A look at Lois Lane’s early appearances beginning at Action Comics #1.
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Graham: Today we salute Lois Lane and as we take a look at Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years straight ahead.
Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
Graham: D.C. Comics has, several times, created cross decade collections focusing on a single character. Probably the first time was in the late 1980s where they released The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told and The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told and they also released similar compilations for the Golden Age and Silver Age in imaginary stories. And then the early part of the 21st century, they revived the Greatest Stories Ever Told line but this time with more characters: Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Shazam, but many of us question these. I say many of us, at least me and several reviewers online. We took a look at Shazam: The Greatest Stories Ever Told and said are these really the greatest Shazam stories ever told and a lot of them ran into that problem. So, they started doing something different with a celebration of a certain number of years. Generally 75 years for a given character. So, they’re not saying they’re the best stories ever told featuring that character but they are stories about that character and you can’t really argue with that though it is a fair question as to what the quality is.
One thing that D.C. did with these new celebrations of milestone years was they didn’t just focus on the main heroes. They have several villain collections mostly from Batman’s Rogue Gallery. I believe that there’s one for the Joker, there’s one for Two-Face and Catwoman. As far as I know, Lois Lane is the only character who is essentially known as a supporting character, who has her own collection in these milestone lines. So, we’ll take a look at these Lois Lane based stories and probably one of the big challenges is that most Superman stories, which is where the majority of her appearances occurred, came where she is not the main character. So, it’s a question of do we get stories that are really about and connect to Lois even if she’s not the focal point.
The book begins with the Golden age and probably one of the most oft reprinted stories ever Action Comics #1 and #2, which is of course Superman’s first story but it’s also Lois Lane’s first story. So, it’s fair game to include it. It’s an iconic story and in many ways it, even in this first issue from the Golden Age, forms a lot of the key characteristics of what would make Lois Lane, Lois Lane at her best. Even though it was mostly just Superman flying around doing his heroics, she still played a part. Then they also reprint Action Comics #6, which is one of my favorite comics of the Golden Age because essentially what happens is that there are people who are merchandising Superman and they’re talking about making a Superman radio show and Superman movies and of course none of this had happened in 1938 and Superman toys and there is some nefarious goings on behind the scene, which Lois actually figures out and really does shine through here but it’s just a great story. Probably my favorite part of the book is the Lois Lane, Girl Reporter back-up scripts. These were features that appeared in The Adventures of Superman and they were 4 or 5 page stories but they were really good. She would be given some task by some guys who were kind of condescending towards her and she would manage to save the day. Sometimes she would end up calling in the police to help which isn’t unreasonable, but she essentially led the way and I think that scripts like that makes some of her behavior in Superman stories make more sense, if she’s actually handled stuff without Superman being around and managed to go through things competently, then she might feel more comfortable taking risks.
As it is, various portrayals of Lois Lane, you kind of wonder how she survived long enough to meet Superman with all of the risks she takes. But I like these scripts and if there were more of them, I’d like to see them collected in a book.
Then you have Lois Lane Loves Clark Kent, in which she goes to a psychiatrist and explains she has a fixation on Superman and she’s in love with Superman and the psychiatry suggests that what she needs to do is to turn her efforts and her energy to someone she doesn’t really care about so that she will care about them and will no longer be fixated on Superman. It’s actually a funny story which, I think unlike some of the Silver Age stories, which kind of make Lois Lane ridiculous, is funny without being disrespectful.
Moving on to the Silver Age items in the collection, you have The Girl in Superman’s Past. This story introduces Lana Lang and allows another angle to the Lois/Superman relationship, with Lois having a rival for Superman’s affections in the person of Lana Lang. In many ways during the Silver Age, much of Superman comics and a lot of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, which this showcase issue would eventually lead to, became a bit of a sitcom and this character, I guess, was her ethel and set the stage for a lot of high jinx to ensue.
I also like the New Lois Lane, which was a story where Lois decided that she was going to give up trying to find out Superman’s secret identity and the problem with this is that Superman wants her to discover a fake, secret identity that he’s set up so that it will get someone else off his trail but all of the clues he leaves for her, she ignores as part of her desire to turn over a new leaf. It’s funny and it’s just a really cute script. I like that one quite a bit.
The other two Silver Age stories are just kind of average and I find some modern sensibilities and in many cases with good reason, I do think that it did feel a little bit like the compilers were trying for a certain sort of a narrative with the Silver Age. I mean, there were a lot of scripts like that but they were somewhat selective in what they put in there to kind of build this narrative.
Then we have 1970s I Am Curious (Black), in which Lois is trying to get a story out of the black neighborhood of Metropolis known in this story as Little Africa. Whether this is related to the Suicide Slum introduced in the Black Lightening, I don’t know but she found great resistance, so she asked Superman’s help to turn her black so that she could actually experience and interact with people and try and understand them. And of course being kind of light Silver Age, Superman has access to a machine to do that because you can get any machine like that up in the Fortress of Solitude back during that era and I think the story overall comes from a good heart. I think it may have drawn a little bit on the book Black Like Me. It’s a good hearted story. It’s somewhat tame, but it tells a simple and powerful truth. It may overstate things, well, it does overstate things a bit, when Superman tells Lois that the reaction to finding out that Lois is really white by a black supremacist who received a blood transfusion from her would say something about the possibility of peace on earth but still I think the overall thrust of it was good and it’s definitely well intended and like I said, comes from a good place and actually that was all of the Lois Lane stories that it had up there, up until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is kind of weird because essentially you have 15 years of stories about Lois Lane and featuring her that weren’t included or considered for inclusion. I do know, for example I read in a Supergirl comic from the 1970s, there was a back-up script, featuring Lois Lane that was a lot more like Lois Lane, Girl Reporter from the 1940s rather than Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane.
That will be all for now. Join us back here for part 2, as we take a look at the modern comics collected in this book featuring Lois Lane. In the meantime send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure and rate the show on iTunes, if you’re enjoying it and follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy. From Boise, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.