Lois Lane No. 27. 1961. "The Last Days of Lois Lane." There are three interesting things about this story, and one of them pretty remarkable.
The first of these things is the setup: Clark Kent and Lois Lane are on location covering a story.
Now, I'm not saying that there is no place in this world for atomic energy, and we definitely need to do research to ensure that what technology we do have is as safe as possible, but the experiment that Clark and Lois just observed was a nuclear explosion. A nuclear explosion has very few peacetime applications, and I can't imagine that any of them require a rigorous series of experiments. Wait a second, I've just worked up a little questionnaire that should render further research unnecessary:
1. Can the problem at hand conceivably be solved by a massive explosion?
2. Is the problem worse than a heavily-irradiated landscape?
If you've answered yes to both questions, then call the Atoms for Peacetime Project today!
The second interesting thing about this story is fact that Superman has nothing to do with Lois' dilemma. Unlike the bulk of the "something bad is happening to Lois" stories that I've read, this isn't a prank or a lesson or a scheme to keep his secret identity a secret, it's just a plain old mistake - Lois believes that she is dying of radiation poisoning. She believes it so hard, in fact, that when she asks the doctor about it, well,
He tells her that she is fine and she takes that as proof that she is so bad off that he's lying to her. Frankly, I didn't realize that doctors were allowed to do that.
The third interesting thing, and this is the remarkable one, is not that she immediately starts taking crazy risks in order to become an even more renowned reporter whose memory will live on forever,
And it's not quite the fact that a lot of the stunts that she tries seem... unlikely to result in good stories, seeing as they'll probably cause her grisly death before she can get her byline.
Not that that's not odd - heroically writing a story only to have it consumed by flame or the ever-hungry sea seems less like the sort of thing that people will remember one fondly for and more like a Darwin Award in the offing.
No, the strangest thing about this story is its fairly high body count. This is a time in which almost nothing - man, monster, animal, whatever - died in the DCU. Stories would go out of the way to mention that Superman had only hit a rabid bear hard enough to knock it out, say.
First, you have Lois in an experimental moon rocket, one doomed never to return to Earth:
Note the brave animals. Even though Superman went and got this particular rocket, I'm certain that they were eventually jammed into another. Not far from the old JLA Watchtower lies a tiny skeleton in a miniature spacesuit. You can still see the look of betrayal on the wizened face.
More tiny martyrs, though as the former owner of an ungodly number of guinea pigs, I have to admit that I can sympathize with someone who might want to blast the occasional screaming poop-factory with radiation, if only to teach them a lesson.
This, however, was the biggie:
After all, the sacrifice of animals in the name of science was much less controversial back in the day than it is now, but this is a Superman comic and people have just fallen off of a mountain, and Superman doesn't show up for a couple of hours. A couple of hours! Not one second later! This might, in fact, be the only instance of a death by falling in any Superman comic, ever. I'm still flabbergasted.