Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marriage: Lois & Clark

This week I'm a groomsman in the wedding of my wingman, CobraMisfit. Tuxedo fittings, rehearsal dinner with Seal Team Awesome (the groomsmen), and secret "don't-tell-the-groom" arrangements; the works. Heck, I may even have to practice the Electric Slide.

This has me in a matrimonial frame of mind and moves me to comment on the subject of marriage...

in the DCU.

Most people have been focused on the de-marriage-ification of Lois & Clark. My general impression is that no one is too broken up about it.

People were UPSET when Peter and MJ's marriage was retconned away. But that marriage had years of build up and actually changed the nature of the character's lives... a lot. Peter went from being a whiny nebbish with a puerile sense of humor to a whiny nebbish with a puerile sense of humor and a hot red-headed supermodel/actress wife.

Neither of those can be said of Lois & Clark's marriage. Now, the Lois and
Superman relationship was a long-running one. But Lois & Clark pretty much stopped relating to each other as potential romantic partners after the Golden Age ended. During the Silver and Bronze Ages, she was firmly fixated on Superman himself: deducing his secret identity, tricking him into marrying her, feeding photos of him to her ostrich. That sort of thing.

But Clark was a mere supporting character in the "Lois vs. Superman" battle. He was only relevant due to the occasional possibility that he might be Superman's secret identity.

This could have changed in the Happening 1970s, when Lois Lane kind of got fed up with mooning over Superman and decided to move on with her life. Copying Julie Jively's wardrobe'll do that to you. Certainly changed
MY life.

Anyway, that would have been the perfect time for Lois to abandon her sexist ways, and start dating Clark... precisely
because he wasn't a macho he-man.
What a marvelous feminist statement that would have been! I don't think that ever happened (I'm sure someone will correct me if it did), but even if it did, it didn't last long enough to get picked up on the social radar.

As every knows, when Lois & Clark wound up getting married in the Iron Age, it was a slapdash affair, rushed to synergize with the
Lois & Clark television show wedding.

It could have--should have-- been the triumphant culmination of a half-century long battle of the sexes, a love-conquers-all story of epic proportions.

In fact, it was horrible anti-climactic. I remember when someone first told me Lois and Clark were getting married. I said,
"Married?! I didn't even know they were DATING!"

And it was true. Despite having had over fifty years to prepare for it, the Lois and Clark marriage seemed nonsensical and baseless. We had almost no idea what Lois saw in Clark, what made her give up on Superman, how their dating relationship began, or how it blossomed into an engagement. Heck, it seemed for all the world like a shotgun wedding of the worst type: one where other media were holding the gun to the comic book's head.

Although tortuously unfolded, Lois & Clark's relationship on television was well developed and its culmination in a wedding seem natural. In contrast, Lois & Clark's relationship in the comics was not a
shown series of events, but a told one (and told sketchily and in retrospect, too). It was hard to believe that Lois & Clark actually belonged together (quite an accomplishment for comic book's most venerable couple), and when Clark failed to reveal to Lois the fact that he was an alien from another planet until after they were married... well, let's just say that seldom has Superman seemed like a bigger d***.

DC hasn't gotten a lot of traction out Lois & Clark being married. Neither one seems to have changed or grown because of it. Heck, their lives, other than their moving in together, don't seemed to have changed at all. In fact, the only interesting plotline I can remember where their being husband and wife really mattered was...
the arrival of Krypto. Lois's inability and unwillingness to handle living with a superdog was an amusing throwback to the old "imaginary stories" where she would struggle to deal with having semi-super offspring (those stories made you realize just how cool the Kents actually were, I might add).

So, what do we lose by losing the Lois/Clark marriage? Not a lot that I can see. In fact, we gain much, specifically
the humanization of Superman. Married Superman with a hot spunky wife? Just another example of Superman's super-ability to "have it all". Bachelor Superman with a Fortress of Solitude? That's a Superman who's humanized by the very fact that his superior, alien nature sets him apart from everyone else.

