Lois brings us to the second major phase of our approach. Everyone’s in agreement that the marriage and the emphasis on soap opera no longer seems to be working as well in the current market as it once did and that a major part of our imperative should be to restore the Clark/Lois/Superman triangle. This is, to our collective mind, one of the most if not the most important reader-identification elements to the character--and yet, we have to find it again without putting the All-American icon through a divorce, without killing anyone, without sullying this grand romance known the world over.Sounds familiar, no? Well, Joe Quesada and Spider-Man weren't the first to deal with these kinds of thoughts.
By the way, the "second major phase" line implies a first major phase, and that would be the return to a more powerful Superman, as I've outlined in previous blog posts. But it's worth noting that the team thought that the Lois/Clark dynamic was the second most important aspect of the comic. Honestly, Superman has been married for most of my comic book reading career, so that seems like the natural state for the character as far as I'm concerned, but in my current Elliot S! Maggin obsession phase, I've been reading a lot of Superman stories from the Bronze Age, and I forgot how essential those "oh, I secretly think Clark is Superman, but he can't be because there's Superman standing next to Clark" scenes really were. They happened a lot. And it did add some tension to the story. But a married couple with a secret life is also a kind of sexy tension too, so I'm not sold on the notion that the "triangle" is what's most important about their relationship.
How we dissolve the marriage and still be true to the fact that it happened is the one instance where we’ll have to sail close to the cosmic reboot dock--more on this below--but hopefully this time the change will be organic and satisfying and will have a magical, romantic feel rather than the cold, surgical procedures of the previous era’s retconners.According to Morrison, in a relatively recent interview about All-Star Superman, this bit of the pitch was amended before the final proposal was submitted. Apparently, the "dissolve the marriage" idea was ultimately abandoned, but in this version of the proposal, it's a significant part of the Superman 2000 concept (and what Morrison says in that interview refers specifically to the ideas outlined here). And, as you'll see, it is a very familiar approach to creating a kind of new day, a brand new day, if you will, for a married superhero.
Our absolute conviction is that we’ll have failed in our job if readers cheer when Lois and Superman are split. Everyone will be EXPECTING this to be the first thing we do. We have to make them love Mrs. Superman and THEN take it all away. This has to be universe-shattering romantic overload and when it’s over, it has to break every heart in the land. If it doesn’t, if we do it and nobody cares, we do a disservice to the Superman/Lois relationship. Now that this has happened, we can’t and won’t treat it as just a mistake without making it at least as meaningful a farewell to the Byrne/Jurgens era as Alan Moore’s Krypto deathscene was to the Weisinger legacy. We honestly feel pretty strongly that Lois Kent and the marriage deserve our best efforts before we get rid of them.Did "One More Day" accomplish this for Spider-Man? Did the story itself make readers love Mary Jane and that caused the uproar when the marriage was taken away? I don't think so--I think that there's no way comic book fans would ever cheer about a major superhero marriage being removed. So Morrison and company really didn't need to worry about that, but the notion of showing exactly what is so powerful about the love between Lois and Clark is a good one.
First thing we must do, however, is shake up the relationship and define its quirks and boundaries anew.I'm not convinced that such an approach would make their love seem "grander and more heartbreakingly poignant" just because they're not hanging out in the apartment all the time, but the foreign correspondent approach is a good idea. Was that ever used by another Superman creative team?
Stage one: split Clark and Lois by sending her off around the world as the Planet’s foreign correspondent. This gives us a whole new arrangement of relationships to play with below).
Lois and Clark are now physically separated. They still meet often, taking the occasional romantic weekend in the revamped Fortress (see below). He makes her breakfast in bed in a manner of seconds with ingredients from all around the world, waltzes with her through the Aurora Australis, etc. A dream, an idyll, but for their own amusement they play a game whenever they meet as Clark and Lois, sniping and sparring like Tracy and Hepburn. Lois and Clark thus become a little edgier, while the love of Superman and Lois becomes grander and more heartbreakingly poignant.
As we approach mid-year, we unleash our Big Story. The unthinkable has finally happened. Luthor and Brainiac, working together, have finally unearthed the secret of Superman’s dual identity----and they tell the world.In Maggin's Superman work, his exposed identity was a regular plot point--and Superman would always clean it up by the end of the story. But, wow--the similarities to One More Day/Brand New Day continue, don't they? Maybe Millar whispered some of these ideas to Quesada when he joined Marvel. It's not just "Birthright" and All-Star Superman that ended up with the ideas from the Superman 2000 pitch--it was Spidey as well..
