Monday, August 27, 2012

Building a Better Lois Lane: The Man of Steel #2

The Man of Steel #2 (October 1986)
"The Story of the Century!"
John Byrne-Byrne/Dick Giordano

Karen: Issue #2 of the 1986 Superman revamp is devoted to what I consider to be an essential element of any version of Superman: Lois Lane. Lois has been presented so many ways, but Byrne's version is all class.

Doug: From the teaser last issue, we can already tell that Lois has gotten as big a remake as Superman. I don't
think we'll see this Lois running through Africa as the "Cheetah Queen" or any such nonsense.

Karen: Our story starts as Superman swoops down a Metropolis street, right in front of a restaurant where Lois and editor Perry White are eating. Lois races off to follow the m
ystery man but is stopped by Lex Luthor -or rather, by his chauffeur. Lois tells him to buzz off, that she's in a hurry. We only get a glimpse of Luthor's eyes, but he looks perturbed.

Doug: Again, with all of the goofy history of these characters, I can recall being taken aback at the Lex cameo. He did seem really mad, but in a very menacing, "you don't know what you're dealing with" sort of way. And that he had a chauffeur... something is different.

Karen: The delay from Luthor is all it takes for Lois to lose sight of Supes. But she calls in a favor, and is soon airborne herself, in a helic
opter. Where is Superman anyway? Why, stopping a purse thief. He returns the bag to the young lady it was taken from, and also turns down the volume on her boom box (the 80s) but not before he hears a report of a liquor store robbery. In no time he arrives at the scene of the crime and asks the SWAT leader to pull his men back, to avoid any bullet ricochets. The policeman is dumbfounded, but before he can act Superman walks up to the first gunman and pinches the barrel of his automatic weapon closed. The rest of the robbers inside the store begin shooting at him, and Superman looks mighty annoyed. That was just spot-on! He uses his heat vision to heat the guns and the robbers quickly drop them. He knocks the two men out, and when he comes to the woman robber, she says "You wouldn't hit a lady, would you?" He approaches her and says, "A Lady? No, I'd never hit a lady," and then proceeds to plink her in the forehead and knock her out. He also removes the dynamite she had under her coat. Lois arrives just moments after he leaves. In a series of panels we see the same situation repeated over a number of days: Lois showing up just after Superman has left. You can feel her frustration in her body language.

Doug: Last week you referenced Superman: The Movie several times. In this series of vignettes, I thought Byrne played Superman as if he were Christopher Reeve. The personalit
y that Reeve gave to his role as the Man of Steel really came through for me in these pages. What sort of a political statement do you suppose Byrne was making when his Captain Reagan, upon being rebuffed by the perp when asked to surrender, said, "Damn! I was kinda hoping my reputation would be enough to scare them outta there."?

Karen: Oh, I agree, this Supes definitely seems to have been heavily influenced by the films, but mostly in a good way. Can you believe the Reagan thing totally blew by me?

Doug: John Byrne draws a youn
g-looking Superman, and as we noted last issue, he's only supposed to be around 25 years old. I loved the scene where he dealt with the gun moll. Just another sign that this was going to be a different sort of Superman.

Karen: It was funny, but I was still a bit surprised he would actually hit a woman. Changing times I guess. After all these near-misses, Lois is back at the Daily Planet, grumbling. We get our first glimpse of another venerable Superman charac
ter, Jimmy Olson. Jimmy is all "Golly" and "Jeepers!" about Lois' troubles. He muses that Lois would have to be somewhere right when the trouble starts in order to catch Superman. Of course that gets her gears spinning....

Doug: Superman's low profile seems a bit Batman-like to me. How weird, yet appropriate in a way, was it that Jimmy was stuck back in the 1950's as this story took place in the present of the mid-'80's? Was Jimmy the bone thrown to long-time readers
who were upset with all the changes?
Karen: You're right, Jimmy does seem like a hold-over from the era of Krypto, a giant key to the Fortress, and multicolored kryptonite. The bow tie is the capper! Superman is flying over the Metropolis skyline, satisfied with the decrease in crime lately, when he spots Lois in a car that has plunged into the harbor. Superman flies down into the water and scoops up Lois and her car. He flies her to her apartment. "You know where I live?" "Of course, Miss Lane. I know where everyone lives." I thought that was funny, although I couldn't tell if he was supposed to be joking or not. Once he delivers her to her place, he's about to fly off when Lois quickly comes out of her star-struck stupor and demands that he stay and speak with her. She cleans up and the two sit down for a chat. Again, so much of this series reminds me of the 1978 Superman film. There's an obvious attraction between these two, even as Lois tries to pry info out of the Man of Steel. When she asks where he's from, he admits he doesn't really know, but "What matters is I think and feel as an American." So no disavowing that "American Way" mantra for this Superman. It seems pretty dead nowadays, unfortunately. When Superman eventually does leave, he asks if Lois always keeps an aqua lung in her car. She realizes then that she hadn't fooled him at all.

Doug: As Superman surveyed the outcome of his crime-fighting, it became a prophecy fulfilled. His mother, Lara, had asked Jor-el if one day their son would rule over the terran primitives. Just in this panel or two we can look ahead to Paul D
ini's and Alex Ross's wonderful treasury-sized Peace on Earth, where Superman fought to rid the Earth of its ills. I'd argue that while the world might have been a big bite to chew, Metropolis itself certainly wasn't out of the question.

