The Man of ... Silk?
In honor of the first New York Comic-Con this weekend, here's a look back at Superman's triumph over one of Metropolis' most nefarious villains -- The Dude! Note the measuring tape whip, the white tie & tails, the phalanx of unhappy women in lookalike dresses....
Never heard of The Dude? Well, neither had Superman -- until the summer of 1943, when Clark Kent was forced to accompany Lois Lane on a shopping expedition. She bought an expensive, one-of-a-kind dress (French, of course), only to see a cheap imitation in a dress shop in a "down-and-out neighborhood." Shocked, Miss Lane demanded her money back -- and mustered both her feminine outrage and her journalistic instincts to expose the knockoff racket. Naturally, she endangered herself in the process, requiring Superman to come on the scene, avoid a not-so-clever trap, and vanquish The Dude.
The story has it all -- our favorite gendered industry (and its seedy side), class issues, French styles, creativity, copying, a smart woman on the case.... But if the Man of Steel was uncomfortable in a women's clothing store, why was Jerry Siegel, one of the original creators of Superman and the author of "Fashions in Crime!" so concerned?
Well, knockoffs were perhaps an even more widely discussed issue back then than today. (In the comic, after Lois Lane publishes her original story, "Feminine readers flock to the Daily Planet in droves.") And Siegel's mind was on copyright issues. He was already uncomfortably aware that he and his partner, Joe Shuster, has signed away the rights to Superman for a song; moreover, DC comics was engaged in a series of ongoing legal battles, claiming that other companies' superheroes infringed on Superman. So perhaps he had some sympathy for upscale fashion designers, or at least the women who wore them.
The real question is why a guy in tights and a cape felt the need to deny an interest in fashion.