The Many Loves Of Superman: A Brief History Of The Man Of Steel’s Love Life
Last week DC Comics announced that Superman and Wonder Woman would lock lips in the upcoming Justice League #12, and unlike their previous lip-locks (like the one above, from John Byrne and George Perez’s Action Comics #600 in 1988), this one would lead to an actual relationship, making them the DC Universe’s premiere super-power couple.
Wonder Woman and Superman have long seemed like they’d make a nice match — they both have blue eyes and blue-black hair, they’re both superheroes with similar powers, they wear matching costumes. But maybe they look a little too much alike to work? In any case, since one or both of them are usually romantically entangled elsewhere, any dalliances between Superman and Wonder Woman have been very brief and occurred in their pasts or in alternate timelines where Lois Lane is dead. These include Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again and All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder (with Jim Lee), and Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ influential Kingdom Come, in which the pair actually have a child together.
In official DC canon, however, Superman and Wonder Woman have always remained just really good friends, even when put in the most dire and tempting circumstances, as in Joe Kelly and German Garcia & Joe Rubenstein’s Action Comics #761, in which the superheroes were transported to another dimension and forced to fight demons for literally a thousand years. In all that time, Superman’s love for his wife Lois Lane never wavered.
While Lois has always been the most famous of the Man of Steel’s romances, she’s hardly the only love interest he’s ever had. Join us now as we take a look back at a few of Superman’s prominent girlfriends.
It’s just about impossible to argue against Lois Lane as Superman’s ideal girlfriend. She’s the only character to star in a comic book with the words “Superman’s Girlfriend” right there in the title, after all, let alone one that ran for 14 years. It’s similarly difficult to overestimate the character’s importance in the Superman story and basic, core appeal.
Lois Lane has been around since Superman’s first appearance in 1938’s Action Comics #1, and she’s been in every single adaptation of the Superman story in other media: radio, newspaper comic strips, novels, animated cartoons, film, and television. The relationship Lois shares with Superman is complex; she spurns milquetoast Clark Kent in favor of alpha-jock Superman, who in turn spurns her. Consequently, Lois would think of insane plots to either reveal Superman’s secret identity or trick him into marrying her while jealously fending off any romantic rivals. Superman generally kept Lois at arm’s length, unless of course she suddenly took an interest in another guy or her ardor seemed to wane.
This status quo worked for a good four or five decades, but eventually the two developed a more realistic and mature relationship during writer/artist John Byrne’s revamp of the Superman continuity for the emerging post-Crisis On Infinite Earths version of the DC Universe in the late 1980s. The new Lois Lane wasn’t quite so hard on her Daily Planet co-worker Clark Kent, and Superman revealed his secret identity to her. After a few years as a couple, they finally married in 1996’s Superman: The Wedding Album, and had one of the more healthy and stable super-relationships for the next 15 years. DC’s “New 52″ reboot undid their marriage, courtship and even the fact that Lois knew that Superman and Clark Kent were one and the same, freeing the Man of Steel up for a relationship with Wonder Woman that does not necessitate leaving Lois — if they were never together, there can be no break-up.
If Lois Lane was Superman’s greatest love, Lana Lang was his first — at least insofar as the mythology goes. She debuted in 1950’s Superboy #10, back when “Superboy” was “the adventures of Superman when he was a boy,” rather than a different character entirely (if you don’t know what I’m talking about… it’s a long story). Back in Smallville, Kansas, Lana was essentially a red-haired, teenage version of Lois Lane, but over the years revisions were made to the character and her precise level of romantic involvement with Clark. Sometimes she was just a platonic pal, sometimes she loved him but her feelings weren’t reciprocated, and sometimes they were high school sweethearts.
The adult Lana spent a lot of time in Metropolis, vying for Superman’s affections in a conflict with Lois. In the post-Crisis DCU of the 1980s, Lana had an unrequited love for Clark, and eventually started stalking him when he became Superman. Things ended more or less happily for Lana when she married Clark’s best friend from childhood, Pete Ross, and they had a baby together, whom she named Clark. Which, come to think of it, was probably pretty weird for Pete.
