Monday, March 02, 2015

THE B-LIST: COMICS THAT WILL NEVER BE MADE INTO MOVIES #02: LOIS LANE #102 & 103 (1970)

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If you peruse any websites dealing with comics these days, you’d be hard pressed to find one not bemoaning the perceived shortage of titles featuring a woman as the lead character. If you ask me, there’s more now than there ever was, it’s just that not enough people buy them to keep them going for too long. That wasn’t the case a few decades ago, however, when two of the longest running titles in comic book history starred a female protagonist. One was Wonder Woman, who got her the first volume of her own book in 1942 and kept it going until 1986. The other, believe it or not, was Superman’s gal pal, Lois Lane, whose solo title ran for an impressive 137 issues between 1958 and 1974.

Actually, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. As Michael L. Fleisher’s Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes Vol. 3 pointed out, Lois Lane is, “second only to Superman himself, the single most important person in the chronicled adventures of Superman, fulfilling as she does the tripartite role of Clark Kent’s journalistic colleague, Superman’s romantic pursuer, and the person most tirelessly determined to verify her long held suspicion that Clark Kent is secretly Superman.”

Of course, the character having been around since 1938, it got harder and harder over the years for her writers to come up with new and interesting ways for Lois to fulfill those three roles, especially the romantic one. I mean, just how many different ways can there be for Lois to get into trouble simply because she was feeling unappreciated by Superman. So perhaps it’s forgivable that by the 1970s, Lois’ scribes were creating stories in which one of the world’s smartest and most capable women was doing incredibly stupid things like… getting engaged to Satan.

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Well, almost. Perhaps I should explain. You see, in Lois Lane #102, Lois is saved from a grisly death, not by an inattentive Superman, but rather by a dashing man in a turban named Rajah Satdev (apparently decent names were as tough to come by as new plots during that time period). And not only is the enigmatic Satdev handsome and courageous, but he also seems to be a good luck charm, as anything Lois wishes for in his presence is almost instantly granted. He’s almost too good to be true.

Which, of course, turns out to be the case. Lois being Lois, she can’t help but try and learn what secret the Rajah has been hiding from her, so she sneakily removes the man’s turban and slippers while he dozes on the beach, revealing the horrifying truth that he has horns and cloven hooves. A tail pops out of his pants for good measure as well. Upon awakening, Satdev informs Lois that her actions have doomed her, and bestows upon the reporter a demonic visage similar to his own. Superman finally shows up and begins to mock the alleged Prince of Darkness (In Lois’ magazine, Supes was often portrayed as something of an arrogant jackass), but the Rajah purposely ricochets a blast off Superman’s chest, seemingly killing Lois.

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As issue #103 picks up the story, we find a distraught Superman trying to commit suicide (your hero of heroes, ladies and gentlemen) as punishment for Lois’ death. But rather than sensibly poisoning himself with some of that Kryptonite that’s always lying around, Superman tries electrocution by lightning storm instead, inadvertently starting a forest fire in the process. After snuffing out the flames, Superman decides to do something more productive and returns to Lois to marry her dead body (he’s not a licensed minister, though, so I don’t think the ceremony is legal).

Once the obviously insane Superman leaves the scene, Rajah Satdev returns and awakens the not-so-dead Lois with an incantation. Informed that she must now spend the rest of her existence as a devil at Satdev’s side, Lois faints dead away just as a pillar of fire engulfs the pair, transporting them to their new home.

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And here’s where things take a neat little twist. Instead of waking up in Hell as expected, Lois finds herself on the planet Nferino (DC really needed to hire someone just to come up with names) surrounded by a planet full of people with horns, hooves, tails and (yes, finally) pitchforks.

As Satdev quickly explains, the benign scientists of Nferino had previously visited Earth thousands of years in the past in the name of peaceful exploration. Unfortunately, the various peoples of Earth were freaked out by the visitor’s inhuman appearance and seemingly supernatural powers, and reacted violently. The disappointed aliens returned to their home world, leaving nothing behind but the memory of demonic looking creatures in red jump suits. “So that’s how the myths of horned devils arose!” exclaims Lois.

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The funny thing is, as loopy as this story obviously is, it’s really about as good a guess as any as to how the devil of the Bible came to be portrayed in popular culture as some cloven-hoofed horned dude in red tights. Needless to say, no such description appears in scripture because, as a being of pure spirit, Satan has no actual physical appearance. But such a fact makes it kind of hard for artists to create paintings and illustrations dealing with the Devil. For that, you need a visual shorthand.

Serpents, dragons and goats, all common symbols of paganism, were the preferred imagery for Satan up until medieval times. But as the middle ages progressed, it’s commonly believed that artists drew upon a number of sources to create a more human looking devil. The horns, hooves, and tail are purported to have been taken from pre-Christian depictions of fauns and satyrs. The pitchfork supposedly comes from the ceremonial trident sometimes carried by the Greek lord of the underworld, Hades. And as for the red suit, that’s mostly attributed to red being the color of blood and fire. It might also reference the red dragon in Revelation 12:3.

But at the end of the day, that’s all speculation. For all we know, the silly image of a red-suited Satan really did come from ancient man’s encounters with an alien race. And oddly enough, in the one-in-a-gazillion chance such a bizarre premise turned out to be true, it still wouldn’t contradict anything the Bible has to say about the murdering, deceitful spirit that is Satan. So, in a completely ridiculous story, that whole part about the alien devil race is actually the most sensible part. It certainly makes more sense than a suicidal Superman marrying a corpse.

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Which, by the way, he seems to have completely forgotten about by the time the next storyline rolls around. Instead of legalizing those heartfelt vows he made, Superman takes the time instead to berate Lois’ womanly driving skills. Jackass.

2 comments:

Sam Entile said...

Good, entertaining and educational article. :D

EegahInc said...

Thanks for the kind words, Sam. Old comics make it easy :)