It's Valentine's Day, and with Superman & Lois set to premiere in the weeks to come, it seems like the perfect time to explore the love of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, the premiere super-couple in comics, and how they went from the kind of contentious, sometimes downright confrontational relationship depicted in many adaptations into the happily-married couple raising a family in rural Kansas that audiences will meet later this month when Tyler Hoechlin and Bitsie Tulloch headline a new show featuring their Arrowverse versions of the Man of Steel and the world's most famous investigative reporter, as they navigate a new chapter of their lives.
Lois Lane, as Tulloch likes to remind people in interviews, debuted in Action Comics #1, right alongside Superman, meaning that she not only has been part of the character's mythology from the beginning, but actually has been around for longer than just about any character currently published by DC or Marvel. The relationship, though, has changed a lot over the years.
So let's take a little ride through the history of Superman, Lois, and Superman & Lois, so we can get a sense for how we ended up in a place where in both the comics and on TV, Superman and Lois Lane are being depicted as middle-aged parents.
Let us know in the comments below (or hit us up on Twitter) which version you like best.
Action Comics #1
Of course, the first issue would set the standard for a good long while. In Action Comics #1, Lois was depicted as something of a catch and Clark kind of a nebbish; he asked her out, and she said yes but made it clear she was throwing him a bone, and on the date itself, she wasn't much interested in him.
She also got her reporter credentials in this issue, and got herself rescued for the first time, establishing the "damsel-in-distress" aspect of her character that would pervade popular culture outside of the comic book reading niche for years. The difference between this and what a lot of people would come to perceive as "traditional" Lois in later years is that she gets in trouble here, not for simply wandering into a bad situation, but by diving after bad situations head first to get a story.prevnext
Outside of the "damsel in distress" element, probably the defining depiction of Lois in the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths era came in Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane, a comic that centered on the love triangle between Clark (who's in love with Lois), Lois (who's in love with Superman), and Superman (whose primary focus in the book seemed to be to keep his identity a secret).
Lois's role as a reporter here seemed to be primarily focused on trying to investigate Superman, to learn his identity. Depending on the story, she might suspect that he's secretly Clark and want to prove it, but as often as not, it was just "I have a crush on Superman, so I want to find out who he is at home."
There were also elements of a few other stories that came up often: her competition with other women for Superman's attention (especially his high school crush Lana Lang), and periodic stories where Lois would get super-powers, thinking that if she had powers, she would be a better match for Superman.
The rivalry depicted between Lois and Clark was pretty one-sided, here. As in Action Comics #1, Lois was depicted as clearly out of Clark's league, since so much of Clark's personality at the time was pretending to be a clumsy oaf so as to throw suspicion off of anybody who might notice his physical similarities to the Man of Steel.prevnext
The Post-Crisis Era
Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, Superman and Lois got a reboot in a couple of different ways. When John Byrne's The Man of Steel reinvented Superman's world, Clark was no longer depicted as a clumsy buffoon, but a former high school athlete and popular kid, who only got powers in his late teens and was never Superboy.
Byrne's Lois could be rough aroudn the edges, but she was tough and smart. Clark used his dual identity to land a job at the Daily Planet by interviewing Superman, and Lois for years resented his ability to land that interview before she did. It fueled her competitive streak, but in this version, she viewed Clark -- who himself was depicted as an accomplished reporter -- as a genuine competitor rather than a putz. Her pejorative "farm boy" and "Smallville" jokes became part of her taking him down a peg, rather than her genuine opinion of him.
This depiction turned into a more genuine romantic relationship for Lois and Clark, with little in the way of a love triangle. Lois at first expressed some affection for Superman, and the writers introduced the character of Cat Grant as a potential love interest for Superman, but nothing really came of those, and for the first few years of the post-Crisis era, Clark and Lois ended up in a pretty healthy relationship, cruising toward engagement.
"The seeds of our interpretation of Lois -- and our interpretation of Lois really isn't that unusual; that's how Siegel and Shuster conceived her originally," longtime Superman: The Man of Steel artist Jon Bogdanove told me. "The little pillbox-wearing ditz, who's always bumbling into trouble and whose main focus is trying to figure out Superman's secret identity -- that was a fabrication of the 1950s and is not inherent to the character. When Superman first meets Lois, she's a bundle of trouble. She's a highly liberated woman, certainly for the late '30s, who gets into trouble because she's doing her job. She's an investigative reporter, and she's an investigative reporter who won't be relegated to the woman's point of view stuff. Lois is a feminist in the catastrophically-unwoke 1930s, who wants ot be a real reporter, not just write sob stories like she would normally be relegated to, so she's a character who goes to unheard-of extremes to get the story. That's the essence of Lois; she's a regular person who puts hersel fin superhuman situations, and got away with it for a really long time before she got so far in over her head that she need to be rescued. But it didn't stop her, and there was always the implication in what we did that while Clark was doing his thing and Superman was saving the world, Lois was always doing way more than just reporting on Superman. She had other stories going on about political corruption or about war or whatever, and she's really an active character"prevnext
Lois & Clark
The stories of the post-Crisis era -- and especially their depiction of Lois, and the relationship between Clark and Lois -- became a big part of the premise for the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Conceived as a reinvention of the George Reeves series The Adventures of Superman, which gave some screen time to costumed adventures and some to newsroom antics and the relationships Clark had with his peers at work, the series took on a kind of Moonlighting vibe, with Clark and Lois starting out as competitiors at work and developing into lovers over the course of the series.
