What will happen when Lois comes face to face with this terrific menace? Will Lois need Superman's protection? Read on to find out!
“The Monster Who Loved Lois Lane” — I will admit it. I am in awe of that title. It is the kind of title that so vividly brings pictures to the mind that one almost doesn't even need a story. Almost. Aw, who am I kidding? I have to read this story. I have to know the wonder implied in that title. It's even the cover story this time. Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #54 — one of the coolest covers in Lois’ arsenal. It's a yellow cover (in case you're one of those collectors who buys according to color) with a large pink monster handing Lois a streetlight he bent into a ring. Naturally, Superman is flying in to the rescue. Lois waves him off and calls the monster cute. This really sets up a doozy, doesn't it? It has everything: monsters, a jealous Superman … Why am I making a list? Monsters. That's enough.And now, a thought about Kurt Schaffenberger: When I was a kid, he drew my two favorite characters: Lois Lane and Supergirl. I loved his art and still do. For instance, take our friendly monster. And that's an important word — friendly. Keeping in mind that comic books were produced for the entertainment of children and that Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane was specifically written for little girls — something no one would think to do in today's comic book market — it's important when drawing a monster to make him accessible. This particular monster has lots of monstery qualities. He's big, covered with lots of fur, has tentacles for arms (eek!), large claws on his feet, pointy teeth and an oversized brow ridge. That is nightmare stuff. And yet, it's not. To offset the scariness they have made this particular monster warm and fuzzy. Those big teeth are set in a smile. The tentacles are holding a "ring" out to Lois. And as a salute to those little girls, the monster is pink. This is the brilliance of DC comics and Kurt Schaffenberger. Had I seen this issue as a child, nothing could've kept me from spending my allowance so that I could find out what happens between Lois, Superman and the hairy / tentacled / pink monster.The story begins with the monster flattening Superman with a single punch on the splash page. Kurt Schaffenberger signed the art. That's unusual. I wonder if he was particularly fond of his drawing of the monster punching the Man of Steel? Naturally, we have Jimmy Olsen in the corner giving us a thought balloon describing and then explaining the splash page. You have to love the talking heads they always managed to stick in the corner (the CGC Message Boards had a heyday with corner Robins), and thought balloons that are nothing but exposition.The story begins with Clark Kent weaseling out of some work. He cheats, by using his X-ray vision. He sees Perry coming out with an assignment, and as he already has something to do as Superman, he ducks out. That leaves Lois to cover the "dull story" about a big scientific breakthrough from a physicist who has been working for 10 years on a project. I am uncertain why Lois thinks that would be dull, especially in a life where aliens with superpowers are known to hang out with you.She heads over to the doctor's place where he has a large, pointy machine that he is using to "…pierce a door into another dimensional world." After deciding he does not look like a crackpot, Lois is ready to observe if his machine works. Presto! It works! (If it didn't, we wouldn't have a story, so a big thumbs-up to it for working.) Through the portal, Lois sees weird trees and a strange landscape. She can tell this is another dimension because of the weirdness. But something is moving in there! Suddenly a large, surly-looking pink monster with tentacle arms pops into view. The physicist tries to cut off the machine but the monster’s too quick for him and it leaps through the dimensional doorway into the scientist's lab. It knocks him out and goes after Lois!
"A tentacle grasps the paralyzed Lois…" This looks like the end for Lois. One might wonder what her final thought is. Does she think of the unconscious physicist? Does she worry about the grief of her parents? Is she filled with regret? Does she wonder why Superman never gave her a signal watch like the one he gave to Jimmy Olsen? I know I've always wondered about that. Why does Jimmy get one? Lois gets in far more scrapes. Well, they both end up in trouble a lot. What she really thinks is: "This is the end … I'll never see Superman again …" Good old Lois. She is always on message. Not only that, she never loses her pillbox hat no matter what this monster does to her. So her hat is on tight and her last thoughts are for Superman.The pink monster holds her with his tentacle and stares at her. Lois realizes he hasn't actually hurt her and his expression is rather friendly. Her thoughts are little confusing, though. "Maybe … Maybe it'll put me down if I make signs to it …" Here's the problem. The tentacle is wrapped around her body and her arms. She can't really make any signs. And we don't actually see any signs being made. We simply see her in one panel staring into the face of the monster and in the next she's standing on the floor, the monster is smiling and it says, "Herko!” Lois wonders in passing if that's his name. She doesn't take a lot of time to think about it because she immediately runs out of the building. Herko follows her. Lois runs into the street and sees a car bearing down on her. The driver leaps out of his car, but leaves it in drive so there is no hope for our heroine. Or is there? Herko jumps into the street, grabs the car, smashes it, smashes it some more and continues to smash it until the car is, er, smashed. He has a very angry expression on his face while he's doing this because the green car appeared to want to harm Lois Lane! I sense love in the air.The police arrive and, with guns drawn, decide that Herko is a "nightmare" and that they will have to destroy him before he wrecks the city. Lois tries to protect her new friend, but the cops open fire anyway. To their surprise they see bullets bounce right off of him. He's as invulnerable as Superman! That should endear him even more to Lois. The next exchange of dialogue is wonderful.Lois: "I'm Lois Lane, a reporter for the daily planet … Please … I don't think Herko meant any harm… He was only trying to protect me!" Cop: Miss Lane, if you have any influence over that creature, get it out of the city before it runs amok!Lois: "I'll … I'll try! Come on, Herko — We're going for a walk! Take … Take my hand …"The juxtaposition of the catastrophic (cop) and the mundane (Lois) is wonderfully laid out in this dialogue. She went from fearing him and thinking of him as a monster to defending him, calling him by name and holding hands (well, hand to tentacle). It’s just such a lovely series of panels because it takes those emotions that a child might have — the fear of the little girl — and walks her through until Herko becomes almost human. This is how you diffuse terror that is caused by monsters and get the child to invest her heart into what happens to the big pink and fluffy Herko. One has to admire the skill of the storytelling. This is a textbook on how to write for children. Meanwhile, the scientist tells the cops where Herko came from. The cop says, "The thing's super-strong, invulnerable and a terrific menace! You've got to get it back to where it came from!" Coincidentally, today I read an article about words we use and think they mean one thing when they actually mean something else. One of those words was "terrific." We now think of "terrific" as meaning something wonderful. However, its original meaning was “to cause terror.” By calling Herko a "terrific menace" the author was correctly employing the original usage. It is quite possible that back in 1964, when this was written, it wasn’t so wonderful to be terrific.The professor tells the policeman that he can fix the dimensional projector, which had gotten damaged in the fray, in a few hours. The cop, referencing Lous Lane, says, "The creature could turn on that girl any moment! She's in deadly danger!" Yikes! This sounds really bad for Lois Lane. It sure would be helpful to have part two coming next month. A person could never handle the suspense otherwise! Good news: It’ll be here. Then we can both find out if Lois Lane survives.
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