While Lois is usually the love interest in any other media adaptations, Lana got her turn in 1983’s Superman III, in which she was played by Annette O’Toole, and in the 2001-2011 TV series Smallville, in which she was played by Kristin Kreuk (although the ostensible prequel series ended up running so long that a Lois Lane eventually joined the cast as well).
And then there was that time Superman dated a mermaid.
In 1959’s Superman #129, Bill Finger and Wayne Boring revealed “The Girl in Superman’s Past.” It turned out that when Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent was attending Metropolis University, he fell in love with a mysterious girl in a wheelchair who had a strict 8 pm curfew every night. Despite some of his questions about her unusual behavior, young Clark proposed to the co-ed, who turned him down, saying she had to return to her homeland. Which turned out to be Atlantis. Yes, Lori was all fish from the waist down, a fact she disguised by getting around on land in a wheelchair and covering her fish parts with a blanket.
Lori survived the Silver Age continuity purge of Crisis, although the post-Crisis version grew human legs when on dry land, and would resume her mermaid form only when wet. She’s appeared only rarely since.
Roger Stern and George Pérez introduced Superman to Maxima in 1989’s Action Comics #645. A super-powered despot from the alien world of Almerac, she came to Earth seeking Superman as her perfect mate. Unlike Earth women, she argued, Maxima could produce children with the Kryptonian Superman. TMI?
Superman didn’t bite, perhaps because he was already in love with Lois, perhaps because he didn’t like the idea of being a super-stallion for some supervillain, or perhaps he just didn’t like girls who didn’t have the initials “L.L.”
While Maxima and Supes never hooked up, exposure to the noble hero helped soften her, and she later became a superhero in her own right, serving on a couple different incarnations of the Justice League before ultimately dying in a big crossover event story.
As previously mentioned, romances between Kal-El of Krypton and Diana of Themyscira have until recently been non-canonical, but they have happened. In 1998’s Superman: Distant Fires, Howard Chaykin, Gil Kane and Kevin Nowlan depicted a post-apocalyptic Earth where Superman and Wonder Woman were among the only survivors, and where they had a son who, like Kal-El, was eventually rocketed to another planet to save him from his homeworld’s destruction. In Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, which also takes place in the future, Clark and Diana had a superpowered daughter called Lara, after Superman’s Kryptonian mother, whom they protected from the government. In typical Miller style, the relationship was memorably… intense:
Perhaps most famously, the Kingdom Come graphic novel by Mark Waid and Alex Ross introduced a reality where Superman and Wonder Woman coupled after Lois was killed by the Joker, and where Kal-El and Diana eventually started a family (seen below with Uncle Batman):
Indeed, there have been quite a few occurrences of this match, but October’s Justice League #12 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee will be the first time the love between Superman and Wonder Woman will be presented as canon. In honor of the event, DC partnered with popular online dating site Match.com to create profiles for both superheroes. Here’s Superman’s, along with an analysis by Dr. Helen Fisher, Chief Scientific Officer for Match:
Superman and Wonder Woman are a classic match, as a very high testosterone male and a very high estrogen female. They also have many cultural and biological traits that will fuel their romance. People also tend to fall in love with those of the same background. Although Superman comes from a different planet, while Wonder Woman harks from an isolated island, both are aliens to our modern world. More important, Superman and Wonder Woman share the same values and goals: They are both dedicated to truth and justice and both fight evil to save the good — traits shared by both the high testosterone and high estrogen type. Lastly, both value independence.
Compelling testimony from Dr. Fisher, to be sure, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t give equal time to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, who memorably commented upon the idea in the classic 1985 story “For The Man Who Has Everything”:
Come back tomorrow for a brief history of the many loves of Wonder Woman!
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