Along with Superman, ace reporter Lois Lane debuted in the pages of Action Comics #1. Back in 1938 she was tough, ambitious, fearless, and she had very little respect for authority. In other words, she was punk as fuck.
But history hasn’t always been kind to Lois. She quickly became nothing more than a plot device for Superman. She was either a damsel in distress or a ditzy romantic stereotype. Even when she graduated to her own monthly comic book (Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane, 1958 to 1974), she struggled with unrelenting gender stereotyping and sexist story lines.
On her own, Lois Lane was a fascinating character who easily fulfilled the typical superhero narrative of fighting evil and catching bad guys. But with Superman hanging around, she was a drip. He was her constant adversary throughout the decades. He stole her headlines, he embarrassed her, patronized her, and he monopolized her time. “In short,” says author Tim Hanley. “Superman was the worst thing to ever happen to Lois Lane.”
Hanley knows what he’s talking about. Two years ago he wrote a fascinating history about Wonder Woman (see our review here). And now he’s turned his attention to Lois Lane. He’s doing a good job writing about comic book characters with messy backgrounds. And believe us, Lois Lane’s background is super messy.
Hanley’s main focus is on comic books (of course), but he does his best to also connect the dots that link Lois to radio, cartoons, television, and movies. Not surprisingly, she is generally portrayed in a better light outside the comic book bubble.
Overall, this is a terrific book about a unique character in comic book history. But it’s not perfect. For example, did the author need to devote an entire chapter to George Reeves’ suicide/murder case just because the actor was dating a woman whose initials were L.L.? We don’t think so.
In addition, Hanley mentions Gwenda Bond’s 2015 novel, Lois Lane: Fallout (see our review here). But he doesn’t take the time to discuss any other books. There have been dozens of Superman novels over the years, and we’re betting Lois Lane has appeared in all of them. Surely a chapter on superhero prose fiction could have been squeezed into the table of contents.
Looking back, Lois Lane’s history is one of constant contradictions. But through it all, she’s persevered. As Hanley says: “She embodies the progress and struggles of American women, an ongoing cycle of advances and setbacks.” Lois Lane may not be bulletproof, but she always bounces back, and her resilience throughout the years has rightfully afforded her a place in the pantheon of today’s superhero icons.
[Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter / By Tim Hanley / First Printing: March 2016 / ISBN: 9781613733325]