Guest written by Maya K.
I often wonder if Lois Lane has been a lightning rod from the moment she was introduced to the world back in 1938 in Action #1? She was very much a reflection of the times or at least a reflection of how the media portrayed women back then. Women were smart, sassy, fast talking and often self-sufficient. Women like Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Barbara Stanwyck and so many others. When I watch His Girl Friday, for example, I see Lois Lane. If I could time travel and pick my perfect cast for a Superman movie I’d cast Rosalind Russell as Lois Lane and Gregory Peck as Clark Kent/Superman.
Then came the 1950s and the insanity of the Silver Age. Lois Lane was gutted and she became a punch line. Everyone knows the image, Lois Lane wearing her frilly apron dreaming of marrying Superman. Where did the wise cracking, career driven Rosalind Russellesque woman go? In her place was this pale imitation.
A lot of what happened to Lois was, I think, a byproduct of the 1950s culture. Mystery Science 3000 did some hilarious (to me at least) riffs on the shorts of that era . It was a time when women were taught they should dream of finding a husband, taking care of him, house and kids and not wish for anything more. My husband wonders if it wasn’t a response to post World War 2 with people trying to reset the culture in to more traditional roles. During the war women were in the work force and were performing a lot of traditionally male jobs. It was war and there wasn’t time to worry about gender roles. The 1950s seemed like an attempt to get everyone back in to their respective seats if you will. It makes sense to me but then neither my husband nor I are sociologists or historians.
However, even taking in to account the times, there is still something very disrespectful in what was done to Lois Lane. She was turned in to a caricature of herself. The full burden of the triangle for two was put on her shoulders. Clark Kent was the disguise and his disguise was its own caricature. He was timid, not a go getter and often portrayed as afraid of his own shadow. Lois was strong, although in the 1950s Lois’s strength wasn’t celebrated as much as it was held up as a flaw. Yet because Lois was attracted to the man Clark really was, that being Superman, she was treated as some type of power hungry gold digger. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that Lois doesn’t love the man, she only loves his powers, I’d have enough money to buy DC Comics. Oh that I did and could!! It infuriates me. On one hand the story tells me that Superman is the man but because Lois refuses to settle for the disguise she’s somehow a terrible person.
Superman was not the innocent victim in these stories. He led Lois on over and over again, and every single time his Clark Kent mask fell and she saw the strong man hiding beneath, she was interested in Clark Kent. However, then what does Superman do? He sabotages himself but in a way that makes Lois look the fool. Lois could never win. If she saw beneath Clark’s meek disguise she was made to look foolish but if she went after Superman she was a man hungry gold digging harpy. Superman escaped all responsibility. Years later from the lens of the modern age a site was started to celebrate what his behavior really was. Super Dickery.
In the 70s the Bronze age treated Lois with more respect most likely because of women’s liberation and the changing attitudes towards women and their long term role in society.
A lot of thoughtful and good people, many who I call friends, hold up the post crisis as being great for Lois Lane. I have mixed reviews. I think it was getting better but Lois was still asked to carry the burden of the triangle for two on her own. With Clark being the personality there was no good reason for her not to be interested in Clark so an artificial one was created. He scooped her on the Superman story and she held on to that resentment for a few years. This bugged me no end. She is a professional not a middle school kid.
It wasn’t until Birthright by Waid that I felt Lois Lane finally recovered from decades of character neglect and deconstruction. This story was able to take core elements of the Lois & Superman relationship and infuse it with modern day sensibilities. In the story Clark was also updated and given responsibility for maintaining his disguise and expected to face the consequences of living life as two people .
The Superman/Lois relationship was also given emotional depth. Superman’s alien heritage is front and center and treated as the liability it is. If somebody flies down from the sky with god like powers people are *not* going to complacently shout “MY HERO”. That makes absolutely no sense. I think how Waid crafted the Lois & Superman dynamic was lovely because he leveraged off of Superman’s own fears. The first thing Superman said to Lois after he saves her in his first public save was not to be afraid. She’s been chasing the flying man rumors for years , she’s not afraid, she’s excited and shoves her card in his hand and told him she wasn’t afraid and after he finishes the urgent job ahead to contact her. Superman flies away with a goofy grin saying to himself “she’s not afraid”.
Lois’s fearlessness and strength is what attracts this Superman. He is amazed this woman believes in him and is willing to help him fight Luthor. She trusts him.
She also stands up for Clark Kent. Clark Kent first meets her in Birthright as she’s standing up to one of the bosses who is harassing Jimmy and he is wowed.
This *is* Lois Lane. When I first read that issue I had tears in my eyes. Finally!! FINALLY! Lois Lane as she should be. Rosalind Russell is back baby!
Johns’ Secret Origin took a page from Birthright and followed the alien heritage track and had Lois champion Superman while the majority feared him.
Then came the reboot.
When I first heard about it I wasn’t worried. I thought if they could tell the triangle for two the way Birthright and/or Secret Origin hinted at I was in for a very interesting ride. I could live with the retconning of the marriage if they told the story in a way which celebrated Lois Lane as the first lady of DC Comics.
Then the first interviews were published and I read the comments made about Lois Lane and how writers like Morrison view the character and their thoughts on what being a strong woman meant. I felt that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
The current run on Action has read to me as a pale imitation of what both Birthright and Secret Origin were trying to do. I see a lot of the themes from both those books but I think both Waid and Johns handled them a lot better.
Admittedly I’m reading these stories as a huge fan of both Superman and Lois Lane.
