Archive for the ‘Investigating Lois Lane’ Category

Joye Murchison Kelly and Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk to be Honoured with Bill Finger Award

June 14, 2018

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This is very, very cool. Two of the most important women in the early history of Wonder Woman are going to receive the Bill Finger Award at San Diego Comic-Con this summer. Joye Murchison Kelly was a ghost writer for William Moulton Marston in the early 1940s, while Dorothy Roubicek Woolfolk was an assistant editor on the original Wonder Woman comics and later returned to DC for a fascinating run editing Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. Heidi MacDonald has a full report at The Beat, and you can read more on the official Comic-Con page.

The Bill Finger Awards honour comic book creators who have not received proper credit for their work and contributions to the industry. Bill Finger was famously screwed over by Bob Kane and DC. He did most of the work creating Batman, but Kane took all the credit. The awards were created by Finger’s friend Jerry Robinson in 2005, and 28 creators have won it since. Kelly and Woolfolk are the first women to do so.

I’ve written about both of these women in my books Wonder Woman Unbound and Investigating Lois Lane, and I’m absolutely delighted that they’re sharing this award. Both women are compelling and important figures in the history of the genre, and their work has been overlooked for decades.

In Kelly’s case, it’s because she was never credited. Marston hired her as a writing assistant in 1944, and she was soon writing full issues by herself as Marston’s health began to fail. Everything was still credited to “Charles Moulton,” Marston’s penname, in the comics, and Kelly’s contributions were long forgotten until DC’s Wonder Woman Archives line gave her due credit many decades later.

Kelly wrote several classic Wonder Woman stories featuring some of her most well known villains, including Dr. Psycho, the Cheetah, Dr. Poison, and more. She also continued Marston’s themes of female strength and power extremely faithfully, including Marston’s preoccupation with bondage imagery (it was a metaphor, but it had its limits). Perhaps most notably, Kelly coined Wonder Woman’s famous catchphrase “Suffering Sappho!” It had ancient Greek roots, of course, but was also a subtle nod to what the Amazons were actually getting up to on Paradise Island.

Woolfolk was an assistant editor on Kelly’s comics back when she was just Dorothy Roubicek. She worked for All-American publisher Max Gaines and was the first female editor at DC Comics, making sure that all the books came out on time. And when critics objected to Marston’s bondage fixation, Woolfolk was tasked with coming up with ways to tone things down. Marston didn’t listen to any of them, but it speaks to Gaines’ high opinion of her that she was his go-to gal on matters concerning his bestselling comic.

(Some sources suggest that Woolfolk wrote a few early Wonder Woman stories, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She’s not credited as a writer in any of the Archives collections, which are painstakingly thorough).

Woolfolk worked for other publishers for a while, then married writer Bill Woolfolk and took a break from publishing when she had her kids. She returned to DC in the early 1970s as a full editor and revitalized the publisher’s romance line with fresh, relevant stories. Because of her success there, she was given control over Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, and she brought the same modern, feminist sensibility to everyone’s favourite reporter. In her first issue, Lois dumped Superman and quit her job at the Daily Planet because she was sick of men telling her what to do. This feminist revolution was short-lived, though. The men in DC’s offices didn’t take kindly to having a woman around, and Woolfolk was unceremoniously ousted a few months later. You can read more about that in an excerpt from Investigating Lois Lane over at The Atlantic.

Both women are absolutely fascinating figures in comic book history, and this award is very much deserved. Kelly is 90 years old now, and will be in San Diego to accept the award. Woolfolk passed away in 2000, but her daughter will be there to accept the award on her behalf. This recognition is long overdue, but I’m so happy it’s here. Wonder Woman wouldn’t be the same without Kelly or Woolfolk, and I hope the award encourages fans and comic book historians alike to dig into their great work.

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Remembering Margot Kidder, A Remarkable Lois Lane and a Remarkable Woman

May 14, 2018

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Margot Kidder was a spectacular Lois Lane.

