Today we are discussing Lois Lane, the one constant in the universe of Superman, the first Superwoman, the brilliant reporter and often the Kryptonians love interest she has been adapted many times and is weaved through many storylines, so here we go with Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane. As always, if you’d like to listen to this one please check out the Lady Comic Book History Podcast.
Created by Jerry Seigal and Joe Shuster, Lois made her first appearance in the first issue of Action Comics in June of 1938, as a reporter for the Daily Planet. She was of course created to be Superman’s Damsel in Distress and was often found chasing after him like a love sick puppy. However starting with Superman #28 In 1944 she was given her own small feature foiling bad guys' plans with no help from Superman in her strip Lois Lane, Girl Reporter so even in her independence there was an air of condescension. A major focus of her stories throughout most of the 50s was her competition with Lana Lang for Superman’s affections. Despite her stories centering around chasing a man, her personality has always been that of a driven career woman who was determined to prove that Superman and Clark Kent were one in the same.
Her solo series, Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, ran for 137 issues starting in April of 1958 and concluding in October of 1974. The title is very indicative of the actual content, though it was presented as a solo series for Ms. Lane all cover art and storylines depicted her off to the side. She was always overshadowed by Superman and any other characters that made a guest appearance in her solo title. This didn’t change until the 70s where she was given more independent storylines and got herself in and out of all kinds of trouble without the help of Superman. In fact in the 50s DC Comics official editorial policy code addressed the presentation of women like this and I quote “The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance…” It was literally in written policy that obviously with the exception of Wonder Woman that women be not as important as the men around them in fact considering the treatment of Wonder Woman in the 50s that tracks, it was systematically embedded in the editorial requirements that women be shoved to the side, that women be silenced, again very very reflective of the actual social state of the time. Still extremely unacceptable and yet explains the still current treatment of women at least for DC for I do not know if or when that policy was changed, but the very fact that it existed in the first place paired with the fact that a grand majority of the creators are men equals a very poor treatment of female characters.
Lois Lane’s modern portrayal sticks to her tough, reporter roots who is rarely in need of rescuing. Lois was still Clark’s main love interest but their love was not as immediate as it was in the early days. Lois showed an attraction to Clark and was still determined to find the connection between him and Superman but she was no longer a love sick puppy chasing after him at every turn. The two were not married until 1996.
Lois Lane was also the first acting Superwoman, she made her first appearance as the superheroine in Action Comics #60 in May of 1943. She gained powers for a stint after being exposed to a Lex Luthor invention in Action Comics #156.
Lois’s time with superpowers was always temporary but she was the first Superwoman, the name that implies Superman’s immediate counterpart has also been picked up by several super villains throughout the universe. In Justice League of America #29 in August of 1964 Superwoman appeared as part of the Crime Syndicate of America, which was the villain counterpart to the Justice League in Earth-3, one of the way to many alternate universes of DC. The interesting and more confusing part of the alternate universes of DC is occasionally, and I stress that word because they are not consistent, occasionally the characters of alternate universes have the awareness and ability to travel to other alternate universes. The Crime Syndicate of America came to Earth-1 because they felt no one was properly challenging their powers and were afraid of becoming soft. Superwoman remains a part of the Crime Syndicate through the post-crisis continuity, JLA: Earth 2 in 2000 created by Grant Morrison.
Superwoman was also a result of a gender swap that took place in Superman #349. Superman returns from an interstellar mission to discover that everyone on earth has been gender swapped, Jenny Olsen, Louis Lane, Batwoman (just a female version of Batman not the actual character), Wonder Warrior (as Marvel currently had the naming rights to Wonder Man though it's so cheese it sounds like it should be a DC character).
The first actual person to don the name was Laurel Kent, however this was similar to the gender swap version in that she wasn’t her own character she was simply a female version of Superman that originated from Earth-11 and she appeared for the first time in Superman/Batman, she occasionally appeared in the Legion of Super-heroes but was replaced in the continuity by Laurel Grand.
The first successor to Lois as an individual was Kristen Wells, created by Elliot Maggin and appearing first in Miracle Monday and formally introduced in DC Comics Presents, Kristen was a 29th century descendant of Jimmy Olsen. She is granted her superpowers after time traveling and bringing back technology from the future, this version of the character appears in Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? Creating internal continuity issues when she reveals the fate of Jimmy Olsen.
The next woman to don the Superwoman mantle is Dana Dearden, Dana dated Jimmy Olsen in attempts to get close to Superman and when that failed she stole Mystic Artifacts which granted her speed, strength, flight and thunderbolts. Dana’s version donned a green and purple uniform and she called herself superwoman.
Lucy Lane first appeared as her version of Superwoman in Supergirl Vol. 5 #35 in January of 2009. She is not Kryptonian but after being exposed to the backlash of the rupturing of a magic suit created by Mirabai of the Forlorn she gains Kryptonian abilities. This version of Superwoman was last seen as a prisoner after Sam Lane’s machinations during War of the Supermen, her stint as Superwoman ended with the launch of New 52.
And of course we can’t talk about Superwoman without mentioning Lana Lang, after Superman died both her and Lois absorbed energy released from his body and the both of them developed superpowers. After Lois died, Lana became the sole Superwoman.
I am going to do a whole episode or maybe even 2 on adaptations but I just want to mention that on the page Lois has always a side character, someone who was created for the sole purpose of being a damsel in distress, she was lovesick, she was useless, she existed to further the plot of someone else. That said in Smallville, which is hands down, non-negotiably the best Superman adaptation, Lois became a headstrong, stubborn report but she was always bad ass, she was always her own person and never chased the men around, they chased her.