Sunday, December 18, 2005

Favorite Women of DC Comics Part IV: Lois Lane

Lois Lane (Action Comics, Superman)
-- So, now you know my secret.

I'm a Lois Lane fan.

I've thought long and hard about what I can say to explain this one. It sounds like grounds for losing your Feminist card. I mean, all of those arguments that I have for killing Jade fall short in the face of this revelation, right?


I believe, unlike many comic book fans, that there is a great deal in the initial concept. What works for one character will not work for another, based on the very concept. Take, for example, the Damsel-in-Distress slander.

Lois Lane was the prototype for silly comic book girlfriends.
She sees trouble, she follows it, she gets into it and gets helped by the hero.
She repeats this over, and over.
She never learns.

Lois Lane is the Classic Recurring Damsel-in-Distress.

Well, obviously, someone is going to have to be in Distress. At least half the time, it should be a woman. This is okay. What is not okay is when the character is a "Hero" or a "Villain" as opposed to "Civilian", and ends up in Distress the majority of the time, and mediocre at best the rest of the time. That is bad.

Now, when a character is by nature a "Civilian" character it is more than all right for them to be in Distress.

Lois Lane is a Civilian character. She is not an incompetent female sidekick when ends up in over her head and needs to be saved by the male lead. She is a civilian news reporter who ends up in over her head and needs to be saved by the male lead. The main difference is whether or not being in over their head makes the character incompetent. Lois Lane has above-average tomboy brawling skills, but the majority of her ability is in writing, lying, and sneaking around spying on people. She has no super-powers. This is Okay. Not everyone has them. And if Lois had them (as she did quite often during the Silver Age) indications are she'd probably do a decent job of taking care of herself. Sure, she's not Hope O'Dare or Alanna Strange (able to handle herself powerless against powered people) but she does okay for herself with what she has.

My problem is when the Damsel-in-Distress situation betrays incompetence on the part of the Damsel, which, in Lois' case, it doesn't. She does a good job at her job, which is writing. Her problem is when she runs into Superman's world. Superman's world is different from the one Lois was designed to live in, bottom line.

But Lois is stupid. She didn't see past a pair of glasses for 60 years!

Well, she's not as dumb as everyone thinks. Pre-Crisis Lois figured out who Clark was a few times, and he kept using comic book physics (shapeshifters, time-travel, other wierdness) to be in two places at once and throw her off. She may have been outclassed and out-wierded, but I think galatically stupid is going too far. I mean, as I said before: she's a Civilian. Different world, normal world -- not properly equipped to deal with Superman's world.

-- Maybe the above is rationalism, but I can never hate Lois. Ever. No matter how many stupid situations she ends up in.

Because her very concept is a boon to all humanity.

She utterly destroys one of the stupidest attitudes towards romance ever conceived.

Yes, I'm talking about the dread "No man will want a woman who..." argument. "No man will want a woman who can't cook." "No man will want a woman who competes with him." "No man will want a woman who spends more time at work than at home." "No man will want a woman who is forward enough to propose to him!" "No man will want a woman who is outspoken, ambitious, strong-willed, career-oriented, nagging, or nosy!"

Wanna bet?

Not everyone is happy alone. Not everyone is totally satisfied in the company of women. It is not unfeminist to pursue a male companion. Lust is a natural drive, and it is unhealthy to deny it.

Unfortunately, traditional wisdom advises both genders to hide their undesirable aspects when choosing a mate. For many women still "undesirable aspect" means opinions, talents, dreams apart from raising a family, and overall backbone. Contemporary Wisdom now acknowledges that no Real Man wants a doormat, but what I've seen of Lois Lane's era disagrees with Contemporary Wisdom.

One thing is certain from the Superman mythos: Superman is a Real Man (and Beau Smith can just bite my ass over this one). Superman represents the Ideal Man.

I've read a lot about how Superman is a "male adolescent fantasy, where the weak exterior that is mocked by desirable females hides a godlike interior that drives such women to lust."

Now, in that description, ask yourself who the "desirable female" is.

