So Long, Lois Lane
This time Lois fell off a building and Superman wasn’t there to catch her. Margot Kidder has died too young. In ‘Paperboy’ I wrote this about the DC Comics character of Lois Lane:
‘Lois would be humiliated, bullied, deceived and placed in danger by a man who was prepared to disguise himself under rubber masks just to ‘teach her a lesson’. Her old-maid status was endlessly mocked. She would be duped by gold-digging monocled counts who turned out to be Superman (punishing her for some perceived failure of judgement), fake superheroes who were revealed as gangsters, and handsome historical figures like Robin Hood or Julius Caesar, usually as a result of hitting her head on a rock and thinking she’d been hurled back into the past.
I re-read these comics with an increasing sense of puzzlement. Why would a gangster pretend he had superpowers just to shut Lois Lane up? You are a gangster, and Lois Lane is about to expose your misdeeds in the Daily Planet. Do you, a) shoot her in the head? Or do you, b) fly through her bedroom window on wires in tights and a cape, snog her, propose, get her into a wedding dress so she can say ‘I grew tired of waiting for you, Superman, I am marrying Astro-Lad’ and then dump her?
In one issue Lois Lane spent the entire story with her head in an iron box, too ashamed to go out, because she’d been given the head of a cat. Sometimes all of Lois’s friends were in on these humiliations, but could not tell her because they were being watched from space. When Lois finally got to the altar with Superman, it turned out to be a dream caused by her falling off a pier. Sometimes she ended up in a straitjacket, raving, and this too would be revealed as a trick.
Was adult life going to be like this, I wondered? When I grew up would I have to be on my guard every second of the day in case somebody tried to trick me? Would I wake up to discover it had all been a hoax, a dream, and not real at all?
I liked Lois Lane because she was a contrary woman with a job to do, like my mother. What I could not see, of course, was that Lois Lane comics were aimed at teenage girls, and since I did not know any girls I was not able to understand the psychology of someone who would spend a week with her head in a metal box in order to get a date.
In every issue of Lois Lane, Superman did one of three things: he turned bad, died or got married. And it always turned out to be a hoax. The Man of Steel required his girlfriend to pass an endless series of tests; she would have to go without sleep, or remain silent, or be turned into an old hag or a baby in order to prove her loyalty. Superman demanded such terrible sacrifices from his friends that you wondered whether it was worth knowing him. He was good, so he could do no wrong. He was invulnerable, so nothing would ever hurt him. And only the people with whom he surrounded himself, ordinary flawed human beings, could ever get hurt, which is why he refused to become intimately involved with anyone. He was the opposite of Jesus: everyone else had to suffer for him.’
Lois had a hair helmet and wore check skirts and was impossibly square. And in one comic she looked at Twiggy and said something impossibly American; ‘I don’t get it. What does she have that I don’t have more of?’ When the artists tried to modernise her, the readers were furious.
But on screen Margot Kidder cracked Lois Lane by modernising her just a little and bringing her perfectly to life as a timeless heroine, even in the outrageous music interlude of the flying sequence. I first saw her in Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian screen-splitting ‘Sisters’ (called ‘Blood Sisters’ in the UK) in which she brilliantly played a French-Canadian schizophrenic. But she will always be Lois, now and forever.