“I’m just good, old Lois. Get to me whenever.”*(Lois Lane)
“I keep telling myself to calm down, to take less of an interest in things and not to get so excited, but I still care a lot about liberty, freedom of speech and expression, and fairness in journalism.”
- Kate Adie
What is the power of the written word?
It’s obviously too big of a question to really answer on a blog like this one, or any blog. What’s a blog, really, except someone’s opinion being presented, often as if it were fact?
I don’t pretend to think that my blog is for anyone but myself. Some people have suggested it’s therapy for me, a means for me to deal with an often-frustrating childhood. Others have told me it’s a total waste of time, a pointless exercise. Maybe these are the people who are correct.
I don’t think so, though.
I like to think that my words are doing what I intended for them to do when I started writing - to reach out to other people and to move them at some kind of level that changes how they see other people, how they see entire classes of people they might not otherwise come into contact with or understand. I want to reach people at a fundamental level when I write, to communicate to them with as pure a connection as the words will allow, to convey the energy of my ideas - and my ideals.
To me, that is the heart of journalism, too - in its purest form, untroubled by anything but the literary spirit of one writer reaching out to tell a story, to inform; to affect emotions or intellect - or, in the best of times, both.
I also like to imagine I’m good at what I do. Perhaps it’s arrogant, but I think that there’s an element of arrogance to any effort to speak out through the act of writing. It presumes a person believes their words have enough merit to be read. So many people in the world spend their lives inside their own heads, content to say nothing about the things for which they care, content to keep their ideas to themselves.
A journalist doesn’t have that luxury. They lack that luxury in the sense that they are often trying to make a living with their words. But I like to think that it’s more than that, too - that aforementioned arrogance, the need to stand firm for one’s convictions, to refuse to be content with things as they are and demand things as one believes they should be.
In short, a journalist isn’t content to merely live in the world - but rather feels the inescapable need to speak out about what is happening in the world; with the heart, confidence and conviction of someone who truly believes - knows - that their words are important, that their words matter, that they themselves matter, and that ideals like truth and justice and even the American way matter.
That’s why Lois Lane is my hero.
I actually was exposed to Lois Lane as a character on television long before I saw her in the comics, because I was never a SUPERMAN reader as a very young child. Our local UHF station would show THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN every Saturday morning, and I would never miss it. I would tune in to that static-ridden station and thrill to another new-to-me adventure of the Last Son of Krypton, changing the course of mighty rivers and bending steel with his bare hands - all while maintaining the double-life of superhero and mild-mannered reporter for a Metropolitan newspaper.
And through it all, there was a constant challenge to Clark’s double life - in the form of one Lois Lane.
To be sure, Lois ended up in her fair share of predicaments on the television show, often winding up extricated from some disaster at the last moment by Superman. But there was something even my very young mind noticed about Lois, even in this aged incarnation. She wasn’t JUST a McGuffin. She wasn’t JUST a damsel for Superman to get out of trouble.
She did the exact same job Clark Kent did.
They were both reporters - and as a result of this, they found themselves in competition. To be sure, it was mostly a good natured feud of mutual workplace affection, but Lois was a career woman who reported to work at the Daily Planet just like Clark did. If not for the Superman element of Clark’s character, the two would be equals, and the performers in these old shows - Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates - clearly worked to give Lois a sense of purpose, a sense of willfulness that told the viewer that she was going out there for The Story. She wasn’t going out there to get Clark to marry her. She wasn’t trying to one-up another woman on a social climb to fame.
She was Lois Lane - reporter.
And she was as devoted to the same ideals as Clark. In fact, it’s worth noting that with the exception of dialogue that is clearly of its time, the benevolent characters on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN tended to regard her as a fellow member of the Daily Planet workplace, within the confines of that era’s typical American social structure. She was, certainly though, more highly regarded than many women on shows of the same time period, in that her characterization wasn’t JUST designed to revolve around Clark - she often instigated the action of a story, I remember, heading out into danger long before Clark Kent ducked into a broom closet or phone booth to change into the uniform of the Man of Steel.
And that mattered to me.
Growing up, I desperately wanted female heroes to look up to, to aspire to be - and often found that many of the women in the media fiction of the time were measured so often in terms of male-centered stories where the women were simply place-holders for the ambitions of the heroes. Since I saw myself as a girl, I obviously didn’t care for these kinds of characters, so when I found them I would simply search onward looking for characters who could be HEROES to me, inspirational. For them to inspire me themselves, they had to be their own heroes. In a sense, they had to be a little arrogant, in the best possible way.
It was rare to find characters who stood on their own and measured themselves by their own standards of success and failure.
Lois was - and still is, to me - one of those characters. She was smart, capable, talented … and, above all else, she was fiercely brave, especially when it came to that arrogance, that belief in herself that was entirely justified - because when Lois set out to get the story, she got the story. It was true on the show, and it was true in the comics. Lois would do anything in the name of using her journalistic abilities - for the purpose of making social change, righting wrongs - and even catching criminals … all similar goals to the Man of Steel.
