The History of Lois Lane – Part 2: TV, Cartoons and Everything Else Leading to 'Man of Steel'

The History of Lois Lane – Part 2: TV, Cartoons and Everything Else Leading to 'Man of Steel'

Oct 02, 2012

Welcome to our Man of Steel Countdown column, a biweekly look at the upcoming Superman movie along with an exploration of the character's past, present and future.

Man of Steel director Zack Snyder has been keeping nearly all the details of the upcoming film very secret until its release on June 14, 2013, but he’s been open about explaining that this will be an all-new take on Superman that will still pay some level of homage to past incarnations. Previous Man of Steel Countdown articles have covered the history of Superman’s theme music, his villains, Kryptonite, “the curse,” General Zod, Lex Luthor and the costume as well as the “S” symbol.

This time, it’s all about Lois Lane and her history so that we can better predict what to expect when Amy Adams takes over the role for a new generation. Part one covered a brief look at her character in the comics starting with Action Comics #1 and continuing all the way to the present, as well as how different actresses portrayed her in the radio series of the 1940s and the George Reeves Adventures of Superman in the '50s. Now it’s time to consider how she has changed from the 1970s onward to the present, starting with the fan-favorite Christopher Reeve films.

One of the most appropriate and carefully stated descriptions of Lois Lane and the way Clark Kent/Superman feels about her came from Man of Steel #1, written by John Byrne in 1986. Clark was telling his parents about how he had publicly saved a space plane from crashing into the city before he had decided to don the glasses as Clark and the tights as Superman. After landing the plane, he met Lois Lane for the first time and explained,

“She’s… I don’t know… not as beautiful as a movie star, but she has… a quality, something I’ve never seen in any other woman.  Almost a fire in those big, dark eyes.”

The reason why this description resonates so much is that he loosely admits his own attraction to her and that he finds her to be beautiful, but not in the same way a movie star is necessarily beautiful. It’s the fire in her eyes that he felt so completely drawn to, and later when he would work closely with her as a reporting team, he fell very much in love. There’s nothing wrong with admitting the person we are in love with is not as aesthetically beautiful as a movie star because in some ways, the real person is more stunning than any fantasy. It’s similar to Shakespeare’s sonnet #130.

What my good friend Bill is saying is that the poetic narrator’s love doesn’t have to be the prettiest in the world because she is more real and more attractive as she is than any fantasy can measure up to. When Richard Donner sat in the director’s seat for Superman: The Movie, his goal was to create a realistic world where it just so happened that a man could fly. Much of the success of that venture came from Christopher Reeve’s take on Superman and Clark Kent, but at the same time, Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane was just as real, largely because she fit the mold that is described above.


The Superman Movies (1978-1987)

For many, if not most fans, Christopher Reeve embodied Superman in a way that no actor had ever managed before. He was an amazing performer who respected the tights and the place in history he was lucky enough to take part in. On one side, Reeve shared scenes with Oscar winning mega-star Gene Hackman as a comedic, yet sinister Lex Luthor, and on the other he had the young, but somewhat established starlet Margot Kidder as love interest Lois Lane. On paper, her version of the character was very much the classic take. Lois quickly fell in love with Superman after his first public appearance where he saved her from falling to her death in a helicopter accident. In contrast, she gave Clark a hard time for not measuring up to a Superman, but make no mistake, she honestly cared a great deal for Clark.

Kidder’s Lois was the same quirky firecracker who would stop at nothing for a story, and her raspy voice complemented her perfectly. She would stumble and become nervous around Superman and then remain in a daze afterward on her date with Clark. She was comfortable and opinionated at all other times, but only regained her nerves around Superman after she discovered he and Clark were one and the same. By the end of the second film, Superman learned that he could not be a superhero and remain in a relationship with Lois, so he gave her a magic kiss that forced her to forget the secret.

Kidder was literally a kidder on set and enjoyed playing around while Christopher Reeve was so serious about his work. There are wonderful stories on the DVD features about the scene where Superman and Lois flew around Metropolis and into the clouds together. When director Richard Donner would yell cut, Kidder would joke to Reeve, which would upset him because he wanted to stay in character. To which she would respond, “Oh come on. All we have to do today is LOOK LEFT!” When she finally saw the film, she was impressed how amazing it was, especially since she had felt during the filming that she was just screwing up a lot, which is probably part of why her charm worked so well.

She was almost entirely absent for the third installment because the producers wanted a new love interest in Annette O’Toole’s Lana Lang. Kidder appeared in an early scene at the Daily Planet, went off to Bermuda for a story and a vacation, and then returned for the end of the film. Kidder believed that her part was cut so short because she had publicly criticized the films’ producers for firing Richard Donner after the first film and replacing him with Richard Lester, even though Donner had already filmed most of what would have been the sequel.

Her Lois Lane returned for a full appearance in the fourth film, under a different producer and had several important scenes, but unfortunately the whole film fell apart from a lack of a budget, lack of decent special effects, and a script that was ultimately not up to snuff.

