Why Create Lois Lane?

I ask this question due to the recent anti-female influence displayed by DC Comics within their new 52 and soon-to-be Earth 2 books.   If you want to see how creative management feels about women, take a look at their female characters and how they are portrayed.   Lois Lane is the First Lady of Action Comics.  (Unfortunately in Grant Morrison’s remake of Action #1, she is far from that.)  However, in less than a year, she has been killed off as a plot device four times.

In 1938, Siegel and Shuster created the first Superhero, Superman, Champion of the Oppressed, the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need.   Joe and Jerry’s parents were immigrants to America during the Depression.  The United States, land of opportunity.  Their hero not only had physical strength and prowess, but also the power of the pen.  Taking a job at the Daily Star, he investigated corruption and shed light on injustice which influenced the hearts and minds of the paper’s readers.

Why have Clark Kent (as the character is initially named) have dual identities?  It’s the immigrant assimilation story.  Because Clark worked a nine to five job, he could relate to the Earth’s inhabitants and strive to have a life of his own besides being a superpowered hero.   As an alien from another planet, he is already an outsider.  But living amongst these beings, he has come to love and admire, gives him psychological balance.  He can be accepted on many levels.  Since he looks human, readers may assume that his home planet had a similar society, where they loved, mated, and had families.

Enter Lois Lane, fellow reporter at the Daily Star, which Clark has been hotly pursuing for a date.  In their first panel together, she gives him a break and acquiesces.  Lois is a woman in a man’s world.   She’s one of the oppressed, but that doesn’t break her spirit.  She’s determined and has Chutzpah.

During their date that evening, the bespectacled Clark wants to know why Lois avoids him at the office.  She obviously doesn’t want to give him another sob story.  Lois may be writing the ‘Dear Abby’ column for the paper and with her drive wants to sink her teeth into some real investigative reporting.

Lois is an attractive woman.  She catches the eye of Butch Matson, a powerful mobster, who decides to cut in on the couple’s dance.  Butch’s alpha male bravado isn’t worried about Lois’ escort, who looks like a push over.

The mobster tells Clark to get lost.  The journalist protests with a point of etiquette.  That’s when Lois realizes her escort may not be so gallant.  Clark has a dilemma; while trying to impress Lois, he has to play the weakling in order to keep his dual identity intact.  He asks Lois to be reasonable – as if giving her over to be misused by the powerful is reasonable.   He promises they’ll leave after she agrees to the dance.  Her reply, “You can stay and dance with him if you wish but I’m leaving NOW!”  Lois Lane fights against the dominate nature of the request.  The ‘man’ who has hotly pursued her wants her to dance with a criminal.  She is appalled her date isn’t defending her or helping her to get out of the situation; not to mention Clark relinquishes her too easily to this brutal man.

Butch tells Lois she’ll dance with him and like it!  Lois takes offense and slaps the mobster for his crudeness and abusive attitude.  She is not an object  or trophy to be won.  She can defend herself.  She has to in this scenario as Clark is unwilling to break from his milquetoast persona.  In a panel that depicts both characters beautifully, fearless and insulted Lois slaps Butch while Clark screams, “Don’t Lois!” but he’s thinking “Good for you, Lois.”   Lois is the character of strength in this scene.  She’s the defender of all women who refuse to tolerate tyrannical or abusive men.   Only a gentleman will win over Lois Lane.

Butch does push Clark’s face in, even taunting him to fight, but Clark refuses.   So what’s a girl to do?  Lois gets her things and leaves . . . alone, without her escort, but with her dignity  intact.   Clark chases after Lois as she enters a taxi.  She tells him why she’s avoided him all this time.  “Because you’re a spineless, unbearable coward!”  A statement of fact.  Lois Lane was never fooled by just a pair of glasses.  Clark made sure that she and everyone else never connected Clark Kent to Superman by playing the awkward, mild mannered reporter to the fearless defender of the oppressed.

While Clark has offended his date by not defending or protecting her, Lois has incensed the macho Butch to the point he follows her to get revenge for her transgressions.  Clark as Superman watches Butch’s car push Lois’ taxi into a ditch.  Inside the car, Lois is outnumbered by men, 3 to 1.  Butch is still irritated he let Lois’ date off so easily.

Superman catches up to the car, lifts it over his head and shakes out its occupants.  Superman then smashes the symbol of power to bits.   He’s probably upset that he caused Lois to be endangered in the first place.  It is Butch Matson who is seen holding his head with his hands while fleeing from the scene.  Superman captures Butch and hangs him from a telephone pole for the authorities to apprehend.

Superman tells a shocked and speechless Lois Lane, “You needn’t be afraid of me.  I won’t harm you.”   Lois has just met a man who went to dire and super lengths to save her.  She may have been more awed than frightened considering the evening she’s had.  As Superman bears Lois in his arms, he leaps towards the city.  On the outskirts, he advises Lois not to print this little episode.  He never calls her by name, but he obviously knows her occupation.

Lois meets with her editor and tries to tell of the previous night’s exploits with Superman.   The editor sloughs it off as her imagination or insobriety.  As a female, she obviously doesn’t carry any weight inside the bullpen . . . yet.  Clark tries to apologize for his behavior, but Lois isn’t having any of it.  He was no gentleman and wasn’t there for her when she was attacked.  Superman, however, was there and did protect her from harm.

