The Forbidden Box!

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #37 (Nov. 1962) brings another chapter in "comics' greatest romance" as the Man of Steel sets out to prove Lois is an insufferable snoop who can't be trusted, and instead merely proves he's a colossal jerk.

The fun begins at the Daily Planet, where Lois is sneaking a peek at some papers on Clark Kent's desk just as Superman flies in the window. Hoping he didn't notice what she was doing ("I don't want him to think I'm a snoop!"), she "sidles over" to listen in on a conversation between Superman and Perry White.

Wow, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, huh? Honestly, I don't know why so many people talk up the Superman/Lois relationship as some kind of great romance, when most of the time he treats her as at best a pain in the neck and at worst some kind of crazed stalker. And just for the record, any time someone starts a sentence with "Don't be offended," you can be sure he's about to say something offensive. And that he's a jerk.

Anyway, Superman proceeds to dress down Lois in front of her co-workers for being "over-inquisitive," and when she insists she can control her curiosity when she wants to, he vows to subject her to a test that will prove otherwise. Then he flies off, leaving Lois to sulk while Perry and Jimmy stand right behind her and talk about her in the third person. And you thought your office sucked.

A few hours later, a mysterious box arrives for Lois, generating an odd response.

Honestly, not another time bomb! That's the third one this week. Oh well, file it under "B" with the others and I'll get to it later.

A note on the box reads, "Do Not Open! Hold for Superman Till 3 PM." As it's already 4:30, Lois reasons the note means 3pm the next day (thus passing up a perfectly justifiable "out" if she wants to open it now). Realizing the mystery box must be part of Superman's promised "test," she vows to control her curiosity. Jimmy points out that her vow would be easier to take seriously if she weren't shaking the box next to her ear as she said it.

Heading home for the evening, Lois takes the box with her and tosses it on her kitchen table to prepare dinner. To her surprise, it takes flight and starts talking (Well? Wouldn't you be surprised?).

The talking box points out it has no air holes, proving it can't contain a talking bird. (Aw, that was my guess; a bird that makes a box fly from the inside and is able to carry on a two-way conversation. Oh well...). Lois says maybe Superman's built an "anti-gravity box" and is projecting his voice with ventriloquism. The box says "open me and find out," but Lois is determined to prove Superman wrong, so she resists temptation.

There you go, kids. Drugs can fix anything. Seriously though, if a flying box starts talking to you, drugs probably won't make things much worse.

As soon as Lois falls asleep, Superman shows up to check on the box.

Okay, am I the only one who has a problem with Superman flying into a sleeping woman's bedroom in the middle of night? Why do I feel like this isn't the first time he's done this? Lucky for Lois she favors modest nightwear. If she wore a teddy to bed, Supes would bring along half the Justice League to spy on her.

Chatting with the mystery box as Lois lies deep in her drug-induced slumber, Superman lets us readers in on the big secret.

Superman tells his Kandorian pal Ber-Tal to keep up the good work: "When she wakes up, promise her anything if she'll open the box!" Way to play dirty, pal. For a half-second his conscience kicks in as he notes "If Lois finally releases you, she will never forgive me..." No kidding; I imagine any gal would have a hard time forgiving you for smuggling a strange man into her apartment who can watch everything she does with x-ray vision. Broads can be funny that way.

At dawn, Lois wakes to find her bed levitating off the floor, because the box is lifting it. "If you free me," says the voice inside, "I'll reward you beyond your wildest dreams!" Lois is steadfast in her resolve, grabbing her ear plugs to block the voice's pleas. The box knocks the plugs out of her hands and keeps harassing her.

A bit of a break comes when Lana Lang arrives for lunch and greets Lois in her own sweet way.

Wow, sweet little Lana of Smallville grew up to be Alexis Carrington, didn't she? What kind of shrew shows up to bum lunch off a friend and says hello with an insult? And just to be extra rude, she brings a pet along unannounced. If you ask me, Superman should save a little of his bad attitude for the redhead in his life.

At exactly three o'clock, Superman flies in through the kitchen window (in a neat touch, Curt Swan draws Lana primping her hair at the sight of him). Lois tells him he can find his box in the living room, unopened. Instead, he finds it ripped to shreds and assumes she's failed the test (Lana is shown smirking).

Ber-Tal clears things up by producing the real culprit: Lana's cat, who smelled the Kandorian inside the box and ripped it open to get to him. Superman apologizes to Lois (though not too heartily) and rewards Lois with the box she initially saw him giving to Perry White.

Haw, haw.

You know, it occurs to me that for a site with "fan" in the title an uncomfortable percentage of my reviews end up feeling like they should be on the Superdickery site, but what's a guy to do? Superman is a real jerk in this story, right down to that last twist of the knife. In fact, just about everyone in this story is hateful to Lois in some way or other, which is almost enough to make me feel sorry for her.

We're left to imagine Ber-Tal's reaction was when he learned the nature of the "special mission" he'd volunteered for. Surely even in Kandor people have lives to lead, and more important things to do with their time than play pranks on Superman's friends. How would Superman even approach the issue? If he just says "I need a volunteer," he risks being yelled at when the volunteer realizes what a stupid mission it is, but if he says up front "I need someone to hang out in Lois Lane's apartment all night...and you'll have x-ray vision", then it's a given most of the applicants will be perverts. The least he could have done was ask for a female volunteer.

I'm still not even sure what kind of "lesson" he's trying to teach. Come on, it's a floating, talking box that begs you to open it in exchange for anything you desire! Opening it wouldn't make you a snoop; on the contrary, not opening it would demonstrate some kind of superhuman restraint. Superman stacks the deck against Lois, and when he loses his bet anyway he can't resist getting in one last dig. Jerk.

Anyway, if Lois clears herself for now on "snoop" charges, she does reveal herself as something of a narcissist. I mean, how many people know exactly how many days it is til their birthday, if it's more than a month?

This one marks the second time in one week I guessed the wrong writer for a story. With the ham-handed (and largely failed) attempts at humor, I guessed this was a Jerry Siegel job, but it turns out the writer was Leo Dorfman.

At least I was curious enough to look it up.