But, here’s the thing - as a child, I came to a realization about Lois. Just as Lois worked at the Daily Planet the same as Clark, she also sought the same goals as Superman.
She was fighting for something - the betterment of humanity, the advancement of those same ideals Superman and Clark both represented then and, in the hands of good writers, represent today.
But that wasn’t the realization. That part was obvious.
No, the realization I had about Lois was that she did these things without Clark’s superhuman Kryptonian abilities.
It was consistent throughout each and every incarnation of the character as I grew up, from the original TV show to the movies …
… from new television shows …
… to new feature films …
… and back to television again, both in animation …
… and live-action.
Now, the quality and character of these representations of Lois varied, and sometimes the writers weren’t perfect. There were times when all the aforementioned characterizations stumbled a little in their efforts … but there was never a doubt that Lois was trying to be strong, was coming from a place where she was trying to be her own person, to carry on with her own life. And I’m not interested in comparing the various performers who have played Lois. Each one brought something unique to the role, and there’s no point in saying such-and-such an actor was a “better” Lois than another - they were talented performers working with various interpretations of the character, but there was always a sense in each and every representation I have listed here that the people behind the scenes were presenting Lois from a position of strength, of integrity, of a legitimate understanding of what Lois represents to readers like me - and to Clark.
The point isn’t to compare which Lois did what - but rather to look at all those images and see what they have in common, that in each Lois was (and is, thanks to reruns and Blu-Rays) an inspirational character who will lift up the spirits of the reader by virtue of her bravery and stand as a testament that even in a male-dominated environment, a woman can find her strength, find her courage, find her conviction, and even manage pride and hold aloft the arrogance of spirit that compels good and decent people to put pen to paper or to write blogs or to try to convince humanity that we’re all capable of being better than we are, that we can always do better than we’re doing, that we all have the capacity to be brave, whether we’re mighty and empowered like Superman or mortal and forced to work within the limitations of that mortality, like Lois.
And Lois is also about the strength to stand up and stand beside Superman as an equal, and to see herself as an equal. And this is what I believe so many people - the villains of the DC Universe, anyway - find trouble with about her. After all, as soon as she’s on the scene, there’s that arrogance again, that pride that shines like a beacon when she walks into the scene, that head held high, that confidence, that assured certainty that’s just as powerful as Clark standing with his hands on his hips blocking bullets with his chest.
When Lois arrives on the scene, corruption and injustice take notice of her in the best stories - because they can tell she’s a threat, that she’s equally as free from corruption as Clark - and whether in the form of a superhero or a journalist, that’s a troubling prospect for the evil characters of the comic-book world where good and evil are writ large, writ bright and colorful and fierce.
Because Lois as a character is about one thing to me: that arrogance I mentioned at the start of this piece, and keep mentioning - but arrogance to a purpose, I came to realize at a relatively early age. It’s the arrogance of being right. Of telling the truth. Of being a good person. Of being able to stand with authoritative certainty that what you’re doing is the right thing to do - and being right. A lot of people talk about villains in comics thinking they’re doing the right thing in their actions. This is not the kind of certainty I am talking about with Lois.
I’m talking about the certainty that one is taking a stand on the right side of truth, on the right side of justice, on the right side of the American way. Armed with truth, legitimate ironclad journalistic integrity and the honest understanding of knowing the fundamental difference between the broadest issues of right and wrong.
That’s Lois to me. That’s what makes her work as a character. That’s what makes her strong. That’s what makes her powerful as a force of ideal good, and that’s what makes her dangerous to the forces of evil. She uses that arrogant, stalwart stance of absolute truth and authority to further herself and her ideals. One could say that Lex Luthor or Morgan Edge use those same tactics, yes - but the difference is that we as the reader know from the context of the story and the ideal nature of the character that Lois is correct. And that’s her power.
And it’s why the villainous and the corrupt of the DC universe absolutely hate her.
They hate her because they know she will fight - for truth, justice and the American way … in her own way, with her own strengths - the power of the written word, the power of the pen.
She raced out the moment there was some kind of crisis to cover the crisis, without being faster than a speeding bullet.
She pitted the strength of her words and her ideals against cruelty and oppression, without being more powerful than a locomotive.
She tried to uphold the scales of justice, without being able to bend steel in her bare hands.
In other words, I realized that she was trying to be a superhero with the gifts she did have, as opposed to simply being content to be SUPERMAN’S GIRLFRIEND.
And I loved her for that. And learned to love myself a little more than I might have otherwise. After all, if Lois could be just as brave as Clark without the benefit of Kryptonian powers, maybe I could be brave about my situation without benefit of everything that would’ve made life easier for me.
Lois joined the ranks of those heroes who inspired me in comics when I started reading SUPERMAN comics along with so many others, years later in my life. Reading the monthly adventures of Clark Kent, I would always be especially happy when a story centered around Lois Lane, showed her courage, her conviction … and most of all, her integrity.
