I’m not a big Lois Lane fan. I never was. Try for the life of me, I could never see what attracted Superman to her. Oh, sure, every once in a while would come a story in which she was a true and helpful friend to the Man of Steel. But far more often than not, she was a genuine pain.

She snooped. She pried. She violated others’ privacy. And I’m not talking about in her professional rôle as a reporter. These things she did to dig into the personal secrets of her friends and co-workers. She was vain, overconfident, insanely jealous, superficial, and manipulating. And I haven’t even gotten to the really bad stuff, yet.

She claimed to be in love with Superman, yet what did she spend at least half of her waking hours doing? Attempting to ferret out his secret identity---his most private, most closely guarded secret. Something which, were it revealed, would completely upend his life. And unlike Perry White or Jimmy Olsen, either of whom could be reasonably trusted to keep the Man of Steel’s civilian identity to himself, Lois was sure to blab it---that is, if she didn’t have the Daily Planet run it as a 72-point-type headline.

The other half of her time was devoted to getting Superman to the altar, by hook or by crook. She cajoled, bargained, plotted, and extorted, all to try and get a proposal from the Man of Steel. She dated dozens of fine fellows whom most women would give up a kidney to have on their arms. But for Lois, they were merely props to make Superman jealous, and they were dumped as fast as yesterday’s garbage as soon as she saw that her scheme wasn’t working. Sometimes she got so desperate that she even married some of these beaux of convenience. She had no trouble walking down the aisle if it, somehow, got her an inch closer to snagging the Metropolis Marvel. Lois had more annulled marriages than I have socks in my dresser drawer.

Inevitably, Superman would thwart Lois’ identity snooping or matrimonial finagling. And she would respond with a slow burn or a stamp of her foot and promise to never ever do it, again. Rarely did her promise last longer than the next issue.

“Oh, come on, commander! Lois had her unpleasant moments, but she wasn’t that bad! You’re exaggerating.”

Not by a gnat’s eyelash I am. Exhibit A for the prosecution: “Superman and Batman’s Joke on Lois Lane”, from Lois Lane # 59 (Aug., 1965). I chose this story because it has gained a minor reputation for showing not Lois, but Superman, in a bad light. Comics bloggers love to pull this one out as an example of how much of a jerk the Man of Steel was back in the Silver Age. What a rotten trick, they say, he and his bat-buddy pulled on poor Lois.

But, friends, I tell you---she had it coming.

“Superman and Batman’s Joke on Lois Lane” opens with Lois taking a dive into Metropolis Park Lake after receiving a tip that the loot from a bank robbery has been stashed on the bottom. Just as she finds the water-tight box containing the stolen money, she suffers a severe cramp.

Now, I’m no Dane Dorrance, but it seems to me that if you’re diving and wearing the proper scuba gear, as Lois is, then a cramp is no big deal. You can still breathe---that’s what the big honking oxygen tank is for---so all you have to do is wait for the pain to subside. True, the panel depicts the mouthpiece slipping loose from her teeth. But instead of calmly grabbing it and putting it back in her mouth, the “intrepid” girl reporter panics. Just as she is about to pass out, she sees Superman swooping down to her rescue.

What we readers quickly discover is that Lois’ rescuer is not Superman. It’s his old pal, the Batman, disguised as the Man of Steel. The real Superman is away from Earth, on one of those vague “space missions” he goes on whenever it’s convenient to the plot to have him out of the way.

Before he left, Superman asked the Masked Manhunter to take his place and keep an eye on Lois, expecting something just like this to happen. To aid the Batman’s impersonation, the Man of Steel gave him an anti-gravity belt. Batman uses this to whoosh into the lake and haul Lois out of the drink.

“She’s unconscious from shock! But she hasn’t swallowed any water!” figures Batman. “I’m sure she’ll be all right soon!” So he dumps her on the shore and ducks behind a near-by bush. There, he removes his Superman make-up and changes back to Bruce Wayne. From his thoughts, we learn that Wayne is not nearly as taken with Lois as his invulnerable super-chum is.

“She’s a cute girl, but I’m glad she doesn’t stay up nights scheming to trick me into marriage!”

