At the time of its inception, Superman started off quite close to the Grant Morrison concept you can read now in the new DC 52 relaunch, under the line ACTION COMICS, where Supes is portrayed more like a really powerfull rogue, bent on doing good “by any means necesary” and consequently clashing with the powers that be, that have grown quite comfortable with the inequities and the corruption the system brings.
Some years after DC decided to make Supes its flagship character, they started to set him in a more “kid friendly” setting, surrounding him with lots of freakishly infantile situations and characters that took all the bite away from that rogue do-gooder and made him a marketing icon that perpetuated the image that “comics are for kids” that brought the house of EC down, later during the witchhunt of the senate hearings, and the “corruption of the innocent” fiasco.
So, Jimmy Olsen got a super dupper wrist watch, and Kal-El (superman) got friends to come over from Krypton, like his cousin, and a dog (Krypt0), and eventually he was also asigned a girlfriend.
Nothing wrong with supes getting a little action on the side, mind you.
My problem is more with what the corporate machine behind the industry decided to do with the character of Lois Lane.
I confess I am not a die-hard supes fan. I have very few collections of his books. Basically the landmarks. Some 70’s stuff, the wedding, the death, the Byrne relaunch.. you get the jest.
But I do follow his trajectory through out the years. Supes has been one of the characters that has been used to do more harm and more good to the comic book industry than any other.
Good, becuase he brought superheroes to the front in the public’s eye. He also made a comic publishing house a viable business, covetted by other business. And harm, because in the process of accomplishing this through business decisions, he basically became a colorful charicature of a dramatic character. He became something suitable for the ages and audiences he was being published for.
The one character on his cadre of friends that sucked most ass, was Lois Lane. And she sucked consistently.
Now, do not even bother critizicing that statement if all the Lois Lane you have been exposed to is the one portrayed on TV in recent years, like Lois and Clarck (and the gorgeous Teri Hatcher) and now some Smallville.
You have a lot of catching up to do, so get reading before you think you know Lois Lane.
Because even if in the first decade of the 21st century DC Comics graces Lois Lane with some amazing writers, and manage to infuse some decent personality in her, she still has to contend (like superman does too) with more than six decades of being a one-sided character and nothing more than a cartoony addition to the superman cast.
She appears as the a co-worker of Clark Kent, and a very competitive, dedicated professional. So far so good. Sadly that seems to be the extend of what the writers could do with her.
The writers were usually so disconected with the strugles of a profesional woman on the workplace that they kept using her as an annoying female presence who creates more trouble than she solves.
During the 40’s through the 60’s Lois Lane is as much a problem as a solution. She wants to be labeled as a “Star Reporter” but she is given fluff pieces all the time, she gets herself into trouble all the time, and on top of it she develops at times a quasi clinical obsesion with finding out what is superman’s secret identity.
OK. What the heck is she going to do with that information? Sell it to the russians? Blackmail supes into taking over the world and make her queen? No. We are told she wants to know because she is curious and because she is a journalist. Aha….Ooookay… Let me get this straight… she is going to reveal who the greatest do-gooder in the world is, despite he making it clear he would like his privacy, and she is going to claim journalist integrity…the woman who is in charge of covering how the firefighters of the 3rd batallion rescued a kitten stuck on a tree, she is going to go against the whishes of the most powerful being on earth?
How stupid can you be?
How self-centered do you have to be?
Are either of these two characteristics enough to make her endearing to us, the public?
Between the 60’s and 80’s she continued her path of self-centered trouble making disposition, by getting into a number of situations that if it had happened to another family member, you would’ve surely made a motion with a judge to have them committed pending a psychological evaluation. I mean, here you have supes bringing rain to a dry region in africa, or asisting victims of an earthquake in asia, and this delusional dumb broad goes and gets herself kidnapped to test a weapon against superman, or gets in trouble with Lana Lang while competing for supes affection, or turns herself into a blackwoman, to have supes rescue her later from “life in little africa” (NO! I am not kidding!. Check out http://www.millionaireplayboy.com/mpb/index.php/lois-lane-i-am-curious-black/, for a great article covering the issue No. 106 of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane entitled I am curious (BLACK)!.)
One thing is being a damsel in distress, another thing is being a freaking self-centered moron who thinks the world is there just to revolve around her whims, and takes valuable time from supes otherwise life-saving chores.
Maybe some of you esteemed readers, have not arrived at this conclusion yet, but the character of Lois Lane is the symptom that proves to us that there was a writing problem in comics for most of their existance in the US.
The writers where not only white and male (in their majority. There were exceptions, of course) but were also professional writers, who (also in their majority) would’ve preferred to be doing something else, writing different type of material for different audiences, and that combined with the issue that editorial leadership in comics existed only to cater to sales, created this Lois that is barely worth mentioning as a character.
To keep things in perspective, the DC writers gave Supes enough few braincells at times that he does seem a perfect match for this nubile caricature of a repoter. For every time in the 60’s and 70’s that Lois got herself in trouble, supes come up with a similar number of brain-dead ideas to do something dumb and perilous, or petty.
And we have the covers to prove it.
The problem is numbers.
For every good issue published, there are already 10 in existance that portrays her as a dumb self-centered cow.
I have no doubt that in the last decade the character has improved by leaps and bounds.
ONE MORE TIME, in case I haven’t been clear enough: This is not about how she is portrayed now, or in the last 5 years. This is about what DC did with her as an Intellectual Property since the 1940’s. Lois Lane as a character still has to produce many many years of good stories before she is redeemed as a viable character, and not a pig-headed, self-centered human being.
We should highlight the great 80’s story written by Mindy Newell and illustrated by Gray Morrow Lois Lane Miniseries When It Rains, God Is Crying.
Finally the reporter is given some complexity and more emotions than a jelous girlfriend, in a story that show range of emotions and depth of character. The story still reads well a couple of decades later, and that is a testament to how well constructed that comic is.
I also enjoyed the humane and well rounded portrayal that Grant Morrison did of Lois a few years ago on All-Star Superman, when supes gets sick with sun poison, and hangs around with a much more well rounded, flirtatious, self confident, playful, sensitive Lois Lane.
That was a woman I can get to like, but then again, that is a Lois written by an amazing writer.
But in the past I felt mainly that I should like Lois Lane, because superman likes her. He likes her even though she tries to reveal his identity without caring about the repercusions. He likes her despite she gets herself into trouble without caring about who she puts at risks, and expecting to be saved. He cares despite her ingoring Clark and shallowly focusing on the Superman infatuation.
Hey…. again, overthinking the issue I came to realize that maybe the sow deservers the big dope after all…..