Imaginary Stories are a great way of exploring really cool
ideas that, for one reason or other, you can't pull off
in official continuity. For example, have you ever thought
how cool it would be if Superman married
Lois Lane only to see her murdered right
in front of him in their family home? Have you ever wished
you could see a grieving Man of Steel pushed to the limits
of his sanity, having a make-out session with a robot, trolling
beauty contests for Lois lookalikes and tricking a woman
into marrying him under the pretense of being someone else?
If so, then Superman #215 (Apr 1969) has the story
you've been looking for.
Writer Otto Binder gives us this story
"which never happened, but might happen in the future."
We open at Lois Lane's funeral, where mourners including
Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lana Lang and
Lucy Lane gather to support widower Superman
and his now-motherless (and super-powered) pre-school daughter
Laney (spelled "Lanie" on the
cover, but nowhere else). As drawn by Curt
Swan and Jack Abel, Superman
explains that the "burial" is merely symbolic
due to the nature of Lois' demise.
Don't you just love how the Dimension Master
just walks right up to the open window and leans in with
his weapon? And the way Superman looks up, bored, from his
paper to ask, "Still trying to take over the Earth,
eh?" ("Honey, you remember Dimension Master. He's
the one who sent us the timebomb for Christmas.")
Anyway, the casket's empty since Lois disappeared into
a fine mist (notice her last word was "Shhhh!",
making wives everywhere proud as she leaves this world telling
her husband to be quiet). Lucy Lane (who, as Perry is nice
enough to tell Jimmy, is Lois' sister...as if Jimmy hadn't
dated her for 20 years) offers to take little Laney home
with her, but Superman says the logical place for a single
super-parent and his super-daughter to reside is the Fortress
of Solitude, so that's where they go.
Laney is given the run of the Fortress, except for one
door she's forbidden to ever open. Just to make sure she
doesn't try it, Superman posts a robot sentry at the door
Back in Metropolis, a gloomy Clark Kent mopes at the Daily
Planet offices. Perry and Jimmy are all sympathy, noting
that "You were pretty sweet on [Lois] yourself! Even
though she was married to Superman, we know her death hit
you pretty hard!"
To cheer Clark up, Perry gives him the assignment of assembling
"a scrapbook of headlines about [Superman's] courtship
of Lois! You pick the best ones!" Clark puts his best
face on, but inside "my heart is cracking in two!"
Of course Perry can't know what he's doing to Clark, but
why he thinks this "gift" will do anything but
depress Superman is beyond me.
One year later, on the anniversary of Lois' death, Superman
unveils a special surprise for Laney:
After Laney's asleep, the Lois robot takes Superman by
the hand and leads him "up to the roof" (the Fortress
has a roof?) for "a stroll in the moonlight."
Overwhelmed by her beauty and his longing, Superman makes
out with the robot, apparently in the belief she's the real
Back inside the Fortress, he thumbs through that scrapbook
from Perry, and is shocked back to reality when he reaches
the headline about Lois' death. (Thanks for sticking that
one in there, Perry. You're all heart.) As if on cue, the
battery in the Lois robot runs out of power and she slumps
to the floor.
A few days later, Superman is tapped to judge the Miss
Metropolis beauty contest, ostensibly designed to pick the
city's loveliest female, though everyone seems to be focused
on another objective. "Who knows?" says Perry,
"Maybe he'll find another girl he likes...and re-marry!"
and one contestant muses, "If Superman's looking for
another wife, I hope he picks ME!"
To everyone's surprise, one contestant looks exactly like
Lois Lane, and when Superman checks her with his x-ray vision,
he spots a fracture in her arm that matches perfectly an
old injury suffered by Lois, "This IS my wife!"
he exclaims joyfully.
Unfortunately, it's actually Chameleon Queen,
the evil wife of the Dimension Master who's capable of assuming
any form. She and her husband have arranged this little
masquerade to inflict mental torture on Superman, but as
they laugh about their cruel prank, they're hit by a ray
fired from a spaceship and knocked dead. The occupants of
the ship remove their masks to reveal their surprising identities.
That's right, Superman, we want you dead, but we can't
stand to see you suffer. So we committed murder right in
front of you as a favor. You know; for old time's sake.
"Gee, thanks, fellas. See ya 'round!"
Back at the Fortress, Laney's curiosity has gotten the
better of her; distracting the sentry robot with a laboratory
fire, she smashes through the door of the mystery room and
is accdentally exposed to a stockpile of Red Kryptonite.
As Superman arrives and watches in horror, Laney fades to
nothingness in much the same way Lois did, leaving the Man
of Steel to conclude that "the combined radiations
of all those Red K specimens destroyed her!"
However, upon consulting his super-computer, Superman finds
Laney was not killed, but rather transported to a parallel
Earth. Turning the Red-K on himself, he follows Laney across
the dimensional barrier and, on locating her, tucks her
safely away in the parallel Earth's Fortress of Solitude,
which he finds to be slightly different from his own.
For her newest assignment, parallel-Lois takes a "gill
serum" which allows her to breathe underwater, but
runs into trouble when she's attacked by a giant octopus.
Superman saves her and takes her to a hospital, where he's
overcome with emotion and rashly pops the question, leading
to some awkward moments when he meets the Superman of this
Superman's solution to this dilemma is to marry the parallel-Earth
Lois as promised, pretending to be the Superman she knows
and loves. After the ceremony, he takes her to the parallel-Earth
Fortress, where she meets Laney...
That's right, no need to burden your wife with the truth.
What better way to start off a life of wedded bliss than
with a few lies and secrets, right? Meanwhile the parallel
Superman returns to our Earth to take over for our Superman.
"I'm glad I thought of changing worlds with my double,"
he thinks. "He has a wife...his daughter has a mother...and
I needn't get married. Unless...hmm...I wonder if there's
a Lana Lang on this Earth?"
And on the parallel Earth...
Yes, I'll never forget my first wife, who I shall honor
by marrying this lookalike who makes it seem like Wife #1
never died at all. And to honor Wife #2, I will never mention
I was married before...to a woman who looked, sounded and
acted exactly like her. Because then she'd think I was a
weirdo, and there's no need to burden her with the truth
Wow, I like Otto Binder and all, but this story is MESSED.
UP. Am I alone in being concerned that the most powerful
man alive builds a robot, then a couple of hours later forgets
it's a robot and makes out with it? That he watches Brainiac
and Luthor kill two people and because he really, really
doesn't like the victims, turns a blind eye while they haul
off the bodies (and even says, "Thanks")? That
he would lie to a woman about his very identity just to
get her to marry him? That the foundation of his abiding,
all-consuming "love" for Lois seems based entirely
on what she looks and sounds like? And that he's willing
to live the rest of his life in a marriage where he's lying
not only to his wife but to his daughter as well? Frankly,
the only Superman who comes off well here is the parallel
version, who's "too busy" for women.
This is the kind of story that makes you want to take a
shower. Things get creepy fast and stay that way to the
very last panel, where Superman gloats, "That's what
she thinks!" It's a sordid, ugly mess.
Well, maybe not ugly, as even with the bland inks of Jack
Abel, Curt Swan still turns in a great art job, one that
makes Lois in some panels so beautiful you can almost understand
Superman's psychosis. Almost.
At least at the end, we see Superman's learned one lesson.
He's set up the new family home inside the Fortress of Solitude,
which is a little harder for most enemies to reach. And
there's no windows.