Action Comics #1 (1938)
The very first appearance of Superman in 1938 also happens to be the very first appearance of Lois Lane. From the start, she was portrayed as a reporter hell-bent on getting her story, regardless of who stood in her way. Remember, in 1938, women had only had the vote for 18 years, and the notion of ladies in the workforce in “men’s jobs” was a new concept. Yet here was Lois, dissing Clark, putting herself in danger, and slapping a gangster right in the face.
The Fleischer Studios Superman Cartoons (1941-43)
Appearing on movie theater screens just two years after Superman was introduced, these short animated films helped make Clark and Lois into household names. And from that very first chapter, Lois was portrayed as a fearless reporter who took no guff from anyone. When a mad scientist threatens to use his death ray on Metropolis, Perry White orders Clark to accompany Lois to follow up on her lead. She says “Chief, can I crack this story on my own?” And before Perry can vocalize his disapproval, she takes off and does it anyway.
Margot Kidder in Superman: The Movie (1978)
After spending much of the ’50s and ’60s trying to both get Superman to reveal his identity to her and to trick him into marrying her, the ’70s started to see the World War II-era, go-getter Lois Lane emerge in the comics once again. This informed the late Margot Kidder’s iconic portrayal of Lois in 1978’s Superman: The Movie. She’s once again a fast-talking, ambitious reporter, and the first thing she says on screen is asking, “How many T’s in bloodletting?” when writing a story. (Sure, she might turn into a lovesick teenager when Christopher Reeve’s Superman appears, but who wouldn’t?)
The Man of Steel Mini-Series (1986)
After DC Comics’ continuity altering Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman and his mythology were modernized in writer/artist John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini-series. Lois Lane got updated to the ’80s, and in her reintroduction, Lois decides to take a gamble and plunges her car into the harbor in an effort to draw out Superman just to get the scoop on him for the Daily Planet. In addition to that, she tells billionaire Lex Luthor where he can shove it. In the comics, this Lois has become the template for her portrayal ever since.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97)
Lois Lane is so iconic a character, that when Superman got his own TV show again in 1993, Lois got top billing over him! The Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman series ran for four seasons from 1993 to ’97, and although often a bit cheesy by today’s standards, Teri Hatcher’s version of Lois Lane was always a delight to watch, and she outshone Superman almost ever time they shared a scene together. In almost every episode, she was as much (or more) of a hero than Superman was, and people remember her portrayal very fondly more than 20 years later.
Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)
Bruce Timm’s animated series like Batman and Justice League are seen by many as the very best the DC Comics have to offer distilled into a new format, and Superman: The Animated Series was no different. Timm’s Lois was an amalgamation of the Fleischer cartoon Lois, Teri Hatcher, and the modern comics, with Dana Delany giving an incredible voice performance. She’s feisty, smart, and more nuanced than any other female character on a “kid’s show” at the time. Plus, points for creating the idea that Lois’ nickname for Clark is “Smallville.”
All Star Superman (2005-2007)
Grant Morrison’s seminal series is one of the greatest Superman stories ever, and it also has one of the greatest Lois Lane moments of all time. In issue #3, a dying Superman gives Lois Lane a potion that gives her his powers for 24 hours. As Superwoman, Lois takes flight, and the joy she takes in her new abilities is never not a blast to read. Although I understand Lois needs to be Superman’s mortal tether to the world, this story makes a strong case for why Lois should be a superhero herself.
Are there any portrayals of Lois you think we overlooked? Should Smallville or Man of Steel have made the cut? Be sure to let us know down below in the comments.
Images: Warner Brothers / DC Comics