The strange loves of Superman

Contributed by
Mar 22, 2018

Everyone knows that Superman and Lois Lane are, well, kind of a thing. For years, they pined for each other in ways that varied from the creepy to the downright obsessive to the weirdly romantic—until one day they became one of the greatest love stories of all time.

While Lois and Clark are easily one of my favorite matches in comics history, there were a few ups and downs in their relationship, during which time Superman took the lyrics to “Shop Around” by The Miracles to heart and dated women who were... actually, pretty similar to Lois. What can I say? Dude has a type.

Lori Lamaris

Lori Lamaris is one of the many L.L. initialed characters of the Superworld, first appearing in Superman #129. In a tale of heartache and sorrow, titled “The Girl in Superman's Past,” we learn that young Clark fell in love with a girl in a wheelchair who would suspiciously cut their dates short after a specific time period—almost as if she was half fish and needed to be submerged in water, lest she perish. Being a little slow on the uptake even in the best of times (but especially in the 1950s), it took Clark a little while to figure that out. Before he did, he attempted to propose marriage and told her his secret identity, which is kind of a burn on Lois since he didn't tell her until the 90s. Lori declined the proposal for somewhat obvious reasons. Later, when Lori is briefly brought back into continuity to serve as a foil for Lois and Clark's relationship once more, she was a human on land and only became a visible merperson when in water.

Lori didn't get much time to shine, but she has a special place in my heart—both for predating Darryl Hannah in Splash and also for somehow tricking Superman into not knowing she was a mermaid by simply throwing a blanket over the lower half of her body during the time that they dated, thereby giving Clark Kent a huge spoonful of his own damn medicine.

Lana Lang

Lana debuted in Superman comics in 1950, barely a decade after the first appearances of Superman and Lois Lane. While she was created mostly as a teen analog to Lois, it took Lana some time to develop her own personality apart from that of the archetypal girlfriend character. Most of her early appearances involve her either trying to prove Clark Kent is Superboy or vying with an obsessive Lois over Superman's affections, but she really starts to come into her own when, one day, she helps a dying alien, receiving a power ring (sound familiar?) that helps her transform into a half-insect hybrid (okay, that was actually way more out of left field than I thought it was going to be).

While Lois and Superman went on to be on-and-off married throughout several retcons, Lana eventually grew tired of them all up in her biz, became a news anchor, and married Pete Ross—then unmarried him. In the years that followed, Lana has been written very inconsistently—sometimes by people that like her character and want her to have her own life, other times by people who want to call back to her days of fighting with Lois over Clark's affections. During all this, the bond between Lana and Clark has remained strong, although often placed under severe strain. For instance, in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” while Superman ends up married to Lois, we still see evidence of his concern for Lana.

Lana Lang is the classic “girl who got away” that Superman will always remember fondly, and, even years after their love affair ended, he continues to be there for her in any way he can. If that's not a love story, I don't know what is.

Misty

Buckle up, because this is easily going to be the weirdest and most depressing entry on this list. From 1976 to 1978, DC ran a series called DC Super-Stars that was intended to reprint some of the themed stories they had published in the '50s and '60s. At a point, there was a decision to start including original tales—typically set from the POV of Clark Kent as he reminisced on his incredibly weird history in Smallville. One of those stories revolves around him discovering his robotic Super-Teacher from Krypton has popped up in town, just sort of wandering around while trying to blow himself up in a space ship. Around the same time, we learn that young Clark/Superboy has a crush on a girl named Misty.

While his Super-Teacher continues going to bizarre extremes to trick Clark into learning bizarre anti-lessons, Superboy ends up definitely spending the night with Misty, but because she doesn't have a single “L” in her name, clearly she must die. How does Misty die, you wonder? A Sasquatch beans her in the head with a rock. But, as it turns out, she only exists because the Super-Teacher had kidnapped a random girl from a random town, brainwashed her into believing she had all the characteristics Superboy would be attracted to, called her Misty, orchestrated their hookup, and then simulated her death to teach Superboy a lesson. When it's all over, he deprograms her and drops her off wherever. Someone got paid to write this story. All I'm saying is that Clark needs to recycle the Super-Teacher immediately, because that robot is DEFECTIVE.

Big Barda

Alongside Lois and Clark, the marriage of Big Barda and Mister Miracle is one of my very favorite relationships in comics. Their romance began on the suspiciously hell-like universe created by Jack Kirby in the '70s, known as Apokolips. Ruled over by Darkseid and his minions, Apokolips exists in DC to be the worst place ever that you would never want to go to—also, it's usually on fire. 

Barda was a soldier for Darkseid, but fell in love with Scott Free (aka Mister Miracle), a great escape artist trapped on Apokolips, so naturally they escaped together. In Action Comics #592 & 593, Barda is wandering around Metropolis and gets mugged, which is what happens any time any person leaves their apartment in a comic book. In a case of “that escalated quickly,” she is almost immediately brainwashed by a character appropriately named Sleez, who uses her to star in softcore porn features. Darkseid, being Very Evil, shows up at Miracle's house and drops off a VHS of her dancing, implying that the Man of Steel will be her co-star in the next feature. Sure enough, Superman is kissing Barda on a bed in front of cameras when Miracle busts in. Besides my deep adoration for Superman, Barda, and Miracle, this story kind of annoys me. Of course, Superman remains fully clothed for both issues, while Barda is in an outfit that is literally made up of underwear and tassles. Both of them are being mind-controlled, yet Superman is the one with strength of will to resist—despite the fact that Barda herself had recently broken free of one of the most notoriously evil entities in DC Comics. Most importantly: why, when you have access to a character like Barda, would your #1 ambition be to tell a story where she's brainwashed into doing sexy dances in a sewer? Regardless, Mister Miracle is great, Darkseid is appropriately evil and Sleez appears to die in an explosion, at least, so there is some justice at the end.

Wonder Woman

Many people ship these two, while I include the relationship mostly for posterity. Superman and Wonder Woman have always had similar paths in life. As two of the most powerful superheroes in existence, they can, on a surface level, seem like a match made in Heaven. Upon deeper inspection, however, Diana is a natural warrior raised as a princess, trained to teach and bring peace while never shying away from violence. Superman was raised by farmers in Smallville, and, no matter how many alien planets he visits or how many lives he saves, he's a well-meaning boy from the Midwest at heart. The reason his relationship with Lois tends to work so well is that she is the moral and intellectual grounding that he needs. While Diana shares those characteristics, they manifest in different ways. Diana holds her emotions inside, while Lois will jump off a building just to get Clark's attention. In short, both Wonder Woman and Superman are the main characters of their own very different stories, and a relationship between them, while often teased at by writers, could never work.

In what is very much standard Superman fashion, there were a couple of near-misses and fake marriages between the two over the years until the New 52, when writers introduced a fairly strained love triangle between Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. It was written out of continuity shortly thereafter due to being a mostly distracting subplot that didn't really make sense or work for any of the characters.

Now, as for that Wonder Woman / Lois Lane fan fiction I just came across last week? That's a love story.