Tuesday June 11, 2013
SLIDESHOW: Got it Bad for Little Miss Lois Lane
SLIDESHOW: The above panel details the first meeting between Lois and Superman way back in Action Comics #1. From then on, in what unofficial Superman biographer Glen Weldon calls the most toxic relationship in history, it's about 50 years of stagnation. She wants marriage with Superman; he wants her to like him as Clark, which is odd, since it's his pose rather than his true personality. (Until John Byrne switched the order in 1986.) But if you're a fan of superheroes, make sure you thank Miss Lane. Superman only sprang to life in the imagination of Jerry Siegel because he couldn't get the Lois Lanes of the world. He was a Clark Kent wondering what it would be like to be a Superman. Which is why he invented Superman, whose success led to Batman, Spider-Man, et al. Without Lois Lane, you wouldn't have any of them.
1941: The Max Fleischer cartoons made the most of Lois' gumption and her gams. She was always going the extra mile for a story, getting in trouble as a result, and needing rescue from the Man of Tomorrow. One wonders how she managed before he came along. One wonders if she ever wonders it. Does she take greater risks now? Knowing that Superman is there to catch her if she falls?
1941: She isn't even averse to wielding a machine gun now and again. Fleischer's Lois was voiced by Joan Alexander, of St. Paul, Minn., who also voiced Lois in the long-running and influential “Adventures of Superman” radio series (1940-51). Trivia: In 2008, the year before she died, Alexander would be bilked out of most of her fortune by Ponzi schemer Kenneth Starr, who is currently serving a 7 1/2-year sentence in a federal correctional facility in Otisville, NY. Too bad it's not Otisberg.
1948: In the 1948 serial, “Superman,” another Minnesotan, Noel Neill of Minneapolis, became the first actress to portray Lois Lane on screen. A few years later, Neill played the third-year girl who gripes Gene Kelly’s liver in “An American in Paris,” and, unfortunately, she's a bit of that here: pouty and unclever, without a hint of sex. She’s like a Shirley Temple character who grew into her late 20s less cute, less smart, and more annoying. She barely even smiles. Which is why two years later ...
1950: ... yes, in “Atom Man vs. Superman,” she smiles as often as a Miss America contestant. Neill would go on to play Lois throughout most of the 1950s in the second through sixth seasons of “Adventures of Superman.” Later in life, she played Lois' mom in the extended cut of “Superman: The Movie” (1978), and even turns up as Gertrude Vanderworth, the wealthy widow bilked of her money by Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor in “Superman Returns” (2006). Too bad Joan Alexander wasn't paying attention.
1951: Phyllis Coates of Wichita Falls, Texas, finally breaks the Minnesota monopoly on everyone's favorite girl reporter. In the short film, “Superman and the Mole Men,” as well as the first season of TV's “Adventures of Superman,” she plays Lois opposite George Reeves. She would eventually play Lois' mom, Ellen this time, in an episode of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” in 1994. Apparently old Loises never fade away; they just play Lois' mom.
1966: Filmation's Saturday morning cartoon, “The New Adventures of Superman,” brought back a lot of the radio actors for the voices, including Joan Alexander for Lois Lane. This, to me, is the classic Lois. Maybe because she was drawn like the Lois Lane in the 1950s and '60s comic books. Or maybe because it's the first Lois Lane I encountered. Oddly, we don't even see her until the third episode. She gets upstaged by Jimmy Olsen and his Superman signal watch. Every boy wanted one of those before they realized they really wanted Lois Lane.
1975: Case in point. Lesley Ann Warren ratcheted up the sex quotient, as she is wont to do, in a godawful version of the so-so Broadway musical, “It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman!,” which was broadcast on February 1, 1975. I was 12. I remember staying up late to watch it. I remember “Scoop! Scoop! Stop the presses!” I remember waiting and waiting for Superman to appear. When he did, well, I kinda wanted him to disappear. Warren was in the running to portray Lois again in “Superman: The Movie,” but lost the part to ...
