Schwartz was frank with his fellow creators about his inability to "get his head around" the character he'd inherited from his friend Weisinger. His first act was to bring in writer Dennis "Denny" O'Neil, who'd spent the previous years contemporizing characters such as Wonder Woman and Green Arrow and attempting to wrest the character of Batman from under the long shadow of the '60s TV show.
O'Neil shared his editor's ambivalence, because he figured that such a high-profile character would come with too many corporate strings attached. He also found it difficult to get excited about a character who could see through time and blow out a star. "How do you write stories about a guy who can destroy a galaxy by listening hard?" O'Neil famously joked.
Schwartz and O'Neil resolved to depower the Man of Steel, taking him back to World War II-era levels. The key, they decided, was to let readers see him struggle again.
Fortress of Lassitude
Off in the pages of Adventure, meanwhile, Supergirl attended college and experimented with new Super-outfits, settling on a mini-skirt with a chain belt and a pair of red thigh-high boots in October 1970 (Adventure #397). It was the first of many costume changes the Maid of Might would experience. Unlike Wonder Woman or Batgirl, whose looks remained largely unchanged for decades, concerted efforts were made to ensure that Supergirl reflected the fashions of the times. Yet, of course, those times, and hemlines, continually changed, necessitating a constant cycle of new Supergirl looks and hairstyles. As the years progressed, miniskirt would give way to hot pants, a tunic to a V-necked blouse, short blond locks to a riotous perm.
The Man of Steel had a harder time keeping up with the fashions—and the social issues—of the day. His writers' uneasy relationship with the new passion for relevance in storylines is never more clearly displayed than in Robert Kanigher 's Lois Lane story "I Am Curious (Black)" (Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #106, November 1970). Looking past the appropriateness of the title—a nod to a then scandalous 1967 film full of nudity and sex—this tale of Lois Lane is a well-meaning but ham-fisted puzzle.
Lois decides to visit Little Africa, "Metropolis' black community" in the hopes of "get[ting] the Pulitzer Prize for telling it like it is! The nitty-gritty no newspaper ever printed before!" Arriving in the black neighborhood, she finds herself shunned by locals. "Look at her, brothers and sisters! She's young and sweet and pretty! But never forget. She's Whitey!" Undaunted, Lois gets Superman to expose her to a narratively convenient piece of Kryptonian technobabble.
Superman: Are you sure you want to step inside the plastimold, Lois? Do you know what's going to happen when I pull the switch of the Transformoflux pack?
The machine turns Lois into a black woman, and she returns to the community that wouldn't speak to her before, only to have a taxi refuse to pick her up and to suffer the suspicious stares of white people on the subway. She sees firsthand both the appalling conditions conditions of life in Metropolis's slums and the selfless warmth of its residents. Her eyes opened, Lois confronts Superman.