Can Superman lie to Lois Lane and still be Superman?

August 19th, 2013 by | Tags: , ,

Quick hit, because I have a question but no answer and I haven’t had one of these conversations in a while:

Superman is, as depicted in the comics, essentially perfect. He’s an upright, straightforward, and moral man. Like Captain America, the choices Superman makes are generally the ones that we would consider correct or moral. There are exceptions, obviously, but in general and in canon, Superman is the moral center of the DC universe.

The one thing about Superman, the franchise and character, I’ve never been able to figure out is his relationship with Lois Lane. There are a couple minor things that bug me—Superman is literally the Best Man Alive, so every story where Lois gets jealous because he’s hanging out with some other lady is silly at best—but the biggest one is the Superman/Lois Lane/Clark Kent triangle.

How does that love triangle not make Superman look really dishonest? Superman is Clark, Clark is Superman. They’re both reflections of the same core person, who is generally unfailingly honest and moral. But he lies to the woman we’re supposed to believe he loves. He actively lies, in fact, concocting schemes and routines that’ll maintain his identity at the expense of Lane’s career and personal life.

I know that this is partly the result of the friction that comes when stories for children are haphazardly turned into stories for adults, and the horrifying juxtapositions that situation tends to bring with it, but it’s also something that’s stuck around as the character has been continually rebooted into someone meant for adults, rather than children. That means that it’s a significant part of the character, something with deep roots and importance to basically every single portrayal of Superman.

But, knowing what I know and feeling what I feel about Superman, it seems like one trait that’s in extreme opposition to his usual portrayal. I can’t bridge the gap between Superman being The End-All Be-All Of Goodness and lying to Lois Lane.

So what’s the deal? How did you make this work situation for you?

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38 comments to “Can Superman lie to Lois Lane and still be Superman?”

  1. It’s what makes him human! You can say it’s his biggest failing, but it’s the one that enables him to exist in both worlds. It’s his door to humanity.

  2. I guess that’s one thing Man of Steel has over other iterations of the characters

    there’s no way Lois doesn’t know who Clark is at the end and so its not lying its just ignoring something until they can’t anymore

  3. The burden of perfection is something that readers (and probably people in Superman’s world too) have thrust on him. While I absolutely believe that he works best as an inspirational character, he’s not usually depicted as perfect in his stories. Superman was a dick to Lois from their first appearance, long before the Silver Age turned his douchiness into a meme.

    At his heart though, he’s a selfless character and that’s what makes him inspirational. But he doesn’t always know exactly what the right course of action is, and it’s fair that he sometimes makes mistakes. If lying to Lois is even a mistake. A good argument can be (and has been) made that maintaining a secret identity is itself an heroic act of sacrifice.

  4. It comes up in Supreme with the resolution that the Clark analogue can’t have a relationship with the Lois analogue without revealing himself to her.

    And while Abby and Mark aren’t precisely Lois and Clark, once the relationship gets serious (in the first issue) Mark reveals his secret.

    And of course the Zero Hour to just before Flashpoint DC Universe had Lois knowing who Clark was and together. Which obviously avoids the problem.

    But yes the classic Superman does weird stunts to throw Lois off the track is a problem, especially if he has any genuine romantic interest in her.

  5. Abby and Mark in my previous comment refer of course to Love and Capes.

  6. I think the answer has to do with where the characters came from. Siegel and Shuster created Lois out of a place where she (there was a real girl named Lois) was someone who didn’t know they existed. They even put her in their comics to impress her — but she never noticed. It was that dynamic that made its way into Superman as a love interest who wasn’t in on the secret. Once Jerry and Joe found someone to model for Lois Lane, they both (of course) fell in love with her, which solidified the love triangle aspect of it. So all of this real-life/young love stuff gets translated into their comics — which is the reason (I think) it worked so well. Kids reading it knew exactly what it felt like to be ignored by someone who they knew would feel differently if the object of their affection could only see the real person inside. That’s the real fantasy of Superman, not punching around some asteroids.

