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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lois Lane: Enemy of Science!

Normally I'd leave this sort of thing to Jake at Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge, but, well, it's been like six days since I've hit up the madcap world of Silver Age DC for content, and considering that I've got an issue where Lois gets amnesia, wears a string of cursed wigs, and sets modern science back a few decades in order to further her own sinister goal of matrimonial entrapment, I'm pretty sure it's worth talking about here.

Unfortunately, that doesn't all happen in the same story, as that sort of mind-blowing string of events tends to only happen in the 30th Century, but don't worry: Each story is certainly crazy enough to stand on its own. And none--not even the one where Lois is nearly decapitated by a razor-edged serving tray because she wore a wig modeled after Marie Antoinette to one of the Daily Planet's biweekly Costume Parties--is nearly as odd as...

A computer so advanced that it only takes up 2 cubic meters!


"Gee, Lois, I wish I knew your Pulitzer Prize-winning secret to great reporting!"

"Well it's certainly not this giant, obtrusive yellow helmet connected to the frowny machine in the corner! Now get back to work, Wage Slave!"

Our story begins, as all great stories must, in Lois's apartment, where she's busy entertaining romantic rival and shiftless layabout Lana Lang, when a bright yellow computer on wheels--as seen above--knocks on the door and informs Lois that she has "dark hair and eyes... pert nose..." and "ruby red lipstick," and is therefore Lois Lane. The fact that she's also answering the door at Lois Lane's apartment doesn't seem to enter the equation, but hey: talking computers weren't quite familiar with Occam's razor back in 1962.

The computer is, of course, the latest product of the fevered brain of Professor Phineas Potter, who, like so many Silver Age geniuses, failed to actually obtain his doctorate in the mad sciences. He is, of course, Lana's crazy uncle, and what with the fact that he's always super-evolving Jimmy Olsen and loaning Lois Lane his time bubble so she can go back in time and make out with Superbaby, he tends to function pretty much like Red Kryptonite for Superman's supporting cast.

This time, it's The MANIAC: The Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integrator & Automatic Calculator, a computer so advanced that it's capable of answering any question based on the information contained in its databanks and, in some cases, by reading the minds of its user. Professor Potter thinks that the Criminal Element is out to steal it, due to the fact that it can flawlessly calculate perfect crimes, and so he decides to hide it at Lois's apartment. Because nobody would think to look for it at the home of one of his close friends who makes front-page news three times a week by having wacky adventures, often involving his inventions. It's a foolproof plan that Lois agrees to after MANIAC proves its worth by informing her that Lana's planning on crashing on Lois's couch for a week while she gets her own apartment painted.

Incidentally, Lana also puts MANIAC to the test, in the only panel in the entire story where she doesn't look like somebody's grandmother:

Va va VOOM!

What can I say? She wears bright yellow table-lamps well.

Anyway, Professor Potter entrusts MANIAC to Lois's care, reminding her that it's not perfected yet and asking her not to tamper with it.

So the next day, she tampers with it. That's how Lois Lane Rolls.

See, Perry's given her an assignment to track down some loot hidden by a couple of local gangsters, and, well, that's really hard, so she just stuffs the files Perry gives her into one of MAINIAC's intake slots and calls it a day. On the surface, this seems like she's shirking the responsibilities of her job, but if you really think about it, reporters aren't supposed to recover stolen loot anyway, so she's actually just slacking off on police work.

So, using its fantastic computer brain, MAINIAC puts together the solution to this impossible riddle: "Slash" Carver, a skin-diving enthusiast with a house near Pine Lake, has hidden the loot at the bottom of the lake. Somebody call the folks at CSI: I've got a season finale that'll blow their minds.

Regardless, score one for MANIAC. Once Carver's evil plan is thwarted, however, Lois immediately turns to more pressing concerns, pushing the computer's nigh-boundless intelligence and ability to benefit mankind to its very limits:

Very magnanimous of you, Lane. Incidentally, this is the story where we find out that Perry will only give Lois a raise after she dresses in an outfit he likes, serves him lunch, and lights his cigar. So, good thing she spent all those years in Journalism School, I guess.

Before long, it's pretty clear that there can be only one outcome to Lois having a computer that'll answer any question, and so she asks how she can get "the man of her dreams" to marry her--which is important because she actually had a dream about Clark Kent the previous night--to which MANIAC responds by giving her a folded piece of paper and telling her to read it to the man at Lookout Point in one hour, and not one minute before, which is a pretty inefficient and draconian condition for a computer to give, but to be fair, Professor Potter did say he was still ironing it out.

But what's this? In her haste to rope Superman into making an honest woman of her, Lois forgot that she was currently sharing an apartment with her best friend and bitter, hated enemy, Lana Lang, who siezes her chance to ask MANIAC how she can steal Superman away from Lois.

Oh Lana. You are entering a world of pain.

Yes, a machine that could answer any question science or medicine cared to pose--cure disesases, balance the budget, solve world hunger, that sort of thing--is ripped apart by Lois Lane, so that she doesn't have to deal with any competition in her desperate bid to con Superman into marriage. Let's have a big hand for Silver Age Lois Lane, everybody.

