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Last updated: November 6, 2001
Lois Lane is undoubtedly the most famous of the Superman supporting cast. Lois was introduced at the same time as Superman -- in Action Comics #1 -- as a feisty, strong-willed reporter who writes "sob stories" for the paper. She can't stand her co-worker Clark Kent because, as she tells him, "you're a spineless, unbearable coward!"
Lois' look, as well as her character, was based on Joanne Carter - an artist's model used by Joe Shuster. Joanne is described in Les Daniels' entertaining book, Superman: The Complete History, as having spunk, enthusiasm, determination, courage, independence and ambition. As most fans know, Joanne also became the wife of Jerry Siegel when they met again ten years later.
Lois' character and personality changed during the following years -- for the worse. She was a character (and often a caricature) driven by compulsions to wed Superman and to prove that Clark was Superman (both usually by way of trickery). Lois was a petty and shallow person for most of these stories. The personalities of most comic book characters in the Golden Age and Silver Age were story-driven. Since many of the stories had the same points told and re-told in different tales, those characteristics were reinforced over and over.
It wasn't until the later issues of her own comic, Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane, that the writers began to develop her as a passionate, intelligent, well-rounded person. As with most characterizations in the Silver Age, her portrayal wasn't always consistent and reverted to stereotype according to the whims of writers and editors, but from time to time, the original Lois shone from within.
In a classic and influential run in the original Superman series (#296-299 from 1976), writers Elliot S! Maggin and Cary Bates take the Lois/Clark relationship to a serious, and regrettably temporary, new level. An alien spy treats Clark Kent's clothes with a formula which deprives him of his powers while dressed in his regulation blue suit. It's a great story with wonderful Curt Swan pencils (inked by Bob Oksner) that has our hero try life for a week as Clark, then a week as Superman, until concluding with a battle against his nine deadliest enemies.
The most referenced part of this storyline comes in the second issue, Superman #297, when Clark Kent decides to try life as a mortal for one week. No longer having to pretend to be meek and mild, Clark trounces his antagonist, Steve Lombard and tells off his boss, Morgan Edge.
The new Clark impresses Lois who shows up at his apartment door with a bag of groceries to cook him dinner. A delicious meal of beef bourguignon is followed up by some late night couch kissing, which then cuts to the next morning with Lois singing out loud with a huge smile on her face.
While nothing more is implied in the comic, fan speculation ran rampant on the extent of Lois and Clark's rendezvous such that even today, "beef bourguignon" is Lois and Clark's playful password to each other.
Woman Of Steel
When John Byrne re-started the Superman continuity he drew much of his inspiration from the original tales by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The current incarnation of Lois Lane owes much to their Lois, and Joanne Siegel. The character is updated, so that she isn't just a 'girl reporter' stuck doing 'sob stories', but she retains the spark and spirit seen in the very first Superman stories.
We meet Lois in the first issue of the Man Of Steel miniseries when Clark rescues the space-plane, Constitution. Her first words to him: "Hold it right there, buster!!!"
Clark finds himself unable to leave -- "She's ... I don't know ... not as beautiful as a movie star, but she has ... a quality. Something I've never seen in any other woman. Almost a fire in those big, dark eyes. For just a moment it seemed as if something passed between us. A spark." The meeting is brief, as Clark flees the mob that surrounds them.
The miniseries quickly establishes Lois' character as resourceful, ambitious, uncompromising, highly principled, and attractively feminine. In one issue, she fakes an accident so that Superman will save her and allow her to get an exclusive interview. In a later issue, when Luthor brags about the expensive dress he bought for her as a present, she tells Luthor off and strips out of her dress to storm out, covered only by Clark's jacket.
Byrne provided more background on Lois in The World Of Metropolis miniseries. Lois is the focus of the second issue, which starts with her daring rescue of her sister Lucy's dog. Lois talks about her relationship with her father, Sam Lane -- "He never could get used to the idea of his firstborn being a girl. He wanted a son so badly he tried everything he could to turn me into one." When Lucy asks if Lois will ever forgive him, she replies, "He'll have to forgive himself first."
Lois and Lucy then begin reminiscing about how Lois got her job at the Daily Planet. Raised as an army brat, the brash 15-year-old marches up to Managing Editor Perry White to announce that she plans to be "the best darn reporter this paper has ever had."
She even claims to be 19, until Lucy finks on her. When Perry kicks her out, Lois' reaction is "I DON'T BELIEVE IT! Doesn't he know what a chance he's passing up on here??"
That night, Lois sneaks out of the army base where she and her family live, and heads back to Metropolis. Determined to prove her worth, she decides to get some dirt on Lex Luthor for the paper. She manages to scale the outside of Luthor's building (climbing up a statue to get to a window washer's platform) and is able to steal some papers from Luthor's desk before she gets caught.
Luthor oggles young Lois and punishes her with a stick to her behind before releasing her. As he watches her leave, he says, "There was ... something there. A fire ... I would be interested to meet up with her again in, say, ten years or so ...".
Ever resourceful, Lois still manages to sneak out a piece of paper by hiding it in her mouth. The next day, she returns to the Daily Planet. Perry, impressed with her daring, agrees to hire her.
Lois & Clark
The Man Of Steel miniseries sets up Lois' relationship with Clark Kent. After all her work to get the exclusive interview with Superman, she finds out that she has been scooped by the Planet's newest reporter. In issue #4 she reminds the "swine" that it has been "seventeen months, two weeks, four days and an odd number of hours" since he scooped her. In issue #5 she reveals that for "five years I've been dreaming of being kissed by Superman."
Lois' attitude to Clark is softening by the time the regular series begins. In Superman #1, she says, "Don't be cute Kent. You're hard enough to resist without those puppy-dog looks," but adds, "Denial builds character and I'm gonna be denying you for a loooong time."
Clark, determined to win her as himself (not as Superman), takes heart when she calls him a weasel because, "I consider that up a step up from swine."
One of the frustrations of watching Lois' relationship with Clark is that it often falls into the background as a sub-plot -- with most of the issue being taken up by the 'fight of the week' syndrome. Lois dates Jose Delgado (Gangbuster), among others, while Clark spends time with Cat Grant and flirts with Wonder Woman. For examples of these stories, the trade paperback collection, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, has a collection of entertaining and important stories tied together by the subplot focus on Lois and her relationship with Superman and Clark.
Slowly, Lois and Clark acknowledge their feelings toward each other and begin a more serious relationship. In Adventures of Superman #466 (the issue that introduced Hank Henshaw - later the Cyborg Superman - and his Fantastic Four type origin), Clark decides the time has come to get serious about his feelings toward Lois.
He tells her, "Maybe you want this relationship to proceed at its own pace, Lois. But I think life is too short to sit and wait. Sometimes you have to push life - take chances. And if you fail - at least you can say you tried." When Lois asks, "Chances? Like what?", Clark lets her know with a long, deep, passionate kiss.