When you imagine an iconic superhero, you probably have a clear idea of who that superhero is. Batman has his cowl and gadgets, Wonder Woman has her bracelets and lasso, Superman has his cape and mountainous pecs. Those are the things that make them iconic, after all. But what pops into your mind when you think of Lois Lane? She’s been around just as long as Superman, but her iconography is less an image than a concept: journalism.
Lois Lane is the ultimate journalist. Her characterization changes a lot based on who’s writing her (and how that person feels about feminism), but the one thing that’s been true since the very beginning is her job at The Daily Planet.
I thought of Lois Lane when I was in journalism school. I wanted to be a writer, and in a misguided attempt to be practical, I thought journalism was the way to make it happen. I quickly learned not only what it takes to be a reporter, but also that I absolutely did not have what it takes to be a reporter. The people who can handle the churn of the news cycle as a career might as well be superhuman, which is as saccharine as it is true.
And so I turned to Lois, looking for a pop culture lodestar. Whip-smart, tenacious to a fault, never misses a deadline, something that anyone can aspire to. A human woman so incredible that she’s Superman’s hero. Honestly, what’s not to love?
Years later, when DC asked me if there was a character I wanted to adapt for a middle-grade graphic novel, I didn’t even have to think about it. The idea of exploring not only who Lois was as a kid but who Lois is without the distraction of Clark is the dream.
It’s undeniable that journalism as an institution is under attack in America, so a “Lois Lane: Kid Reporter” story was not a difficult pitch to make. Now is the time for all of us, including and especially kids, to spend some time thinking about what journalism is and why it’s important in a healthy democracy, and if the conduit for that conversation happens to be a 12-year-old with an expressive cat sidekick, so much the better. A childhood friend recently reminded me that I started and ran a newspaper in middle school, which in retrospect seems like a harbinger of my own go-getter personality, so of course, our little Lois would do the same.
The resulting book, Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge, is a type of superhero origin story. Lois has all of these heightened abilities — courage, curiosity, determination — but she hasn’t figured out how to use them yet. It isn’t until someone directs her boundless energy toward journalism that she’s able to use her powers for good. It’s important to note that Lois isn’t perfect and is preoccupied with social media; while this book isn’t strongly tied to the main DC canon, we know how talented Lois eventually becomes. My hope is that the takeaways for young readers are that 1) even if you have flaws, you can still grow into a fantastic and thoughtful adult, and 2) journalism is something that everyone, including you, can do.
In the end, I wasn’t cut out for a career in news reporting. But the skills I learned in journalism school combined with the aspirational qualities I saw in Lois Lane transformed me into a smarter, more curious citizen of the world, and for that reason, it’s a genuine honor to introduce Lois to a new generation.
Grace Ellis is the New York Times bestselling and GLAAD Media Award-winning co-creator of Lumberjanes (Boom! Studios), Moonstruck (Image), and the forthcoming Patricia Highsmith biography comic (Abrams Books). An Ohio native, Grace studied theater and journalism at Ohio State University. She enjoys reading the news and encourages you to support journalism however you can!
Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge is available now.