Next time: Barry Allen, single man. Oh, this'll be good...


CobraMisfit said...

The thing that bugs me about the treatment of marriage in comics (I'm looking at you, Marvel and DC), is that the lone-wolf superhero concept gets old (for me) after a while. I can only spend a few decades watching love interest after love interest die, leave, or not understand our friendly neighborhood, uh, hero before I lose interest. There's a line between building tension (good) and beating a dead horse (common).

Want to throw readers a curveball? How about a hero that has to deal with saving a city and also try to be a husband and father? I would have remained a Spider Fan had The Powers The Be followed the concept of the Spider Baby that never was rather than treating it as an "oops" and then just flipping a switch so that all of Peter's growth (and MJ's, for that matter) never happened.

I know that's Marvel, but you make an excellent point about negating the growth of a character (Parker) by simply resetting to the fun-loving, gosh-I-wish-women-understood-me times. Maybe Supes doesn't need a wife or maybe They want to do things "the right way." All I know is that anytime a couple seems to be doing well in comics (*cough* Ralph and Sue *cough*), it's just a set up for their eventual, bloody demise. It's predictable which, in turn, makes it boring.

Maybe it's the need to prove just how much of a strain having all those abilities and responsibilities really are on a person. Or maybe it's just a way to keep "young people" reading comics. Either way, too many comics wear me out with the lone-hero-with-a-broken-heart plot trope and hopefully they don’t do it to Supes.

Reboot yay. Repeat, boo.

But yeah, you're going to rock that powder blue tux, bud. Wedding Wingman, go!

Scipio said...

I am not opposed to married superheroes. But I am opposed to married Superman.

Aquaman is obviously going to be with Mera again after the reboot, and that will probably be good.

P.S. As previously stated, I will take a bullet for you; but asking me to wear powder blue is asking too much.

Bryan L said...

I'm sure you'll look lovely in powder blue, Scipio. On the subject at hand, I'll back CobraMisfit in concept -- marriage gets extremely short shrift in comics. It's almost always poorly handled and most writers try to undo it as soon as possible or ignore it as much as possible. And the Ralph/Sue thing still sickens me.

That said, in this particular instance, Superman/Lois, I agree with you, Scipio. I think they're better unmarried. However, I don't want Lois wandering around trying to uncover Superman's secret identity. Frankly, I have trouble suspending my disbelief that much -- humans have an incredibly sophisticated facial recognition ability. If she sees both of them close up, game over.

I'd almost rather see a loose "conspiracy" of Supes' closest friends to protect his identity.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

The Clark/Lois/Superman triangle was brilliant, and its loss weakened the character. A big part of Superman's appeal is his secret identity and the gulf between perception and reality of Our Hero ("if they only knew!"), and Lois was the symbol of it. It could be, and was, overplayed, but fundamentally it's a great idea.

Now here's an oddity: Elliot S! Maggin, longtime Superman writer, once described the Superman love triangle in his novel Last Son of Krypton thusly (if the internet is to be believed):

"Superman loved Lois Lane. Lois Lane loved Clark Kent and ached in vain to believe he was Superman. Clark Kent loved Superman. No one understood this."

Perceptive? An interesting twist? Just plain dumb?

Nathan Hall said...

As a married man myself, I can't understand how superhero life doesn't detract from the relationship. I mean, if you're always running to some crisis or another, how are you supposed to spend quality time (being rescued doesnt' count - that's just fostering dependence).

Post-Alan Moore Swamp Thing actually struggled with this issue when he created another version of himself to stay with Abby while he got summoned by Mayans or something. When he came back, his clone fought him for the love of his life, and when SW inevitably defeated him Abby realized the deception. I'd bet Louis would feel the same if a Superman bot malfunctioned and caused a similar situation.

