WTF? Wednesday: Lois Goes Black, Manages to Go Back

Before I start making fun of Lois Lane’s attempts to understand the plight of my people in the early 1970s, I’ll say this much: A silly as Lois Lane #106 looks now, it was probably quite a powerful comic book when it first published, and I say it’s better to address racism awkwardly than not at all. Plus, the classic Bronze Age art is beautiful. OK, now we’re done with the sincere part of this post.

Lois has done a lot of outrageous, even dangerous things to get a scoop, but this took the (chocolate!) cake. While trying to report on life in Metropolis’ hood — seriously dubbed “Little Africa” — Lois is frozen out at every turn by wary African Americans. Doors slam in her face. A street activist rails against the intrusion of “young and sweet and pretty” whitey. Even the school kids are like, “Girl, bye.”


Desperate, Lois enlists the Man of Steel to put her into some kind of transformation thingy to give her the ultimate cover. Enter, Soul Sister Lois! The effects last for only 24 hours, but our star reporter gets a bitter taste of life on the other side of the tracks. She feels conspicuous! Taxis drive past! Other downtrodden black people live in apartments plagued by vermin! As the indignities mount, Lois wonders, “Is this what happens every time these human beings ride in a subway? Or bus? Or enter an all-white school?” I’ll let you guys wrestle with this difficult question.

My favorite part of this book is the way she totally calls Superman on the carpet about whether he would marry her in spite of her (temporary) race. And for a moment, he seems to be tap dancing for dear life by deflecting her question with a question. He’s all, “Dude, that question is fucked up. I’m the ultimate outsider, even though I am a strikingly handsome, white male Kryptonian with piercing blue eyes, the body of a god, and flying capabilities. And, uh, I can’t marry you anyway because that would put your life in danger …” Good thing Supes is faster than a speeding bullet, because he is working hard to dodge this one.


Just in time to save Superman from a philosophical monologue about alien-human-race mixing, the effects wear off and Lois is restored to her old self. Of course, everything ends on an “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” note. Lessons have been learned. Interracial friendships have been formed. Woman-on-the-street exposes are written. Pultizer committee, recognize!

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23 thoughts on “WTF? Wednesday: Lois Goes Black, Manages to Go Back

  1. I know this is a WTF? at a glance but your first paragraph calls it out. This was most definitely one of those social commentaries for that time and could actually be timeless to this day and age.

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  2. In the context of the 1970’s, it is probably more powerful and less silly than it seems now, but it still seems silly.

    It’s “Black Like Me” in 24 pages with ads for X-ray vision glasses in the back…

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  3. considering some of the hot barely human-looking women running around both the DC and Marvel universes alone, the Boy Scout balks at sista Lane? And he’s an alien himself for f*&k sakes. That back-pedalling rivals that seen performed by our plant manager every week at our production (or lack thereof) meetings. He does his little dance of evasion when coming up with new and exciting excuses for why we sales folk need to tell yet another customer his or her equipment will be late.

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  4. It would be cool to see this story updated for modern readers. The story would have to be more subtle, but in the right writer’s hands, it could be great. Lois looks a lot like my mom back in the day! Not too shabby, in my opinion.

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    • It would be cool to see this story updated for modern readers.

      Try checking out Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #2.

      The story would have to be more subtle

      Oh. Then, uh, scratch that. Subtle it’s not. Well, probably more subtle than the above comic, but still.

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  5. Yes! It would be mos def cool to see this story updated for today! I would love to see it done, say for example if Wonder Woman’s twin Nu’bia had the WW mission instead of say Diana and the now go to Artemis? How would that fair? Would Batman still be attracted to WW or any of the league now that she is not Diana but her black twin, who has the same attributes,beauty, gifts and skills? Or would we be subjected to her being invisible?
    I have to say that for a 70’s comic they were taking more chances then they are now in the genre.
    Thanks for showing this E! The WTF part of this Wednesday’s post is not this comic per se but the fact that we have to still address this question and that it is still blatantly ignored and not considered. Remember the whitening of Vixen in an issue of Justice League? :P

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      • Oh really? I always thought the title was inspired by the film “I am Curious (Yellow)”.. A Swedish art-house movie about a girl driven by passion for social-justice etc. Its half-acted & half-documentary. Aside from the acted everyday life of the character (yes, including love-making), she goes on to interview real people in her city on social topics (Kinda like a reporter named Lois Lane?)

