The Bizarre History of DC Comics' Superwoman

Did you know Superwoman has an alter ego?

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A Brief History of Superwoman

Cover of Superwoman #1
Cover of Superwoman #1. DC Comics

As part of DC Comics' "Rebirth" starting in August 2016, there is a series focusing on a mysterious superhero named "Superwoman."

Over the decades, a number of women have taken on the name Superwoman. Some have been good and some have been evil. Along the way, Superwoman was used to make fun of women as superheroes and there's even a creepy love affair with Superman's cousin.

Let's follow the history of Superwoman and see how the changing roles of women have influenced her creation.

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Lois Lane the First Superwoman

Comic panels from Action Comics #60 (1943)
Action Comics #60 (1943) by George Roussos. DC Comics

Lois Lane actually became a superhero a number of times in the Superman comics and each time is strange and bizarre. In Action Comics#60 (1943) she gets hit by a truck and Superman gives her a blood transfusion. After a number of misadventures, including "accidentally" saving a husband from domestic abuse (since no man would actually suffer from abuse) she wakes up to find out it was all a dream.

The idea of a female superhero is mocked. This is only a few years since Wonder Woman came on the scene in 1943, so the idea is still novel. While the story has flaws, it's still a ground-breaking treatment of Lois.

The second appearance of Superwoman is even stranger. In Superman #45 (1947) a couple of magicians named "Hocus and Pokus" seem to cast a spell on Lois Lane that grants her superpowers. She gets a costume and goes around saving the day.

But in reality, Superman's just using super-speed to make her think she can fly, lift cars and stop bullets. The comic is strange enough but then she goes to a party. Superman decides to use his powers to stomp on the foot of any guy she dances with. Lois is so embarrassed she’s literally crying in shame and begs the magicians to take away her powers. Once again Superman has to teach the woman a "lesson." A common theme at the time. But it's not the last time Lois becomes a Superwoman.

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Lois Lane: Superwoman Returns

Cover of All-Star Superman #2
Superman and Superwoman (Lois Lane) in All-Star Superman #2 by Frank Quietly. DC Comics

Years later Superwoman returned in a story written by Nelson Bridwell and penciled by Kurt Schaffenberger for Superman Family #207 (1981) called "Turnabout Powers." In this “Earth-2” alternate reality Clark and Lois are married. Clark Kent hears a man falling and Lois decides Clark is taking too long to change his costume. So she jumps out the window and saves the window cleaner.

She gets back so fast Superman doesn’t see her. As he jumps out the window Superman realizes he’s lost his powers and Lois has to save him. Calling herself Superwoman she uses her powers to make it look like Superman can still melt bullets and block punches.

In the end, it turns out Superman had brought home a strange alien plant as a Valentine’s gift. The plant siphoned off his power and transferred it to her. When she unknowingly kills it by watering it the effect is reversed. It's a nice reversal of what happened in Superman #45.

In All-Star Superman #2 (2006) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly, Superman takes Lois Lane to his Fortress of Solitude. It’s a bizarre scenario and just gets stranger when he gets her birthday present. It’s a costume and a liquid form of his superpowers. She drinks it and gets his powers for 24 hours.

She doesn’t get to fight much but she gets to see his world for a day. The whole idea of her getting superpowers is undermined by the fact that she doesn't really become a hero. Most of the story revolves on Samson and Atlas fighting over her. Superwoman comes from the future on our list next.

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Kristin Wells the Future Superwoman

Comic panel of DC Comics Presents Annual #2 (1983)
Superwoman (Kristin Wells) in DC Comics Presents Annual #2 (1983) by Keith Pollard. DC Comics

The story of this next Superwoman may be the strangest. She actually came from a novel written by Elliott S! Maggin called Superman: Miracle Monday in 1981. In it, she's a history student from the 29th Century who travels back in time to find out the origin of the mysterious world holiday “Miracle Monday.” Everyone knows something happens on the third Monday of May and has something to do with Superman, but no one knows what or why. That’s strange enough, but it gets stranger.

She tracks down Superman and unknowingly becomes involved when the embodiment of evil tries to tempt Superman into killing her. When the Man of Steel refuses he gets a wish. He wishes that the whole thing never happened. So, while everyone still remembers the day is important, no one remembers why except for Wells.

Years later Maggin brings the character into the comics in DC Comics Presents Annual #2 (1983). When we meet her again she’s become a history professor from the 28th century. She travels back in time to find out the secret identity of Superwoman. She goes undercover and tries to find out the identity of Superwoman so she can help him beat King the time-warping supervillain Kosmos.

Eventually, she realizes that the person she’s looking for is herself. Not in an existential way, but she realizes that she’s destined to wear the costume of Superwoman. Thanks to future technology she has superpowers. A history teacher becomes a superhero and it’s fitting that a woman comes to the aid of Superman.

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Diana Prince the Evil Superwoman

Cover of JLA: Earth 2
Superwoman (Diana Prince) in JLA: Earth 2 (2000) by Frank Quietly. DC Comics

Of all the women who became Superwoman, this is the most twisted and really takes the character in a new direction. The first appearance of the evil Super-Woman (hyphenated) is in Justice League of America #29 (1964) written by Gardner Fox and penciled by Mike Sekowsky. Unlike the other women called Superwoman she’s more like Wonder Woman than Superman. 