Karen: Although they're not Bronze Age, we might have to consider reviewing some of those Ross treasury-sized books. They were terrific!

Doug: Clark had remarked to his Ma and Pa in the first issue that he thought Lois was pretty neat. I do recall thinking way back when how much of a source the Superman film was for Byrne's dialogue -- plots in general. But there is, as I said above, a real Chris Reeve vibe in the scene in Lois's apartment. How forward was it of Lois to do the interview in a robe and towel?? There was certainly potential for a Sharon Stone moment there... His parting question was as priceless as Reeve's declaration that Margot Kidder was wearing pink panties.

Karen: What I thought was forward was how she sat right next to him on the couch rather than in the other chair! But Lois knows what she wants. One thing that's interesting here is that although she's obviously attracted to, maybe even smitten by, Superman, her story is her first priority. Lois is excited over her interview, and hurriedly writes up the story and heads into Perry White's office, only to discover that she's been scooped! Perry's hired a new writer by the name of Clark Kent!

Doug: Yeah, you know -- Clark Kent. The guy who is 6'4", around 240, solid, square jaw... that Clark Kent. I know everyone feels this way, but "Clark Kent" has to be the biggest suspension of disbelief in all of comics. And he also serves as the linchpin for the discussion on "who is the true man/woman -- the mask, or the secret ID
?" No doubt in this case Superman is the real deal and Clark Kent is the disguise; Batman? Not so sure. But anyway, what a ploy by Kent to throw Lois off the Superman/Clark trail, and right away. Great angle by Byrne to get the love triangle rolling.

Karen: This issue was fun and breezy. We're still left wondering about Lex Luthor and his role in these new mythos. But Lois is portrayed really well and the relationship between her and Superman is off to a great start.


Garett said...

Another enjoyable review! Makes me want to read this series again.

I'm all for a review of the Paul Dini/Alex Ross books!

Edo Bosnar said...

Yes, Byrne's updated Lois as the tough-as-nails reporter was quite a breath of fresh air. However, to be honest, some of the ground work had already been laid in the preceding 15 or so years, as in the '70s DC editorial tried hard to move Lois away from being the dingbat she was in the '50s and '60s who was either a) trying to trick Superman into marrying her, or b) trying to trick Clark Kent into revealing he was Superman (like that has to be 'revealed' to anyone with eyesight...)
What I found kind of new and refreshing was that the spark between Supes and Lois seemed to be reignited - in particular, it gave readers a good reason to believe that Clark/Superman would fall head-over-heels in love with Lois.
You guys are so right about the way Jimmy is portrayed: a bowtie and a sweater-vest? I was just out of high school in late 1986 when this came out, and I don't remember even the Young Republican/wannabe Yuppie types sporting that look!

William said...

Nice review. I really loved this mini-series and the subsequent John Byrne on-going Superman books that followed.

I always thought it was a nice touch to have Clark scoop Lois on the first Superman interview. It was an unexpected surprise for me then. It became a running bone of contention between the two of them for years. It also served to separate the comic from the movie, and if you think about it, it was just a little bit in the gray area of unethical on the part of Clark Kent. (Getting paid to interview himself). Something that further told the reader that this wasn't your father's Superman.

Doug said...

Garrett, Edo, and William --

Thanks very much for the kudos for the review. Karen and I thought this was a good story, and that we wrote a thought-provoking recap of it (with our own two cents tossed in here and there).

Now, as to next week's re-imagining of the World's Finest...

Have a great day!


Humanbelly said...

Lordy, which longbox do I have this series stashed away in. . . ?

Now I've gotta re-read it, so's I can be on top of the conversation at hand. I think I may have only read it as it was originally released, in fact.

Am I remembering right that Lex's hair loss is sort of gradual as his story comes to the fore? He gets more bald even as his accumulation of power increases? A delightful bit of insight, there, in that his lust for power and control seems to be almost motivated by the fact that he simply can't control the events taking place on his own scalp.

I mean-- he could've even afforded a good toupe. Or heck, an actualy scalp transplant-!

HB-- tangent-ing wildly. . .

Fred W. Hill said...

This issue was a very nice intro to the modern Lois Lane and her relationship with Superman/Clark Kent, which is probably the most famous one in all of superhero comics. And picking up various cues from the film was a good idea as that was likely what most readers giving the comics version a try for the first time were most familiar with, at least outside of those who grew up watching Superfriends. Superman was essentially the George Washington of superheroes but he also had a lot of baggage built up by inane stories over several decades. The movie side-stepped most of that to get at the heart of the mythos and Byrne is following that lead, albeit with his own touches.

J.A. Morris said...

Just re-read this, Lois 80s clothes are ridiculous, but sadly accurate!

humanbelly said...

J.A., you're totally on-point w/ that observation. I did pull the series out last night & read the first three issues. And, brother, that "Oh, you just missed him-" sequence was a visual hoot & howl! CLEARLY, Byrne had to have been poking a bit of fun at both high fashion and at the idea of Lois' upwardly-mobile professional woman status. It comes across very much like a Vogue magazine idea of what the "fashionable" newswoman will be wearing this season. And to his credit, I do think he does a nice job of fashion illustration, here. Not a ton of comic book artists can pull that off.

Really enjoying the series thus far-- I'd forgotten that it was this good. Oddly enough, something that was a major retcon at the time feels rather quaint and comfortably old-fashioned now.


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