Margot Kidder’s acting career suffered some of the similar problems that both George Reeves and Christopher Reeve experienced after they wore the tights. Acting roles became hard to come by, especially for leading parts in major Hollywood films, but she remained an outspoken activist for the U.S. Democratic Party. In the early 1990s she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which led to a manic episode in 1996 when she disappeared for several days and was found naked and confused. She lost favor with fans of the Smallville TV series when she spent two episodes early in the fourth season playing Bridgette Crosby, an original character who spoke on behalf of Christopher Reeve’s character, Dr. Virgil Swann. When Reeve died, just a few episodes into that season, his story was far from complete. The writers invited Margot Kidder back to announce Swann’s death in order to explain why he wouldn’t return. She turned them down claiming that they were simply using her to capitalize on the death of a great man, rather than trying to honor him while dealing with the new needs of the story. Although she had previously been set to return for other reasons, her character had to be killed off as well.


Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-1997)

All that talk about Lois Lane looking pretty, but not as pretty as a movie star went out the window when Teri Hatcher took over the role for a new generation in 1993. She was (and still is) so gorgeous that a promotional image of her wrapped in Superman’s cape, and nothing else, became the most downloaded image on AOL in the mid-90s. Lois and Clark was the classic Superman story set as a romantic comedy, with a lot of laughs and perhaps a few too many clownish moments and episodes. Although Superman was still a major aspect of the show, it focused more on the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Sometimes Superman might only appear in one or two scenes in an episode.  The writers took the same version of Lois as a witty, no-nonsense woman who appears to know what she wants and softened her, making her much more vulnerable and consequently more accessible.

As pretty as she was, what sold Hatcher’s version of Lois was a cross between her ability to stammer and stumble in an adorable way, with the chemistry between her and Dean Cain’s Clark Kent. The two clearly became very good friends over that four-year period and have both said in interviews that their favorite scenes to film were the more personal moments with each other. Many fans assumed, or at least hoped, that Hatcher and Cain had become a couple in real life, even though Hatcher was married at the same time the first season was coming to an end. Her husband later guest-starred on the show at the end of season three.

The series only lasted four seasons, possibly because it “jumped the shark” halfway through and the writers allowed Lois to learn Clark/Superman’s secret. Although there were a few gems along the way, the show became mired with overly sappy, lovey-dovey moments and increasingly silly episode premises with unnecessary guest stars. It had a strong beginning with the first season and slowly went downhill to the point that most of the final installments were barely watchable. But ultimately none of that was Hatcher or Cain’s fault. They appeared to be having fun and enjoying themselves the whole time.

Hatcher would also become one of three Lois Lanes to appear on the TV show Desperate Housewives.


Superman: The Animated Series (1996-1999)

Dana Delaney managed the impossible when this animated series hit the Kids WB on Saturday mornings. She took everything that was so amazing about Joan Alexander’s Lois Lane from the Radio Series and made it even better. She was quick with her wit and sharp with retorts. She was often remarkably coolheaded and was truly a Lois Lane that could almost always get herself out of trouble without Superman’s help, but only occasionally got in over her head. Given that Lois and Clark was still on the air when the animated series began, it made sense to the creators to all but remove Lois’s affinity for being in love with Superman. She still liked him just as much as she liked Clark or Jimmy, but the concept of a romantic involvement with Clark or Superman rarely came to the forefront.  It was there, but very subtle. This was the first time that Lois derided Clark with the nickname “Smallville,” which would soon carry over to the comic book and the TV series of the same name.

Delaney was also a recurring character on Desperate Housewives.


Smallville (2001-2011)

Smallville was the story of young Clark Kent before he became Superman. For much of the series, his love interest was Lana Lang, played by Kristin Kreuk, and their ongoing reasons for not being able to be in a relationship over the first seven seasons became tiring. Their story is quite sad because Clark is ultimately going to end up with Lois, so anything they feel for each other will be fruitless. There was speculation during season three that Smallville’s original character Chloe Sullivan would eventually turn out to be Lois Lane with a name change. But while audiences watched Clark and Lex Luthor grow and change over the years as they became good friends and then mortal enemies, they also got to see the same happen for Lois Lane once she was introduced at the start of the fourth season by actress Erica Durance.

At first she was only set to appear for a handful of episodes, but became so beloved by the creative teams that her appearances that season were upped to 13. By season five, Durance was added to the opening credits for every episode, but was still limited to 13 or so episodes until season seven when both Lana and Lex were on their ways off the series and Lois was becoming more and more important in Clark’s life.

Besides her obvious beauty, Durance’s Lois was an even quicker wit than any past version, and she often had the most hilarious lines and moments in the episodes she was in. She had this way of being brutally honest, yet a delivery that made the audience love her all the more for her bluntness. Plus she was sexy, comfortable with herself and her body, occasionally a binge drinker who liked Whitesnake, and she could fight off most foes with her bare hands and no need for help from Clark. And at the same time, she may have had the clearest character arc of anyone else in the series.  Here’s a compilation video including many of Durance’s best scenes and moments.