As Bruce drives off in his car, he has no way of knowing that he’s jinxed himself. You see, Lois revived while he was removing his Superman mask and buttoning his shirt over that big red “S”. Once Wayne is gone, Lois picks herself up out of the dirt where she was playing possum.

“I can’t believe it! Bruce Wayne is Superman!” gasps the conclusion-jumping newshen. “Lois, you lucky girl, you’ve just stumbled onto a bit of information that’ll change you from Lois Lane into . . . Mrs. Lois Superman!” The look on her face is maniacal enough to make the Joker take a few steps back.

That night, in her apartment, Lois plots. If she can’t entice Superman into proposing directly, she’ll catch him off-guard by seducing him in his Bruce Wayne identity. He won’t suspect a thing, and during their honeymoon, when he reveals his identity to her, she’ll pretend to be surprised. She practically sits in front of her vanity mirror and practices wide-eyed looks of amazement.

The next day, she puts her plan into action. Lois arrives at Wayne Manor and introduces herself to Bruce. She tells him that she is writing an article on his many philanthropic activities. This would, of course, require several interviews. Since it would be a convenient way for him to keep an eye on Lois, as he promised Superman, Bruce agrees. And to keep close to her after working hours, he turns on the playboy charm and schmoozes her into a dinner date. Lois, naturally, views it as the other way ‘round---that Bruce is falling for her wiles.

During their time together, a number of events occur, situations which, in typical Weisingerian fashion, get misinterpreted. When Wayne finds a diamond that accidentally fell into his pocket (long story), Lois is certain that he used “his” super-strength to make it from a lump taken from a near-by pile of coal. Other such misreadings the lady reporter takes as evidence of Bruce’s X-ray vision and invulnerability. Lois is secretly oh-so-smug at spotting this “proof” that the millionaire socialite is really Superman.

Lois ratchets up the charm. She laughs at Bruce’s jokes. She oohs and ahhs over his sophistication. She gushes over how manly he is. It’s O.K. with Wayne; as long as she stays with him, he won’t have to worry about her getting into a jam someplace else. But as far as Lois is concerned, she has him wrapped around her little finger.

Late that night, after Lois returns to Metropolis, Wayne tracks down a thieves’ hideout. On a lark, he goes into action masquerading as Superman, flying in from the skylight, and is amused when the crooks immediately throw down their guns and surrender.

In her apartment, Lois gloats over her cleverness. She can’t keep from boasting to her sister, Lucy. “By marrying Bruce Wayne, I’ll be Mrs. Superman!” she says triumphantly.

You folks caught that, right? Now, we all know that Superman is Clark Kent, not Bruce Wayne. But Lois genuinely believes that Wayne is the Man of Steel, the guy she supposedly loves. His deepest, most valuable secret, and does Lois keep it to herself? Does she protect the privacy of the man she loves? No. She has that information for less than two days and she blabs it to her sister. It wasn’t tricked out of her. She wasn’t coërced into revealing it. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue. She freely told it to Lucy while bragging on how her sneaky, underhanded ploy was working.

O.K, if you’ve followed me so far, then you see that Lois Lane has proven herself to be a conniving, manipulative, self-serving, betraying little sneak. Superman would be better off having Dracula’s daughter as a girl friend.

Since we are up to page eight of a nine-page story, it’s time for a dramatic turn, and it’s not a good one for Lois. Superman---the genuine article---returns from his space mission and checks on Lois with his super-vision, right at the time when the scheming little minx is spilling it all to Lucy. With his super-hearing, the Man of Steel learns the whole tale. He is not amused.

The next morning sees Lois receiving candy and roses from Bruce Wayne. While she is still reeling from this bum’s rush of romantic gestures, the millionaire himself arrives at her doorstep.

“I haven’t been able to get you out of my thoughts!” he says. “I realize . . . I love you! Please say you’ll marry me, Lois!”

Lois can’t say “yes!” fast enough, while mentally congratulating herself on how swiftly she was able to enamour the wealthy playboy into a proposal.

The next scene takes place “presently, on Lois’ wedding day.” In the chapel, a morning-frocked Bruce Wayne waits at the altar as Lois is walked down the nave by her father. (Poor Sam Lane must have gone bankrupt paying for all of his daughter’s weddings.) Then, the nuptials are interrupted by the late arrival of---Superman!

