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!