Who would’ve thought that a story that starts like this…
…and ends like this…
…could go so horribly wrong in the middle?
Yes, despite the fact that this E. Nelson Bridwell/Kurt Schaffenberger story from the pages of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #69 (tee hee) could’ve been the story that Silver-Age readers were demanding, “Beware the Bug-Belle” is quite possibly the most nauseating story I’ve ever read. I mean, just look at that title. “The Bug-Belle.” That’s promising.
So here’s how it all goes down: The story opens with a portrait of a rivalry that has turned into a bitter, all consuming hatred, held in check only by the strict rules of polite society circa 1966. Lana Lang’s apartment is being redecorated, and so Lois puts her up for a few weeks, shoving Lana’s face in memories of her romantic triumphs at every opportunity under the guise of altruism. As you might expect, Lana can only take so much before she snaps, and on the day that she no longer needs to crash at Casa Lane, she conveniently “leaves the water on” after doing the dishes.
And thus, Lois’s place is trashed, giving Lana the upper hand. She offers to let Lois stay at her place, inviting her in to see the new decorations. It’s a pretty nice apartment, too, and to her credit, Lana doesn’t say “This is what you could afford if you were pretty enough for television” or, when showing off her collection of Superboy memorabilia, “He loved me first, you crone. You are an afterthought, and will never know him like I did.”
The tension is almost unbearable.
Once Lana’s off to the West Coast, however, Lois immediately pays her back for her apparent kindness by rifling through her stuff and looking for something to steal, and it’s at this point that this story starts to diverge from the normal, barely repressed hostility that drives comics second-most famous romantic rivals, as this is when Lois finds Lana’s Insect Queen costume and ring.
For those of you who don’t have a full set of Legion of Super-Heroes Archives, I’ll explain: Lana once saved the life of a weird pink alien who was trapped under a log (because, you know, Kansas) and was rewarded with a ring that would “temporarily change into any arthropod form.” In practice, this pretty much means that she was a teenage girl from the waist up and a horrifying giant insect from the waist down, and as far as super-powers go, it was better than Arm-Fall-Off Boy. But not by much.
Anyway, no sooner has Lois found the ring and costume than she hears that there’s a fire downtown, and since Superman and Supergirl are both off in space (which is what you’d tell Lois too if you had to deal with her every single day), she decides to take matters into her own horrible claws:
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but given the choice between a burning building and having a half-insect Lois Lane snag me with her thirty-foot tongue and clutch me to her segmented thorax in her hairy pincer arms, I’d take my chances with the fire. Fortunately for Lois, though, that just happens to be this kid’s exact fetish.
Public reaction is about what you’d expect.
Okay, okay: I may–may–have edited that picture slightly. The citizens of Metropolis had pretty much seen it all in those days, and so they welcome their newest and most disgusting savior with open arms, despite the fact that her stint as “a Mosquito Maid” is just… just awful.
And it gets worse.
Before long, Lois’s attempts to fill the aching void in her soul with publicity backfire, and a woman by the name of O’Mara shows up to steal the ring, and… and…
Oh God now there’s more than one of them.
Okay… Okay keep it together. Deep breaths. So Lana comes back and they realize that O’Mara’s also taken pages from a book on Kryptonian insects that Lana has laying around (?), and then…
Oh holy crap…
Oh no… Oh nonononono… no more…
Okay, that’s it. I’m done here. If anybody needs me, I’ll be in the bathroom doing my impression of the bad guys from River City Ransom.