On the surface, it seems like a pretty straight forward role. Ace reporter, Superman’s girlfriend. Easy enough. But it’s a deceptively tricky part. There’s a difficult balance to it that’s so essential to the character. A good Lois needs to be a take charge, courageous reporter, brash and almost a little bit foolhardy in her dedication to tracking down scoops and uncovering truth. But she also needs to have a softer side, one that comes out when she’s with Superman and she lets down her guard. Lean too far in either direction, and the character doesn’t feel quite right. But capture both, and you’ve got magic.

Kidder played both sides of the character seamlessly, and established the quintessential Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie. Her introduction is perfection: She storms into Perry White’s office, ignores new hire Clark Kent entirely, and pitches a series of articles about a string of senseless killings that are plaguing Metropolis. Kidder’s chemistry with Christopher Reeve is palpable from the start, even when he’s the bumbling Clark Kent. And it soars when he’s Superman. Her reaction to the dramatic helicopter rescue is a dang delight:

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And her first interview with him is absolutely brilliant. Kidder captures the balance of the character so well. She’s thorough and relentless in her questioning, but charmingly flirtatious all the while. The entire conversation is tough yet sweet, and also slyly dirty. Watching Kidder and Reeve together is an absolute joy. It’s well crafted scene, but Kidder takes the strong script and elevates it further into something truly special.

When Superman: The Movie came out in the late 1970s, Lois Lane wasn’t in the best spot. The fearless reporter of the 1940s had given way to a lovesick, constantly put upon girlfriend in the 1950s, and this stayed the norm for several decades. The 1950s Adventures of Superman television show followed a similar pattern, with Phyllis Coates playing an enjoyably tough Lois in the show’s first season before Noel Neill took over from the second season on with a softer, more acquiescent take on her. Lois did have a brief feminist revolution in the comics in the early 1970s, dumping Superman and striking out as a freelance reporter, but it didn’t last. For the rest of the decade, her career took a backseat to her primary role as a romantic interest for both Superman and Clark Kent.

Then Kidder found a way to capture it all. The bravery, the determination, the compassion, the romance. She embodied every iconic element of Lois Lane, putting them all together in a compelling, layered performance. Kidder’s take on Lois defined the character not just for that time, but potentially for all time. Every Lois we’ve seen since, on page and screen, has had a bit of Kidder to her. The more successful ones have had a lot of Kidder. The less successful ones, less so. Kidder set the standard for what Lois Lane can be.

She went on to play Lois three more times. Superman II was a bit loopier than the original, but it had plenty of great moments for Lois. Whether she was infiltrating a terrorist plot to blow up the Eiffel Tower, discovering Superman’s secret identity, or trying to punch out a Kryptonian villain, Kidder was wonderful from start to finish. The next two Superman films suffered a substantial dip in quality, though. Kidder was largely written out of the third movie after she was vocal in her disagreement with the studio’s firing of original Superman director Richard Donner. The fourth and final film was a low budget mess, but even then she made some poor material work well and her talents shone through the subpar writing.

Margot Kidder was far more than just Lois Lane, of course, and her life consisted of a fascinating and inspiring series of ups and downs. She was born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, a remote town in Northern Canada. From there she made her way south into the Canadian film and television industry, and then to Hollywood. She starred in a few notable films before landing the role of Lois Lane, but she became an overnight superstar when Superman: The Movie became one of the most successful films of all time.

She had an interesting career throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, earning critical praise for some gritty film roles and well-received stage performances. After suffering a nervous breakdown in 1996, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and became a mental health advocate in the decades that followed. She was also very involved in progressive, liberal causes, and devoted much of her later life to political and mental health activism.

Kidder passed away yesterday in her home in Montana at the age of 69. She was a remarkable woman who led a remarkable life, in so many ways. Her take on Lois Lane was a spectacular moment in pop culture history that has inspired viewers for generations now, while her activism touched and helped so many. She’ll be greatly missed.

Come See Me at C2E2 in Chicago, Artist Alley Table E7, April 6-8th!