At first she and Clark simply couldn’t stand each other and one would clearly go out of his or her way just to annoy the other, but some of their friends could see the spark of something between them. She had no interest in journalism until her Cousin Chloe, who ran the school newspaper, co-opted her to write an investigative piece, and suddenly she was hooked.  But like Margot Kidder’s Lois, she couldn’t spell worth a damn. There were plenty of hints along the way as Clark and Lois’s friendship bloomed that there could be a potential for romance, but the writers mostly held off until season eight, and even then it was a slow simmer. They had clearly learned from the overuse of Lana as a love foil that bringing these two together needed to happen only once.

Lois became enamored with “The Blur,” which was Clark as a proto-Superman, but also grew a fondness for Clark himself. Then she learned they were one and the same, but held off telling him until he was ready to say it himself. In the end, she was the one who really gave him the strength to don the tights and become the Man of Steel, while at the same time disguising himself as a mild-mannered reporter. 


Superman Returns (2006)

I guess I have to talk about this don’t I? I liked Superman Returns. It’s not my favorite and it’s far from perfect, but it has a heart despite its problems. The thing is that one of those problems was Kate Bosworth’s destructive take on Lois Lane. She simply wasn’t right for the part at all. Legend has it that when director Bryan Singer cast Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, he demanded that his costar from Across the Sea, (the Bobby Darin biopic) play Lois Lane or he wouldn’t play Lex. She has shown she can be a decent actress, she just didn’t do well here.

And to be fair, some of it was in the writing. The only thing she did that were at all reminiscent of Lois Lane was the moment she decided to investigate the news story about the blackout when her editor told her to get an interview with Superman instead. And when she did, she got caught by Lex Luthor and had to be saved by Superman and Richard White. Everything that made Lois great, from her wit and tenacity to her boldness and inner strength apparently went out the window when she had a half-Kryptonian child with asthma and allergies to everything… that she doesn’t remember conceiving. Fans have universally agreed that she was one of the many problems with the film as a whole and didn’t even come close to living up to expectations. But enough about the negative. Here’s Superman creepily stalking her in her home.


Superman: Doomsday (2007)

Say what you will about DC Animation’s first direct-to-DVD release. Some people hated it and some just thought it was OK. It was the basic story of the “Death and Return of Superman” story from the comics in 1992-93, but set for to run for just over one hour, which meant a lot of cuts and quite a few changes. For some, the changes were too much and for others the story just wasn’t compelling. My only complaint was that Superman’s face looked weird.

Anne Heche surprised us all with a very stellar and believable Lois Lane who carried the emotional loss of her friend and lover to a violent monster. Just as with the comics, the best part was in the middle after Superman’s death. In these worlds, an event like that could be felt the same way that people in the United States felt after 9/11. There was shock and sadness followed by a sense of not knowing where to go or what to do next. Lois and Clark had just started a serious relationship and he had recently told her his secret. They were still in that early part of dating where every moment is exciting and lifelong love was just beginning to be a part of who they would be. And then he died and Lois had no one to talk to in order to sort out her own feelings. This video is the best scene in the whole film where she meets Martha Kent for the first time.


All Star Superman (2011)

Voice acting is hard. It’s surprising how so many great actors and actresses might not give the best performances for voice acting, but at the same time someone I’ve never specifically cared for will deliver something amazing. Brooke Shields managed to wow me as Green Lantern’s love interest, Carol Ferris, In the DC Animation feature Justice League: The New Frontier. Sadly, when the lovely and talented Christina Hendricks took over as Lois for All Star Superman, the performance simply wasn’t special. Not great. Not terrible. Just middle of the road. For my money, that doesn’t make a good enough Lois Lane. But then again, I found the whole film and the comic it’s based on to be bland, which apparently puts me in a minority for Superman fans. It’s clear enough what Grant Morrison was trying to do with the story, and he achieved it. I simply question whether the endeavor was worth attempting. But I’m not out to rain on anyone’s parade. If you liked it, good on you. It just wasn’t my thing, and neither was Hendricks’s Lois.


Special Mentions

Patricia Marand was nominated for a Tony Award for playing Lois Lane in the Broadway musical It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman in 1966. I’m too young to have seen the show, but she sounds amazing on the soundtrack.

Lesley Ann Warren played Lois for a TV special version of the same musical in 1975. It was campy like the Adam West Batman TV series of the '60s and it was pretty horrible, at least if you try to take it at all seriously. In fact it was so bad that its initial airing was pushed to the middle of the night. Warren’s performance was over the top, but that was fitting for the tone. It can actually be quite amusing after a few beers, so find it online, watch it late at night with friends and yell at the screen like it’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Warren was the third Lois Lane on TV’s Desperate Housewives and made several appearances at Teri Hatcher’s mother.

So what does all this mean for Amy Adams in Man of Steel? Stay tuned in two weeks as we pare through her most recent interviews and look at past performances to begin make educated speculation about what we can expect when the film hits theaters next June. Until then, what aspects of previous Lois Lane’s matter the most to you when the film comes out?

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