The non-superhero genre looked at in this post is women’s comics. This is the third post in this series. Other posts include Western heroes (http://foxhugh.com/2009/02/13/dc-vs-marvel-western-heroes/) and war heroes (http://foxhugh.com/2009/03/21/dc-vs-marvel-war-heroes/). This genre is defined by audience. Comic books that are designed to appeal to women are considered women’s comic books. In the US young boys rather than young girls read comic books. As a comic book addict, growing up in the US, I am all too aware that you do not meet many attractive women in comic book shops and this is a stereotype that is true. I just got done living in Japan for seven months and the situation in Japan is radically different. A really big comic book store might be three to six stories high and one floor will be devoted to women’s comic books. In general, romance comics are considered “women’s comics” in the US. The vast majority of readers of romance comic books were young girls rather than young boys. I have to admit that I often enjoyed reading romance comics even as a kid but all in all my interest is in superhero comic books and this is probably due to my gender. However, for the purposes of this series, romance comics are useless.
This series of posts pits on-going top characters from non-superhero genres against each other. Romance comics do not have ongoing characters. Romance stories after all generally describe first love and an ongoing series about first love is impossible. There is a type of comic book that appeals to young girls and has ongoing character. This is a type of women’s comic book that I dub the “working women” subgenre and this subgenre does have ongoing characters. Working women comic books are about a woman and her job. The job is generally either glamorous, dangerous or both. The job is not “super”. A woman who does super tasks is a super heroine. Super heroines are often dressed in skimpy, sexy outfits like Wonder Woman and their job is to attract teenage or older males not a female audience.
Marvel has had several titles that center around a female protagonist and her job. These titles invariably have a romantic angle that is more prominent than in the superhero titles. Marvels line of working women includes Chili, Della Vision, Linda Carter Student Nurse, Millie the Model, My Friend Irma, Nelly the Nurse, Night Nurse, Patsy Walker, Sherry the Showgirl and Tessie the Typist. Chili and Millie the Model inhabit the same universe and are rivals.
DC has had three titles with a woman without super powers and a career and these include Miss Beverly Hills of Hollywood, Miss Melody Lane of Broadway, and Lois Lane! Lois Lane is Superman’s girlfriend and this is the central plot device rather than her adventures as a reporter. In the Silver Age of comic books, every other story about Lois Lane was about Lois Lane and Lana Lang fighting for Superman’s affections. Later, Lana Lang becomes Superman’s first love rather than a current romantic interest and in some versions Lana Lang even gets married to someone other than Superman. I am not sure if the Silver Age love triangle actually got a lot of female readers but this certainly was one of the few DC lines that had affairs of the heart as a central theme but there were three consistent plot twists as well.
One consistent plot twist was that Lois Lane had two goals in her life. Goal number one was to marry Superman. Goal number two was to find out his secret identity. Goal number one was a female goal. Goal number two was a career goal i.e. the scoop of the century for a reporter. Goal number one and goal number two seem to be in conflict. How can Superman let his guard down and trust a woman who wants to expose his secret identity? However, upon closer examination the two goals may work together. The rationale of Superman’s secret identity is that he has the secret identity to protect loved ones and be Superman at the same time. If the secret identity is exposed then he can no longer be Superman. If Lois can destroy Superman’s career then she can achieve marital bliss with a retired Superman.
The second consistent plot twist was that “inexplicably” Superman wanted Lois Lane to fall in love with his Clark Kent persona. Or maybe this is not so hard to understand after all. Superman is a Kryptonian genetically but he was raised by the Kent’s as an Earthling. One could argue that Clark Kent is the true identity and Superman is the secret identity. This is certainly the message of the TV series Smallville. In Smallville, Clark Kent slowly, very slowly, eight seasons and counting slowly, becomes Superman. Clark Kent wants Lois to fall in love with the person he really is rather than the cape/mask Superman. I think this is a theme any successful man can understand. A millionaire wants to be loved for who he is rather than his millions. Superman wants to be loved for who he is rather than because of his superpowers and fame. Would Lois Lane still love Superman minus the super and only a man? The current Lois Lane would, and currently Superman and Lois Lane are married, but I am not so sure of the Silver Age Lois Lane would marry Superman minus his powers although she occasionally did in Silver Age imaginary tales.
The third consistent plot twist was that Clark Kent and Lois Lane both work for the Daily Planet as reporters and they compete career wise. You would think Superman with all his super powers could easily squash Lois in the reporting game but generally chooses not to due to sentiment and very often out and out loses because Lois, despite being a mere human, is better at the reporting game than Clark. Lois has a more realistic view of her fellow humans and is actually less naïve and more street wise. This is similar to the Batman/Superman relationship were Superman’s idealism is a weakness when up against Batman’s realism. Lois Lane will also use her feminine wiles occasionally and this happens more in the Smallville version of Lois Lane than the comic book version. The Smallville version is also one heck of a martial artist in a manner similar to the Silver Age version of Lois Lane.
The Lois Lane series lasted 137 issues until September, 1974. Lois Lane of course survived the cancellation of her series and is also the first character of the Superman family and predates Luthor and Jimmy Olsen. The Lois Lane series was part of the Superman family series of titles that included Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s best friend. Superman was so popular in the Silver Age that civilians in his universe rated their own titles! These titles do not age well at all and unless you grew up reading Superman during this period then you will have a hard time reading these comic books. DC recently reprinted the Jimmy Olsen series under the moniker Superman Family and this is one reprint that did not sell very well.
Lois Lane is more relevant and more famous, and then some, than all of Marvel’s working women put together. Many regard the relationship between Lois Lane and Superman to be the most important love story in comic books period. The most powerful version of Lois Lane is the Silver Age version. Lois Lane, like Superman, was depowered later on. Lois Lane was not superhuman but had incredible fighting skills in the Silver Age. Lois Lane had mastered the Kryptonian martial art of Klurkor. I propose Lois Lane goes toe to toe with all of the working women of Marvel.
The Marvel working women have been transported by evil aliens to the DC Universe. All the Marvel working women instantly fall in love with Superman when they see him on TV at the apartment the aliens have deposited them in. The group also finds out from the TV show that Superman’s girlfriend is Lois Lane. As a group they decide that Lois Lane must be “eliminated”. Millie the Model goes to the Daily Planet and charms the pants off of Jimmy Olsen and finds out that Lois Lane will be at the Glamour beauty parlor that afternoon.
The Marvel women, ten strong, storm the beauty parlor. Sherry the Showgirl and Tessie the Typist, the two most obscure members of an already obscure subgenre, guard the doors. This is what fourth raters do in comic books. Millie the Model and Chili have had countless cat fights and this actually makes them a pretty good tag team. Lois is reading a copy of Cosmo in the waiting area. Chili pulls Lois from the chair by the hair and Millie punches Lois in the stomach. As Millie punches Lois in the stomach she reflects that she is much prettier than Lois and Lois could never be a model. Lois head butts Chili and plants a roundhouse kick firmly in the stomach of Millie. The two models are shocked and run for the hills. They have never fought a gal that knew how to fight expertly. Linda Carter Student Nurse has actually been in a real life and death tussle during her career against guys and has learned that when fighting a guy you use weapons of opportunity. Linda grabs a can of hair spray and sprays Lois in the face. This move stuns Lois and the other girls attack at once from all sides and Lois is on the floor being kicked left and right into unconsciousness and the final blow is delivered with a hair dryer that Chili has grabbed. Chilis nose was broken due to the head butt. Chili wonders if she will ever model again and wants revenge! The Marvel girls are victorious and now must kill each other in order to decide who will be the mate of Superman but that is another story.
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