Join Melissa Privette as she explores the Superman Family in novel form.
Comic books are often overlooked as a form of literature, but I believe that they are just as valid as novels are. In fact, there are even some titles that could be an interesting foray into a genre that is most associated with novels—romance. In fact, one of the oldest and most famous superheroes and hallmarks of modern mythology, Superman, is a story that I would characterize as a romance, and one that could be equally well-served in novel form. In fact, if any couple in the realm of comics deserves a dedicated romance novel line, it is Lois and Clark.
It should be noted that there is successful precedent for turning a comic book into a novel, especially where Superman is concerned. In 1942, George Lowther wrote The Adventures of Superman, a novel named after the popular radio show for which Mr. Lowther wrote scripts. It was the first novelization of the comic book character, with the first edition featuring illustrations by Joe Shuster, who along with Jerry Siegel, created Superman in 1938. The novel retells the origin story of Superman, beginning on Krypton with Jor-El and Lara, and continuing on Earth as Clark Kent grows up in Kansas. It then follows the Man of Steel as he travels to Metropolis, takes a job at The Daily Planet, and fights for truth, justice, and the American Way.
The next time Superman would again appear in a novel was Superman: Last Son of Krypton, followed by Miracle Monday, both written by Eliot S! Maggin and published in 1978 and 1981 respectively. Last Son of Krypton was released in conjunction with Superman: The Movie, and although it too tells the story of Clark Kent growing up in Smallville and then moving to Metropolis to become Superman, it cannot be considered a retelling of the film in novel form. Miracle Monday is about the origin of its namesake, a holiday also featured in the comic books, and chronicles Superman’s struggle against an existential threat and his run-in with a time traveler, Kristin Wells.
Two of the most prominent Superman novels were adaptations of one of the most famous Superman storylines of the 1990s. Superman: Doomsday and Beyond also known as Superman Lives! was written by comic book writer Louise Simonson and published in 1993. Comic book author Roger Stern wrote The Death and Life of Superman, his own adaptation of the famous event, which was also published the same year.
The Death of Superman event in particular drew in a lot of people who wouldn’t normally read comic books, because of the magnitude of the story line. It is also worth mentioning that Superman was increasingly relevant in the public sphere at the time thanks in part to Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, a television show starring Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain. In fact, the television show—which sought to emphasize the romantic aspect of the Superman mythos—generated a romance novel of its own. Lois & Clark: A Superman Novel, written by C.J. Cherryh, was published in 1996. Like the television show, the novel did not follow any specific comic book arcs, but rather introduces an original plot of its own, using the familiar elements of the romance between Lois and Clark against the backdrop of Metropolis and Lex Luthor’s schemes.
The 2000's saw no shortage of Superman novels either. It’s Superman! by Tom de Haven was published in 2005. It serves as both a Superman origin story and a 1930's historical fiction novel. Most recently, Gwenda Bond wrote the Lois Lane young adult trilogy, Fallout, Double Down, and Triple Threat, published in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively.
Because of its proven history in generating ideas for novels, it would only be natural for Superman to be a good subject of both a line of romance novels and a line of young adult novels. Why not tell a series of stories focusing less on the cosmic level threats that the Man of Steel faces and more about how he and Lois build their relationship in spite of the challenges they face together? One might wonder if this would be redundant because of the comics, but this is not the case. In recent years, many Superman writers have put the romance on the back-burner in favor of sweeping, world-changing plots. A line of romance novels would help capture the demographic that does believe that the relationship between Lois and Clark is integral to the mythos. It would give a writer more space and more freedom the explore their working together, living together, and raising a family.
A line of young adult novels could similarly capture a demographic that exists but remains relatively untapped by DC Comics. As mentioned previously, Lois Lane has a successful young adult trilogy written by Gwenda Bond. Last year, DC Universe, Warner Brothers’ DC Comics multimedia streaming platform, toyed with the idea of producing a series titled Metropolis, about Lois Lane before Superman came on the scene. Unfortunately, this series was delayed and presumably trapped in development hell. Why not have a series of novels about Lois in college and beginning her career as a reporter? We have countless retellings of Clark’s origin story, why not explore Lois’s, which is relatively untouched?
Superman novels are not unconventional—there have been several written over the years. Writing a series of novels about Lois Lane’s early career before Superman and a line of romance novels about Lois and Clark would do wonders to capture the demographic that has always been integral to the Superman franchise—women. It sends a clear message that yes, we as consumers matter to DC Comics, and that Lois Lane, a feminist icon in her own right, matters. In a time where journalism itself is under threat, it only makes sense to shine a light on the most famous journalist in all of comics.
Melissa Privettte is a writer, aspiring attorney, and journalist who loves comic books and film.
What are your thoughts on comics as novels? Join the conversation in the comments or on social media! #comicbooklove