The history of Lois Lane is basically the history of the American working woman. She appeared in the first Superman story, a confident, brash female reporter who refused to bend to what society thought women should be. But, then, in that first issue, she also had to be rescued by Superman. That famous cover of Action Comics #1 with Superman lifting the car? That’s Superman saving Lois from the man whose advances she’d refused earlier in the story.
Yep, Superman’s first act was to save Lois Lane from toxic masculinity.
Not the way he’d put it back then. Back then, his creators had Superman standing up to for common decency. That was no way to treat anyone, even in 1938.
But Lois’s introduction also contains a dichotomy that haunts her to this day: She’s the independent woman who needs Superman to sometimes save her.
Even when Lois is doing the investigative work no one else can (or will do) do, what is said is “look at her, she’s being rescued again.” Even in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (a lousy movie), Lois is the only one being proactive. She’s the one who investigates the setup she encounters at the beginning of the movie, she’s the one who probes beneath the surface and realizes that someone behind the scenes is pulling the strings. In other words, she figures it out.
Meanwhile, Batman is off being gloomy in one corner and Superman is doing the same in the other. Her work plus Lois’s well-known acquaintance with Superman, is what gets her in trouble, every time. But she sees through Lex before anyone else. And for her troubles, she’s tossed off a roof so Superman will show up.
How did most of the public see this? “Oh, look, useless Lois again, needing to be rescued.’ ::sigh:: In my mind, Lois does everything Superman does, except without super powers. She’s Superman’s hero.
There have been a number of attempts to reclaim Lois over the years, particularly after she went through the Silver Age comics phase of having a crush on Superman and doing everything she could to win his love, a far cry from how her character was introduced.
Now, Lexie Dunne is doing a modern take on Lois Lane in her new book, Superheroes Anonymous. Gail Godwin is dubbed Hostage Girl by the media and the story is about her reclaiming her inner, well, Lois Lane.
“The inspiration for Gail Godwin is 100% Lois Lane,” Dunne said. “Growing up, I used to wonder why Lois never seemed to put it together that she was at the center of all of these catastrophes striking Metropolis. I mean, sure, Superman was in the fray, but all of these hostage situations and disasters seemed to happen to her. Why did she never question that? How did that even work? An entire month of getting stuck in traffic in the Hamptons chewing over this question and Gail was born, my very own Hostage Girl.”
Dunne is of the age to have grown up watching the Lois in the Lois & Clark television show. Hatcher’s Lois was often played for comedy because Terri Hatcher is a good comedic actress, but the show didn’t always do right by the character. Lois in Superman: The Animated Series was better. But the most recent, Amy Adams’ Lois, much as I love her, is stuck in a horrible movie.
That leaves versions like Dunne, Lois in spirit, to reclaim the character.
“Though Gail does start the books as an everywoman, she does wind up with superpowers of her own, which was a deliberate choice,” Dunne said. “In addition to my frustrations over Lois Lane's lack of self-awareness, I've also struggled with women being reduced to the damsel in distress. So I chose to start with a woman who's been that damsel for years and bears all the psychological scars of it, and I gave her powers and let her go. Mostly, she fell flat on her face, but she gave it the good college try, and that's all I can ask.”
Lois has been reclaimed in other spaces as well. Tiny Fey famously cracked that Lois Lane had a love affair “with journalism” on 30 Rock, and Fey also played Roxanne Ritchi in Megamind. Ritchie is the one who senses Megamind’s hidden heroism, calls him out on his mess, and is the last person Metrocity City to stand against the villain, Titan. Megamind calls Ritchie “the smartest person I know.” (Note: romance fans, Megamind is a romance movie masquerading as an animated action film.)
Every female hard-driving reporter dedicated to the truth owes something to Lois Lane. That includes Susan Sullivan’s pre-Castle gig in The Incredible Hulk, to Iris West on The Flash (comic book Iris West was created after Lois), and even to an episode of Person of Interest that had fun with the Lois Lane/Superman dynamic with Reese and Co. standing in for Superman.
In short, Lois is a never-ending part of the superhero myths, whatever name she’s called. And there’s a reason we keep turning to those myths, Dunne says.
“They're archetypical, yes, but they're out there, saving the day and actually making a difference. And when you're living your life feeling like you're not heard or you're not seeing any noticeable changes because you're too close to something, that kind of escapism is a wonderful retreat. We like seeing good people struggle and succeed.”
“Fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way,” goes the famous opening to the Superman television show which was my first introduction to Lois Lane. While that applied to Superman, it also applied to Lois. Maybe she’s endured because she’s a superhero that we can be in real life, without the spandex.
Learn more about or order a copy of Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne:
Corrina Lawson, Blogger