1978: ... Margot Kidder. Why does Kidder's Lois Lane in “Superman: The Movie” still define the role? Because there's a difficulty dichotomy to thread in portraying Lois. She's supposed to scoop Clark and get rescued by Superman, but often within this dynamic they make her either too tough (and unlikeable) or too agreeable (and thus hardly a scoop-worthy reporter). Margot was able to inhabit both aspects of Lois. She held the two opposing ideas of Lois in her mind and was still able to function. Her toughness (at work) was never annoying, her vulnerability (around Superman) was always endearing. Plus I just like the way she says “Peter Pan.” Not to mention, “Blaghhh.”
1981: And in “Superman II” Lois finally gets her man. Unfortunately he had to lose his powers first. Did she waver then? Say, “Hey, wait a minute, that's not part of the deal,” or are we to assume that Lois was never that shallow, that she liked the Man of Steel for himself and not his powers? But if she liked him without his powers, why didn't she just go for Clark? Right, right, the milksop persona. OK, but how about in those incarnations, such as the '50s TV show, where he's not a milksop? Something to ponder anyway.
1987: But it can get tiring playing Lois. This is Kidder only nine years later in the godawful, Golan & Globus “Superman IV.” In a movie full of bad scenes, one of the worst, surely, is where Clark reveals himself to be Superman by jumping off the roof with Lois, then flies the two around the U.S. (via horrible special effects), then drops her, ha ha, only to rescue her. Afterwards, back on his terrace, he asks her advice. When she gives it, he does what he did in “Superman II”: He kisses her to make her forget. Did he do this all the time? Have fun with her, then make her forget? No wonder poor Lois looks so old. A sad last hurrah for our great '78 team.
1988: The Ruby-Spears Superman cartoon, which appeared in 1988, couldn't get past the Reeve/Kidder movies. It's got the same John Williams theme music, Clark flies Lois around Metropolis, and Clark even looks like Reeve. Then there's the helicopter rescue in an early episode. Right out of “Superman: The Movie.”
1993: Top billing! Finally! In “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” Teri Hatcher, everyone's favorite “Seinfeld” guest, gets to play everyone's favorite girl reporter; and while one look at Hatcher makes you think she would bring the sex, what she really brought was the funny. How underrated is Hatcher as a comedic actress? I admit I never watched the show much but I did recently see the 90-minute premiere and was pleasantly surprised at Hatcher's light-comedic skills. She would've been great in a romantic comedy. Why did she not get the chance? Her funny bone is real and it's fabulous.
1996: For “Last Son of Krypton” and “Superman: The Animated Series,” the Supes/Lois relationship gets a reboot and winds up recalling ... the Max Fleisher cartoons. Meaning we've traveled 55 years, through a world war, a cold war, and a feminist revolution, only to wind up back where we started. Voiced by Dana Delany.
2004: What's wrong with this picture? Seeing it now? Right? Since when was Lois ever a dirty blonde? I'm talking hair here, not the pole-dancing thing. But sure, that, too. The woman in the patriotic bikini is Erica Durance, of TV's “Smallville,” which never shied from selling the bodies of its young stars to attract viewers. Hell, the first time Lois and Clark meet on the show, he's butt naked. We scoff, and shake our heads at the cynicism, but it worked. The show lasted 10 years.
2006: Sorry, honey. Kate Bosworth was 22 when they filmed “Superman Returns” and ... it just didn't work. Lois looks 22 and she has a 5-year-old? From a consummation six years earlier? That’s some awkward math. Plus that dichotomy Lois is supposed to thread between tough and vulnerable? Bosworth doesn't thread it. Plus there's the hair again. Does everyone in the 21st century have something against brunettes except me?
2011: This Lois, from “All-Star Superman,” is like Lois reimagined as Jenanine Garofalo. At one point, after Clark reveals he's Superman, and flies her to his Fortress of Solitude, and confesses his love, she gets out her laptop and types up how pissed she still is. It's Carrie Bradshaw stuff. I dont know how many of these direct-to-video or Cartoon Network Superman stories there are, but the 21st century is crawling with them. I only made it halfway through this one.
2013: Oh, Lois. Will you ever be a brunette again? And is that an i-Pad? And you're how much older than the Man of Steel? Eight years? I guess that's not so bad. At least you're an adult this time around. See you Friday.