The Stomach-Churning Battle of the Insect Queens!

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.

40 thoughts on “The Stomach-Churning Battle of the Insect Queens!

  1. Holy God. I can’t help but think that the world needs an Insect Queen miniseries written by Warren Ellis. Whether it wants it or not.

  2. Yeah, yeah. Great. Insect women and the men who love them and all that. We demand more of the pillow fight. But slower. Yeah, like that…and make that shift fall off the shoulder just like that…yeah…..sorry.

  3. Jeeeezus! What could Garth Ennis do with this material?

    Oh yeah, and Hawk moths have nice racks…

  4. See, the funny thing about this, is as a kid, I had already read the National Lampoon Book of Comical Funnies (where Trashman turns into insects by kissing garbage), before reading the Insect Queen stories in reprints. This was a piece of cake.

  5. So THAT’S where Grant Morrison got all that terrifying imagery for Invisibles, The Filth, et al.!

    I will never misattribute it to Kafka’s Metamorphosis ever again.

  6. Oh, Silver Age! As always, your unmitigated psychosexual horror, hateful negative characters, and pointless didacticism is an inspiration to our own era!

    I sincerely do love and miss the informative tidbits they sneak in. If I were a little kid back then, I’m sure I would have read this comic, then spent the week looking for an opportunity to tell someone that the hawk moth can hover like a hummingbird and has an extra long tongue.

  7. OK, I’m confused. How come they could both become insects at the same time? Were there two rings? Could the ring and the costume both transform someone without the use of the other? If so, why was Lana given (and using) both?

    Also, why didn’t one of them just become a scorpion and sting their opponent? Or a lobster, and just snap them in two?

    There are so many cool arthropods that aren’t insects…

  8. To save my sanity, I will instead focus on how well Lana & Lois are rocking the wet-hair look. From ’50s TV mom to genuine hottie, just add water!

  9. Sure, it’s pretty creepy and Lois’ probiscus is more than a little disturbing, but this is Pulitzer-worthy measured against “Anita Blake”.

  10. I bought a pile of old comics at a yard sale once-lousy condition, most of the covers were gone-and among them was this story. (It may have been a reprint, I don’t have them anymore.) Anyway, this story gave me the creeps back then, and it STILL DOES NOW. I am freaking out, Sims.

  11. There was only one ring but it seemed that you only needed to be wearing the ring to cause the change, not to maintain it.
    Lois & Lana tricked the blonde into turning into a Kryptonian bug that repelled metal and the ring flew off her fiinger. Lois grabbed it, changed into a giant bug, tossed it to Lana and the rest is nightmare history.

    By the way, the blonde turned into a giant butterfly thing that got caught in a web created by giant spider Lois. Yup, she was wrapped in Lois-Spider butt squeezings.

  12. If I’d been in charge of the Superman Revenge Squad, this is right where I would have drawn the line.

    Money for kryptonite ray gun research, yes. Insect bint, no.

  13. Can DC please not reprint this in the Superman Family showcase volumes? I love my Jimmy Olsen fare but I wouldn’t be able to sleep with this story on my bookshelf.

  14. I just had a moment of clarity.

    When you say Superman, this is exactly the kind of story that first pops into my head. Not heroic feats or raging battles or sacrifice or triumph, but Lois and Lana doing hideous and heartless and insane and impossible things to each other in the name of winning Superman’s heart. Plus a little “Ask Mister Science” on the side.

    I was eight years old when this came out. I remember reading it. My Dad bought the comics and he knew you could count on any Superman comic being “kid friendly” so he bought all five (or six) Superman titles every month. I read them all a hundred times.

    When you say Lois Lane, the very first image that pops into my head is her dunking her face into a fedora full of ink so she won’t die like a fish out of water.

    When you say Lana Lang, the very first image that pops into my head is Insect Queen and her big, bumblebee butt.

    I see it now. I get it.

    This is why I have always hated Superman. Hate. Oh yes, hate. I hate him. I hate him so very, very much.

  15. Oh holy god. That is the most effed up silver age thing i have ever seen. And I thought those Isabella Rossellini photos were bad.

  16. A girl with a 30 foot tongue that can hover like a hummingbird? Hello Nurse!

  17. I just saw ‘Eraserhead’ for the first time, so that last panel is EXTRA special to me.

    In Metropolis, everything is fine.

  18. Sweet Jesus, this is the sort of story the Comic Code Authority actually *approved* back in the day? There’s no monster/crime comic on earth that could match this amount of horrifying wrongness.

  19. And I don’t want to ask this but, in the second panel up from the bottom, is the blond haired lady coming out of the other insect monster’s rectum? I mean, sure why not, at that point but…wow, really?

    If not, what the hell is going on in that panel? Besides a series of frightening hallucinations?

    (Also, as an aside, what do you think the inker thought when he got ahold of this comic? Wouldn’t that be the point when you just walk into the editor’s office and shout “I didn’t sign up for this, you sick ****s!” or something equivalent?)

  20. I’d hope that he’d walk in with the full-sized panel pages, neatly put them into a stack on the desk all tappy-tappy like, pick them back up, look at them thoughtfully, and then go all Falling Down on the penciller with them. Then, after the fact, he’d pick up the panels and walk to the writer’s office, casually picking off hair and wiping off blood from the panel boards….

  21. Jon H has it right. That’s very much like what I imagined when I read Perdido Street Station.

    Everything old is new again. And creepier.

  22. “If not, what the hell is going on in that panel? Besides a series of frightening hallucinations?”

    Took me a while to figure it out. The pink insect lady is coiled around the other one, like a snake.

    Scary thought: someone on the internet is masturbating to this page.

  23. Lois was really flying around Metropolis rescuing kids from fires in order to distract herself from thinking about how she has insect…parts…down there.

  24. Hey, I *read* this whilst little.

    I liked it. Colorful, and all that.

    What’s wrong wif it?

  25. Apparently this gambit by Velvet O’Mara was so unsuccessful that she never appeared again. OTOH, see Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #94 (July 1966), where Lana lent the bio-ring to you-know-who for the story titled “Insect-Olsen versus the Bug Bandits.”