The Superman title hasn’t been all that much better for me. The last page of Superman 1 felt like a 20 year step back. Lois Lane again is used as a club to punch Clark with Clark not expected to take any responsibility for his choices. I understand the reason for the scene, to make the reader feel sorry for Clark. There was a scene in Birthright which accomplished the same thing but without making Lois the reason, she even came to his defense even as her co-workers mocked her interest in Superman.
Lois has been sidelined in the new 52. She’s no longer an investigative reporter and this is a huge part of who she is. Lois Lane: Girl Reporter. She thrives on the thrill of the chase and bringing in the bad guys through the power of the press.
Lois has lost her fire in the new 52. Her relationship with her dad in Secret Origin in contrast with how it’s been written now is stunning. She’s more passive and far less insightful in the new 52. The Lois Lane of old wouldn’t go for shallow men like the guy she was with at end of Superman 1 or Corben. Secret Origin gave us a strong Lois who saw Corben for who he was long before he turned in to Metallo but in this current Action run she’s shown in what I think is a pretty shallow light.
This doesn’t surprise me though because I think Lois was the weakest link in All Star Superman. She gets superpowers for example and instead of going out to right wrongs she’s making diamonds out of coal and passively allowing 3 men to fight over her. She has powers, why doesn’t she go over there and punch them all and tell them she’s not a prize to be won then go save the day? I don’t think Morrison understands Lois Lane at all and nothing I’ve read in Action has made me think otherwise.
The strangest thing to me out of all of this though is there is no triangle for two in the new 52. Apparently strong women shouldn’t need to be rescued or even need a Superman? If that’s the case I don’t think Jimmy should need rescuing any time he’s in a fix because of his dangerous job.
Why shouldn’t Lois be attracted to Superman? Why would that diminish her as a strong woman? It doesn’t but I think it goes back to the 1950s idea where Lois Lane’s attraction to Superman is portrayed as power hungry and man eating. Instead of how it was written in Birthright and Secret origin. In those two stories we were shown two people with similar values and goals meet and recognize their ideal in the other.
Just as I thought a lot of the women issues playing out right now were put to rest years ago (contraception anybody?), I thought we had turned the corner with Lois Lane. Clearly I was wrong.
I think in the stories DiDio and Lee have control over they’re going out of their way to separate Lois and Clark. She’s not an investigative reporter in the New 52 so that keeps her out of both Clark’s and Superman’s daily life. Jimmy takes the Lois role as Clark’s workmate but he’s a guy so he doesn’t put a damper on Clark’s love life. If Lois isn’t around then Clark is free to play the field. That was I thought the final scene in Superman 1 was all about. Hey, Lois isn’t interested, she’s sleeping with some other dude, so why can’t Clark move on? Yet again, it’s Lois’s fault this is all happening. What’s a guy to do?
In the upcoming Earth-2 universe she’s dead before the story even begins. I’m not going to blame the writer anymore than I think it’s fair to blame Rucka for co-writing World of New Krypton or Simone for Barbara walking. I think these are editorial decisions and this is where I’m directing my ire.
I also don’t think what’s currently being done to Lois Lane is necessarily misogynistic. I think she’s simply an unwanted obstacle. I really think the current management sees Lois as an anchor and she’s somehow holding Superman back.
I thought the same when DC sidelined Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman. I’ve always wondered if it was also because he was nowhere near as physically strong as Wonder Woman and nobody knew how to write a story where the woman is physically stronger because it upsets the traditional dynamic we’re all conditioned to believe? The animated Wonder Woman movie shows that Steve Trevor could be a very effective LI for Wonder Woman if written by people who understand that traditional gender roles don’t define love and maybe more importantly, inner strength is just as valuable as brute force.
I think the current management wants Superman to be Batman light and he can’t be if he’s happy. They’ve killed his parents and taken away Lois in the new 52. In Earth-2 they gave him happiness before the proverbial curtain rises but kill her as the catalyst to set Superman on the dark path they seem to want him to walk.
This, in my opinion is the core problem with the current day universe. They don’t see the value in a hopeful Superman. They also don’t seem to understand nuance. Superman can have a lover but that doesn’t mean his life is perfect. He still has to face external and internal battles and he still makes mistakes.
Why not focus on the internal struggles? His compassion and his love are both his strengths and his Achilles’ heels.
I loved the conversation between Lois and Clark was when he was talking to Lois about Wonder Woman snapping Lord’s neck and Lois came to Diana’s defense. She agreed with Diana’s actions. I always wished this difference of opinion was fleshed out more and that maybe Lois stormed the batcave and spoke on Diana’s behalf or we saw an editorial she wrote championing Diana. Missed opportunities.
Actually I think DC missed the boat more often than not in telling compelling stories with Clark & Lois married. Busiek, Simone and Rucka were the three, I felt at least, who wrote the marriage to its potential.
So where is Lois now? I think it’s a pretty dismal landscape. The only consistent bright light for Lois Lane that I see is the upcoming Smallville book. Fortunately, the series ended with Lois engaged to Clark and in on the secret so they can’t mess with that.
I don’t even know how to coherently express how important I think this book is for Lois Lane and for the Clark/Lois relationship. This is the chance for her fans to be heard but we need to put our proverbial money where our mouth is. This has to sell in large enough numbers to get the attention of the press and DC Entertainment. Money talks.
And if this is a successful book? We have to be ready to hold the current DC Comics management’s feet to the fire and ask them why they’re treating Lois Lane the way they’ve been doing since Flashpoint.
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