        Anyways the big WTF moment is that it even features an interview with Martin Luther King Jnr!!!! (He was in Sweden at the time during filming)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Curious_(Yellow)

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  6. What’s awesome is that Lois has been black for less than 24 hours but she already knows water will fck up her ‘fro. That’s Graduate Level Negritude right there.

    Also, Superman, you suck.

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  7. Oh wait, I think she’s talking about her clothes, not her hair. Sorry, she’s busted back down to Elementary-school blackness.

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  8. Lois is actually much hotter as a Black woman. But she’s still a pain in the ass, constantly asking Superman about marriage! This is one time when Vinnie Colletta did OK, can you imagine Black Lois by Kurt Schaffenberger (still THE Lois artist otherwise of course).

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  9. Actually, the way I took this, Supes is contemplating Lois’ proposal , whereas before he had turned her down thousands of times!! I think Supes , like me , has a fondness for the beauty of Black women!!

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  10. Obviously,Superman doesn’t care if Lois is black or white:he reject her anyway!She had to wait until “What happened to the Man of Tomorrow”.

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  11. I grew up in the 60s in Toxteth, a district of Liverpool in the UK notorious for its relaxed approach to race, racial mixing, prostitution, drugs, sexuality, the ‘criminal classes’, the unemployed, ‘music’ venues – you name it.

    I’m white myself, but I had mixed race cousins, and friends of many different ethnicities, all of us living in what was called ‘rooms’, (though it was only ever one room), in the most dilapidated of properties owned by often highly vicious and exploitative landlords, (many not white), which was the British equivalent of today’s American trailer trash lifestyle.

    I only began to realise what an explosive issue race was in the rest of the city when we finally got a rented council house of our own just on the ‘outskirts’ of this same district, and our new neighbours’d literally ask us if we were – or even accuse us of being – N-words, even though we were as white as white could be, simply because of where we came from.

    This was about the time the Black Panthers were becoming known over here, and I personally, (as a kid not even out my teens), witnessed raiding parties of both white guys ambushing black guys considered to be leaders of black gangs, (often lured into position by white girls feigning interest), and black guys doing exactly the same on those they considered white ringleaders, (often lured into place by feigned interest from “race traitor” white girls or mixed race girls); and these attacks wouldn’t be random, they’d be carefully planned like military operations, with information gathered about the targets from ‘sympathetic’ locals and in the case of the attacks on the blacks with information gathered from unofficial police sources.

    To say the atmosphere was intense during this period’d be to understate it: each side literally tried to murder each other, to the degree, by the time the ambulances’d arrived, (the cops always seemed to ‘arrive’ very late, for some reason), seemingly every bone in their bodies’d be broken, their faces stomped on so much their mothers’d’ve found it hard to recognise them as human, never mind their sons, and some of them’d have so many switch blades and sharpened steel combs sticking out them they’d resemble porcupines.

    With the benefit of hindsight, and frequent visits to Jacque Nodell’s Sequential Crush site, what I find amazes me most about comics from that period is how often ‘wishy-washy’ DC used to pose serious questions about things like racism and sexism, (viz Black Lois Lane), whereas hardcore, deadly serious Marvel’s approach seemed to be to basically to sidestep questions and concentrate on creating what they seemed to consider affirmative action role models like the Black Panther.

    I’m not saying either comic group was wrong, merely that I hadn’t noticed at the time how much DC, in spite of being under the limitations of being the bastion of super honkiness, mom’s apple pie, and good clean living, was really trying their very hardest to seriously address and understand issues that remain important even to this very day.

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    • @borky — Thanks for your account, sir. That was absolutely fascinating. Most people would seem to think that race relations are perhaps isolated to the United States. And that’s it’s not much a problem within the perceived liberal mores of Europe. But that’s definitely not the case, nor has it been.

      -ADRIAN

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