It’s Valentine’s Day, and with the premiere of Superman and Lois in the coming weeks, it seems like the perfect time to explore the love between Lois Lane and Clark Kent, the comic book world’s first super-couple, and how they came to be in their kind of contentious, sometimes downright conflicted relationship, …represented in numerous adaptations of happily married couples raising a family in rural Kansas, which viewers will meet later this month when Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsy Tulloch open a new chapter in their lives in a new series featuring their arrow-sharp versions of the Man of Steel and the world’s most famous investigative journalist.
Lois Lane, as Tulloch likes to remind us in his interviews, debuted in Action Comics #1 right alongside Superman, meaning that not only has she been part of the character’s mythology from the beginning, but she’s actually been around longer than any other character currently published by DC or Marvel. But relationships have changed a lot over the years.
Let’s take a walk through the history of Superman and Lois and Superman and Lois to see how we ended up in a place where Superman and Lois Lane are depicted in comic books and on television as middle-aged parents.
Let us know in the comments below (or on Twitter) which version you prefer.
Comic strip Action No.
Of course, the first version would have been the norm for a long time. In Action Comics #1, Lois was depicted as a catch and Clark as something in between. He asked her out, and she said yes, but made it clear that she was throwing him a bone, and that she wasn’t really interested in him that same day.
She also earned her credentials as a reporter in this issue, and was first saved by establishing a damsel in distress aspect in her character that will permeate popular culture outside of the comic book niche for years to come. The difference between this and what many will consider traditional law in the years to come is that this is not just about getting into trouble for getting into a bad situation, but getting into bad situations headlong to get the redress.
Before the crisis
Apart from the damsel in distress element, perhaps the most striking portrait of Lois in the pre-Crisis era of Infinite Lands is that of Superman’s daughter Lois Lane, a comedy that revolves around a love triangle between Clark (who is in love with Lois), Lois (who is in love with Superman) and Superman (the book seems to focus on keeping her identity a secret).
Lois’ role as a journalist seems to focus on investigating Superman to find out his identity. Depending on the story, she may suspect he’s secretly Clark and want to prove it, but mostly I’m just in love with Superman, so I want to know who he is in my house.
Other stories often emerged: her competition with other women for Superman’s attention (especially her high school sweetheart, Lana Lang) and regular stories about Lois getting superpowers because she thinks if she has powers, she’ll be a better match for Superman.
The rivalry between Lois and Clark here was rather one-sided. As in Action Comics #1, Lois was portrayed as clearly out of Clark’s league, as much of Clark’s personality at the time was portrayed as an awkward idiot to cast suspicion on anyone who might notice her physical resemblance to the Man of Steel.
After the Infinite Lands Crisis, Superman and Lois came back in different ways. When the world of Superman was reinvented in John Byrne’s Man of Steel, Clark was portrayed not as an awkward idiot, but as a former athlete and popular guy who didn’t get his powers until he was a teenager and never became Superboy.
Lois Byrne could be tough, but she was tough and smart. Clark used his dual identity to get a job at the Daily Planet interviewing Superman, and Lois resented him for years before he did. This fanned her competitive tendencies, but in this version she saw Clark – who was himself portrayed as a veteran journalist – as a real competitor, not a coup plotter. Her snarling country boy and Smallville jokes are part of what bothered her, not her real opinion of him.
This portrait turned into a more authentic romantic relationship for Lois and Clark, with a bit of a love triangle. Lois initially expressed some affection for Superman, and the writers presented the character Cat Grant as a potential love interest for Superman, but nothing came of it, and in the early post-Crisis years Clark and Lois had a fairly healthy relationship and pursued a commitment.
The seeds of our interpretation of the laws – and our interpretation of the laws is really not that unusual; it’s the way Siegel and Schuster had originally conceived of it when Superman was alive, long ago : Artist John Bogdanov, man of steel, told me. A small model in a bunker who keeps getting into trouble and whose main task is to discover Superman’s secret identity – it was a 1950s faux pas, not a character trait. When Superman first meets Lois, she’s in big trouble. She is a very emancipated woman, probably in her late thirties, who gets into trouble for doing her job. She’s an investigative journalist, and she doesn’t want to be tied down to a woman’s point of view. Lois is a 1930s feminist who wants to be a real journalist and not just write the sentimental stories she’s usually relegated to, so she’s a character who goes to extremes to get the story. This is Lois’ nature, she’s a normal person who gets into superhuman situations and gets away with it for a long time before things get so out of hand that she has to be rescued. But that didn’t stop them, and there was always an undertone to what we were doing. While Clark was doing his thing and Superman was saving the world, Lois was doing a lot more than just protecting Superman… She has other stories about political corruption, war or whatever, and she is a very active character.
Lois and Clark
(Photo: Warner Brothers TV)
The stories of the post-crisis period – and in particular the portrait of Lois and Clark’s relationship with Lois – formed a large part of the premise of the Lois and Clark series: The New Adventures of Superman. The series was conceived as a reinvention of George Reeves’ The Adventures of Superman, which featured costumed adventures and a few on-screen jokes, as well as Clark’s relationships with his peers. The series became something of a success, with Clark and Lois starting out as rivals at work and becoming lovers over the course of the series.