“He’s going to be my best man,” Bruce announces.

This is a big “hold everything!” for the dumbfounded bride-to-be. She drags Bruce into an anteroom and demands an explanation. An explanation for what, he responds. Then Lois admits to her whole scheme, revealing what she saw and how she was sure that Bruce was Superman.

Oh, that, replies Bruce. Then he tells her how it was all a stunt. In exchange for a fifty-thousand-dollar donation to charity, Superman allowed the socialite to play “Superman-for-a-Week”. The Man of Steel provided him with the disguise, the costume, and the anti-gravity belt to pull it off.

That’s when Lois shows the stuff that she’s truly made of.

“I can’t marry you if you aren’t Superman,” she tells Bruce flatly.

Wayne makes a display of being crushed. It’s sincere enough to reduce Lois to tears. She feels guilty---but not guilty enough to go through with the wedding.

Later, at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Superman enjoy a hearty laugh. When the Metropolis Marvel informed him of Lois’ subterfuge, they concocted a plan to hoist Lois on her own petard. By luring her into marrying Bruce, and having Superman show up at the ceremony, Lois’ perfidy was revealed, in front of her family and friends, at her own wedding.

“Lois will never know she almost married . . . Batman!” says the Man of Steel.

Yeah, well, better you than me, pal, Bruce is probably thinking.

I’ve never understood why many reviewers see Superman and Batman as the “bad guys” of this tale. To me, it’s impossible to feel the least bit sorry for Lois.

Not once in the story did she exhibit a positive quality.

Once she reasonably believed she had learnt Superman’s secret identity, she promptly reveals it to someone else. Moreover, she doesn’t use her newfound information to help Superman (as Pete Ross, who discovered the Man of Steel’s correct identity, had done when they were boys) or at least, decide not to impede him with it. Instead, she uses it to lay a snare to get a ring on his finger.

Nor does she once consider the consequences of exploiting Bruce’s feelings, if she is wrong. Instead, she dumps him, once she discovers that he isn’t Superman.

At Wayne Manor, Lois is left alone when Bruce excuses himself to take a telephone call, and she uses the opportunity to snoop through the mansion, looking for further evidence that he is Superman. A clear betrayal of his trust and courtesy.

Even her feelings of guilt over toying with his emotions, once Lois learns that Bruce isn’t Superman, seem insincere. She’s like the thief who isn’t sorry that he stole, but he’s very, very sorry that he’s been caught.

She set herself up for her wedding-day humiliation, and frankly, she got what was coming to her.

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Comment by The Baron on July 25, 2014 at 8:19am

What a conniving, superficial, conniving shrew she was!


Wow, Skipper, she was double conniving!

Comment by Commander Benson on July 25, 2014 at 5:54am

"This leads me to wonder why he gave Jimmy a signal watch but not Lois?" 

Ah, but he did, Mr. Willis, 'way back in "Lois Lane's Signal-Watch", from Lois Lane # 16 (Apr., 1960).

As was common, Lois doesn't acquit herself very well in this tale.  It begins with her complaining to Superman that he gave Jimmy Olsen a signal-watch, but not her.  (Her rationale being that she gets into as much trouble, if not more, than Jimmy.)

As it develops, it's Lois' birthday, but she's disappointed when the Man of Steel fails to show at her party that evening.  (He's there as Clark Kent and isn't able to slip away.)    After the party wraps up, Superman arrives and, to make up for being a no-show, gives Lois his birthday present to her---her own signal-watch!

Jimmy Olsen may have been a doofus most of the time, but at least he knew what a real emergency was.  Lois, on the other hand, activates her watch---bringing Superman on the fly---for the following "crises":  1. she has a nightmare; 2.  she breaks the heel of her shoe; 3.  a dog chasing a cat (she wants Superman to scare off the dog);  4.  a stuck zipper on her purse; and 5.  a stuck Lois in a revolving door.

After that last one, the Man of Steel has had it up to here.  He dresses her down for being a pest and flies off.