    All that aside, is he really lying? Only rarely does Lois suspect the truth, and sometimes even Clark brings it up with a winky “Hey Lois, maybe I’m Superman” and she laughs. Since Clark is his real identity (I think, though debatable) then it’s not a lie to begin with. Superman is the artifice; the lie with a Pronoun Name and red cape. So for Clark to have a relationship with Lois as Superman would be more like lying and way less ethical than a relationship with her as Clark would be. Or something.

    If anyone wants to know more about the real Lois Lane, I have a book on Jerry & Joe that just came out: http://www.super-boys.com thanks

  7. There’s a couple of reasons I can think of.

    1. Genre Morality – Lying about one’s superheroic identity is something that gets a morality pass in the superhero genre, in the same way that solving problems with violence and the circumvention of due process gets a morality pass.

    2. My fan answer, is that while Clark/Superman is a good guy, he doesn’t see himself as the personification of all that is good, he sees himself as flawed as anyone else is. While he’s in love with Lois, he needs to be sure that Lois is in love with the “real” Clark/Superman, not the “Personification of all that is good” Superman.

    Also, my fanon is that outside of the cape and his journalism, he’s still a self-conscious nerd and friend-zones himself by “not wanting to ruin it.”

  8. Two ways this works:

    1. The “superman as moral paragon” is a more contemporary take on the character and becomes more Prevalent in the post-lois-and-Clark-wedding comics. This is where that aspect I the character worked best because there was no lie, instead a secret shared.

    2. Looking at pre-wedding comics that push the “best of us” angle, like the Bronze Age stuff, he lies to protect her. The old “my loved ones would be in danger” schtick. Lying is a necessary evil to ensure her well being.

  9. The Superman stories I’ve enjoyed the most in the past decade or so have not had him behaving so badly in that regard. That’s been a good thing.

    Even before that, Lois gave as good as she got with that bitchy attitude and continuously putting herself in perilous situations in which she would have *died* without Superman’s help. Her behavior insulated her from most of my pity.

    In other words, most iterations outgrew that dynamic a very long time ago. I have limited knowledge of how they’re doing it in the new 52 but what I have heard does not move me – beyond the curiosity of WW and Kal finally gettin’ down in-continuity.

  10. @Yannick: definitely — her figuring it out so quickly in MoS is maybe the biggest positive jump the character has made in 75 years. That was always the elephant in the room (“THEY’RE JUST CHUNKY FRAMES, LOIS”)

  11. Like a few others, I never bought the Superman as the “best of us” premise. I’ve never understood it or the insistence many people had in the run up to Man Of Steel, that Christopher Reeves was the end all, be all of Superman portrayals. Those movies are where that “Mr. Perfect” idea comes from, correct? I’d been reading Superman before those films came out (and watching re-runs of the old George Reeves show), so while I loved the Donner/Lester films, I also see them as their own thing (and part of that era’s knack for fetishizing the “values” of the past). Also loved the new film, and agree that dispensing with the notion that Lois is too stupid to see through glasses is long over due.

  12. Just wanted to stop by and repeat what others said: Man of Steel really fixed this.

    Waid also calls this out big time in a early issue of Irredeemable.

    I believe it’s problematic because I feel like clearly Superman’s objective in doing this is to have Lois love him as he thinks he truly is (Clark) when he’s definitely smart enough to know he’s not really just Clark and can’t divide himself like that while being honest.

  13. @Edshugeo the godmoor: Of course in the 40s-60s comics where Superman’s problem behavior is at its greatest height, Lois isn’t too stupid to see through it. Lois is sure that Clark is Superman (And Lana was sure that Clark was Superboy) and Superman/Clark goes to tremendous lengths of wacky stunts to convince her otherwise, which usually only deny her proof.

    I’ll also note that in Smallville which pushed the “secret for the sake of those it is kept from” angle that Lois knew Clark’s secret for some time before he told her, but despite dropping hints of this, let him tell her in his own time.

