just like him!”

After the blood tranfusion has saved the young man’s life, Lois asks Superman whether he would marry her if she stayed black. Superman says that as an alien he can’t be racist. “But,” says Lois, “your skin is the right color!” Just then the Transformoflux wears off and Lois is back to normal. She goes to see the revived Stevens, frightened in case he rejects her again for being white and tricking him.

On the final, wordless, page Lois enters the room and Stevens looks shocked; but then he smiles broadly and grasps Lois’s hand in friendship.

Lois solves the race relations problem

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And so it was that all the problems with race relations were solved in a DC comic in late 1970,  and we all lived happily ever after. Responsible for this, er… ground-breaking insight were Bob Kanigher (writer), Werner Roth (pencils) and good ol’ Vinnie Colletta (inks). Kanigher was one of the best comics writers of all time, having had a hand in numerous classic tales over the years. When he was good, he was very, very good. When he was bad… Oh, boy, watch out!

The cover — by the dream team of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson — is by far the best thing about this issue.

At the end of the day, I’m sure it was all done with the best of intentions, but….

Images ©2010 DC Comics