Two crooks see the exchange and kidnap Lois, tying her up next to a ticking bomb.  The crooks expect her to use her signal-watch to summon Superman, and while the Man of Steel's attention is diverted to rescuing her, the crooks intend to rob a bank.  Instead, Lois refuses to use the watch.  Superman catches the crooks and, by sheer fortune, manages to save Lois from the bomb, as well.

When Superman asks her why on Earth she didn't use the watch that time, when it was a real emergency---and this is the part I love; it's pure Lois Lane---she guilts him out.  She tells Superman that when he chastised her before (despite the fact it was perfectly justified) it hurt her feelings (boo-hoo!) and she was afraid that if she used the watch again, that he would be even more upset (the big brute!).

Then she takes off the signal-watch and tosses it at the Man of Steel, telling him that he can keep it.

And Superman never makes that mistake, again!

Comment by Richard Willis on July 25, 2014 at 4:30am

Patrick Curley said:

Yes, Lois was quite capable of all the negative traits you mention. But she was also resourceful, smart, fearless (sometimes excessively so)

Was she fearless because she always expected Superman to bail her out?

This leads me to wonder why he gave Jimmy a signal watch but not Lois? Was it that he would miss Jimmy more than Lois? ;-)

Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on August 21, 2010 at 10:14am
Great coverage there, Cap. I hope we'll be allowed to read your thesis when you're done with it.
Comment by Captain Comics on August 21, 2010 at 3:06am
I have just re-read the entirety of Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane for my thesis, and let me just say that the Commander isn't exaggerating in the least. What a conniving, superficial, conniving shrew she was!

And someone asked "What about Lana Lang?" Sorry, in the Silver Age she was an exact duplicate of Lois, with the two of them alternating between hair-pulling, fingernail-clawing, public cat-fights, and scheming together to do something dangerous or stupid to force Superman to pick one over the other. If taken seriously, it was really quite appalling.

Of course, it wasn't serious -- Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane (and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen) were aimed at pre-adolescents, so we can't -- or at least I can't -- really go into social-scientist mode. They were silly stories, with Lois shown to a scheming ninny and Olsen often a buffoon, because it made for better stories. (A SMART Jimmy Olsen wouldn't have lasted six issues.)

Also, I've nursed an idea for a long time that Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane was plotted at a sexless, elementary-school level because of the 1954 Comics Code. Read over that draconian document, and keep in mind that Lois Lane began in 1958, when the blood hadn't yet dried from the bullpen floor, and it makes perfect sense that Superman and Lois couldn't have a normal, adult relationship, because of the underlying hint of physical intimacy. THAT was taboo, as was anything remotely resembling courtship behavior, so is it any surprise that Superman and Lois acted more like Charlie Brown and Lucy than Tarzan and Jane? It would certainly be the safest path for an industry teetering on oblivion, with the torches and pitchforks not even cold.

Anyway, I wanted to mention that there have actually been several different Lois Lanes, some of which weren't so bad.

The Golden Age Lois, for example, was very much Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, and was often quite impressive. For example, she was on the "lovelorn" beat in her introduction, but that was dropped pretty quickly, and by 1940 was a war correspondent. She and Kent became quite a team, often referred to in the '40s as "the best reporters" in Metropolis, and then the country, and by the 1960s the world. It's easy to see how Clark would fall for this babe, even if he was literally lying awake by 1943 worried about that crazy dame who has "the best talent for getting in trouble of anyone I've ever seen!" But there were downsides, too -- in one early adventure she steals a news tip, and in another she A) pretends interest in Clark so he'll take with him on an interview with a mobster in a nightclub, then B) drugs his drink so she can do the interview solo! Naturally, it all spirals out of control and requires Super-help for her to survive. This is almost a blueprint for the Weisinger era -- but from around 1940.

