Thursday, January 11, 2007


Obscurity of the Day: Lois Lane, Girl Reporter

There's been a lot of discussion on the Comic Strip Classics group over the last few days regarding a rare Superman companion strip titled Lois Lane, Girl Reporter. I had information on the strip but no scannable samples, so Peter Maresca was nice enough to send me some scans, which are reproduced above.

This strip was known to accompany the Superman Sundays in the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 10/24/43 through 2/27/1944. The strips were numbered 1-12, undated, and didn't run every week in the Plain Dealer.

The odd thing is that a half-page strip like Superman typically would not have had a topper, and the addition of this companion makes Superman run as a 2/3 page - practically an unheard of format. What's more, the McClure Syndicate, which distributed Superman to newspapers, generally did not supply toppers for their strips. That makes this strip a real head-scratcher. I had long assumed that this was a special companion piece that Siegel and Shuster did specifically for their hometown newspaper.

However, Peter Maresca has supplied an extra clue about this oddity. He says that his samples came from much later, 1946 specifically, and from a Texas paper, and that they were printed out of sequence. Well, that kills the 'hometown special' hypothesis. My new best guess then is that this strip was supplied as a free promotion item when a paper signed up to take the Superman Sunday, and was to be used if and when the newspaper had a free space. This explanation would account for the strip's rarity and the lack of a regular publication schedule.

Anyone have additional information to share on the strip?

If you're not a member of the Comic Strip Classics email group, you can become a member by going here (I think). For some reason, this group doesn't seem to be accessible by doing a search from the Yahoo Groups main menu.


a comic strip classics group?!

Why doesn't somebody TELL me about these things!?
We were intentionally hiding from you. Hey, CSC folks, if we're real quiet maybe he'll go away.

...just kidding!

During the term of the syndication agreement,
problems also arose with Siegel [*1055] and Shuster's
ability to supply newspaper strips in a timely fashion to
McClure. As a consequence, McClure turned to Detective
Comics for "filler" material for "newspapers which
carried the comic strip SUPERMAN in order to prevent
said newspapers from terminating their syndication
agreements with" McClure. Notably, Detective Comics
did not supply in-house Superman newspaper strips, as
was its right under the terms of the syndication
agreement. Instead, Detective Comics "supplied" to
McClure [**40] a Superman spin-off, the "comic strip
LOIS LANE, GIRL REPORTER, . . . without charge for
use." In fact, Detective Comics and McClure entered into
a side agreement in September, 1943, with reference to
the Lois Lane newspaper strip's impact on the
computation of the net proceeds to be divided among the
parties. In the agreement, the two "agreed that . . . 'net
proceeds' for the purposes of computing [Siegel and
Shuster's] return from the newspaper publication of
Superman should be the entire gross receipts" from the
same, "deducting therefrom only the cost of cuts and
proofs." Detective Comics and McClure further agreed
that "the compensation of the [in-house] artists engaged
by Detective Comics to draw the releases of Lois Lane,
Girl Reporter . . . furnished by Detective Comics to
McClure for newspaper syndication was to be deducted
from the gross receipts of the Superman syndication as
'mechanical costs' in computing 'net proceeds.'" Siegel
and Shuster were not parties to (nor were they apparently
aware of) this arrangement between McClure and
Detective Comics.
So the Maresca/free promotion theory makes more sense to me than the generally accepted story that these were deployed to make up for missed deadlines. How could a topper strip have made up for missed deadlines anyway? Has there been any more scholarship or research on this question?
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