Superman is totally and irrevocably exposed for the first time, and the consequences are more disastrous than he ever imagined. In less time than it takes to tell, his personal life has been destroyed as souvenir hunters snatch everything in his office and apartment; his parents have been hospitalized by a vengeful Parasite; the Daily Planet has likewise been leveled by his enemies, with Jimmy and Perry barely able to escape with their lives--maybe. And Lois may as well just paint a target on her head. For sixty years, we’ve been telling readers why Superman’s secret identity is important. Now we show them.And Bendis's Daredevil too...
And that’s just the opening salvo.
The Luthor/Brainiac team intensifies its efforts to manifest a global threat. Brainiac turns Earth’s sun red to drain Superman’s powers. Luthor trips triggers he’s had in place for years, all while pitting an ever-weakening Superman against a phalanx of his greatest foes while the Man of Steel wracks his brain trying to figure out not only how to save Earth but how to get his--and, more importantly, Lois’s--life back.And "Avengers Disassembled." But, enough of my snark. Here's the grand finale of what they had planned for Lois and Clark:
Ultimately, Luthor’s threat becomes so grand that it threatens all of spacetime--including the Fifth Dimension, forging a tense alliance between Superman and Mxyzptlk. With superhuman effort, Luthor and Brainiac are thwarted--but not before Brainiac gets his revenge.Memory poison and Fifth Dimensional magic instead of a deal with the Devil. But still, eerily similar to the Spider-Man situation, isn't it? And by "eerily similar," I mean "pretty much exactly the same--a memory wipe."
Memories, as science is only now theorizing and as Brainiac has known for years, are not electrical in nature. They are, in fact, actual chemical deposits in the brain. And what is chemical can easily be turned to poison.
Brainiac has adjusted Lois’s chemical memory of Clark’s secret identity so that it’s killing her.
The poison memory can’t be removed. It can conceivably be masked--Superman has more than one magical ally who could erase Lois’s conscious memory of his identity, who could facilitate a reality in which Clark and Lois were married without Lois being aware of her husband’s double life--but deep down, Superman knows that’s too risky. He can’t live with her, can’t be her husband, can’t share her life. She’s too sharp. No matter what he does, no matter how on guard he is, she’ll stumble onto his secret eventually, and when she does, it will be the death of her.
With no other conceivable option, Superman turns to Mxyzptlk. Sure, says Mxy, I can fix this--but only by altering history so that she NEVER knew. So that there was never a memory TO poison.
Unacceptable, says Superman. You have the power to fix this more simply. You don’t have to go that far.
Untrue, counters Mxyzptlk. Despite what I may or may not WANT to do for you...when I’m in the third dimension, I’m INCAPABLE of doing anything BUT mischief.
So the offer’s on the table, the clock is ticking on Lois, and together, she and her husband make their tragic decision. Though Lois would rather spend one day with Clark’s love than a lifetime without it, he swears to her that they’ll be together again when the time is right. For now...they have no choice but to erase their lives together so that Lois might live.
Mxyzptlk weaves his spell. As night falls around the globe, people will begin to fall asleep--and as they do, the world will change and Clark’s secret will be restored. People will awaken without any memory that Clark Kent and Lois Lane were ever married, were ever together. Clark and Lois have until sundown to enjoy one last, perfect day.
And so long as we live, we will never again see two people so much in love as we do that day.
Eventually, however, the violet dust of twilight settles across the city. It’s happening. Their arms wrapped around one another as if they’ll never touch this way again, Lois and Clark begin to fall asleep. With a last kiss, they drift into slumber...
...and when dawn breaks across Metropolis, Clark Kent exits his bachelor apartment at 344 Clinton Avenue and makes it to his Daily Planet desk just in time to catch the latest in a long line of caustic barbs from rival reporter Lois Lane. She has her sights set on Superman, thinks Kent for the millionth time. If only I could get her to love me as Clark...
What do you think the reaction would have been if the Superman 2000 crew actually decided to do this for real? Would fanboys have been in as much of an uproar? I don't know--it seems like it could have been possible to pull off if the story was epic enough.