I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’m a Superman fan – my favorite incarnation being Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – but I’ve also probably never given as much attention as I should to the one Superman character that I love as much as the big guy. That would be Lois Lane. I mean, let’s face it, she’s the only other main character that was created with him in the first issue of the first superhero comic of all time, Action Comics #1, 1938, and they’re still together to this day, no matter how many times the comics tries to tear them apart.
Which is fascinating considering the fact that she doesn’t have any superpowers. Or does she?
More to the point, maybe she doesn’t need them. Or want them. Okay, she would want them but nobody in their right mind – meaning especially Superman and any other individual in the superhero community for some strange, odd, possibly self-preserving reason – wants her to have them is probably more accurate and to the point. It’s not even a matter of a worry of absolute power corrupting either so much as a niggling concern about, oh, what’s that’s phrase – someone going hog wild in pursuit of her chosen profession? Although, that’s probably selling her way short. Then again, maybe not. 😉
Because let’s face it, in a universe filled with super powered heroes and heroines, she’s survived and downright held her own for literal decades. In fact, in a lot of ways she tends to be the big guy’s moral compass and true north and that’s saying something. It’s saying quite a bit, actually.
The element to Lois’s character that made her the ultimate mate to the ultimate hero was her courage. Unlike the mighty female superheroes who prance through the comic book pages heavily armed and underdressed, dispatching menacing foes with special powers and amazing gizmos, Lois had only her wits and whatever items were handy to use as weapons.
See, while it’s true that she was created all those years ago in part to be someone he could rescue all the time – and I do mean all the time because to attempt to say otherwise would be ridiculous – we’re also not talking about a normal damsel-in-distress here. Lois, even in the beginning, was just as capable of getting herself, and sometimes him, out of scrapes as she was of getting into them. She only needed extra help when the problems were truly super difficult, shall we say. We just won’t talk about how often that happened to her on a regular basis. o.O
Also, never mind the fact that she generally got herself into them in the first place. Except maybe that was the point even as far back as that first issue. Unlike the typical damsel-in-distress that stumbles blindly into trouble, Lois Lane knew exactly what she was doing. Okay, most of the time anyway. She was and always has been an ace investigative journalist, just doing her job, which is finding out what the bad guys are up to or simply getting the scoop on the biggest stories of the day. Sometimes that meant sticking her neck into the strangest of places. It never has meant she could wait around for either Clark Kent or Superman to show up to help. What would be the point in that? One, she certainly didn’t want Clark getting the story and, two, Superman generally wasn’t needed until after she got the story. Most of the story, anyway.
Or unless he was the story.
Of course, that could sometimes get rather complicated and blurred but such has been her life once he showed up in it. It’s probably an entire branch of philosophic study as to whether she’d be that danger prone if he didn’t exist – considering she wouldn’t either. Or would she? Yeah, let that one sit in your head for a while and you’ll finally understand what makes fandoms tick.
Or not. 😉
And what really brought on all this reminiscing about Lois Lane, you ask? Well, the other day I ran across an article that made my eyes pop open. Very wide. I don’t know how many of you are aware that the heirs to the original Superman creators are currently involved in a lawsuit with The Powers That Be to settle their rights to the origins of Superman, which has major ramifications to the entire comic and media franchises that control the big guy’s destiny nowadays. At the very least, it has the next movie about him in total limbo.
So, anyway, apparently in the course of this lawsuit some interesting archival papers have come to light and this article talks about some of them. In particular, it’s about some that show Lois Lane having to deal with sexism way back when and I don’t mean in the comics storylines themselves. Get a gander at this:
As the papers reveal, early in the history of Superman, co-creator and artist Joe Shuster was warned to tone down his depiction of Lois Lane by his editor Whitney Ellsworth, and make her less sexy. It was a warning that the artist chose to ignore for months, apparently, causing Ellsworth made an argument that seems shocking even almost seventy years later. Shuster’s Lois was so “unpleasantly sexy” that her pulchritude made her seem a bit too heavy–a problem for which Ellsworth and Murray Boltinoff had an easy solution:
[W]hy it is necessary to shade Lois’ breasts and the underside of her tummy with vertical pen-lines we can’t understand. She looks pregnant. Murray suggests that you arrange for her to have an abortion or the baby and get it over with so that her figure can return to something a little more like the tasty dish she is supposed to be.
And the criticism didn’t stop there; editorial also had problems with her hair style and her clothing,
…which looked like you have apparently dressed her out of a Montgomery Ward catalogue. [Jack Liebowitz] suggests Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar as likelier spots for dress-research.
The depiction of women in comics has received its fair share of criticism in recent years, most notably in Gail Simone’s Women in Refrigerators and Valerie D’Orazio’s Occasional Superheroine. Comics have likewise sparked some controversy in regard to images of heroic homosexuality. But as the documents illustrate, these issues have a long history.
The image they were worried about? Here’s a direct link to Lois Lane – the Curvy version. Now that’s some sexy stuff. o.O
The things we learn in retrospect. See why people obsessively collect and save things, though?
And just for the heck of it, let me leave you with this promotional image that made the rounds when L&C was on ABC as proof of how times really do change–
Oh, and while I’m at it, here are a couple of great Lois Lane sites to visit when you have the time and inclination:
- Lois Lane Through the Ages – the source of the images from Lois & Clark I used in this post
- Lois Lane Index – absolutely fantastic overview of both her evolution in the comics and every other media as well as how their relationship has changed with the times (also the source of one of the quotes in this post)