"Always, right to the bedroom," says Michael Carlin, editor of the Superman line at DC Comics.
He is a little disgusted with this line of questioning. He's been hearing it for a week now, ever since word got out that Superman, as Clark Kent, is engaged to be married to Lois Lane -- the ring, the kiss, the parents' blessing, the whole thing.
Except, of course, for the bedroom. That will not be appearing in "Superman," "The Adventures of Superman" or "Action Comics," the three publications in which this story is unfolding.
"We're going to let them have their privacy," Carlin says, adding that he understands people are curious, we can't help wondering, we grew up hearing the jokes about Superman and Wonder Woman, but the fact remains: "This comic is for kids."
Okay, you happy now, Mr. and Ms. Dirty Mind?
Yes, Superman and Lois are engaged. They've been dating for a while. In the current issue of "Superman," he loses his superpowers when Lex Luthor doses him with red kryptonite, and he finds himself riding the subway to work and having human failings such as body odor.
"I'd better take care of this reek," he says, glancing sourly at his right armpit.
Then he's in a deli, talking with Lois over a tuna melt and a club soda.
"Would you, I mean, WILL you be, my ..."
"Wife?" Lois says, brisk but thoughtful, a career woman about to have it all. "I can't deny that I've pondered what that would be like. This is really sweet. I'm sorry, that sounded condescending, didn't it?"
Everybody seems to have gotten a lot older. Jimmy Olson's mother is in the hospital, Lois's mother is in the hospital, Clark is just another reeking tuna-melt schlepper. Lois has been redrawn and she looks great, faintly ethnic, terrific cheekbones, but no ingenue. Could she be hearing the biological clock ticking?
Things have changed in Metropolis. It turns out Perry White's wife had an affair with Lex Luthor. There are lots of other superheroes around fighting crime. Being Superman isn't what it used to be.
When his powers return, and he's back in the Superman suit, standing over a prostrate Lex Luthor, a woman named Dr. Kelley upbraids the Man of Steel: "You don't get it, do you? You can do all of these wonderful things, yet you didn't have to work for your powers, they came to you naturally. It doesn't matter what you do with those abilities because not everyone is so trusting of your motives."
"Don't think it's easy being Superman, Kelley," he says. "It's a struggle to live up to everyone's expectations."
Note the gender-free and businesslike use of her last name. Note his proper white-male guilt over his position of privilege.
So many problems.
Feminism and body odor aside, is this marriage even legal?
You can't marry an animal, but you can marry an alien from another planet? Lois doesn't know Clark Kent is Superman yet, but she will by the wedding, Carlin says.
Kids. "They may not be able to reproduce -- Superman was adopted, so maybe he and Lois will adopt," Carlin says.
The in-laws. The Kents are from Smallville, Kansas, the kind of folks who can spend a lot of time talking about craft workshops where you do stuff with refrigerator magnets. The Lanes are from Queensland, a borough of Metropolis, the kind of folks who can spend a lot of time talking about how they hate Florida, now.
And The Look.
How long can Superman's marriage to Lois Lane last if he keeps getting The Look on his face?
A comedian named Robert Wuhl was talking about The Look on HBO the other night, how the bad guys start shooting and Superman just stands there with the bullets bouncing off him, and he gets The Look on his face. A marriage can live with The Look once a month or so, like when a guy watches his wife try to get the top off a jar of olives, but how could you live with it day in, day out?
"Look at that traffic -- if we're late my mother will never forgive us," Lois might say.
Superman gives her The Look.
"I jiggle the handle, but the toilet keeps running," she says.
He gives her The Look.
So many problems, and so many of them subsumed by the category known to marital analysts as Taking Out the Garbage.
"Don't forget to take out the garbage," she says.
"I won't forget, all right?"
"I didn't say you'd forget, I was just reminding you."
"You want I should take out the garbage, how about I take it like this, Lois, open the window and throw it into outer space, BAM, no more garbage now, so whattaya complaining?"
"It doesn't matter to you how I feel, does it?"
"About garbage, Lois?"
"About the principle."
"What is this, Philosophy of Garbology 101?"
"As a mere mortal, Clark, I don't happen to have superpowers," Lois says. "But I do want to feel I'm doing my fair share of work in this marriage, which is pretty hard when you're sending the garbage on a Mars mission."
"Doing your fair share? You don't have to do squat around here, Lois, I'm Superman. You want the garbage out, the dishes put away, you want the tires balanced and the wedding present bought for your sister, I'LL DO IT ALL."
"It's the way you do it."
"Such as you can't just put the garbage out on the curb."
"So Trixie's dog can come over from next door and tip it over, the next day there's Lean Cuisine packages all over the lawn, and I can't complain because Trixie is your best friend."
"You're Superman, but you can't put the garbage out on the curb."
"I don't see any garbage around here."
"That look! You're giving me that look! I've told you a million times ..."
"Lois, you're tired, I'm tired. How about we go upstairs, maybe watch a movie, maybe not ... "
"You think you're getting off that easy?"
Always, right to the bedroom.