One of the most notable aspects of the series, besides bringing a more modern relationship between Lois and Clark to the screen and making it clear that Lois wasn't just a damsel in distress anymore, was an accidental shift that Lois & Clark caused to the relationship in the comics.
The original plan was for Clark Kent and Lois Lane -- who had been engaged in the comics for about a year, during which time Clark had revealed his secret identity to her -- to be married in late 1992 or early 1993. That's the plan that was hatched at one of the annual "super-summits," a story-planning meeting that would allow what at that point was four creative teams pumping out a weekly Superman series to lay out their interconnected story for the coming year.
But Lois & Clark wasn't ready to marry the characters yet and, like when the Spider-Man comic books and comic strips did it, those in charge wanted to sync up the two weddings to tie into one another and create a multimedia "event."
That meant pushing Superman and Lois's wedding down the line -- and it also meant the comics desperately needed to figure out what they could use to propel the story forward during that period of time. Ultimately, they landed on an idea that would become a goldmine for DC: they would kill Superman.prevnext
The Wedding and Beyond
After Superman died and returned, there was a period of time where the comics were always looking for "the next 'Death of Superman,'" since their hole-filling idea turned out to be a massive success that reshaped the face of the industry.
That meant more time spent on big, bombastic superhero storytelling and somewhat less on the character-driven stuff and romance. It was still more prevalent in that era than it is in most comics today, but nothing like what it had been from 1986 until 1993.
Eventually, the pair broke up briefly. The comics flirted with the idea of having Lois hook up with a character brought in to stir up trouble, but it never really landed with the audience, and most of the creators behind the books had no interest. What they wanted, and eventually got, was a wedding. In a 1996 one-shot that featured contributions from nearly every significant Superman creator still living (and some who had since passed away), Superman: The Wedding Album put the two together, paying off a decade of post-Crisis romance.
After the wedding, there would be the kind of "married people problems" you usually see in fiction -- they would have little flare-ups of misunderstanding, and given that many creators disliked the idea of the pair being married at all, that would often lead to speculation that they could be somehow split up. It never happened, though, and Superman and Lois remained together from 1996 until 2011, when DC found a way to break them up without a divorce or a death: reboot the universe.prevnext
Flashpoint and The New 52
The point of 2011's Flashpoint event wasn't just to un-marry Superman and Lois, but to jettison 25 years of post-Crisis continuity and freshen up the line. Editorial wanted the heroes to be younger, to have less encumbrance of backstory, and generally to feel more like their TV and film counterparts.
Lois and Clark were not only no longer married, but weren't dating, with Lois getting a new beau and Clark getting an unrequited crush on her. The status quo led to Superman and Wonder Woman dating -- something that the post-Crisis Superman comics had flirted with but ultimately rejected, based on the logic that Clark is the 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 alien and alienated, and less like an everyday kid from Kansas, was a big part of some of the stories. It made sense to explore Wonder Woman, and to have him out of the comfort zone of a relationship with Lois. His parents were also dead in that timeline, which meant that without Lois or the Kents, he really had nobody to just...talk to.
The breakup was editorially mandated, but the characters eventually started to drift closer, culminating when Lois discovered that Clark was Superman, and then outed him to the world in order to save him from a supervillain. It was the culmination of Lois getting the story that her Silver Age self always wanted, but it came at a cost. And things wouldn't be normal again, really, until the New 52 era ended.prevnext
Convergence and Rebirth
The first sign of what was to come came in the form of Convergence, a crossover story in which various Earths from DC's storytelling past all turned out to have been somewhat preserved when they apparently blinked out of existence during stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour: A Crisis in Time, or Flashpoint.
Captured on a planet run by Brainiac and placed under domes that nullified the heroes' powers, one of the worlds stuck on Tellos was a post-Crisis world, where Superman and Lois were married -- but living together, and with no powers for Clark, had found time to get pregnant.
Convergence, then, introduced the idea that the post-Crisis Superman and Lois still existed, and brought us Jonathan Kent, Superman's son and the future Superboy. At the end of the story, though, it appeared as though all the Convergence refugees had been sent back to re-established versions of their own realities.
Meanwhile, the New 52 Superman came up against some powerful foes and, in a riff on the classic "Sandman Saga" storyline, found himself killed in a way that seemed much more final than the post-Crisis version's throwdown with Doomsday. So...what now?
Turns out, when the universe needs a Superman, the multiverse provides. Turns out, the post-Crisis Superman (and Lois, and Jon) had been there the whole time.prevnext
Superman: Lois and Clark
In Superman: Lois and Clark, fans learned that the older, wiser, married Superman had been there for a decade, watching the world develop aroudn them and quietly helping out in the background, wearing a more subtle and less flashy costume, as well as a beard. He, Lois, and Jon lived under assumed names on a farm, mirroring Clark's own upbringing and keeping Jon in the dark about the true nature of his parentage as long as possible.
That's something that appears to be mirrored in the upcoming Superman & Lois show.
After the death of the New 52 Superman, DC went through a number of editorial twists and turns to get rid of the New 52 Lois, and the end result? We're back to where we were in 2010. Superman and Lois are happily married -- albeit this time with a son -- and there seems to be no stopping comics' best couple.prev