In Which Lois and Lana Try to Make Out with an Infant

Bloggified by Jake on Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Thanksgiving evening, after the family stuff was done and the kids were finally in bed, I sat down with an O'Leary sandwich* and Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #57, a comic I've been wanting to read since I first saw the cover online almost a year ago.

Fittingly, given the holiday, I found a story that made me throw my hands to the heavens and give thanks for whatever the hell was going on in the editorial offices of DC Comics in the 1960's.

"Lois Lane: Super-Babysitter!" is one of those rare stories where, while good, one single twist in the end makes you stop and reassess the raw awesomeness of what you've just seen. This is the 1965 girl comic version of The Usual Suspects or Fight Club or Presumed Innocent.

As with so many good comics of the era, the first several panels are crammed full of so much exposition, you almost have to take a break to rest your eyes after reading them. Superman is dropping off Lois and Lana at a new luxury hotel, where they will be staying for the week so they can both review the service. Superman is off to the Fortress of Solitude with Clark Kent, where he'll be doing age reversal experiments until April 19th, at which point he'll return in time for the Daily Planet ball.

If Bendis wrote page one of this comic, it would have been eight issues long.

Later in the week (three frames later), Lois is walking down the street and notices a kid wearing a Superman costume banging on some barrels. But his banging is doing some serious damage, so she decides to investigate--being the top notch journalist that she is--getting all her facts straight, exploring this strange event and getting all the details of how it came to be, seeking out anyone who might have any information about the boy, and involving local authorit--

Just kidding. Really she just jumps to a stupid conclusion and kidnaps the kid.

Lois has Superbaby fly her to the room so they can enter from the balcony to keep suspicious hotel employees from suggesting that taking an infant you found on the street up to your penthouse suite is a bad idea.

Of course, Lois wouldn't be Lois if she let the bad ideas stop with just snatching a crying child from an alley and smuggling him into her hotel. She follows up showing the pint-sized superhero photos of herself and Superman, hoping to impress upon him how much he loves her. Lana witnesses this act and--rather than being horrified that Lois is openly flirting with a two-year-old--does exactly the same thing.

Both women reach the conclusion that Superbaby is going to revert to Superman on the 19th, since that's when his experiment was scheduled to conclude. Neither is the least bit concerned that the fact Superman is walking around their hotel as a toddler implies something has gone wrong with the experiment and schedules can probably be tossed out the window. They're too busy trying to leave their marks on the impressionable mind of a baby, but need a way to take the creepiness to a new level. Fortunately, television answers their prayers.
Lois sets out to create a hypnosis machine made from a fan with mirrors on the blades so she can lull the child into a suggestive state and sow seeds of love in his brain.
Not to be outdone, Lana gets a top with a spiral design that becomes a hypnowheel and gives the kid ice cream if he'll tell her he loves her and put a ring on her finger.
Lois ups the ante by purchasing fifty cupcakes, giving the kid a ring, and rewarding him every time tells her he loves her and kisses her.
With the 19th approaching, both women make one last desperate attempt to secure Superman's love.
The next morning, there is a Superbaby shaped hole in the wall. The women shrug off the fact that a toddler who could topple a skyscraper by sneezing is on the loose, figuring they are one day closer to the ball and marriage to Superman.

At the ball, Superman shows up in full grown form, but eight o'clock comes and goes and neither of the sneaky bitches gets her unethically manipulated marriage proposal... so they decide to go yell at Superman for failing to be brainwashed.
Yes, a likely story. It makes no sense that a machine could short circuit, ruining an experiment. It makes infinitely more sense that you were turned into a baby version of yourself with a child sized uniform.

Hang on a second... if your experiment fizzled before it even got started... what were you and Clark Kent doing together at the Fortress of Solitude for the last week?

Still not sure what the hell Lana and Lois are talking about, Superman takes them to the Fortress to see if they can find out more about this Superbaby. Immediately, Superman begins giving us a patented Silver Age explanation of how Superbaby was Superman from another dimension, who was doing the same age reversal experiment. In that dimension, however, the machine didn't short circuit, it exploded! The explosion turned alternate-dimension-Superman into Superbaby and ripped a hole between the dimensions, hurling him into our world, where he sought out Lois and Lana because he recognized them.

Silver Age explanations are always based on the suspension of belief theory that if you're willing to accept a story about a man from another planet who can fly and shoot beams from his eyes, you really can't argue against anything else he does. "Sure, he can type a story on a typewriter using his x-ray vision from across town, but an alternate universe version of him doing the exact same experiment? Not likely!"

At this point, we have a genuine piece of Silver Age insanity that we can all agree was full of confusing subtext, uncomfortable moments, and ridiculous dialogue. All in all, a satisfying slice of Silver Age pie, but the creators knew they could take it one step further, thanks to that twist I mentioned earlier...
Polygamy allows Superman to have Lois and Lana! Never saw it coming! Fucking brilliant!

* The O'Leary sandwich is a tradition that dates back to high school when, one Thanksgiving evening my friends all went to Dan O'Leary's house to hang out. After a while, we broke out the leftovers and decided, rather than warming up a plate of everything, we'd just slap it all between a couple pieces of bread. The following year, we did the same and I have made it a point every Thanksgiving evening to continue the tradition. In fact, I dare say I look forward to the O'Leary sandwich more than I do the meal itself.

The keys to a great O'Leary sandwich (beside the obvious turkey) are cranberry sauce, stuffing, and green bean casserole.

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