“We tried to portray a Lois who cared about people and their plight, who was committed to her job and loved it, and saw it as a way to give something to the world.”
Writer and artist Dan Jurgens helped guide some of the most successful Superman narratives of the last 25 years, including the Death and Return of Superman and the Superman Wedding Album. Several of the Superman stories produced under Dan’s influence remain, to this day, some of the best selling comics of all time.
Here, he shares a few of his thoughts with us as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Lois Lane.
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Mary A: In the 80’s and 90’s, the changing idea of what it meant to be a “career woman”, particularly, in male dominant environments, became a huge conversation point in American culture. How do you think this changing cultural landscape impacted Lois Lane during the post-Byrne era of comics?
Dan Jurgens: When I first arrived on the Superman books, we spent a lot of time discussing Lois.
Who is she? Why does she do what she does? Why is she attracted to that particular job? What drives her? What is her interest in Clark? Superman? What is Superman’s interest in her?
We did this because there was a certain feeling out there that Lois had become too “bitchy”. (Their term, not mine.)
But that sentiment forced the discussion, which pointed us down the road of writing her in a more well rounded fashion. It forced us to write stories that moved people beyond that perception.
I think it’s fair to say that we were moving with the times a bit, maybe without even being terribly conscious of it. But I think we tried to portray a Lois who cared about people and their plight, who was committed to her job, and loved it and saw it as a way to give something to the world. That became a shared bond between her and Superman. For example, we all sort of felt that if she was a highly accomplished writer and Pulitzer winner, that she could have made a lot more money doing something else. But she came from a family committed to service (her father), became that herself and responded to that in Superman.
MA: Why do you think Lois Lane has endured as a role model and inspiration for women for 75 years?
DJ: The easy answer would be her connection to Superman.
But it’s gone well beyond that. She has her own identity and, at her best, reflects a lot of the traits I mentioned earlier.
MA: What do you think the biggest challenge is when writing and drawing Lois Lane effectively? Do you think she’s a difficult character to get right?
DJ: I’d say there are two different answers.
For artists, I think Lois should embody a certain sense of attitude that is practical, accomplished and even a bit sexy, just in terms of the independence and individuality that’s portrayed. She doesn’t act, behave or dress to people’s expectations of her. She’s her, doing what’s right for her. She doesn’t work overtime to be attractive, which in and of itself makes her more attractive.
For writers, it’s the idea of making her independent of Superman while also blending her stories in with Superman if it’s a natural fit. She’s absolutely her own person and shouldn’t be seen as just part of the supporting cast. Lois is very much a part of the Superman story and should be seen that way, though she should be strong enough to carry her own book.
MA: When you look back over your time with the Superman books, which Lois moments meant the most to you as a creator?
DJ: I’m quite partial to Superman #59, in which Superman and Lois “run away” to a place of solitude in order to discuss their relationship. They go to a snow covered mountain– a tip of the hat to the classic Fortress of Solitude– where they can simply talk about their life. (It should be noted that Clark had to ditch Lois a few hours earlier, during a date, to handle a Superman problem.) The story was about Superman being busy, which cost him the time he wanted with Lois for himself. Of course, we then find out that even this brief moment had to be engineered by a Linear Man.
With the Death of Superman, I think we were also able to elevate Lois a bit. Her sense of loss became vital because it keyed the readers’, which was tremendously important. They had to experience the story through Lois.
And, of course, the wedding stands out. It was a transformative element in the books that certainly served to redefine their relationship. It really did make Superman and Lois equals.
MA: You contributed to some of the most famous Superman/Lois Lane stories of the last 25 years. What does it mean to you now, to have been a part of the team that brought us these iconic moments in comics history?
DJ: It means a lot.
I’ve always said that the idea of going on a book is to leave it in a better place than when you found it.
We can’t always say that when we’re done!
But, in this case, I think we added to the grand tapestry of Superman. We did some work that people will remember for a long time, which is always immensely satisfying for a creator.
MA: You’ve mentioned previously that you enjoyed Erica Durance’s interpretation of Lois Lane on Smallville. Why do you think her interpretation of the character worked so well? What appealed to you?
DJ: Well, if you read some of what I said earlier, I think you can see where she fits into those categories quite well.
I totally bought into her Lois as someone who had a reservoir of strength while also being a bit vulnerable, as we all are. What I really enjoyed was a certain sense of spark, energy and humor she brought to Lois, which I see as essential. She seemed quite capable of saying to Superman, who can be a bit overly serious at times, “Oh, please. Would you get over yourself?” I think that’s important.
MA: We are on the verge of a brand new Lois Lane (played by 4 time Oscar Nominee, Amy Adams) being introduced to the general public. In fact, Adams actually shares a resemblance with the red-haired Lois that appeared in many of your comics in the early 90’s and several interviews with the film’s star have cited Death and Return as an influence. What would make this film a success for YOU in terms of Lois’s portrayal?
DJ: I look forward to it, as I anticipate she’ll be tremendous. I fully expect she’ll continue to add to the overall legend.
MA: The comics have just gone through a rather controversial change with the new 52. Obviously, it’s still early days in many respects. Where do you hope to see Lois Lane 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
DJ: By “controversy”, I assume you mean the fact that Clark and Lois aren’t currently married.
Given that it is, as you said, early in their relationship, I think that can work. However, I think it’s important that Lois be portrayed within the general parameters of what we’ve talked about earlier.
I assume that will happen. If so, I believe it will continue to strengthen her as a character five and ten years from now.