Otherwise, Bryan L. is right. Marriage in comics is rarely handled well, and when it is it's only for a short time.

Anonymous said...

Marriage in comics too often brings the temptation to inject soap operaness. You can slowly build the relationship over the years, and then you reach the high point of marriage ... so what do you do once you've gotten there? Unimaginative writers (and there are a couple) will decide that the best thing to do is introduce angst and drama. Marriage problems! Kidnappings! Affairs! Skrulls! Death!

The Clark / Lois / Superman triangle doesn't work unless Clark is a cardboard cutout, which then allows Lois to be a cardboard cutout. As soon as Clark is a fleshed-out human being, Lois has to become one too, and the whole eyeglasses mystery stops working.

ShellyS said...

The loss of the Clark/Lois marriage is just one of the many things that I'm upset about re: the DCnU, and it means that I will not be buying the Superman family of comics along with not buying the Bat family of comics because Batgirl is Babs again and Dick isn't Batman. I will buy Batwoman because she's new and there isn't a long history to be ruined.

There is so much I'm upset about that it's hard for me to work up too much fury for any one thing/book. My anger and irritation is spread rather thin over a great many books.

Accursed Interloper said...

"Most people have been focused on the de-marriage-ification of Lois & Clark."

Not an issue for me, as long as they're both going to be several years younger than their old selves. For me it's the de-formerly-dead-ification of Superman plus of forty of his closest and formerly-deadest friends. This buys more slack from me than I've even figured out how to measure.

"There's a line between building tension (good) and beating a dead horse (common). "

Sadly, once you feature the same three characters in three or more stories per month for seventy years, some horse corpses are going to get flogged.

"asking me to wear powder blue is asking too much."

Hold out for cobalt!

Black Torpedo said...

"Marriage in comics is rarely handled well, and when it is it's only for a short time." Prettymuch like real life.

Patrick C said...

Clark told Lois he was Superman before they got married. I think it was right after they were engaged, but I may be misremembering. She found out in Action Comics #662 (1991), they weren't married until Superman: The Wedding Album (1996).

Other than that, I agree that the wedding wasn't handled as well as it should have been, and I'm interested in reading about single Supes. I only started reading comics in 1992, so they've been married for almost as long as I've been reading about them.

Scipio said...

They were engaged for FIVE YEARS?

Good lord, that's longer than Barry and Iris!

CobraMisfit said...

Scip, you know better than most that 5 Real World Years equates to about 12 Comic Book Minutes. So in (their) reality, they really did rush into things. . . .

SallyP said...

I can't HELP it...I'm a girly girl, and I liked them being married.


Heck, I even liked Ollie and Dinah being married! I don't think that one even lasted a year.

ShellyS said...

I'm with you, Sally. Lois and Clark belong together. Dinah and Ollie belong together. Babs and Dick belong together. Arthur and Mera. Ralph and Sue (sniff).

Just because some writers don't know how to write happily married couples doesn't mean they can't be properly written.

ralphdibny said...

I don't care so much about the marriage going away. But I am concerned that by giving Lois a boyfriend that isn't Clark, the writing will fall back on Superman Returns-style drama, where Lois strings along some poor shlub whilst pining away for her twue luv Superman. Lois should be a strong, independent woman, not a stereotypically faithless woman. I also don't want a Clark defined by an emasculated cowardice, which is how far too many view the "classic" love triangle iteration of the character.

Scipio said...

Shelly, I agree with you about Dinah and Ollie... they make more sense together than they do apart.

But Dick and Babs? ICKY. That's always been incestuous fan-servicing 'shipping', second only to people trying to pair Superman with Wonder Woman.

ShellyS said...

Back when Babs and Dick first met, all those years ago, I thought they belonged together. I still do. I don't care much about shipping and other fanac. I don't know why its incestuous, but then, I still think of them from those early days. I was upset that they got engaged, then OYL, that was over.

