Jul 29, 2020
Superman’s mighty creepy romance: Action Comics #260
I’m back again to talk about Bizarre Silver Age Comics. And yes, I’m looking at another Superman story. I’ve got some stories featuring other characters in the pipeline, but there’s just no escaping that most of the true Silver Age lunacy happened in the pages of Superman and Superman-adjacent titles.
This one is a goofy romance-oriented story from January of 1960 that seems like it would have been fine for an issue of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, but for some reason it got published in Action Comics instead. It finds Superman suddenly swept up in a whirlwind love affair with a mysterious superheroine called “Mighty Maid”, much to the frustration of Lois Lane.
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Unlike the previous entry, which was a classic case of Superdickery, “Mighty Maid” scores about a 6/10 on the Superdickery scale. Superman acts like a dick here, but mostly unintentionally; he seems pretty oblivious to how much he’s breaking Lois’ heart, which is slightly better than other stories where he goes out of his way to psychologically damage his closest friends. Also, considering how Lois treats his alter ego Clark Kent in some of these stories, she kind of has it coming.
But on the creepiness scale? Superman scores a perfect 10/10 for what happens in this issue, but we’ll get into that in due time.
We start at the Daily Planet, with Clark learning that Lois is on assignment to the “tornado-belt”. Clark, knowing it’s only a matter of time before Lois nearly gets herself killed, uses his “telescopic x-ray vision” to check in on her. Sure enough, Lois and her car are getting swept up in a tornado.
Yet again, we have a case of the people in Superman’s inner circle taking stupid chances with their lives because they know their super-friend will always swoop in to save them. The recklessness and complacency are simply off the charts here; imagine you and your car hurtling through the air at speeds topping 200 MPH, and all you can think about is how scared you might have been.
Of course, Superman rushes to the scene to save Lois. She feels the “welcome grasp of powerful hands”, per the caption, but is stunned to realize the person who saved her isn’t Superman.
Those white gloves turn out to belong to an attractive brunette in an orange dress and a short green cape. What’s her deal?
Mighty Maid explains that she comes from the “Fourth Dimension”, which was mentioned a lot in DC comics of the time despite being only vaguely defined. The best I can tell, it’s some sort of higher plane of existence, much like the “Fifth Dimension” that’s home to trickster imps Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite. Mighty Maid says her people have been observing Earth for centuries, and Superman is “very famous” in her world, and she crossed the “dimensional barrier” just to meet him.
Sparks are instantly flying between the pair, and Mighty Maid is already smitten with Superman, calling him “wonderful”. And Lois’ thought balloon is already calling Mighty Maid a “hussy”. Sheesh, the claws come out fast with this one. Lois grows even more jealous and despondent when Superman and Mighty Maid fly off together without even saying goodbye.
Superman asks Mighty Maid if she’d like to go on a tour of the “scenic wonders of the world”.
Notice here that Mighty Maid is thinking to herself about Superman’s beautiful eyes, which will make no sense later once we find out this is all an elaborate ruse on the part of Superman and no romance is actually happening here. And that may sound like a spoiler, but I promise I haven’t ruined the most insane part of this story.
The two fly past the Rock of Gibraltar, but Mighty Maid couldn’t care less about the spectacular sights, and would rather know more about Superman and the “heart… behind the super-muscles”. And they’re way up in the air with no one around to hear their conversation, which also will make no sense once the twist is revealed.
Since this is ostensibly a superhero comic, they throw in some token action where the two visit the Great Sphinx in Egypt, and an “earth tremor” nearly topples the thing. Yes, an earthquake strong enough to knock over the Sphinx, which has never occurred in the 4,000 years since it was built, just so happens on the day when Superman comes to visit with his new lady friend. The two work together to save the Sphinx, and afterwards, nearby tourists in pith helmets excitedly declare that Superman is in love.
The two super-beings race off to have a romantic moment in the skies over… Milwaukee? Wait, these two can reach Paris or Venice or any Caribbean or Polynesian island in a heartbeat and they choose to share their first kiss over Milwaukee?
At the Daily Planet, Perry White says that Superman’s romance with Mighty Maid is making “international headlines”, and he’s convinced that Superman is about to propose. He wants Lois to be there in person to witness the proposal and scoop the competition, which brings on a rare moment of candor from Lois.
Lois quickly backs off from speaking her mind for once, saying she knows Superman wouldn’t want her around when he proposes, that’s all. But Superman himself stops by and happily says he’d love to have Lois there when he pops the question.
And so the scene is set for a romantic beach date, with Lois tagging along. Eventually, Superman asks Mighty Maid to marry him.
Lois breaks down crying and runs off, and caring, sensitive Superman can only say, “Women! Sentimental scenes move them easily to tears!” Um, weren’t you two like, dating or something? I mean, she has her own title running concurrently with this one called Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. Does it really not occur to Superman that there might be an actual reason she’s upset?
Lois cries over her typewriter as she writes up the scoop, but not long after, she’s forced to write an even more devastating article.
Superman sets out on a worldwide farewell tour with his bride-to-be. Lois is heading to one of their stops, and she’s suddenly hopeful again. She’s figured out this is really one of Superman’s “clever hoaxes”. Which in fact it is, minus the clever part, but for some reason she’s convinced that Mighty Maid must be one of Superman’s robots. If you’re familiar with Silver Age comics, you’ll know Superman robots were regularly the answer to why Superman was acting weird, or why Superman and Clark Kent were in the same room together, or why Superman was fighting Batman, and a whole smorgasbord of other nonsense. I’m guessing scenes like these came about after DC editors would open up the ol’ mailbag and get barraged with reader complaints about yet another “it’s robots” cop-out ending.