March 19, 2018

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Last week, I told you all about my upcoming “The Many Lives of Catwoman” panel discussion with Angelica Jade Bastién, Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosberg, and Katie Schenkel at The Book Cellar in Chicago, IL, on April 5th at 7:00pm. That’s going to be all kinds of awesome. But it’s only part one of my upcoming Chicago fun! Starting the very next day, I will be at C2E2 all weekend long. Here is all the important info:

Tim Hanley @ C2E2

South Building at McCormick Place, Chicago, IL

April 6-8th

Artist Alley, Table E7

I have also built a handy map so that it’s easy to find me at the show. You can click to embiggen:

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C2E2 is a great convention, and I’m so excited to be a part of it this year. I’ll be set up in Artist Alley for all three days, with all three of my books available for purchase. I’m talking Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine, my exploration of everyone’s new favourite cinematic heroine’s fascinating origins. Everybody loves Wonder Woman now, as they should. We’ve also got Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter, and it’s a perfect time to read up on Lois what with exciting new relaunches of Action Comics and Superman just around the corner. Heck, Brian Michael Bendis is gonna be at C2E2 too! And the third in the trilogy is The Many Lives of Catwoman: The Felonious History of a Feline Fatale, an overview of the many intriguing incarnations of this beloved character. Plus she’s getting married soon! Making this a good opportunity to read up on all of the romantic hijinks that led her to this point.

All three books will be available for sale, and I’ll have some fun free goodies to give away. And I’ll be glad to sign any and all of the books for free, of course, whether you’re buying them at the show or bringing your own copies from home. You can also just come by and chat superheroes for a while if you’d like. That’s always a good time.

So yeah, if you’re coming to C2E2 you should absolutely come by my table! And if you’re in the vicinity of Chicago and you aren’t coming to the show, you should probably remedy that. It’s a great convention, with a whole host of excellent guests and vendors and such. Susan Eisenberg, the iconic voice of Wonder Woman on the Justice League cartoon, is going to be there! That’s worth the price of admission alone. I hope to see you there!

Investigating Lois Lane is a $2 Kindle Monthly Deal for September!

September 5, 2017

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Everybody loves a deal, and for the entire month of September, wow do I have a deal for you. My second book, Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter, is a Kindle Monthly Deal right now and you can get the ebook for a fraction of the usual cost. The book came out a year and a half ago, but if you missed it then, here’s your chance to check it out with some great savings:

The deal doesn’t appear to be global, but if you’re American or Canadian, you’re all set.

Investigating Lois Lane is an in depth look at the history of the character, and covers everything from her first appearance in 1938 to the present day. It also goes beyond comics to explore different incarnations of Lois in television, films, cartoons, and novels. The book is thorough but accessible, and offers a unique perspective on the world of superheroes. Lois has been a constant in the genre since it’s very inception, in all of its many forms, and tracing her history gives us a compelling vantage point to see the evolution of female characters in superhero stories over the past eight decades.

Lois is a fantastic heroine, and each era of the character is a blast in her own way. From her tenacious bravery in the 1940s to her feminist revolution in the 1970s to her status as the DC universe’s greatest journalist today, Lois is an icon of the comic book world. Outside of comics, Noel Neill, Phyllis Coates, Margot Kidder, Teri Hatcher, Dana Delany, Erica Durance, Kate Bosworth, and Amy Adams have all portrayed the character, and each brought something new and interesting to her. There’s so much to explore with Lois, and the book covers it all.

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time writing this book and while I’ve always loved Lois, digging into her past left me with an even greater appreciation for the character. I hope that you’ll check it out if you haven’t yet! For less than two bucks, you really can’t go wrong. And if you’d like a glimpse inside the book before you take the plunge, here’s an excerpt of one of my favourite chapters courtesy of The Atlantic. Get into all of the Lois Lane fun before the month is out to land this amazing deal!

You Can Buy A Page From The Comic In Which Lois Lane Fell In Love With Comet The Super-Horse!

August 30, 2016

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I don’t mean to tell you what to do with your money, gang, but here are some very important facts concerning an excellent investment opportunity:

1) In Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #92, Lois fell in love with Comet the Super-Horse.

2) You can buy a page from that comic book RIGHT NOW at Heritage Auctions.

