Posts Tagged ‘Lois Lane’

Read My Article on Comic Book Letter Columns in Gender and the Superhero Narrative, Available Now!

October 19, 2018

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Today I got my copy of Gender and the Superhero Narrative, pictured above with a Funko of Diana Prince enjoying an ice cream cone, and I’m very excited to tell you all about this book. First off, I’m in it! That’s the main reason I’m telling you about it. I’ve written an article called “The Evolution of Female Readership: Letter Columns in Superhero Comics” and it is a DEEP dive.

I looked at over three thousand comic books for this study, and longtime readers may remember me asking for help tracking down some issues a couple of years back. Thanks to all of you (and especially thanks to Johanna Draper Carlson, KC Carlson, and their EPIC comic book collection) I got all of the letter columns I needed for this project, and the end results turned out very interesting.

I tabulated the folks who got published in letter columns at DC and Marvel by gender from their rise in the 1960s to the start of their decline in the 1990s. First, I established a baseline, with forty years of letter columns from Batman, Justice League, and Superman at DC and Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, and Fantastic Four at Marvel. These numbers alone showed some fascinating trends, including the steady decline of female readers getting letters printed in superhero books.

But that was just step one. I averaged out these numbers and then compared them to a female-led series from each decade. At DC, we had Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane in the 60s, Wonder Woman in the 70s, Supergirl in the 80s, and Catwoman in the 90s. The choices were fewer at Marvel, but we had Millie the Model in the 60s, Ms. Marvel in the 70s, Dazzler in the 80s, and a combination of Sensational She-Hulk and Silver Sable and the Wild Pack in the 90s.

Needless to say, this article’s got charts on charts, which shouldn’t surprise any of you who are familiar with my work. And there’s some compelling information therein. I won’t tell you everything I found, because you should go read this book. But here’s a fun tidbit: The average female readership for each female-led series was ALWAYS higher than the baseline average of the other titles. Every year, for forty years, across ten different series. There’s various ways to interpret that, but a key takeaway is: Girls will read comics when girls are in comics.

Anyway, it’s a jam packed article with all sorts of fun information, some great letter column quotes, and, like I said, all of the charts. It was very fun to put together, and I had a great time working with the editors Michael Goodrum, Tara Prescott, and Philip Smith. It’s an academic book and I am not an academic, but they kindly invited me to be a part of the project anyway. And now it’s published by the University Press of Mississippi, which is kind of amazing for a comics history nerd like me. I cite their great books on comics all the time in my research, so to actually be in one is very cool.

And, of course, I’m just one of several contributors (here’s a flyer for the whole works: Gender and the Superhero Narrative). If you like letter columns, my article will be your jam, but the book covers so much. It’s got pieces on Batwoman, Bitch Planet, Jessica Jones, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and more. Plus an introduction from Ryan North! Everyone loves Ryan North. He is as smart and delightful as he is tall, and he is very, very tall.

I hope you’ll check out Gender and the Superhero Narrative! It’s available now from the University Press of Mississippi or via most bookselling sites. And it’s only $30 US, which is pretty dang good for an academic book like this. These things can get pricey. Anyway, I’m really proud of my piece, and I love that so many readers helped me find the comics I needed to finish the research for it. Good group effort, gang! I think it turned out really well. Go pick up the fruits of our combined labours today!

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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.

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.

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!

Happy International Women’s Day AND A Day Without a Woman!

March 8, 2017

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Today is International Women’s Day, a day to recognize the achievements of women everywhere while also acknowledging the systemic oppression they continue to face across the world. As always, I’m celebrating International Women’s Day with the women that I’ve written books about: Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, and now Catwoman!

All three women could definitely get behind this year’s official theme on the International Women’s Day website, which is #BeBoldForChange. They explain:

Each one of us – with women, men and non-binary people joining forces – can be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.

The United Nations celebrates International Women’s Day as well, and their theme for the year is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” The UN has a variety of goals for their 2030 Agenda, including:

  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
  • By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

It’s a bold list, to be sure, and one very much worth pursuing.

