A Lois Lane 80th anniversary pull list

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Apr 28, 2018, 8:53 PM EDT (Updated)

Lois Lane has been around for kind of a long time: 80 years, in fact! In that time, she's been in more than a few comics—so many that it might seem kind of overwhelming to the casual passerby. 

Well, there's no need to be concerned anymore, because someone with impeccable taste is about to guide you through some of the best Lois Lane comic stories of all time!


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Superman #28 – 40 Back-Up Stories

This includes a lot of difficult to find issues, but it's worth the hunt if you can snag it in reprints. For these few issues in the mid-'40s, Lois Lane was featured in back-up stories that usually ran for four pages. The stories often revolved around men telling her she couldn't be a good reporter without Superman, and her proving them wrong. Despite how frustrating it is to read her treatment, Lois really shines in these stories and during this time overall. The Superman-centric tales that coincide with the Lois back-ups often feature Lois as well, so there's a lot of page space dedicated to her.

One of the first stories involves Lois falling to her death, basically thinking, “Yes, this is a good time for Superman to show up” or “I wonder where Superman is!” When she falls into the net, she jumps up triumphantly, realizing, “I didn't even need Superman!” In a nutshell, that's more or less what the Lois Lane back-up stories consisted of—Lois getting herself into and out of trouble while standing on her own in the midst of the boys' club at the Daily Planet.


Showcase #10 - “The Forbidden Box from Krypton”

There are a lot of stories where Superman's villain of the issue is actually Lois acquiring the same powers as him and suddenly finding herself on equal footing with the Man of Steel. Likewise, there's been a lot of discussion on why that's problematic, but in any case "The Forbidden Box From Krypton" is one of the most delightful stories of its era, featuring an incredibly fashionable Lois causing chaos all over Metropolis with her brand new superpowers.

An archeologist sends Lois a metal box in the mail, insisting that she have Superman nearby when she open it because it's likely dangerous. As we know, our hero Lois has a compulsory need to disobey all orders, requests, or bits of advice she receives, so she does the exact opposite, cracking the box open right away rather than waiting a couple hours until Superman comes back. She finds glasses, gloves, and a cape, which grant her superpowers, and immediately gets to work wrecking her own house. She shows up to work by flying through the window, then goes to bust up a robbery by just ripping the engine out of a car. After that, she rubs her front page headline in Clark's face, and starts referring to herself as Lois “Scoop” Lane. The story descends into chaos, as they often tend to do, before wrapping up with a return to the status quo. Of all the “Superpowered Lois Lane” stories, this one is the most amusing.


Birds of Prey #102

Regarded as one of the more iconic runs on a team book in recent years, Gail Simone's Birds of Prey had a knack for defining characters that had suffered from an ever-changing rotation of writers more interested in penning their male counterparts. That went double for Barbara Gordon as Oracle, whose deep seriousness and subdued pragmatism came under focus often throughout the series.

In #102, Barbara meets with Lois Lane for dinner, convinced that the other has come to expose her identity and ruin her work. She greets Lois with despondency and dread, while Lois is friendly and pleasant. It's a delightful interaction to read, as Lois plays around with Barbara, trying to get information, and Barbara moodily deflects. The two come to an understanding, but even in an adversarial context, the dynamic between the two reveals a great deal about them both. Nicola Scott drew the issue, and her take on Lois Lane is one of the most iconic. Simone's Lois is playful, knows more than she lets on, and inspires absolute terror in everyone that has something to hide. I like her a lot.


All-Star Superman #2 & 3

This 12-issue series is considered by many to be the definitive Superman story, getting him back to his roots and allowing artist Frank Quitely and writer Grant Morrison to pen what essentially reads as a love letter to the proud history of an iconic character. Morrison does a great job of tying in Superman's supporting cast, making us once more believe in these characters that had been around for decades without displaying much in the way of growth (with the exception of Lois Lane, who has been all over the place). The only downside of this story for a Lois stan like me is that Lois has superpowers in it and still ends up in a secondary role in #3, but if you view it as was presumably intended: one issue of her expressing stress and confusion over the relationship and one issue of Superman being so romantic and going to such lengths for her that her intrinsic suspicion of him vanishes away, it really works.

Throughout All-Star Superman, Lois and Superman's love story really shines. Morrison emphasizes some of the best elements of Lois Lane's character, including her knack for causing chaos and getting herself into trouble, as well as her deep annoyance towards Clark Kent, while Superman's obvious adoration of her despite her flaws will melt even the most jaded heart.


Lois Lane: When It Rains, God Is Crying #1 & 2

Trigger warning: references to violence against children in this story

This comic was published in the mid-'80s, when mainstream comics in general were taking a turn away from the camp that had defined the medium since the advent of the Comics Code. Trading out faulty science and smug quips for grim and gritty, Frank Miller-inspired storytelling, this era marked a change in the mood of superhero stories that has prevailed for years. It even sports a “Who Watches the Watchmen?” tag on the cover, which might help to set a general tone for this story. It was released weeks after the first issue of John Byrne's Man of Steel, which retconned much of the Superman franchise. The story itself takes place before the reimagining of the characters, so the timing must have been surreal if you were picking up issues as they were coming out.

Writer Mindy Newell and artist Gray Morrow have great creator chemistry on the page, and Newell's subject tone and knack for heavily worded panels mixes well with Morrow's thin-lined realism. The story follows Lois as she leaves a boring date to do some old fashioned car-chasing journalism. She comes to regret her mistake when she discovers a murdered child—but she pushes to get the story on the front page, and goes further by interviewing several victims. Lana and Clark show up periodically as a couple, causing her further stress, and her estranged sister Lucy begins attempting to reconnect while all this is happening. Despised by Lois through most of the story, Lana ultimately reveals a shocking secret about herself in the final pages that turns our sympathy towards her.

