Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The shipping of Lex and Lois

I recently reached July of 1962 in my Silver Age reread and I discovered this cover on Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #34. 

I don’t have the “great imaginary novel” but Mike’s Amazing World provided the synopsis for “The Wife of Superman’s Foe”: Luthor kidnaps Lois but aliens telepathically reform him. He returns to Earth, earns a pardon with heroic deeds and eventually marries Lois. Tragically their son Larry learns Dad was a criminal genius, turns to crime himself and winds up killing Lex. In the sequel a dozen issues later, Larry proves a match for Superman but ends up reforming and marrying Clark’s daughter Joan Kent. 

That got me thinking how many other times writers have shipped Lex and Lois. In an imaginary two-parter in #64 and 65, for instance, Luthor is a brilliant concert pianist who doubles as the goodhearted outlaw Lexo (he steals for the fun of outwitting Superman, then gives the loot to charity). Lois falls for Lexo and eventually marries him, but a freak accident turns her evil. She and Lex cause “The Musical Murder of Superman,” but resurrect him after Lois regains her moral compass. Once again the story ends with Lex dead and Lois a grieving widow.

Thing work out a little better in Superman #230/231, a Cary Bates imaginary story that reads less like a “what if” and more like “why the hell not?” In this yarn, Jor-El snaps when one of his inventions kills Lara, blows up Krypton out of deranged grief but escapes to Earth with his son Lex-El. Lex and Clark Kent grow up as friends in Smallville, but Lex eventually becomes Superman while Clark becomes a ruthless gangster like his parents. Lois Lane is a nurse who winds up caught between them. This time Clark buys it and Lex gets the girl for keeps. 

Back in the real world, Lois Lane turns evil in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #28, becoming “Lois Lane, Gun-Moll.” After testing a device that brings out your dark side, Lois turns into the Leopard Lady, committing crimes across Metropolis and eventually marrying Luthor. Turns out “Lois” is a robot Lex swapped out with the real woman to mess with Superman’s head. He messes with it again in Superman Family #172 (another Cary Bates tale): Luthor apparently reforms but it’s just Phase One of a scheme to steal the love of Superman’s life and force Superman to reveal his identity live on TV (leading to the unexpected reveal “My real name is … Arnold Nadakowski!”).

A Lois Lane buff I know says there are a couple more examples pre-crisis, though I haven’t found them. There’s also the Lex Luthor of Earth Three who became that world’s first superhero, then married his world’s Lois Lane; this time they both die when the Crisis wipes out their Earth. Post-Crisis Luthor was interested in Lois for a while, which carried over to Lois and Clark, where John Shea’s Luthor was hot for her.

It makes sense. Lex is the last person you’d expect Lois to fall for, which makes it that much more interesting when she does. Winning her away from Superman is as close as he’s likely to come to truly defeating his foe. And Superman/Lois/Lex makes for a break from the usual Superman/Lois/Clark triangle. Even so, I’m a little surprised how many times writers have drawn from that particular well.

#SFWApro. Superman cover by Curt Swan, all others by Kurt Schaffenburger

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