    And the idea that Superman is basically perfect precedes the movies by many years. The “Superdickery” comics take it as assumed that Superman is basically unimpeachable morally. The “Superdickery” comics came from a combination of the practice of “This cover shows Superman doing something bizzare! Buy it to find out why!”, a “father(Superman) knows best” attitude where Superman often intervenes in his “friends'” lives to teach them valuable lessons (mostly Lois and Jimmy, but even Perry at times), and a notion that any revelation of his identity to anyone would be a disaster.

    Let’s also not forget that the more tricksterish “for-your-own-good” Superman did not pursue a romantic relationship with Lois as either Clark or Superman.

    It’s really only in the Bronze Age (and some non-comics media) that you have Clark pursuing a relationship with Lois & Actively maintaining his secret against her. It’s also the period of Superman I know the least well, so I can’t comment much.

  14. Is there an example of Superman as paragon of virtue that precedes the films of the late 70s? That was the period I did most of my reading of DC comics, and I can’t think of anything in his character that stood out morally back when the comics code was still adhered to (could be my faulty memory). Well, there’s Batman, of course, and the counter-culture/white guilt stuff in Green Lantern/Arrow, but DC as a whole seemed pretty conservative aside from a few exceptions. But it’s undeniable that many comics fans are heavily invested in the notion of Superman’s moral superiority. I wouldn’t mind understanding where that came from. The first Donner film kinda presented it as a quaint throw back to a more innocent time in contrast to the grimy 70’s (there was a lot of 50s nostalgia back then). I even recall Johnny Carson joking about Superman losing his virginity in the sequel (don’t remember the joke).
    It could just be me. Aside from an interest in mythology, I’ve really never been invested in religion. I was what my family was, until I got to decide I was atheist. So maybe I can’t understand. But it would be interesting to see a case made for “the big Boy Scout” the way a case was made for Superdickery, something which never occurred to me before that website appeared. So, aside from super powers, what made Superman of the 60’s 70’s (or whatever constitutes many years before the movies) morally superior to The Flash of that same period?

  15. Superman lies to EVERYONE about his identity. He’s not the best man in the world, he’s the biggest liar in the world.

  16. “Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane” – In the ’50’s and 60’s, grown men wrote this comic book for an intended audience of boys & girls, age 8 to 12 maybe? No wonder it borrowed heavily from I Love Lucy; Super-Ricky has to set the rules for his cute but wacky sweetheart. The writers were avoiding too much “mushy stuff,” and of course The Comics Code put further restrictions on the stories they could tell. (There are only a small number of LL plots, right?)
    The “male chauvinist” attitudes of the writers came through loud and clear, depicting women as nosy, impulsive, and emotional rather than logical. And Superman’s lies to Lois are like the lies that parents tell their children. This sort of lie is considered acceptable bc. “they can’t handle the truth.” Not saying I agree with that, but it’s the so-called conventional wisdom. Give me a more mature relationship any day, like Batman and Catwoman…

  17. I view this as one of those premises you need to accept for the situation to work, a suspension-of-disbelief thing. I suppose there’s many reasons one could explain it away in an adult manner. For instance, Clark isn’t sure if a regular human would be willing to accept him for who he is anymore once they know about the superpowered demigod stuff. I used to watch this show they subbed on the International Channel, Abarenbo Shogun, a long running samurai drama, with a very similar situation. The female lead, Tsuruhime, runs away from her arranged political marriage to the Shogun, hating such ambitious and powerful men. Meanwhile, the shogun turns out to be a third son who never expected to ascend to power, and lives among the people as a Clark Kent to keep himself sane (and also he fights crime). He has plenty of opportunities to tell her about his identity, and insist that he’s not the kind of person she assumes, but instead opts to show her slowly. Certainly, the dramatic payoff is greater when she agrees to meet the shogun and sees him to be a man she knows and loves. I think the appealing element is that romantic angle: for a character to fall in love with a mask ensures that in the eyes of the viewer/reader that they have overcome whatever biases we may attribute to them.

    The issue needn’t rest on Superman: framed around Lois, it becomes, “Lois Lane as a character is supposed to be more than intelligent enough to realize that her coworker is Superman, so why doesn’t she?”