Lois had so many of the traits and qualities a person must have to stand for themselves, to be a hero. She had to have them in order to live in the world of journalism, of investigative reporting, to be her own character, defined not simply by the presence of Clark but as a person who could fight with as much tenacity as Clark and show as much bravery in the face of danger. She did it then in my teenage years, and continued to do it as I followed the character as she grew and developed in the comic books. By the time I was out of college, Lois’ courage as a major player in the world of SUPERMAN was unquestionable, and writers made fans of Lois Lane cheer by actively showing her in the midst of terrible danger being just as much of a hero as Clark, on her own terms, taking the human approach and doing what she could - as a human. And it was as inspiring as any moment of Clark bouncing bullets off of his chest. It was more inspiring, to me, because Lois never had the certainty that those bullets would bounce off of her. She was mortal, without superpowers - and she leapt into danger anyway, because it was the fundamentally right thing to do in the moment. She didn’t even have to question herself. She always - always - did the right thing as she understood it, when an issue of human morality was on the line and the moment really mattered. She fell prey to mortal foibles, yes - but not at the expense of her spirit or integrity. And in the comics, it showed.
Yes - as a child, and as a teenager, I understood all of this - which is why it baffles me that adult writers in the year 2012 seem incapable of figuring out this fact. These writers seem to see Lois as some kind of “ball-buster” whose strength and, yes, arrogance as I have stated it in this article, make her somehow unfit to be part of the SUPERMAN supporting cast in the comics. And these people are currently staking these claims in the modern comics, where Lois is a minor player at best.
They’ve replaced Lois in Clark’s life with basically removing Clark’s life at all. They’ve excised him from his fellow humans at the Daily Planet - he’s a blogging crusader now. This fits with the aforementioned arrogance I keep coming back to in this piece - the courage it takes to stand up and say that one’s words and mind are worth listening to, reading about.
But Lois? She’s portrayed as not having a “horse” in the “race” any more. She’s content to let others decide things for her.
That’s not the Lois I know - have ever known. That’s not the Lois who inspired me as a little kid, as a teenager, as an adult. That’s not the Lois who did this:
Many writers today have opined that Clark’s pairing with Diana - WONDER WOMAN - as currently being written by DC COMICS’ “New 52” line of titles - is somehow more realistic or likely because both Clark and Diana are super-powered beings. Much is made of the fact that Clark’s Kryptonian strength is better suited to be equal to Diana’s Amazonian power.
I’m not going to expand on those ideas beyond that one paragraph as far as what the Diana/Clark “shippers” think, but I believe it misses the fundamental point of what Lois Lane is all about, and in so doing diminishes both Clark and Lois. This piece in my blog isn’t about this topic - it’s about the positivity of Lois, the power of her words and the way she inspires the reader through her actions of inspiring the people of Metropolis and the world in which she lives.
She is the connection for Clark to the side of him that tries to hold on to his humanity, and I believe that this is what writers like Scott Lobdell and others who’ve professed disinterest in Lois’ relationship with Clark can’t see about the character, perhaps because they don’t understand those kinds of human connections, perhaps because they’ve spent too much time in the world of tooth-grinding vigilantes and buxom placeholders instead of characters. Perhaps they lack anyone special in their lives to give them that sense of humanity. Perhaps they simply don’t value those kinds of connections.
To me, Lois represents the connection of the audience to Clark, stands as our surrogate in the world of his amazing exploits. By virtue of her humanity, she gives the audience a vision of how people are awed by Superman, but also of how fundamental Clark’s humanity is even in the most unrealistic of situations. When Clark connects on an emotional level to Lois, he’s showing us that he’s doing things for the same reasons as Lois - human virtues like truth and justice and the American Way at their best.
It is Lois’ humanity, therefore, that works as both a connection and a contrast to the grandeur of Kal-El and the deep-rooted humanity of Clark Kent. Since Clark and Kal are the same person, it’s no surprise that Lois loves them both, and in an unspoken fashion knows they’re one person, has always known - because of the bond they share in that fundamental nature of their humanity. A goddess born of clay may share those values, but it is Lois’ lack of superpowers and extreme virtue and courage that tells us who Clark is, who we are to Clark, and who we can be. Staring up at two constellations wrapped together is fine for a brief flicker of a moment, but the narrative is ultimately static. Gods and Goddesses of the ancient mythologies interacted with each other, yes, but the most compelling and long-lasting stories focused on what happens when gods walk among humans, because we are human, and we find most compelling in our hearts stories that connect with us on a fundamentally human level, on an intimate level.
And I, for one, believe that the human experience can be both grandiose and simple all at once, vast and intimate, loud and quiet all at the same time.
I learned all of that that from finding heroes who were, at their core, human, like me.
I learned that from Lois Lane.
I love that you came to Lois and Superman through a separate history from a lot of people! I am along those lines (somewhat) as well. Although I have never seen The Adventures of Superman, (something that has been on my list to rectify at some point) I distinctly remember reading comics from the 80s and 90s that ended up in a cardboard box at my grandma’s summer cabin. They did not come from a typical source (an obvious comic book fan that was related to me), however. My great-uncle worked at a printing facility that produced them up until the mid-90s when he retired.