CBS’s new Supergirl show is set to debut this fall, and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s already got several comic book stalwarts in the main cast, including Jimmy Olsen, Cat Grant, and Hank Henshaw, and now they’ve added another one with the addition of Jenna Dewan-Tatum as Lucy Lane, Lois’ younger sister.
Lucy is probably best known for her Silver Age exploits as Jimmy Olsen’s fickle girlfriend in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. She was kind of the worst, always jerking that poor boy around. It sounds like the show is going to pick up on that romantic angle and have Lucy be Jimmy’s ex-girlfriend, in Metropolis to right an old wrong.
But the Lucy Lane I’d really like to see is the one from the mid-1990s. Throughout the decade, Lucy had a running storyline through all of the Super-books. She dated Jimmy for a bit, then dated Daily Planet reporter Ron Troupe, got pregnant, and married him. Her best storyline came between these two relationships, when Lucy got involved in the riot grrrl movement. Riot grrrls came out of the underground punk scene, and they dealt with feminist issues through art, zines, and music, including notable bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. They were brash and direct, speaking their minds on issues ranging from sexuality to rape to politics.
The riot grrrls of Metropolis were somewhat less hardcore, what with them appearing in a comic book for kids and all. Nonetheless, they tackled the issues of sexism in superhero narratives from their very first appearance. Here’s a scene from their debut in Adventures of Superman #515 from August 1994, where Lucy stumbled upon them salvaging some instruments from a music store that was razed by an attack from Lex Luthor:
These gals didn’t give a hoot about Superman because they knew full well the limiting roles that getting wrapped up with a male superhero entailed. Instead, they preferred to do their own thing, in this case starting a band literally called the Riot Grrrls. Their confidence in their future success despite none of them knowing how to play any instruments was reminiscent of Bratmobile, who talked up their band in their zines before any of them ever picked up an instrument.
Lucy hung out with the Riot Grrrls for a year or so across sporadic appearances. They often critiqued the sexism of their superhero world, and Lucy’s time with them marked a real turning point for the character. She moved beyond Jimmy Olsen, who never treated her well, and became a voice for more grounded storylines. Lois was always busy with Superman and his superhero adventures, so Lucy became a sort of woman on the street, dealing with real issues like interracial dating, poverty, and unexpected pregnancy.
It didn’t last, of course. Lucy disappeared after the Super-books became a cycle of crossover events starting in the 2000s, and then came back as Superwoman a decade later only to be killed (sort of) in the “World of New Krypton” event before the whole universe got rebooted.
I’m hoping that we get more of the riot grrrl, relevant Lucy instead of another superhero or a fickle ex-girlfriend. Lucy’s been depicted in a variety of ways over the years, and her riot grrrl incarnation is probably the least well known, but I think it’s the most interesting by far. Greg Berlanti, the producer of Supergirl, has done a good job in general with his other superhero shows, including Arrow and The Flash, but when it comes to female characters their roles have often been what the Riot Grrrls critiqued in their first appearance: cheerleader, girlfriend, or victim. Here’s hoping that on a show with a female lead, the women in the supporting cast will have more to do, and that Lucy can be an interesting, relevant character.