    At the end of the day, I don’t think it makes sense, but it’s part of the premise. Similarly, Batman cannot have a moral compass that is beyond reproach and also enlist children to put on capes and fight in his war against crime, but I don’t see why that breaks the suspension of disbelief any more than a dude in a bat costume punching criminals so hard they barf.

  18. @rizzo: We should remember that Superman’s double life was originally a reflection of the double life of the inter-war Jewish population.

    Nevertheless there’s a late 40s story in Action where Lois is a modern day Diogenes looking for an honest man, and while Superman

    @Edshugeo the godmoor: The comics that are now seen as Superdickery were all about the wisdom and moral virtue of Superman. They look so dickish to us because:
    1. We often look only at the cover, and not at the contrived explanation of why Superman is put in a position where he must deny thirsty people water.
    2. More importantly we don’t think the highly “father knows best” “you can’t handle the truth.” version of Superman sounds good because we don’t share the sensibilities behind it.

    The reality is there’s no such thing as a truly unimpeachable morality, because we don’t all agree what is moral, especially over decades of time. But many of the versions of Superman, going all the way back to the guy in the original Action #1 taking on corrupt industrialists are meant to be extremely moral within a particular understanding of what that means.

  19. @Patrick: What I was saying about Lois as Diogenes is that Superman disqualified himself as the “honest man” Lois is looking for, because as everyone knows, he has a secret identity and therefore lies about it.

  20. @Yannick: That’s my take on it, too. If you’re going to have Clark keep that secret (taking it as a given in this case that, for whatever reason, you want him to have a secret identity), it should come from some essentially human emotion.

    Making such an iffy call about potential romance actually makes him a little more relatable as a character. He’s immensely powerful, good and decent and honest, and generally better than us — but he’s got the same hangups and emotional vulnerabilities we do. Lois should make Clark nervous, not just because she’s a better, smarter reporter than he is, but because this is something he can genuinely screw up.

    So he pulls up short every time he talks to her, not sharing his secret and not taking the chance that she might not like him the way he wants her to if she knew it. It’s the kind of stupid move that he’s allowed to make in a Superman story: he can’t fumble the giant asteroid and let it hit the city to kill millions, he can’t punch a car through a busload of orphans, but he *can* fumble uncomfortably with his necktie and miss a perfect opportunity to be honest with the woman he loves.

    (Mind you, I think I prefer a story where Lois just figures it out right away, because I think it’s better and more human for Superman to actually participate in a relationship than it is to keep doing the awkward “I can’t tell her” routine.)

  21. I think the best way to approach this question is by asking: Why does Clark love Lois?

    Clark chooses to be a journalist, the job where he feels he can do the most amount of good when he’s not punching giant robots. Superman’s powers do not make Clark Kent a better writer. Still he gets by, managing to land a plum job at one of the most respected papers in the DCU. That’s where he meets Lois. Lois who, without superpowers, goes into the most dangerous situations in her search for truth. Lois, who’ll risk her life for her ideals. He falls in love with her but he also thinks that he isn’t worthy of her.

    She falls for Superman (and who can blame her for that) but Clark sees winning Lois’s heart as Superman to be cheating. He doesn’t want her to love him as a God. He wants her to love him as a man.

    This is, of course, a completely idealized version of their relationship that’s probably been invalidated countless times by dreaded continuity. Still, it makes me smile.

  22. @spankminister: Used to love Abarembo Shogun. Caught it on Saturday mornings on a UHF channel some years back. Missed that romantic subplot, though.

    @Patrick: Well sure, Superman is moral, but so is Dick Tracy, Charlie Brown, The Lone Ranger, not to mention the folk he shares a genre with. A guy listed a number of things that made Superman more badass than some other character (don’t remember who), and mentioned he once came back from the dead. I pointed out that it was less a personal strength of his, than it was a trope set up by the limitations of mainstream American comics. Stories don’t end, so, as a result, the people who come back from the dead vastly outnumber those who do not. Superman isn’t special because he came back from the dead. Ask Dr. Doom or Wally West (He’s back, right?) So why the investment in Superman’s morality if he isn’t any more moral than the Flash? The term “better than us” came up yet again. Is it because he was first? It’s been said that all superheroes are either Superman or Batman, so perhaps the morality that is inherent in the genre itself is special to him because he is the standard bearer of the genre, and everyone else including Captain Marvel (who is almost literally a boy scout) are just imitators?