This year, the folks behind the fantastic Women’s March last January are getting in on the International Women’s Day fun as well by holding “A Day Without A Woman” to recognize the value of women. It’s a three pronged event which you can support in these ways:

  • Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  • Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  • Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

Some people can’t take the day off, of course, which is why it’s great to see that they’ve got a solidarity option. Wearing red is a clear and simple way to express your support for women across the world, and our three comic book heroines are definitely on board.

Wonder Woman’s been wearing red since her very first appearance in 1941. It’s her go-to color choice for bustiers and boots, as we can see here at the end of her debut in All-Star Comics #8:

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Lois Lane’s commitment to wearing red goes back even further, to her own first appearance back in 1938. She was wearing red at the office when Clark Kent asked her on a date:

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And she was wearing red later that evening when a goon tried to dance with her. She wasn’t in any mood for it; she didn’t even want to be out with Clark, much less have some other dope get all up in her space:

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While Wonder Woman and Lois Lane have been showing solidarity for ages with their red outfits, Catwoman’s never been much for red. She’s worn a lot of black and purple, and even green and orange at times, but red has never been her primary color. She has used it for accessories, though. In Batman #210 in 1969, Catwoman debuted a new pair of red goggles:

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The outfit didn’t last for long, but the red has recently returned to the lenses of her goggles, as we can see on this cover from last year’s Catwoman #48:

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She’s subtle about it, but Catwoman’s on board for “A Day Without a Woman” too!

Happy International Women’s Day everyone, and cheers to all of the women participating in today’s general strike as well as all of those who can’t but who are nonetheless showing their solidarity!

Superwoman #2 Review: Where’s Lois Lane?

September 14, 2016

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Superwoman  was advertised as a Lois Lane comic book. The New 52 Lois got superpowers when the New 52 Superman died, and now she was ready to take to the skies to defend and protect Metropolis as Superwoman. I was intrigued. It wasn’t the Lois Lane comic I was hoping for; I’d rather see her tracking down scoops and taking down bad guys at the Daily Planet. But I was on board, especially with Phil Jimenez writing and drawing it and Emanuela Lupacchino subbing in on art occasionally. It was a stellar team with a new, different take on Lois, and I was excited for it. Turns out, that’s not was Superwoman was about at all. We’ll discuss, but first:

SPOILER ALERT!!

I am going to disclose a number of shocking reveals!

So the first issue was fine for a while. It had a lot of Lana Lang, but I didn’t mind too much. I knew that she’d be working with Lois, and I was excited to see them grow from rivals and often adversaries into partners and friends. Then we learned that Lana has superpowers too, and again I didn’t mind too much. All the better for rad team ups! I liked the idea of dual Superwomen fighting evil. Then Lois was killed at the end of the issue, or at least it looked that way. It’s a comic book, so I was wary. I’m used to fake out cliffhanger endings, so while I was concerned, I was hoping it would all be a trick and the gals would be back together in the next issue.

But no. Lois is dead.

Real dead too. She straight up disintegrated in the opening pages of the second issue, leaving a grieving Lana to carry on as a superhero on her own. Luckily she’s got a good support system with John Henry Irons and his niece Natasha, two characters I quite like. But Lois is gone, and that means so am I.

Now, Superwoman isn’t a bad comic. Jimenez’s artwork is great, as always, and the series has got a lot of good characters in the mix. The first two issues have been a bit overstuffed, which has affected the pacing of the issues and the readability of the art at times but it is, on its own merits, a decent book. If it was advertised as the Lana Lang comic it is, I probably would have checked it out. I’m not a huge Lana fan, but she’s a character with potential and elevating her to a superhero role after decades trapped being a romantic rival is kind of cool. That’s a good hook on its own.