But I agree. Wonder Woman and Superman is just wrong on so many levels.

Jeff R. said...

Here's the thing:

Superman loves Lois Lane. Period. That's as much of the character as the fact that he can leap tall buildings at a single bound or bounce bullets off of his chest. Any other possible romantic pairing for Superman is either part of a character who is not, or at least not exactly, Superman (Lana Lang is fine for Superboy to make dewey-eyes over, as would a Legion-based romance if they'd ever gone there. Wonder Woman pairings only fit into quasi-post-apocalyptic future Supermen in which Lois has been long-dead. And to be with someone like Maxima or Big Barda, he has to be hit on the head hard enough that he loses all of his memory entirely.)

And here's the second thing: Superman is not a loser. In the modern era, neither is Clark Kent, even. It's okay, maybe even more fitting than otherwise, for Spider-man to never get things right even with the one of his true loves lucky enough to survive meeting him, but that's because Parker is a loser in a way that Kal-El can't ever be.

So you really can't tell more than a few years worth of Superman stories, under the modern-era rules for superhero continuity, without either marrying them off or rendering Superman into something other than what he fundamentally is.

Now, when you're rebooting the character, by all means, restart the relationship. (Looking at the entire storyline, it's more than a little bit wrong for Superman to have been married several times as many years as he ever was single. Not as wrong as it's going to be in five years when Damien will have been Robin five times as long as Dick, but that's another issue..) But it's still going to end up headed to the same place.

Anonymous said...

Just because neither Clark nor Lois nor Superman is a loser, doesn't mean that marriage has to be in their plans. If marriage means lifestyle changes that will make one partner or the other unhappy, maybe marriage shouldn't be "the next logical step". And commuting from the Fortress of Solitude would be quite a lifestyle change for Lois.

I would be happy with Lois being in on Clark's secret, with no Lois / Superman romance (except perhaps for rumors in tabloids).

This is all my way of saying: SCIPIO, PLEASE HURRY WITH THE BARRY ALLEN THING. The post-Iris Swingin' Barry period is beautiful in its madness.

mrjl said...

Lois and Clark are grown as characters. I wouldn't expect major changes to either of them no matter what sort of relationship they were in.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of attached to married Superman (although I didn't know that about myself until I learned he was to be un-married). Mostly just because "married" seems like a normal well-adjusted Kansas sort of thing to be. And partly because it ended the Superman-Lois-Clark triangle that bored me to tears as a kid (and made Lois look stupid as hell).

But look here, he spent how long on New Krypton? And then immediately started walking across the country when he returned to Earth, instead of spending time with his wife? That's not exactly an ideal marriage. So maybe it's not the loss of the marriage that bothers me.

Maybe it's just that reboot Superman doesn't seem to have much connection with humanity. His adoptive parents are both dead, he has no romantic relationship, and he's never had any close friends. He's being described with words like "brooding", which is never a good sign. And he's wearing the silly armor-looking outfit not because he needs armor, but because it's Kryptonian. It sort of makes you think that Supergirl is going to have to be a supervillain to maintain her less-human-than-Superman status quo.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the new continuity is simply picking up where 1986 left off...

dan said...

I still absolutely hate the old Superman-Clark-Lois romantic triangle. BOOOOOORRRRRIIIINNGGG.

DC's gotta take a different approach than that, or this is going to get dull quick.

PauloIapetus said...
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PauloIapetus said...
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PauloIapetus said...

Your post states:

As every knows, when Lois & Clark wound up getting married in the Iron Age, it was a slapdash affair, rushed to synergize with the Lois & Clark television show wedding.

And just after:
In fact, it was horrible anti-climactic. I remember when someone first told me Lois and Clark were getting married. I said, "Married?! I didn't even know they were DATING!"

Well, sadly, both yes... and no. The full story is related in this very elucidative piece in Comic Book Resources.

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Super-books were not going to marry Clark and Lois until the TV show got involved.