Ass-kicking lady reporter or supermum?

by Alex Hern

Another month, another graphic novel book club. This month, Seb and James (and me, I guess) are looking at Superman: Secret Identity. As in previous months, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the book, guided by their discussion questions, over here.

4. Does Lois work as an analogue for Lois Lane, or does she serve a different role in the story?

As I said yesterday, I’m not entirely sure I know enough about Superman to talk about the role Lois Lane normally serves in his stories. I can talk in vague terms about her role in the most recent movie, and I’ve seen as many covers of Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane as anyone. But for specifics, I have to fall back on the few Superman stories I know in any real detail, so apologies if I miss a story which is defining in terms of her character.

One of the biggest effects of my lack of knowledge is that, even though the ‘real’ Lois spent most of the last fifteen years married to Superman, in my mind the silver age paradigm of the Clark-Lois-Superman love triangle reigns supreme.  This is reflected in All Star-Superman, which is my definitive Superman story, as well as almost all of the other Superman media I’ve consumed.

This aspect of Lois is absent entirely from Secret Identity. She meets, and falls in love with, Clark long before she even knows Superman exists, so there’s no tension there. In addition, there isn’t the fun competition between Lois and Clark in the workplace, because she’s not a reporter in SI.

Given those changes between Lane and Chaudhari, it’s not surprising that Lois’ role in this is far more of a supporting character than it is in books starring ass-kicking star reporter Lois Lane. Thinking about it, the best example of that Lois is probably the one in DC: The New Frontier, but again the ASS Lois covers the base.

Secret Identity, as I’ve said before, is very much Clark’s story. Lois serves to give him motivations to do things a certain way, to give him (as I discussed yesterday) a weak point, and – and putting it this starkly is probably harsher than I mean it to be – to make super-babies.

With only 192 pages to cover the whole story, it is understandable that Busiek focuses like this. And within that narrow role, Lois is certainly not weak-willed. But it does seem like, for the most part, noting – albeit feisty – wife is the extent of the part that she plays.

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