But instead we got this bait and switch, and with every page my main thought was, “Where’s Lois?” My frustration at the death of the lead character I was promised trumped whatever level of enjoyment I got from the comic itself. A Lois Lane comic book is LONG overdue. She hasn’t had a solo series since Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane ended in 1974, but she’s been a mainstay in the DC universe in every medium for over 75 years now. She should have her own series, preferably with a better title than her old one. To promise this book and then not deliver it is both insulting and disappointing.

Even worse is killing her off in the process. Lois gets killed a lot, especially over the last decade or so. Offing her, for real or not, to create anguish for Superman has become a common trope used again and again by bad writers, and now she’s been offed to create anguish for Lana. Moreover, the New 52 Lois had a terrible run. Since the 2011 relaunch, she’s been sidelined and forgotten, and this new series felt like redemption after years of poor treatment. Instead, Superwoman fell into the same old patterns straight away.

Lois could yet come back, of course. It’s comics, after all; nobody stays dead and Jimenez seems to be teasing something. Plus, why introduce her just to kill her off so quick? There may be a longer plan at work here. But I’ve got no time for it. I really don’t understand DC’s thinking here. Why involve Lois at all, and especially why advertise it as a Lois book in the first place? If the plan is to kill her off for good, you’re only upsetting Lois fans. If the plan is to “kill her off” and then bring her back later, all of the Lois fans will have already jumped ship by the time you do so. No matter how you slice it, the way DC set up this series is just ridiculous.

Lois Lane is the First Lady of the DC universe. She is as brave and heroic and compelling as any of those folks with the masks and the capes, and she deserves some time in the spotlight. Whether she’s dead or “dead,” Lois’s depiction in Superwoman has been yet another in a long list of comics that have treated her poorly. We don’t need more of those. I’m done with the series, and this will be my last review of it. I like Jimenez and Lupacchino, and I like Lana, John, and Natasha, but I love Lois Lane, and any book that kills her off to further someone else’s plot is a book that I’m just not interested in.

A Celebration Of Noel Neill, The First Live Action Lois Lane, To Be Held Nov. 5 In Metropolis, Ill.

September 6, 2016

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The superhero world lost an icon when Noel Neill passed away in July. She was the first live action Lois Lane, portraying the character alongside Kirk Alyn’s Man of Steel in the big screen Superman serial in 1948 and reprising the role in Atom Man vs. Superman two years later. Superman moved to television in the 1950s with George Reeves in the lead role, and Neill returned to play Lois Lane when Phyllis Coates left after the first season, staying with the show for the remainder of its run. For a generation of fans who grew up watching the Adventures of Superman TV show in its first run and then in syndication, Noel Neill WAS Lois Lane.

Neill led a long and fascinating life, and on November 5, 2016, many of her friends and admirers are gathering at the First United Methodist Church in Metropolis, Illinois, to remember and celebrate her life. It’s a fitting locale; Metropolis is the home of the annual Superman Celebration, and there’s a Lois Lane statue modeled after her likeness in the town. The three hour event will feature rare footage of Neill, along with presentations from several speakers, including:

  • Dr. Pam Munter, author of Almost Famous and When Teens Were Keen
  • Jim Nolt, editor of The Adventures Continue
  • Jim Bowers, editor of CapedWonder.com
  • Steve Younis, editor of supermanhomepage.com
  • Larry Blankley
  • John Field
  • Lisa Gower & Karla Ogle of the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce
  • Terry Ryan
  • Stephanie Perrin
  • Angie Sivori
  • Larry Thomas Ward, author of Truth, Justice, & The American Way: The Life & Times of Noel Neill and Beyond Lois Lane

There will also by music from The Melungeons.

The event is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend, so if you’re in the area you should definitely mark it on your calendar. Noel Neill was both a wonderful Lois Lane and a fantastic ambassador for the character for decades, and hearing about her life from those who knew her well should make for a fascinating afternoon. Such events always have a note of sadness, of course, but I’m sure it will also be infused with the joy that characterized Noel Neill throughout her 95 years.

The poster above appears in the October 2016 edition of Classics Images magazine.


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