For Lois, it was a matter of respect.  Clark obviously wanted her, but didn’t feel the need to protect her.  Superman went straight into action and used whatever means to save her life.  He was a gentleman and chivalrous.   Clark Kent was not.  But they are one-in-the-same.  Thus is the beginning of the triangle for two.  Clark’s disguise (whether it be reporter or Superman) fooled everyone.   Lois Lane was the audience’s in to understand what the dual identity of this being from another planet meant to his life.  Clark Kent, journalist, showed us how this immigrant assimilated and led a ‘normal’ Earth existence.  It is these two aspects of the triangle-made-for-two that makes the Superman story unique.

The 1938 story portrays Lois as an independent, self assured  woman, capable of caring for herself.  Career-wise she takes on the ‘boys club’ of the newsroom and succeeds.  She doesn’t allow any man, be he mobster or Marvin Milquetoast to treat her badly.   These are the reasons Clark Kent/Superman admires and adores her.  She represents the best of humanity.  Her determination and Chutzpah is the spirit of free people around the globe.

Lois Lane has been a mentor for women for decades.  She’s been an inspiration.  She was a career woman, who had a heart for people, truth and justice.  With her analytical mind, she proved herself to be a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

Lois Lane was never intended to be just a ‘love interest’ or a ‘beautiful trophy wife’ and when written accurately, she never is ‘just that.’  She is the superhero’s equal in spirit and energy and in the belief of doing the right thing.  She’s human and an inspiration for Clark/Superman.  Of the women in Action #1, 1938: a criminal, an innocent prisoner, and a victim of spouse abuse, it is Lois Lane who is introduced as a person who matters in this story.

Why Create Lois Lane?  To show a superpowered alien from another planet needs and can have a full life and love with a strong, spirited, and inspirational woman who is powerful in being exceptionally human.  And why does Lois need Clark/Superman?  Because he is the one man who epitomizes all she believes in.  They both have good hearts and fight for truth and justice in order for people to live a life free from oppression.

The triangle-for-two (Clark/Superman and Lois) were the hope of 1938 and decades after.  Since last Fall, they do not inspire much of that at all.  The new 52 and Earth 2 are dark, gritty, male-energy dominated worlds with no hope or inspiration.   Females and female influences need not apply.

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2 Responses

  1. Lois and her absence in Superman is a reflection on our current society – and not in a good way. Not since the 1950s have American womens’ rights been under such attack. We have politicians and radio hosts on nationally syndicated programs verbally attacking women who stand up for the right to use birth control. In Arizona legislatures want to allow your employer to be able to demand you tell them why you are taking birth control and allow them to refuse to pay it if their religious beliefs don’t line up with yours – damn national healthcare privacy laws. The war on women is also being played out in the comics. Lois Lane is one of many women in the DC universe being given a short shift. Men just don’t want to admit that we need both sexes for society to work and when you dismiss one you lessen the import of the other. Superman without Lois Lane is just an alien Superhero. With Lois he is a complex individual with foibles and feelings. These are not macho but they are human and interesting.
    Stan Lee was on KTLA last week and made a jab at DC – he said the characters at Marvel as so enduring because they let you see how human and flawed they are. We know their hearts as well as their actions – this is what makes them great. DC seems to have forgotten the way to make sure we love our heroes is to make them more.
    http://multipleverses.com/2012/03/25/stan-lee-talks-about-the-mighty-7-and-spiderman/
    Stan Lee understands- why doesn’t DC get it?

    Great analogy to the creators being immigrants and Clark hiding his alien side- his creators were not just immigrants but Jews who knew their brethren in Germany and Europe were being persecuted for being different and this fear of persecution and government experimentation is one Clark carries even into the modern versions of Superman. It was a defining fear of Clark’s on Smallville.

  2. There`s a great article on the Superman Homepage by Darren R. Reid that is as a sibling , paralell and companion to yours. You should check it out :)

    “Truth, Justice And The American Way: Using Action Comics # 1 As A Historical Source”

    I have never understood why Dc Comics felt that in order for Kal-El to remain hidden among humans Clark Kent was aloud to shame and embarass the Kent name by acting like a wimp/punk/loser. I still wonder does Martha & Jonathan Kent know that there son behaves that way at work and in society. It would be great if they did a story with the Kents visiting thier son at work meeting everyone and then overhearing some speak of how the apple has fallen very far from the tree and or wondering why the Kent`s raised Clark to be such wimp and did they psychologically abuse him as a child!

    The Kent`s are understandly hurt by this and confront Clark. For to long superheroes secret identity behavior has come with little or no consequence. As you pointed out in your article one consequence is that Lois didn`t want to date Clark. I`m sure your familar with Kill Bill Volume 2 thoughts about Superman. Alan Moore deconstructed the superhero with Watchmen. Having Superman reflect on the extremes he goes to in order to separate Clark Kent from the Man of Steel would be realistic, powerful and memorable :D

    Hell if Clark wanted to he could act like a douche bag as CK or just be himself. No one thought George Mcfly was Superman when he stood up to Biff and came to Loraine`s rescue. But they were all impressed. And he showed that his newfound strength and courage was no fluke. When another fella cut in on his dance with the mother of Marty Mcfly.

    That`s why I love Dean Cain`s Clark Kent so much.His tale was more like The Prince and the Pauper or Coming to America. That really is what the Superman/Clark Kent story is. As he once said to Lois: “Superman is what I can do. Clark Kent is who I am!” As a gun has a holster. Superman is the sword. Clark Kent is the sheath.

    You spoke well of the importance of the dignity of women being respected in comics. Action Comics # 1 in particular displays this. The unfortunate irony is that the dignity of man is disregarded. Lois stands up for herself while Clark turns the other cheek and tries to appease Butch the bully.

    Good article :)

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