Lois falling in love with a horse needs some explanation; in particular, it should be pointed out that Lois was a horse at the time as well. Or rather, they were both human, then both horses, and their love grew over the course of their encounters in both forms.

The full story is this: It turns out that Comet the Super-Horse, the caped flying horse who was a pal of Supergirl throughout the Silver Age, was also a human named Bill Biron. Now, back in the days of ancient Greece, Biron was a centaur who fell in love with the sorceress Circe and won her affection by saving her from the evil Maldor, a rival wizard.  Circe gave him a potion to turn him into a man, but she accidentally gave him the wrong potion and turned him into a full horse. She then gave him another potion that gave him the powers of the Olympian gods and immortality. Centuries later, he met Supergirl and became Comet the Super-Horse

You with me so far? Now, for some reason, whenever a comet passes by Earth, Comet the Super-Horse, a.k.a. Biron the former centaur, turns into a powerless human man. And when he does, he performs as the magician Bill Biron to make a few bucks. While he was in this form, he met Lois Lane and, much like with Circe, he won her affection by saving her from an assassination plot. He told her that he was really Comet, but she fell for him anyway and they ended up kissing. As Lois explained, “This is wild! Maybe he’s superhorse, but this handsome, human identity of his really turns me on.”

Lois falling in love with random dudes was pretty common in the Silver Age. She wanted Superman above all else, but he was never into settling down. So when handsome guys came along, Lois was often ready to ditch Superman to marry them. This got her into a lot of tricky situations. She almost married a weird looking alien in one issue, and nearly ended up wed to Satan himself in another. So as far as her romances went, a guy who’s also a horse wasn’t too bad.

Trouble did follow, though, as it always did with these romances. The evil wizard Maldor was still after Biron/Comet, and he ended up turning Lois into a horse! Luckily, the comet flew off into space around the same time and Comet returned to his horse form. The duo evaded horse hunters, then frolicked  together through snow and waterfalls in a romantic horse date.

In the mean time, Circe reached out to Superman through the “stream of time” to tell him that Lois was a horse, and that he could turn her back into a human by exposing her to the radiance of a rainbow. He did so, but part of the spell meant that she forgot her time as a horse, and remembered Biron only as a fun one-night date; she assumed he’d turned back into Comet the Super-horse and just moved on.

Obviously, this is a fantastic issue of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane. And now, you can own a piece of this story! Heritage Auctions has a listing for a page from the issue, pencilled by the legendary Curt Swan with inks by Mike Esposito:

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The page is from the horse hunters sequence, when Lois and Comet fight to escape them. Lois is on the page, but in horse form. And right now, it’s only $12! The price will go up as the auction goes on, and by the time it closes in five days it should be a lot higher, but you never know how these things will go. So get on it, fellow Lois Lane fans! Think of what a conversation piece this page will be when it’s framed and hung prominently in your home. You’d be a fool not to look into it. I’m certainly going to watch the auction through to the end.

 

Pennsylvania Pals, Come See Me At BookFestPA on Saturday, July 16!

July 6, 2016

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America, I’m coming back to visit you soon! I’ve been invited to BookFestPA, which is part of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College and Penn State, and I’ll be there for the full day of BookFestPA on Saturday, July 16. The theme for this year’s BookFestPA is comic books, and I’ll be there to chat about the history of superheroes. I’m really looking forward to the trip; it sounds like a great festival, and everyone involved has been wonderful to work with. I think it’s going to be a blast.

I’ll be there in the main tent, with copies of Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine and Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter for sale. I’ll also have lots of free things to give away, including bookmarks and fun Investigating Lois Lane notebooks. There will be lots of other great people in the tent, too, including comic book creators like Alitha Martinez (Batgirl) and Robert Hack (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina).