But by gum, Lois is going to prove Mighty Maid is a robot, by switching on a “super-powerful electro-magnet!” And I guess it’s just dumb luck that Supes and his fiancée happened to visit a factory that had one of these.
Lois is distraught when Mighty Maid’s body isn’t flung violently against a magnet, because it means she’s not a robot. And now that the robot theory has been debunked, Lois again cries to herself and admits she’s “lost Superman… forever!”
But! They don’t actually disappear into a different dimension. We learn Superman only used special “blinding lights” to make it appear as if he and Mighty Maid vanished, when in reality they’ve traveled at super-duper-speed into the ocean and an underwater cavern.
Oh boy, here it comes.
Are you ready? No. No, you aren’t. You may think you’re ready, but you’re not.
What. The. Hell. “Mighty Maid” is really Supergirl, Superman’s cousin. Superman carried out a fake romance with his own cousin in front of the entire world. He had his cousin coo about how beautiful and wonderful he is. He kissed his cousin in front of cameras.
I have no words. Superman did this with his first cousin.
But surely, there must be a reasonable explanation for why Superman did something so wrong and creepy, right? Um, about that…
You see, Superman’s super-hearing was picking up the sound of evil aliens, millions of miles away, plotting to destroy Superman’s adopted planet of Earth. Why? Well, years ago, this race (which never gets a name, by the way) was migrating through space and their ships flew past Krypton, and the Kryptonians mistook their spaceships for an invasion fleet and opened fire.
You’d think the whole planet blowing up and killing almost everybody would satisfy the aliens’ thirst for vengeance, but apparently not. Me, if I was mad at an entire species and like 99.999% of them got wiped out in a natural disaster, I’d be like “whelp, karma’s a bitch” and maybe move on with my life.
And here’s where things get really confusing and rushed, which means we must again be at that point where the writers realized they only had a page or two to wrap things up. Supergirl asks why Superman didn’t just go fight the aliens, but it seems Superman doesn’t want to hurt them, because their desire to destroy Earth is based on a misunderstanding.
And if you’re wondering why these two are in an underwater cavern (though out of all the questions on my mind right now, I’d say that one ranks roughly dead last), Superman says he figured out that being underwater meant the aliens couldn’t track him with their “monitor-ray”. And he made this discovery while wrestling with a whale. As one often does. And no, there is no context for this.
So it seems the entire point of the Mighty Maid deception was to convince attacking aliens that Superman had left this dimension entirely, which for some reason means they have no choice but to leave Earth alone. Why? Surely they’d still want their revenge on Superman even if he’s gone somewhere else? But in fact, Superman has already detected that the aliens have put themselves in suspended animation to start the return journey to their homeworld. Apparently, it takes 100 years to reach their planet from Earth. That’s right; they travelled one hundred years to have their vengeance, and then were like “eh, pack it in, boys, he’s gone. Yep, when we get back, everyone we ever knew and loved will be dead, but them’s the breaks.”
In case you care, Superman knows what really happened because he talked to his friends in the shrunken Kryptonian city of Kandor. Which of course raises the question of why he didn’t try to explain all this to the aliens before carrying out a highly publicized love affair with his cousin. And suppose they don’t believe the message that Superman leaves for them? They’ll just be back again in 200 years, when Superman presumably will be dead and won’t be around to stop them.
And so, the adventure is over, which means one thing: it’s time again to dump cousin Kara back off at the Midvale Orphanage. The poor girl is now at the point where she’s begging Superman for a real home, but Superman insists he needs her as his “secret weapon”.
I don’t know, Supergirl. I wouldn’t characterize this adventure as “mild”. Mildly incestuous, maybe. Regardless, it’s time for Superman to make his triumphant “return” from the Fourth Dimension.
And I swear to you, there are no panels between this one and the one I included right above it. We go directly from Superman dropping off Supergirl, to Lois falling off a goddamn building with no setup whatsoever. I guess by then, comic readers were just expected to think, “Yep, that dingbat Lois Lane fell off a building again. Must be Tuesday.” And I especially enjoy how in the middle of plummeting to her certain death, all Lois can think or talk about is Superman and his “bride”.
So the Man of Steel is back in town, and all is well. But just when you think you’ve been so psychically shattered by what you’ve already read that you’ll never recover, here comes the crowning moment of what-the-fuckery in this story, as Superman explains why he couldn’t marry Mighty Maid.
This comic really wants to make sure you know that not only was Superman making out with his cousin, he was making out with his high school age cousin. And the worst part is Superman’s big grin and Fonzie-style two thumbs up as he proudly admits to his off-and-on girlfriend that he almost married a teenager.
I can’t fathom how this thing made it past the DC editors without someone saying, “You want Superman and Supergirl to do what?!” Look, I know times change, and I’m not old enough to remember 1960, but I’m pretty sure romantic liaisons with your 15-year-old cousin were taboo back then, too. I mean, even putting aside that this was all an “act”, they were actually having romantic conversations with each other, and fawning over each other, even when no one else was around. Somehow, numerous people were involved with writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering a comic where Superman makes out with an underage girl and nobody saw a problem with that. You know a story’s bad when you find yourself wondering if those QAnon pedo-hysteria guys have a point.
I’ll be back to examine more Bizarre Silver Age Comics soon, provided I ever recuperate from this one.