The most talked-about preview of a comic book this week has been for something that wasn’t actually intended to be a comic book and will never be published. A couple of years ago, Dean Trippe came up with an idea for a series of young adult novels: Lois Lane, Girl Reporter, about 11-year-old Lois’s adventures in investigative journalism. It’s an adorable idea, and Daniel Krall’s artwork at the link above is graceful and well-designed. Like a lot of promising proposals for books and comics, it didn’t pan out, though. So he posted it on his own blog, where it’s been attracting attention ever since.
What’s interesting about the reactions I’ve seen–both online and in talking to friends who’ve looked at Trippe’s post–is that there’s a palpable hunger in the air for some kind of Lois Lane comic book. A handful of creators have told me at one time or another that they’re dying to work on some sort of project involving her. A hyper-competent journalist who hangs out with super-powered types but isn’t one herself? Who doesn’t want to read about that?
Lois first appeared in print at the same time as Superman–in 1938’s Action Comics #1. She occasionally starred in a four-page backup feature in Superman in the mid-’40s, but it took nearly twenty years for her to become the cover star of her own comic book. In 1957, she was featured in Showcase #9 and #10, a pair of issues that set the tone for her own series. Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane, launched in 1958, involved her journalistic career much less than her relationship with her Kryptonian boyfriend. An awful lot of its stories early on involved Lois trying to discover Superman’s secret identity and/or experiencing some kind of romantic trauma involving him. Quite a few also involved the promise of marriage or the threat of one of them marrying somebody else.
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February 1964’s Lois Lane #47 was the first issue on whose cover Superman didn’t appear in costume (it depicted Clark Kent instead); there was never an issue whose cover he didn’t appear on one way or another. Right up until the end of the series, it was occupied with fantasies of morbidity and marriage and what happens when they’re combined; she never did seem to do much reporting, although she did at one point spend 24 hours as a black woman for a story. Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane sputtered out of print in 1974–its final issue, #137, appeared eight months after #136.
By then, The Superman Family had assumed the numbering of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, beginning with #164. Lois continued to appear every issue–mostly in reprints for a few years, then in new stories every issue as of 1977. The Superman Family ended in 1982, and the “Lois Lane” feature moved over to the back pages of The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl, where it stayed for the better part of a year before petering out altogether.
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In 1986, there was a two-issue Lois Lane miniseries, in which Clark Kent appeared in his civilian outfit only; twelve years later, there was a Lois Lane one-shot by Barbara Kesel and Amanda Conner, as part of an event called “Girlfrenzy!” And that’s it: there’s been one Lois Lane comic book in the past quarter-century, give or take. She was named in the title of Lois and Clark, she’s a regular on Smallville, everyone knows who she is, she had her own comic book for 15 years, and while everyone from the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents to Madame Xanadu has gotten a revival of their own in print, she hasn’t. (To be fair, this summer there’ll be a three-issue Lois Lane and the Resistance miniseries as part of DC’s “Flashpoint” event–aside from that, the point stands.)
It’s true enough that the kinds of stories that were Lois Lane’s stock-in-trade for decades–anxiety over the prospect of marriage, anxiety over whether one’s boyfriend is hiding a terrible secret–wouldn’t work for her these days. And investigative journalism doesn’t quite take the same forms it used to (it’s probably not easy to make compelling comics out of a character poring through LexisNexis for hours at a time, even if the DC Universe version of it is owned by LexCorp). Still, the core of Lois’s character, as we’ve seen it on the screen and (occasionally) on the page for the past few decades, is that she’s incredibly good at seeing the big picture and spotting hidden patterns within it. That’s a particularly admirable trait right now; it might be the reason people are itching to see stories about her, as a girl reporter or as a grown-up journalist.