Tim Hanley, author of Wonder Woman Unbound, has a new book out: Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet’s Ace Reporter (the highlighted links take you to my reviews of the book on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books).
You’ve written a book about Wonder Woman and a book about Lois Lane. What draws you to these iconic heroines?
On one level, it’s the stories. Both Wonder Woman and Lois Lane have decades of fantastic and/or fascinating tales with all sorts of different, intriguing aspects to dig into. With Investigating Lois Lane, while Lois hasn’t been the star of her stories for most of her history, her evolving role in the comics is an interesting progression, and the occasional tales she did headline proved invariably noteworthy. From her adventurous solo stories to her most cringeworthy romantic outings, there’s always something worth saying about Lois’s many appearances.
On another level, the superhero genre is a male dominated industry in every respect, and the male heroes get most of the fan focus. I think that the histories of female characters are just as interesting, and often more so, and it’s been a real pleasure to shine a light on these great characters who are so often relegated to the shadows. Lois especially offers such a unique perspective on the genre as a whole; she was there at the very beginning in Action Comics #1 and has been a constant presence in the world of superheroes since then, in every medium.
Lois has had her ups and downs – what do you admire most about her, and what do you think continues to endear her to readers today?
I most admire her tenacity, and I think that it’s been the core of the character from the beginning. In Action Comics #1, Lois was stuck writing the lovelorn column but she dreamed of getting a front page scoop. After Superman saved her and she got to see how powerful he was, he told her not to print the story, yet the very next panel showed Lois in her editor’s office, pitching the story. Not even Superman could deter her! That sort of tenacity has been key to the character ever since, even in comics that haven’t aged particularly well. When Lois became obsessed with marrying Superman in the 1950s, she went after him full-tilt, just as enthusiastically as she chased down big news scoops. She’s a relentless, unstoppable force, no matter the situation.
I think that tenacity is part of what endears Lois to her legions of fans today, combined with her toughness and snark, as well as her compassionate core that lies beneath her sometimes brusque exterior. Lois is brave and fearless and has no time for anyone who tries to get in her way, but it’s always in service of helping others, of landing the story that takes down the less obvious villain who’s hurting someone somewhere.
If you had to recommend one issue or storyline about Lois Lane to a new reader, which would you recommend, and why?
Picking just one is tricky! I’m going to have to do this by category. For classic Lois fun, I’d recommend the “Lois Lane: Girl Reporter” feature from Superman in the mid-1940s; a couple of the outings are collected in the recent Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years volume, which is a good place for new readers to start generally. In “Lois Lane: Girl Reporter”, Lois set out to get scoops on her own, without any help from Superman, and ended up taking down all manner of thieves, smugglers, and grifters, getting a front page story out of each adventure. The stories are classic Golden Age fun, and a great showcase for Lois.
For modern comics, Lois hasn’t had a lot to do lately, but there have been some good moments. There’s a great arc in Batman/Superman Volume 3 where she teams up with Batman, and Marguerite Bennett and Emanuela Lupacchino’s Superman: Lois Lane one-shot from a couple of years back had an enjoyable take on Lois.
Outside of comics, I’d wholeheartedly recommend Gwenda Bond’s young adult novel Lois Lane: Fallout. It stars a teenaged Lois who starts at a new school in Metropolis and quickly get caught up in a serious, expansive investigation involving bullying and secret military experiments. It’s a fantastic read, and a spectacular distillation of the most iconic and enjoyable elements of Lois’s past incarnations. It’s far and away my favourite Lois Lane story of the 21st century thus far, and the upcoming sequel, Lois Lane: Double Down, is even better.
What are your hopes for Wonder Woman and Lois Lane in the movies (and if you’ve seen B v. S. let us know how you think they did with the characters!)
I saw the movie a few nights ago and while I didn’t much care for the bulk of it and its angsty, grim male heroes, I loved a lot of what the film did with Wonder Woman and Lois. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman didn’t have a huge part, but she totally stole the show, both as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman. I’ll dance around spoilers here, but whether she was outsmarting Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor simultaneously or battling Doomsday, Gal Gadot very much captured the spirit of Wonder Woman for me. She was also the only character in the movie that was having any fun! Batman and Superman were caught up in feuding that took them both down dark paths, and I think Wonder Woman was easily the most heroic, fun character in the film.
As for Lois, it was great to see that she was in the thick of the action throughout the entire film. I felt like Man of Steel sidelined her somewhat after she had a cool role initially, but Batman v Superman had her in the mix the whole time, and often playing a key role. I would have preferred that she got to see something through to the end; most of her adventures took a dark turn that resulted in Superman having to save her. But she got to do a bit of saving too, and her relationship with Clark was sweet and endearing. I liked that she tried to keep him focused on his heroic core as the foolishness with Batman ramped up, despite the mixed results. I think that both Wonder Woman and Lois Lane were the best characters in the film, by far.
What is your next project?
I don’t want to be too specific because nothing’s official yet, but I’ve been working on the history of another female comic book character, this time a villain. It’s been fascinating to look at the history of superheroes through the ups and downs of a female villain. At times, she escaped the often limiting roles of comic book heroines, but at other times she ended up problematically sexualized or benched. It’s a journey that’s wholly unique, and the project has been a blast thus far.