One of the frequently repeated talking points for the New 52 DC Comics revamp has had to do with the decision to dissolve the marriage of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, which has often been defended by the rationale that splitting up Superman and Lois “makes Lois a stronger character.”
Clearly, these people never read Lois Lane comics in the 1960s and ’70s.
Let’s take a look at how a strong, single Lois Lane behaves in this little gem from SUPERMAN FAMILY #178 (August-September 1976), entitled “The Girl with the Heart of Steel!”, written by Cary Bates and drawn by the sublime Kurt Schaffenberger.
In case you didn’t get the idea from the cover, they drive it home again in the splash:
And by the way, that’s quite a rock Superman’s carrying there. That looks like considerably more than two months’ salary.
So Lois is in Smallville interviewing a STAR Labs scientist who’s making great strides in the field of bionics, creating cybernetic replacement limbs and testing them out on his chimp Bimmo. And by the way it’s no coincidence that this issue was published at the height of the popularity of ABC’s THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, which coined the term “bionics” and thrust it into the public consciousness. Lois might as well be wearing a red track suit here.
Even the way Bimmo’s artificial skin rolls up is reminiscent of the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN Steve Austin toy and how its rubber skin would roll up the plastic arm.
Naturally, Lois sees this affront to the laws of nature and immediately wants to sign up:
“Bionic powers would be a great help in my work”? Yes, most reporters need to be able to run 80 mph and lift a truck.
So a week later Lois and Perry White are on assignment in Smallville when their car is run off the road by a mysterious alien doodad. Not to worry, though, as Lois merely picks up the car and puts it on its wheels again.
But she’s not finished, slapping a nearby fire hydrant open and kicking open bags of cement in an attempt to trap the robot.
Yes, Lois went ahead and took a few days off from the Planet, in order to have all her limbs cut off and replaced with high-tech prostheses. Note how casually Lois rolls up her skin, Lee Majors-style, while Perry reacts in fine “Archie & Jughead” style.
Why would Lois take such drastic steps? Why else – to get Superman to marry her.
That’s completely normal.
Unfortunately, all is not well with Lois’ new condition, as this mysterious visitor to her hotel indicates.
Back in Metropolis, Lois prevents an assassination with her new bionic powers, revealing them to Superman, who’s so overjoyed he immediately proposes.
Lois, meanwhile, heads back to STAR Labs for a checkup, where she reveals that things aren’t exactly running smoothly with her new bionic body:
Even worse, her newly supercharged bionic brain, now working at full capacity, is regenerating all-new bionic parts, replacing her remaining flesh-and-blood body.
At this point, most readers are looking back at the beginning of the story — “This was an Imaginary Story or a ‘What If?’, right?” Wrong. This actually happened.
Lois won’t give up her work, though, and returns to Smallville to investigate the alien robot invasion, despite her new entirely freaky appearance.
Man. Even the dog is freaked out.
Anyway, using a new alien-metal-detecting App that STAR Labs installed in her hand, Lois finds the alien spaceship in the woods outside Smallville, the source of the invading robots. Turns out the ship itself was another robot, sent to Earth to analyze Superboy’s powers, and hadn’t realized he’d grown up to be Superman and moved away from Smallville.
Lois agrees to bring Superman for the robot’s analysis, and in gratitude, the robot spaceship offers to return Lois’ humanity to her.
How exactly it’s going to do that isn’t exactly spelled out in so many words. Are they going to retrieve the bloody stumps of Lois’ dismembered limbs and just stitch them back on?
The robot ship works its off-panel magic, and soon Lois is back to usual, and answering Superman’s asinine question:
I hate to break it to you, Lois, but I’m not sure how much longer the engagement would have been on at the rate you were going. One more week and you would have turned into a walking toaster. Even Superman’s not that good…