I’ll also be giving a talk in the Downsbrough Community Room at the Schlow Centre Region Library at 11am on Saturday; it’s right next to BookFestPA’s main tent. My talk is on “The History of Women in Comics,” and I’ll chat about Wonder Woman and Lois Lane, of course, as well as several other great female superheroes as I discuss the evolution of women in superhero comics over the best eight decades. The presentation is going to be jam packed with all of your favourite heroines and villainesses. I’m putting the PowerPoint together now, and it’s absolutely loaded with so many fantastic female characters. Catwoman? For sure. Supergirl? Of course. Black Widow? Yep. Ms. Marvel? We’ve got both of them. Batgirl? ALL OF THEM. Gwen Stacy? Like ten different versions. Patsy Walker? I’m going to have to force myself to stay on track so I can get to everyone else because I could talk about Patsy Walker ALL DAY. It’s going to be so much fun!

So if you’re in the ballpark of central Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 16, come say hi! You can hear me chat about awesome comic book ladies, check out books from a variety of awesome folks, and I’ll even give you free stuff. Plus there’s going to be a costume contest! You can dress up! It’s going to be a great day, and I think a good time will be had by all. Check out the BookFestPA page for more information, and I hope to see you there!

Remembering Noel Neill, The First Live Action Lois Lane

July 5, 2016

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Noel Neill passed away last Sunday at the age of 95, having lived a long and fascinating life. She wore a number of hats during her time in show business; she was a model, a singer, and an actress in both film and television, but she was best known as Lois Lane. Neill was the first live action Lois, playing the character alongside Kirk Alyn’s Man of Steel in the 1948 serial film Superman and reprising the role in its 1950 sequel, Atom Man vs. Superman. After Phyllis Coates left the Adventures of Superman television series after one season in 1952, the producers immediately reached out to the original Lois, and Neill played Lois next to George Reeves’ Superman for the next five seasons of the program until it ended in 1958.

Neill was Lois Lane during the bulk of the run of the Adventures of Superman, making her the person that an entire generation of fans associated with the character. The show was a hit in its initial run, and remained popular in syndication for a long time as well. Until Margot Kidder took over the role in Superman: The Movie in 1978, Noel Neill WAS Lois Lane.

Neill’s Lois was pleasant and kind-hearted, a stark contrast to the no nonsense brashness that Coates and later Kidder imbued in the character. Neill brought a warmth and friendliness to the role, which fit the part; the program was aimed primarily at children from its second season on, and Neill’s Lois was a good match for its fun, sometimes silly tone. She often found herself in goofy adventures alongside Jimmy Olsen, caught up in a zany plan that required Superman to come save them.

But Neill’s Lois wasn’t all damsel in distress hijinks; in one notable episode, she wrote an editorial that encouraged women to come out and vote in order to get rid of a corrupt politician, leveraging her position at the Daily Planet to try to make a difference. Moreover, she was a constant presence at the newspaper, always chasing down leads and trying to land front page scoops. She was a respected career woman at a time when most of the women on television were homemakers, serving as a role model for young girls in the 1950s and offering them an alternative future to aspire to.

After the Adventures of Superman ended, Neill remained closely associated with Lois Lane and the Superman franchise. She cameoed as Lois’ mother in an early scene in Superman: The Movie, appeared in the Superboy TV show in 1991, and had a small role in Superman Returns in 2006. Neill was also a regular presence at comic book conventions over the decades, representing the show alongside Jack Larson long after most of the original cast had passed. By all accounts, she was delightful, kind, and encouraging to everyone she encountered at conventions, and was a wonderful ambassador for Lois Lane.

I was so sad to hear about her passing yesterday, but wow, what a life. She got to be Lois Lane, TWICE, and seemed to love every minute of it. As a young girl growing up in Minnesota, her father ran a newspaper and she dreamed of being a reporter; she even wrote some articles for Women’s Wear Daily before turning to show business. Then as Lois, she got to live her dream on the big screen and the small screen, and wholeheartedly embraced her association with the character from then on. She will be remembered and missed by legions of fans, young and old.

Finally, here’s a bio of Noel Neill that first appeared in Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane #7 in February 1959. When Lois’ new series began, many of the letters from young fans asked about Neill and wanted to know more about her, so DC put together this piece for them. Fans continued to ask about her even after the article ran, so DC reprinted it a few more times throughout the 1960s:

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