Lois Lane plays important role in 75 years of Superman
05:00 AM, Jun 22, 2013
This year marks the 75th anniversary of Lois Lane. Oh yeah, and that Superman fellow who happens to show up in her stories, too.
Lane has been the intrepid Daily Planet reporter, sometime partner of fellow journalist Clark Kent and love interest of Kent’s cape-clad alter ego for generations of comic-book readers. But more importantly for folks like Grace Randolph, she’s played as integral a role in Superman stories as arch enemy Lex Luthor or even the Man of Steel himself.
“Lois grounds Superman, so it becomes problematic when you start to go with the more alien version of the character,” says Randolph, a web TV host and writer of the Boom! Studios comic Supurbia. “Lois has always been what ties him to Earth, along with his parents that’s our connection.
“She’s pretty much the only one who can cut Superman down to size verbally and she’s very intelligent.”
And just like Superman, Lois made her first appearance in Action Comics No. 1 in 1938 that story and many others will be featured in a special Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years collection out from DC Comics Nov. 27.
She has always held a special place in Randolph’s heart, the writer says, because Lois Lane, Superman’s Girlfriend was “the only comic book my mother ever picked up when she was a child. “
Lois has also been a huge part of non-comic Superman tales, too.
Amy Adams plays the Pulitzer-winning super-scribe in the new movie Man of Steel, and before that, Margot Kidder notably played Lois in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies in the late 1970s and ’80s. Teri Hatcher Randolph’s pick for best Lois ever starred opposite Dean Cain in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; Kate Bosworth was the Lois to Brandon Routh’s Supes in 2006’s Superman Returns; and Erica Durance added a fieriness to the character on TV’s Smallville.
“You see her role change dramatically over the decades just as our modern culture’s views on women and working women have changed, to the point where she’s an equal to all of the other cast members,” says DC co-publisher and Superman Unchained artist Jim Lee.
One thing’s for sure about Lois, according to novelist and comic-book writer Brad Meltzer: “Her origins are from strength, and that’s the one thing that runs through the character. They’ll put her in peril, but she always still has some level of strength.”
Mark Waid has read every Superman story put to page, and the comic-book writer feels that Lois has actually reflected the times a little more easily than Superman has in seven-plus decades.
“She was very much a feminist icon in the 1930s when she was originated,” Waid explains. She took her cues from the Broadway comedy The Front Page, Hildy Johnson of the movie His Girl Friday, and other tough-talking female reporters of the era.
Even a few of them who were real-life characters, too, he says. “There weren’t many of them but those who did exist, they were very much in that Lois Lane model of being outspoken and clearly eager to make it in a man’s world without sacrificing their integrity.”
While atypical of other female characters of the day, she was also heroic, and as the Superman of the 1950s became less about a social emblem and more of a mom-and-pop authority figure, the edges were sanded off Lois as well, and Lucille Ball became more of an influence.
“All she really wants is to get married or prove that Clark is Superman,” Waid says, “and those seem to be her only two goals in life.”
Lois turned it around by the time comics rolled into the ’70s. She became very self-aware and “that very strong, almost headstrong person we know her to be the woman who Superman can respect because it’s going to take someone of his integrity and strength to win a woman like that.”
Adds Meltzer: “Look at where women’s lib is in the ’70s, and you’ll see Lois Lane.”
Randolph sees that period as a heyday for the character, “but just as feminism becomes a bit of a dirty word or is seen as combative and there’s no Gloria Steinem, Lois then becomes the symbol of that perhaps. And maybe that’s why she has such problems now.”
Lois & Clark
“I feel like that was a really big problem. It lost a lot of attention and excitement for her character,” says Randolph, who compares them getting hitched to Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson getting betrothed. “The marriage didn’t work in either comic because it’s just not interesting dramatically.”
Waid agrees that it was “a well-intended mistake. Taking away that love triangle between two people took away one of the things that made Superman unique.”
When DC relaunched its entire superhero line in fall 2011, Superman and Lois weren’t married anymore, and Lois was positioned in the Superman comic with a new boyfriend and as head of the Daily Planet’s media division.
She also plays a significant part in the new series Superman Unchained. In addition to the romantic tension, writer Scott Snyder is exploring their strong emotional bond and deep admiration for each other.
“My feeling about Lois really is that, in a lot of ways, she reminds Clark of himself. She inspires him she’s kind of a north star for him in the way he comes to Metropolis with this incredible moral compass that’s been infused to him by the Kents,” Snyder says.
“If Batman is considered a superhero and he has no powers, I think you could make the case that she’s the first superheroine,” Lee adds. “She’s definitely fighting for the same ideals of truth and justice, and she just does it with words rather than with superpowers.”
The thing that makes Lois not just a great but a timeless character is that is she has her own agenda, Randolph says.
“Whether or not she was romantically involved with Clark Kent or Superman, Lois would still be in that story. That’s why I think women like her as a character, why they spark to her, because she has a reason to be there.”