    As of now, I’m still convinced the movies of the seventies drove that perception, and that if the current run of films continues it’s success, that perception will fade, Jesus analogues notwithstanding.

  23. Meant Barry Allen, not Wally West. I expect West will be back, but I don’t know if he was killed off in the first place.

  24. @Edshugeo the godmoor: Superman ended up being more associated with morality than a number of other characters for several reasons.

    1. With his power level (which kept increasing basically right up until the Crisis) a non-good Superman is terrifying.
    2. The low number of super-villains in the pre-Silver Age made stories about Superman’s moral dilemmas or moral lessons for his supporting cast a mainstay of Superman Stories.
    3. Like Captain America Superman was considered a symbolic representation of the goodness of America, in a time where children’s comics were never ever going to question whether America was good (even before the comics code). And unlike Captain America Superman was published during the entirety of the 1950s.

    I have no doubt the earnest morality of Superman:the Movie (and to a lesser extent its sequels) have an impact on the perception of Superman as particularly good, but this characterization didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s there in the 50s TV series, and many comics.

    Nor did the moral paragon status confine itself to the movies, however it originated. It’s all over Post-Crisis Pre-Flashpoint Superman in comics, hugely influenced Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, the Superman:The Animated Series->Justice League->Justice League Unlimited depiction, and despite its more fallible Clark it exerts a great deal of gravity on Smallville.

    Even Man of Steel was trading on Superman’s legacy as a character who is a moral paragon. For most Action heroes (even the Marvel Cinematic Universe Heroes) he killing a Zod-like-villain isn’t a shock, but the movie clearly expected us to be shocked by it, with Clark/Kal/Superman screaming over it. Even more importantly Superman casually destroying the surveillance drone in a show of force that he will not be monitored isn’t something the movie treats as sinister. The general is more annoyed than angry or scared and his driver thinks it’s funny. That only makes sense if Superman can be trusted in a way the movie never earned. If there is anything at all the government should be monitoring, it’s terrifying aliens who, while they may have stopped the invasion, were involved in battles that basically destroyed a major city.

    But yes if Superman stops being depicted as a paragon, people will stop thinking of him that way. And if Batman is consistently across media depicted as using cross country skis all the time, people will start thinking of Batman as a ski using hero.

  25. @Edshugeo the godmoor: In the New 52 Continuity Wally West isn’t dead, but rather never existed in the first place.

  26. Thanks for the reply. Point number one is particularly interesting. Not sure point 2 separates Superman from any of his contemporaries, ditto the portrayal in the 50’s TV series which allowed for a more masculine swagger which would have been expected in that decade. And point three adds to the standard bearer of genre suggestion I considered; not only was he the first, but he’s had a continuous publishing history since he debuted. That certainly counts for something.

    The influence of the Donner/Lester films had been publicly stated by John Byrne as he was Introducing the post-Crisis Superman in his own Man Of Steel series. Some point after that is where I lose track of the comics. Haven’t seen Smallville (I’ve had the 1st season DVD set for years), or much of the Bruce Timm cartoons, but remember enjoying Lois and Clark for a bit, as well as Tom De Haven’s 30’s period novel It’s Superman.

    I disagree on Man Of Steel not establishing the trust that some of the troops might have of Superman, given the experience during the battle of Smallville (whether 1st hand or through 2nd or 3rd hand accounts). The government doesn’t trust it’s own people with guns, much less any outsider with godlike powers, but I wouldn’t mistake the emotional reaction of a soldier to be representative of a government. I would hope the reaction to the massive level of destruction gets addressed in the next movie (and how is it the Daily Planet is still standing?)

    On the death scene, it’s been reported that Christopher Nolan was initially against it (with Snyder and J. Nolan eager to have him permanently dispatch his enemy), so it could certainly be argued the the film-makers were honoring/fighting the legacy of the hero who does not kill.