Comics of this period are typically referred to as being “more realistic” in comparison to comics of the previous decades, but seldom live up to that assertion. This comic is very realistic, and includes a great deal of information about child abduction cases and what becomes of children that go missing. Its triumph is also its downside. This is certainly not the sort of story I would generally expect when picking up a comic that says “Lois Lane” on the cover, and that may be off-putting for some. On the other hand, this comic really does hold up. We are introduced to a believable Lois, working under deadlines and trying to save lives while slowly cracking under the stress of keeping the people around her at an arm's length. Newell chose subject matter that is tragically evergreen, and the story carries surprising impact.


Girlfrenzy: Lois Lane

The Girlfrenzy comics from DC were a fifth-week event, in which the publisher's schedule is slightly thrown by the calendar and they will therefore often release a series of one-shots just to maintain a consistent weekly schedule. Fifth-week events run the gamut in quality and subject matter, but Girlfrenzy is notable in that the late '90s were particularly dry when it came to mainstream comics producing anything for their female characters (this was the year before the debut of Women in Refrigerators). The stories were unrelated to one another, intending to tie into longer running series of the time, such as JLA or Wonder Woman.

The Lois Lane one-shot stands out in many ways, one of which being that it was both written and drawn by women (Barbara Kesel and Amanda Connor, respectively), making it one of the few stories released in this series to feature female creators in non-editorial roles. The story itself is mostly standard Lois Lane fare, with a tender interaction with Superman, an investigation, and a fight to the death on cracking ice with some polar bears. 


Lois Lane and the Resistance

So many things change in life, yet one thing remains the same: I love me an alternate-reality Lois Lane. Whether it's the amoral Superwoman of Earth 3, or the rebel journalist of the Flashpoint world, I'm all in for the myriad takes on Lois spanning the DC multiverse. With the writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning at the helm and Eddy Nunez, Don Ho, and Hi-Fi Design bringing it with the art, this comic was destined for this list.

In this series, Lois watches Jimmy Olsen die in the battle between Atlantis and Themyscira and she joins the resistance, ending up on the run and torn between forces much larger than herself. The story concludes in the Flashpoint series, and it doesn't end well for Lois, but this story did bring us a Lois Lane who had nothing to lose and fought for the greater good regardless, and for that, I love it.


Wonder Woman #170

There's been much ado made in recent years over the triangle between Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman, but very seldom have we heard from Lois Lane on the matter. In this issue of Wonder Woman, Lois follows Diana around with the intention of doing a story on her. Lois watches Diana's graceful diplomacy in action, taking special note of the small cracks in her armor, while Diana shows Lois a genuine empathy and kindness throughout the story.

One thing that always stood out in Phil Jimenez' run on Wonder Woman was how he packed so many words into a single page. Sometimes that could distract from the story (for instance, in an action scene), but here, where the entire focus of the story is two brilliant women having conversations with each other while mentally reacting to one another in different ways, it's just what the doctor ordered. One of the highlights of Jimenez' intriguing and visually gorgeous run on the series, Wonder Woman #170 emphasizes Diana's vulnerable humanitarianism in contrast to Lois Lane's pragmatic decency, and it goes a long way in defining both characters as strange opposites with similar insecurities.


Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #123

Perhaps the only self-proclaimed feminist working for DC at the time, Dorothy Woolfolk took over editorial reigns of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane in the early 1970s, and, although she only worked on the series for seven issues, articles and books like Tim Hanley's Investigating Lois Lane have noted what a starkly different direction the series took during that brief time.

Often remembered as being painfully sexist by modern readers, the series itself gets kind of a bad rap, and not without reason. (A few issues before this one, Lois appears on the cover dressed in stereotypical Native American garb, carrying a baby in a papoose on her back. It's not great!) However, Woolfolk's era of Lois Lane stories involved her breaking up with Superman, living with three female roommates, and becoming a master of Kryptonian martial arts. I chose this issue because, although it is very much mid-story, we see Lois and Superman relating to each other on equal terms. Also, she ends up in outer space, and throws down her martial arts on some spaceman faces. It's pretty incredible. To its favor, this issue ran a reprint of the first appearance of Catwoman as a back-up story.


Batman Volume 3 #36 & 37 “Super Friends”

Since around the time of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, the once tender friendship between Batman and Superman has been portrayed with a strong underlying animosity. While they have necessarily shown a great deal of trust towards one another, with Superman even going so far as to give Batman a Kryptonite ring in the eventuality that he ever needed to be taken out, there have been a great deal of stories primarily focusing on the difference in their methods.

In Tom King's “Super Friends” two-parter, we see what a beautiful friendship we've been missing out on as a result, with the two going on tangents about how great the other one is over several pages, each conceding the other to be “a better man than I.” Importantly, this story also did something many fans have wished for: establishing a great friendship dynamic between Catwoman and Lois Lane. While the boys play games, Selina and Lois are drinking from a flask and asking each other what they could possibly see in their respective partners. Lois' character comes across really well, repeatedly jumping in and breaking up the awkwardness in the group with her assertive friendliness and playfully deflecting Selina's existentialism. This isn't just a Lois story, but the way the group interacts lends itself to some of the best characterization of Lois seen in recent years.