One of the most notable aspects of the series, aside from the fact that it brings a more modern relationship between Lois and Clark to the screen and makes it clear that Lois is no longer just a damsel in distress, is the accidental change in the relationship between Lois and Clark in the comics.
Clark Kent and Lois Lane, who had been dating for about a year in the comic where Clark revealed his secret identity to her, were originally going to get married in late 1992 or early 1993. It’s the plan that emerged during one of the annual Supersummits, a historic gathering that would give the four creative teams shaping the weekly Superman series the opportunity to tell their cohesive story for the coming year.
But Lois and Clark weren’t ready to marry the characters yet, and like in the Spider-Man comics and graphic novels, they wanted to double down on the two marriages to tie them together and create a multimedia event.
It means Superman and Lois’ marriage is in jeopardy, and the comics desperately need to figure out what they can use to move the story forward at that point. Eventually, they embarked on an idea that would be a gold mine for Washington: They would kill Superman.
Marriage and afterwards
(Photo: DC Entertainment)
After the death and return of Superman, there was a time when comics were always looking for the next Death of Superman because their idea to fill in the gaps proved to be a huge success that changed the face of the industry.
That means we spent more time on the big superhero story and a little less on the characters and romance. It was even more prevalent then than in most comics today, but not like it was from 1986 to 1993.
Eventually, the couple separated briefly. The comic flirted with the idea of Lois teaming up with a character who was only there to cause trouble, but never really caught the public’s attention, and most book authors weren’t interested. What they wanted, and what they eventually got, was marriage. One of the images from 1996 that shows the work of almost all the great Superman creators who have lived to this point (and some who have since passed away) is Superman : The wedding album brought the two together and ended a romance that had lasted for decades after the crisis.
Once they were married, there were the kind of marital problems you usually see in fiction – there were no major outbursts of misunderstanding, and since many creators didn’t like the idea of the couple getting married at all, it often led to speculation about a possible breakup. But that never happened, and Superman and Lois stayed together from 1996 until 2011, when DC found a way to separate them without divorce or death: a reboot of the universe.
Flash point and new 52
(Photo: DC Entertainment)
The fact is that Flashpoint not only married Superman and Lois in 2011, but also dropped 25 years of post-crisis continuity and refreshed the series. The editors wanted the characters to be younger, have less background and generally be closer to their counterparts on TV and in movies.
Not only were Lois and Clark no longer married, they were no longer together, Lois had a new fiancé and Clark had an unrequited crush on her. The status quo led to the meeting between Superman and Wonder Woman, which post-war Superman comics flirted with but ultimately rejected, based on the logic that Clark is a real person and Superman is a disguise he puts on to do what he does.
In the New 52, the idea of Superman feeling more alienated and distant and less like the average young Kansas boy was a big part of some of the stories. It makes sense to explore Wonder Woman and get him out of his comfort zone with Lois. His parents were also dead in that timeline, which meant that without Lois or the Kents, he had no one to to talk to.
The separation was approved by the publishers, but the characters eventually grew closer, until Lois discovered that Clark was Superman and sent him out into the world to save him from the super-villains. It was the crowning moment for Lois to get the story she always wanted in the Silver Age, but it was worth it. And things won’t get back to normal until the New 52 era is over.
Convergence and recovery
(Photo: DC Entertainment)
The first sign of what was to come came in the form of Convergence, a crossroads in which various Lands from DC’s narrative past somehow seemed to be preserved while seeming to fade away in stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour : Time Emergency or Flashpoint.
Trapped on a planet ruled by Brainiac and placed under domes that destroyed the heroes’ powers, one of the worlds stuck on Tellos was the post-crisis period when Superman and Lois married – but while living together and without Clark’s powers, found time to get pregnant.
Convergence introduced the idea that Superman and Lois still existed after the crisis, and brought us Jonathan Kent, Superman’s son and future Superboy. By the end of the story, however, it seemed that all convergence refugees had been returned to newly created versions of their own reality.
Meanwhile, the new Superman was released from the 52nd… He faced powerful enemies in the 21st century and was killed off in a nod to the classic Sandman saga in a way that seemed far more definitive than throwing out the post-Crisis version with Doomsday. So… what now? …what now?
Turns out that when the universe needs Superman, the multiverse responds. Turns out the post-Crisis Superman (and Lois and John) was there all along.
Superman: Lois and Clark
In Superman: Lois and Clark, fans learned that the older, wiser, married Superman had been around for 10 years. He saw the world evolve, inspired it, and helped discreetly in the background by wearing a thinner, less conspicuous suit and beard. He, Lois and John lived on the farm under false names that reflected Clark’s upbringing and left John ignorant of the true nature of his paternity for as long as possible.
It seems to reflect the upcoming Superman and Lois show….
After the death of the New 52 Superman, DC went through a series of editorial twists to get rid of the New 52 Lois, and the end result? We are back where we were in 2010. Superman and Lois are happily married – but this time with a son – and it looks like the best couple in comics is unstoppable.
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