    Thanks for indulging me. Maybe I kinda get it, sorta?

  27. @Nawid:

    Clark fits closer to his normal personality though, and he puts up a bit of a paragon front so people don’t worry so much about a man with all that power IMO

  28. Someone else pointed this out about Spider-Man on some other story here a long time ago, how if you pay any attention to his life at all you see that he’s a twisted asshole to pretty much everyone in his life, and it stuck with me. I guess that’s way more “Spider-Man” than “Superman”, though.

  29. I think “this is partly the result of the friction that comes when stories for children are haphazardly turned into stories for adults” is how I make it work for me, largely.

    Grant Morrison sez:
    1. “It also exposed that brilliant central paradox in the Superman/Lois relationship. The perfect man who never tells a lie has to lie to the woman he loves to keep her safe. And he lives with that every day.”
    2.”Lois has guessed, but refuses to acknowledge it because it exposes her darkest flaw – she could never love Clark Kent the way she loves Superman.”

    I don’t think the “to keep her safe” thing bears an awful lot of scrutiny, but I really love that second quote. It does nothing to solve the paradox, and even adds the sense that he’s testing her in a creepy, paternal way (which seems like it was explicitly so in the Silver Age stuff), but in this case I find the incompatibility of super-morality with the real world just gives it an enjoyable texture.

  30. Okay, I may have this. We’ll see what you guys think.

    So, the thing that makes Superman who he is is quite simple: he’s the guy who has all the power in the world, but he doesn’t take advantage of it. He could become emperor of the world forever if he wanted to, but instead, he helps people in ways large and small. He doesn’t use his power for personal gain in any way.

    So Clark loves Lois and Lois loves Superman. But to Clark, what she loves is the superhero, not the humble farmboy reporter. If he told her he was Superman, she’d swoon for him, but it wouldn’t really be the person he wanted her to love. If there’s ever to be anything between them, it’s got to be real, not a rush of hero worship that would probably eventually fade, so he lies. It’s wrong, sure, but better that than take advantage of another person’s emotions. The only person he’s really hurting with the lie is himself, because once again, he could have what he wanted if he just took advantage of who he is, but he won’t do it.

  31. It’s a lie of omission.

  32. I haven’t been taking part, but I’m really enjoying this thread.

  33. So Clark loves Lois and Lois loves Superman. But to Clark, what she loves is the superhero, not the humble farmboy reporter. If he told her he was Superman, she’d swoon for him, but it wouldn’t really be the person he wanted her to love. If there’s ever to be anything between them, it’s got to be real,

    I’ve read a few different variations on this same explanation here and I don’t understand why people think this isn’t still crazy and manipulative.

    Look at it from Lois’s point of view: Clark Kent pretends to be two different people and Lois is in love with the “wrong” one as far as Clark’s concerned, so Clark’s going to lie to her until he somehow convinces her to love the “right” one, that is, the hapless nerd who can’t speak up for himself.


    That is creepy. I couldn’t run far enough away from that guy.

  34. Originally, the “two-identities” thing and Lois was going to be resolved in the original Action Comics run with Siegel and Shuster before DC stopped them. The idea was that Lois was to find out that Superman and Clark were the same person and become his sidekick/partner. Echos of this can be seen in the Post-Crisis Superman’s “The Kryptonite Krisis” (which was, also, the name of the unpublished Siegel/Shuster Superman story).

    I always wondered, also, if the reason why Clark and Lois didn’t get together in, say, the Silver Age had to do with Kryptonian Diaspora. Weisinger had Superman going back in time alot to see his parents as young people. Superman knew what he had lost through the destruction of Krypton. This may also be why he has a problem connecting with Lois…American society is so alien to him and Lois is not Kryptonian. Personally, I thought it was funny when Superman and Lois of Earth 2 finally do tie the knot, Superman spends a year with amnesia and “human” with Lois and Lois has to become “Kryptonian” so that they have to have a traditional Kryptonian wedding.