There's also the post-Weisinger Lois, who grew an outsize social conscience almost overnight. She also dropped her interest in Superman's secret identity. In fact, she becomes a pretty decent person, and a really dedicated reporter -- she resigns from the Planet so she can tell stories "that need to be told!" I'm guessing that would be like pollution and political corruption and racism, among other 1970s concerns, and it was in this era that the well-meaning but ludicrous story appeared where Lois transformed into an African-American for a day and discovered to her horror how hard it was to hail a taxi. (Interestingly, and inexplicably, the title for this story was taken from a well-known porn film called I Am Curious (Yellow). The story was "I Am Curious (Black)." I guess the pun, such as it was, was just too hard to resist.) Anyway, virtually all of the negative traits we associate with the Weisinger Lois evaporated in the '70s, even though most of the usual suspects stayed on as writers (Leo Dorfman, Murray Boltinoff, etc.). Evidently the new editor (and I confess I don't know who it was) changed course radically when the big man retired in 1970. And Superman also spent less and less time in the book.

I mention this mainly because many attribute Lois' personality transplant to John Byrne in the post-Crisis 1986 revamp, but mainly what he did was give Lois some physical fighting skills, so she was tougher and needed Superman even less. But even that had been established much earlier, when Lois learned Kryptonian kung fu -- something not often mentioned, true, but it was already there when Byrne came along.

And, of course, post-Byrne she was an even more admirable character, although even more aggressive than before in her reporting. She no longer broke the law, as she often did in the Weisinger years, or played paparazzo, which she also did a jillion times in the Silver Age. But she became, as I said, much more aggressive.

And now, after Geoff Johns' Superman: Secret Origin, she's even better. Not many non-journalists I suspect would see the difference, but both Lois and Clark got more ethical in that mini-series. For example, Clark no longer gets hired at the Planet by scooping everyone on the first story on Superman, a staple in most "how Clark got his job stories" up to that point, including Byrne's. Needless to say, Clark is breaking all kinds of ethical rules by "interviewing" himself and pawning it off as hard work to his boss, and I'm glad to see Johns jettison that particular peeve. As for Lois, she does dress up to get into a Luthor press conference from which the Planet is barred, but it is for exactly the one reason the Society of Professional Journalist's Code of Ethics allows for what is called a masquerade: Because it is the only way to get information vital to the public. Lois makes it so clear in Superman: Secret Origin that this is the situation that I suspect Johns HAS read the Code of Ethics; she explains that 1) she can't get the information any other way, 2) the other reporters will regurgitate Luthor's press release, and 3) Luthor's plans are dangerous and it is vital to public safety that she find out ... wait for it ... the truth. *Sigh* Now *I* love her!
Comment by Eric L. Sofer on August 9, 2010 at 7:31am
Commander, I agree with you 100%. Superman had his share of other women whom he really loved (I still think he and Lana might have worked....) and he was ready and willing to commit to them.

He often reflected that he loved Lois... but he never acted on it. Shucks, I don't remember all that many times that they even kissed! (They might have... I just don't remember it.)

Considering all the skills and abilities that Lois had, combined with her shrewish and (unintentionally) bad impulses, and all the other men who were smitten with her (their name is Legion... no, no, not that Legion! Although, considering that at least two Legionnaires had crushes on thousand year old people... anyhow), she made some poor choices and when she had opportunities, she blew them.

Yeah, Lois Lane WAS the Witch of Metropolis - you're bang on about that.

Comment by Philip Portelli on August 6, 2010 at 12:55pm
Lori fell in love with Ronal in her second appearance. She knew in her first appearance when they met in college that it was a doomed relationship. She belonged to the sea, he belonged in the sky.

Sally and Luma had too few appearances to show all sides of themselves, good or bad. Lois was always around so her personality traits were constantly on display to all extremes, positive and negative.
Comment by Commander Benson on August 6, 2010 at 12:15pm
" Lori had a secret just like he did, she was an outsider just as he was. He was younger at the time and totally smitten but it was Lori who knew it wouldn't work. She was the girl who got away, always held as a higher standard.

"Sally Selwyn was a dream that would never come true. It was a love that hinged on a non-super Clark without the heavy burden of being Superman. She never wanted to be Mrs. Superman but she never knew Superman.

"Luma Lynai was a super-heroine from another planet who was Supergirl's twin. That's just weird, almost as weird as Kara dating her horse."

True, Superman's relationships with Lori, Sally, and Luma all had special circumstances. But that has little bearing on the point I was making.