It is so beautiful that the most idealized male in existence wanted an outspoken career woman more than anyone else. There's a damn good feminist message at the root of it, even if on the surface she's obsessed with him and spends most of her time trying to trick him into a marriage.

Lois Lane was a pushy, loudmouthed brunette reporter and Superman thought she was a Goddess.

This because Lois Lane knows something very, very important, that she wants to share with us.

Lois realizes that even if you ultimate goal is marriage and family, you don't attract the Perfect Man by hiding in the kitchen and dumbing down to protect his ego. You attract him by being brave and aggressive, going straight for your goals and not compromising for anything.

You want to be Perry White's top reporter. Go for it! You want to give that up to marry Superman and raise kids, that's fine too -- go after him! Strong-willed is beautiful. Ambitious is admirable, and he won't find it a turn-off if you ask him out.

This is not just something Lois Lane says or thinks. This is what she lives. This is what demonstrates. She tells us to be who we are, and not be ashamed. To want what we want, and go after it. Don't worry about ending up alone, because the ideal person will love you no matter what everyone else says "desirable" is.

It may not seem like much now, but the generation that gave us this it must have been one hell of a lesson to digest.

Appreciate the Lesson of Lois Lane.

After all, she did bag Superman.


  1. For one of the best "modern" portrayals of Lois, you can't go wrong with Waid's Birthright series. As I said way back when, the "new" new Lois is hot. She's sassy, intelligent, has a heart, and even defends Jimmy to a tyrannical publisher. Morrison will, I believe, manage to one-up this with her in All-Star Superman, but that was sort of a given, wasn't it?

  2. Very nicely put! I came this way via Lady, That's My Skull. interesting blog you got here.

  3. I grew up reading the Lois Lane comic book in the '60s. In that, Superman was the guest star. Quite often, Lois got herself into and out of trouble on her own in that book. The one I recall best is when she went after a fake medium. She exposed her (I think it was a woman) by learning how to write with her foot using chalk so she could fake out the medium with her own spirit messages on the blackboard on the floor during a seance. I spent hours trying to do that, write with chalk between my toes, just like Lois. Yeah, she was a role model. I was really happy she finally landed the man of her dreams. :)

  4. Excellent post. Lois has definitely earned the crown.

  5. Just for the record Allana Strange is the best female in the DCU. I know you talked of her, but to me she's just the best. Plus I think she's actually got a better aim then her husband.

    I thought I should throw that in there

  6. I'm glad to get so much agreement here. Thanks guys. :)

  7. Well then just to (hopefully) throw a thorn in.

    None of these women can match the sheer awesomeness of a certain Marvel heroine. She's beaten Giganto, Modok, and Thanos on the same day, by herself. She's taken out Dr. Doom even!

    Thats right Squirel Girl! She's the single most powerful hero on the planet apparently!

    And she's cheerful and perky about it even!

  8. Great post and great thoughts. I love Lois. If only I could meet more women like her.

  9. Did you read Kurt Busiek's ASTRO CITY issue, that basically put the astro-spin on the Lois/Superman realtionship? The hero was Atomikus. Ironically, I had been wondering, weeks earlier, why Superman put up with her.

    She had it all -- looks, brains, ambition. If only she would have set aside the obsession to prove Clark was Superman for a couple of weeks, he might have popped the question in the Pre-Crisis universe.

    As for Beau Smith (never heard of him before reading your blog), it sounds like he's embarressed about his involvement with comics. Hence, he projects his "tough-guy" persona. Just look at his profile. Why should we care if he's been in jail in the past?

  10. Yeah, I saw that. That was a great issue.

    Beau Smith doesn't seem all that bad actually, I just think he's dead wrong on Superman.

  11. I'm not bad.....I just write that way.

    Your amigo,


  12. I dont think it was just glasses that fooled her, so much as refusing to see what the brain does not want to believe.

    She saw Superman as an enigmatic demi-god, and therefor builds up the image of him mentally. Even if Clark was 6'6', she would see Superman as 7ft.

    This is not stupidity, but the normal human side of her building up a hero.

    Also, it was not Clarks glasses that threw anyone off, it was the fact that Superman wears no mask, and therefor casts the impression he has no secret identity at all.