    In the modern context, the idea of lying to Lois was agonizing to Clark. If you look at the initial Man of Steel issues, his first news story was an interview with Lois was all about him pointing out that he had no secret identity. It wasn’t a lie to Lois, but it was a lie to the general public because he was freaked out about the people “wanting a piece of him.” He takes on the dual identity because he’s basically afraid for the paparazzi and government hounding his parents.

    His relationship with Lois comes much later, but he maintains the lie because Post-Crisis, Clark is the real person and Superman is the suit he wears. Superman isn’t the first superhero, so he sees his costume more as something he puts on like a firefighter. He’s also probably haunted by what happened to the JSA and the Superhero ban, so he wants to keep his secret identity secret from everyone, including Lois.

    Eventually Lois finds out that Superman and Clark grew up together as the Kents’ adopted son and 2) while Clark liked her, both Lois and Clark dated and were attracted to other people. When they finally do date and Clark reveals his identity AND proposes to Lois at the same time, she freaks out a bit. She goes away as a foreign correspondent because she hates the fact that she was duped. She had grown close to Clark and the Kents, but this was a huge thing to swallow. Superman literally has to die and come back to life SPECIFICALLY for the LOVE OF LOIS in order for her to finally forgive him and marry him.

  35. I see this as one of those things where comics’ perpetual present is at work. If you buy that Superman’s been in Metropolis since X years ago, and has always been in Metropolis since X years ago, no matter what year it is, then the point at which Lois will inevitably learn that Superman is Clark, or Superman reveals the secret to her, is always somewhere in the asymptotic future that will happen someday, but not next issue, and never on panel — in much the same way that someday Supergirl will be a grown-up Superwoman. We, as readers, know Superman’s been pulling the dual ID thing since 1938, but in terms of the characters themselves it’s never been anywhere near that long.

    It’s worth noting, I think, that the one time the Superman books proceeded in something like real-time (the “triangle era” of the late 80s/early 90s) was also the one era that eventually had Lois and Clark get married and Clark reveal his identity to Lois.

  36. Here’s something that really jumps out from the Golden Age for me: Namor and Betty Dean. They’re a good example of how the other side of the Lois/Clark relationship, where they know each others’ identities, might be just as lousy if looked at through contemporary eyes, but in a different way.

    Dean’s relationship with Namor certainly seems a lot more honest than Lois and Clark’s relationship, and certainly Dean as a gun-toting policewoman was way ahead of her time in a lot of ways . . . but what department would keep a cop on the force who was sent to apprehend a killer and saboteur and ended up as his best friend and adventuring partner? Yet there it was. It wouldn’t age well without a whole bunch of extra story about Dean’s career.

    Think about Clark, Superman, Lois and Lois’s career. How shady and unprofessional was it to keep writing stories on Superman (and Lois could hardly avoid it working in Metropolis) once she knew who he was? And how about Clark writing all those stories about himself? Very Golden Age, but not very “Superman” in the sense of a completely morally upright guy. Clark hides his identity, does good deeds, and then writes with suspicious insight about how great he is for doing good deeds, taking home a check at the end of the month for his trouble.

    To bring Spider-Man back into the discussion again, Spider-Man’s self-outing during Civil War touched on the topic in a pretty worthwhile way, which is saying something for that era. J. Jonah Jameson might have spent his entire career slamming Spider-Man in the press, but he ends up with the high ground in his response to the revelation that it’s Peter behind the mask: this jerk of a kid lied not just to him from day one, but to every reader of the Bugle, and actively participated in undermining the integrity of journalism just to make a buck off his own exploits. Peter Parker lied, he cashed in on himself and he got everyone else to lie for him. That it wasn’t much money (if you ignore the storyline about his book), and that Jameson is a jerk himself who also lied about Spider-Man for a bigger slice of the pie than Parker got, doesn’t make what Parker did at all right or excusable. I’d sue him too.

  37. […] that too. I like her recognition and eventual casting off of the “whole sick relationship” that David Brothers ignited such an interesting thread about a little while back. But these are behaviours. Not an […]

  38. […] …and David Brothers opens up a can of the worms with “Can Superman lie to Lois Lane and still be Superman?” […]