Satisfied, Lois heads to Lookout Point, where she finds Clark Kent, in yet another example of Perry White's schizophrenic assignment schedule, preparing to write a story on a fireworks show.

"Lane! Solve this crime! Kent, you get me five column-inches of info on the pretty fireworks--ABOVE THE FOLD! Olsen, I want those pictures of the Sultan's Cursed Scimitar on my desk by five!"

Anyway, here's how it goes down, in one of the most rapid cause-and-effect sequences Kurt Schaffenberger ever had to draw: Lois figures that Clark's Superman and gets ready to read MANIAC's note, but a gust of wind comes up and blows it out of her hand, along with Clark's glasses, which in turn magnify the sunlight enough to set alight the fuse to a box of explosives, which then blows up the platform on which Lois and Clark are standing, which causes Clark to summon a Superman robot, which convinces Lois that he's not actually Superman, all of which has the effect of robbing Professor Potter of his faith in humanity, leading to MANIAC being sent to the scrap heap.

But Superman uses some chemicals to put on a nice pretty show for everybody in lieu of fireworks, so I guess everything turns out okay after all.

Ah, romance!


The back cover of Lois Lane #35 is graced by one of the most infamous ads of the silver age: The Lightbox. It's the only comic I actually own that has the ad, not counting the parody Alan Moore wrote for his 1963 titles, and so I took the liberty of updating it for today's modern audience:


Anonymous vjb2 said...

That's fucking BRILLIANT.

9/11/2006 12:19 AM

Anonymous Isaac said...

Dude, that's totally not a lightbox. I'm not sure what those dealies are called, but they make use of a half-silvered mirror inside -- there's nothing illuminated about them.

A lightbox is a totally different object that works by putting a bright light under an image and the paper you're going to trace the image onto.

You could never use a lightbox to draw a REAL girl in her underwear, because she wouldn't be translucent enough once you sat her on the box.

My word verfification: HIMISM, which is a school of thought to which Greg Land probably subscribes.

9/11/2006 8:50 AM

Anonymous Moose N. Squirrel said...

MANIAC looks terribly sad, and I can't really blame him.

9/11/2006 9:05 AM

Blogger Philip Looney said...

Wait - are you saying there are artists out there who are tracing pictures? using a lightbox? And they get their full paycheck for that? That's crazy talk!

9/11/2006 9:06 AM

Blogger Mark Hale said...

I love the idea of physically stuffing things into a slot on a computer and having it analyze them.

9/11/2006 9:54 AM

Blogger Michael said...

Hilarity on my lunch break, thy name is ISB. Thanks for some levity in my day.

9/11/2006 12:42 PM

Blogger Brandon said...

Damn, Lois is fucking cold.

9/11/2006 1:01 PM

Anonymous Christopher said...

I like how wonderfully sexist the fisrt panel is, it's like "A girl being a newspaper editor?! How could such a wacky situation ever haoppen?"

Um... only three people really work for the Daily Planet, one of whom is a bumbling hick who tends not to turn stories in on time, another is colour-blind photographer who is so suggestible that all it takes to hypnotise him is to basically say "Hey, you're hypnotised now" and the third is an appatrently Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.

I mean, yeah, she has some problems with being completely insane, but that's pretty much true of Clark and Jimmy, too (And, really every single person in all of Metropolis).

If Perry retired or got another job or died or something, who the hell else would become the editor?

9/11/2006 2:52 PM

Blogger Ferrous Buller said...

I know you've said it before, but it bears repeating: damn, Silver Age people were incredibly dickish. Between smashing MANIAC to frustrate Lana and dreaming about humiliating Clark when she's the DP's EiC, Lois is one stone-cold bitch.

9/11/2006 4:03 PM

Anonymous SanctumSanctorumComix said...

That's not a lightbox.

It's more like a "reverse-projector".

Damn Silver Age DC and their "Reverse" creations.

Anyway, re: Greg Land.


9/11/2006 5:27 PM

Anonymous jayunderscorezero said...

I second that "ZING."

"Ouch" for Greg Land.

9/12/2006 1:19 AM

Anonymous Sleestak said...

I look at those ads every day in my Silver Age books, wish I thought of it.

9/12/2006 7:51 AM

Blogger Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Notice how the machine is all frowny frowny? Intelligence = sadness.

THAT'S why Lois is always smiling!

Also, that device is called an opaque projector

9/12/2006 8:19 AM

Blogger notintheface said...

Geez, no wonder Modern Day Lois punched her lights out! (See the most recent Superman/Batman.)

9/12/2006 7:21 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

A lightbox is a totally different object...

That's not a lightbox.

...that device is called an opaque projector

While I appreciate the sentiment, that's not really the point.

After all, you guys all know what I mean. But in the spirit of turnabout being fair play, feel free to photoshop your own 1960s ads decrying my lack of hack-artist accoutrements.

9/13/2006 12:45 AM

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