How has Lois and Superman's Love Story been portrayed across mediums? How does live action and animation compare to the comics? Melissa Privette has some thoughts.
“Easy miss, I’ve got you.”
“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?”
Lois Lane and Clark Kent (aka Superman) are arguably the most iconic couple in comic book history. In a relationship spanning eighty years, they have fought together for truth, justice, and the American way with and without superpowers. In a genre not traditionally known for its heroines being front and center, Action Comics #1 took the unprecedented step of introducing both Lois and Clark as partners in their struggle against injustice. Superman has evolved over nearly a century of existence, but Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and the Man of Steel himself, were there from the beginning and have remained intact to this day.
Superman is one of the few comic books that is at its heart, a romance. The plot of the debut issue of Action Comics is driven by Lois and Clark’s courtship. Clark asks Lois out on a date, and she unenthusiastically agrees, unimpressed with his meekness. When a man harasses her for a dance and Clark—attempting to preserve his cover—refuses to intervene, she calls him a coward and slaps the offender. Lois leaves, and is chased in her car by the harasser. The now-famous cover of Superman lifting the car over his head depicts what ensued. The first encounter of Lois and Superman is equally memorable. “You needn’t be afraid of me. I won’t harm you.” he says. Still, Lois is more enamored than afraid of the Man of Steel—a stark contrast to her interactions with Clark earlier.
The irony of the “triangle for two” continued from page to screen. Fleisher Studios’ Superman cartoons always featured an exasperated Lois and a soft-spoken Clark, with the former diving into danger headfirst to get the story. Invariably she ended up in trouble, and Superman arrived just in time to save the day. Like the comics, Lois was unimpressed with her coworker (disguised as a coward to hide his identity) but intrigued by Superman. The gag continued in the movie serials starring Noel Neill and Kirk Alyn, as well as the 1950's TV series, The Adventures of Superman, starring Phyllis Coates in the first season (and later Noel Neill) and George Reeves.
Both the serial and the later seasons of the television series marketed themselves as sci-fi yarns. The first season of the series had a distinctive noir feel to it, but romance always seemed secondary to the main plot. Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie (1978) set a new precedent. Not only does it have the distinction of being the first blockbuster superhero movie, but it was also a movie driven by romance. The triangle for two was well intact, with Christopher Reeve seamlessly toggling between Clark the klutz and the confident, affable, and yes, incredibly sexy Superman. Margot Kidder’s Lois is every bit the aggressive reporter searching for a scoop with no patience for fools, but is absolutely besotted with Superman. Although she grows fond of Clark (and had even agreed to a date with him after her iconic interview and flight with Superman), here he is very much a mask. On TV, Clark is a capable reporter, and Lois harbors a begrudging respect for him. She even has her suspicions that he and the Man of Steel are one and the same. Unlike the show, the film refuses to shy away from the romance. There is the rooftop interview resulting in an article titled ‘I Spent the Night with Superman’. The climax of the film is Clark reversing time—defying Jor-El—and saving the woman he loves. The theme develops further in the 1980 sequel, in which Lois discovers Clark’s real identity, and he relinquishes his powers to be with her. In the end, he regains them to defeat Zod, and, in the theatrical version of the film, breaks up with Lois and unconscionably wipes her memory.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman sought to modernize the mythos by combining romance with a journalism procedural in the vein of its 1950's predecessor. However, as Clark said, “Clark is who I am. Superman is what I can do.” Gone was the spineless shadow of a man that early Lois loathed. Although initially professional rivals, they became partners, friends, and eventually husband and wife. Where the Donner movies painted the relationship as star-crossed and tragic, Lois and Clark allowed them to be a team, and ultimately find happiness.
Smallville followed in Lois and Clark’s footsteps. Season 9 finally allowed the relationship to blossom. Lois (Erica Durance) and Clark (Tom Welling) are working together at the Daily Planet and dating, while the latter moonlights as ‘The Blur’, the precursor to Superman. Although the pair meet at a telephone booth to coordinate on cases, Clark is reluctant to tell her the truth for her own protection. He was very much tortured by the prospect of hiding his identity from Lois, and almost reveals it early in the ninth season, but ultimately refrains when Lois herself voices why he can’t—to better protect her and the rest of the world. She finally learns in the season finale, when Clark, dressed as the Blur, shares a kiss with her in an alleyway before speeding off to battle Zod. He tells her the truth in the tenth and final season, after which Lois tackles him into a stack of newspapers and reveals she knew the whole time. The remainder of the show and the comic series that follows exhibits the pair working as a team in a committed relationship.
Romance has been at the heart of the Superman franchise since day one. Clark’s eighty-year love affair with Lois predates his ability to fly, and while there have been hiccups (such as the 2011 reboot that attempted to do away with their relationship), it is one of the central threads of the mythos that has remained intact. Superman is not only the story of an immigrant who fell from the stars, but a man who fell in love with an ace reporter.
Melissa is a writer and an aspiring Journalist. To learn more check out her blog.
What are your favorite comic book romances? Are you happy with how they are handled in their live action or animated counterparts vs the books? Let us know your thoughts here or on social media using the hashtag #comicbooklove. We’d love to hear from you.
All the Comic Book images accompanying this article are copyrighted to either Marvel or DC Comics and fall under the Fair Use clause of the United States Copyright Law.