In an alternate reality, Lois Lane is an Amazonian princess and member of the evil "Crime Syndicate of America." She's got super-strength, flight and a lasso that can change shapes. The character is kind of hokey in a mustache-twirling 1960s way but it is an interesting example of what an evil woman was considered back then.

When her character was rebooted in the modern age her character became even more twisted. JLA: Earth 2 (2000) by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely has her coming from an anti-matter evil dimension. Diana Prince's the last remaining Amazon on Damnation Island. Why? Because she killed them all. She gets a job as a reporter at the Daily Planet and goes by the alias, Lois Lane. Not only is she evil, she's also cheating on her husband Ultraman (the evil version of Superman) with Owlman (the evil version of Batman). Superwoman is cruel, violent and manipulative. Plus she's got a freaky dominatrix relationship with Antimatter Jimmy Olsen.

So while Superwoman started as an attempt at equality, this one is as bizarre as it gets and definitely not a role model for women everywhere.

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Dana Deardon the Stalker Superwoman

Cover of Adventures of Superman #574 (2000)
Superwoman (Dana Deardon) and Superman Adventures of Superman #574 (2000). DC Comics

One of the women who calls herself Superwoman is actually a grade-A nutcase. In Adventures of Superman #538 (1996), Dana Deardon asks Jimmy Olsen out on a date. Turns out she’s just hoping to get close to her stalker target Superman. When it doesn’t work she knocks him out, steals his signal watch and calls Superman.

The Man of Steel shows up and she proudly displays her psycho-shrine to him calling herself “Superwoman”. But Jimmy calls her "Obsession" and the name stuck. She gets superpowers from artifacts that give her the power of Hercules, Hermes, Zeus, and Heimdall.

Her introduction is like Fatal Attraction with superpowers. But without Meryl Streep and no bunnies. Deardon does come back later in a new costume when she thinks he’s “two-timing” on her with a wedding ring. This is in Adventures of Superman #574 back in 2000.

So, while many of the Superwoman personas are triumphs of feminism, this one takes the character a few steps back.

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Lucy Lane the Killer Superwoman

Comic panel of Superwoman
Superwoman (Lucy Lane) by Joshua Middleton. DC Comics

This Superwoman has a tie to another strong female hero. She's part of the Supergirl multi-issue story arc “Who is Superwoman” back in 2009.

The sister of Lois Lane and daughter of General Lane, Lucy grew up trying to live outside of the shadow of her sister. She joined the military and served under her father until he convinced her to put on a Kryptonian Power Suit and become Superwoman. This Superwoman is no hero though and has a hand in the death of Zor-El, murdered Agent Liberty and is generally a deceitful liar.

In Supergirl #41 (2009), written by Sterling Gates and drawn by Fernando Dagnino, Supergirl beats her up. She tears the containment suit that’s partially responsible for her powers. Lucy appears to explode. Turns out she was actually a human-alien hybrid that LOOKED like Lucy Lane. Or something like that.

A strange turn for Superwoman, but a compelling one.

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The Gender Swapped Superman

Comic panel of Superman/Batman 24
Batman, Superwoman and Batwoman in Superman/Batman #24 (2006) by Ed McGuinness. DC Comics

Besides all the above there have been a handful of times Superman travels to an alternate universe where the genders of everyone is reversed.

In Superman #349 (1980), written by Martin Pasko and penciled by Curt Swan. Superman comes back from space to discover that everyone has switched genders. Perry White becomes Penny White and Lois Lane becomes Louis Lane. Most interesting to Superman is there's a Superwoman and Clara Kent. Whatever happened was done by someone who doesn't know his secret identity.

He finally figured out its Mr. Mxyzptlk. He used his powers to change the world. Why? He dumped his wife because she was ugly. He got married to a fellow woman from the fifth dimension but it turns out she used her power to make him think she was beautiful. When he saw her true self he annulled their marriage. Kind of sexist but he is a villain. So Superwoman was just an illusion and doesn’t have an alter ego.

A couple of others show up like Laurel Kent in Superman/Batman #24 and a couple of alternate versions in Crisis on Infinite Earth. Nothing major and worth noting. She's mostly a novelty. But the next one is the strangest of all.

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Luma Lynai the Alien Superwoman

Comic panel of Action Comics #289 (1962)
Superwoman in Action Comics #289 (1962) by Al Plastino. DC Comics

In Action Comics #289 (1962), written by Jerry Siegel and penciled by Jim Mooney, Superman’s cousin Supergirl decides he needs to get married. First, she tries to set him up with Helen of Troy and the grown-up version of Saturn Girl from "The Legion of Superheroes." Both don't end well, but she doesn't give up.

Finally, she uses the “supercomputer machine” in the Fortress of Solitude and searches the universe for a possible mate. Creepily enough, she promises him that there’s a duplicate of her on the distant planet of "Staryl" named Luma Lynai. She says he owes it to himself to marry his cousin. Ew.

There he finds a woman “as wonderful as Supergirl” and, calling her “Superwoman”,  they immediately fall in love. They head to Earth to get married but discover the yellow sun acts like Kryptonite to her and is killing her. Superman and Luma can never live on Earth together and she tearfully says he needs to stay and forget her. Which he promptly does. This is a strange view of his relationship with Supergirl and is best forgotten.

The Future of Superwoman

After 70 years Lois Lane is returning as Superwoman. Hopefully, the new Superwoman, written and drawn by Phil Jimenez, can take her to new heights.