You mentioned that one of the problems with the Silver-Age Lois was that she was undone by "any thought of romantic notions put [Superman] immediately into cruel-defense mode." My counter-point was that there were at least three occasions when the Man of Steel responded to, even welcomed, romantic notions. (And, by extension, it was only the idea of romantic notions with Lois that inspired that sense of insensitivity.)

Neither Lori or Sally, or Luma displayed the shrewish, duplicitous qualities that Lois did.

Superman loved Lori and Sally and Luma to the extent that he was willing to marry them. In fact, in the case of Lori, he was willing to relinquish his career as Superman; and for Luma, he was willing to abandon Earth. That's how much he loved them.

It didn't work out with Lori, not because she was a mermaid, or because she was an outsider, but because she fell in love with Ronal, the merman surgeon who saved her life.

It didn't work out with Luma because living on Earth was lethal to her, and she refused to let the Man of Steel abdicate his responsiblities to Earth.

It didn't work out with Sally because he was not willing to risk her death at the hands of criminals. And that is a telling point.

Sure, "Superman's wife would be the target of criminals" was the mantra we heard the Man of Steel recite over and over again as his reason for not marrying Lois Lane. But if you think about it, Lois was scarcely safer being known as Superman's girl friend. She was still a target for criminals. So, in Lois' case, the whole it's-too-much-of-a-risk-to-marry-you thing was just so much lip service. A convenient excuse to reject Lois' incessant entreaties of marriage.

But in the case of Sally Selwyn, it was a genuine concern for the Man of Steel. He wasn't willing to take the slightest chance of risking her life. That's why he never contacted her as Superman. He wanted there to be no connexion between Superman and Sally Selwyn. He couldn't even marry her as Clark Kent, since his identity is known to some of his enemies. The Phantom Zone villains, for example.

In sum, the Silver-Age Superman was certainly willing to commit to the right woman. It's just that Lois Lane wasn't the right woman.
Comment by Philip Portelli on August 6, 2010 at 11:06am
Yes but look at the situations with these other women. Lori had a secret just like he did, she was an outsider just as he was. He was younger at the time and totally smitten but it was Lori who knew it wouldn't work. She was the girl who got away, always held as a higher standard.

Sally Selwyn was a dream that would never come true. It was a love that hinged on a non-super Clark without the heavy burden of being Superman. She never wanted to be Mrs. Superman but she never knew Superman.

Luma Lynai was a super-heroine from another planet who was Supergirl's twin. That's just weird, almost as weird as Kara dating her horse.

Lois was a frustrated, impatient woman who had a goal and was determined to achieve it. Granted she usually did it the wrong way and let it overwhelm her better judgement. Lois was impulsive and sneaky. Could a marriage work under those circumstances? Doubtful but then the Wasp married her man while he was going through a mental breakdown and was proud of it!
Comment by Commander Benson on August 6, 2010 at 10:23am
"The Silver Age Lois suffered from Superman's membership into 'The He-Man's Woman-Haters Club'. Any thought of romantic notions put him immediately into cruel-defense mode."

The problem with that assessment, Philip, is that there are many stories that depict Superman smitten, or outright in love, with a woman where he doesn't lapse into "cruel-defense mode."

His feelings for Lori Lemaris, for Sally Selwyn, for Luma Lynai.

At the same time, the attitudes and behaviours of Lori, Sally, and Luma did not compel the Man of Steel to act as a disciplinarian. The Silver-Age Lois Lane was flawed goods.

Fogey, both you and Pat point out that in some stories, Lois had finer moments. You're both right, of course. The real-life reason for such a turnabout in personality was because the stories that were written were plot-driven, with little, if any, eye toward consistency in Lois' personality.

But if we somehow tried to fuse all of her disparate actions and behaviours into one personality, within the fictional conceit of the series, then Lois still comes off with too much baggage for Superman to bother with. Her good doesn't outweigh her bad.

One of the biggest myths of marriage is that "loves conquers all", i.e., if A marries B, who has a bunch of bad qualities, then B will change.

Put the story with Lois at her absolute shining best against the one showing her at her absolute worst---and "Superman and Batman's Joke on Lois Lane" is a strong contender there---and I would still say Superman should avoid her like Virus X.


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