Super Woman: A Celebration of Lois Lane
Lois Lane, who debuted alongside Superman in May 1938's Action Comics #1, wasn't just the first superhero love interest. At her best, Lois serves as proof that people who don't wear spandex and don't have superpowers can be heroes by doing their jobs well.
Of course, she has also had superpowers on multiple occasions. Over the last eight decades or so, Lois has done just about everything a comic book character can do. And yet she's never gone stale. Quite the opposite. Lois has proven as adaptable and eternally relevant as any superhero.
Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were inspired by the journalism-themed films of the day to create a female lead in the vein of Torchy Blane, a reporter from a series of films that started with Smart Blonde, and Ellen Garfield from the movie Front Page Woman. (Garfield even worked for a paper called The Daily Star, which was the name of the paper Lois worked for prior to The Daily Planet.) According to author Tim Hanley's Investigating Lois Lane, Shuster also based his original designs for Lois on model Jolan Kovacs, who had placed an ad looking for model work in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Kovacs later married writer Joe Siegel, which may or may not have precipitated a falling out between the creative team.
Personality-wise, Lois was a scoop-hungry reporter from the get-go, though at the time of her creation, she reflected the station of many other women in the newspaper business. She was stuck writing the so-called "sob sister" column for lovelorn readers, but she competed with Clark Kent for the big stories, and in less than ten years, she was beating him out for them.
However her career was going, Lois spent most of her early years filling a damsel in distress role, serving as one of the key people Superman would often save from danger. That role continued through the Adventures of Superman radio show (which introduced photographer Jimmy Olsen, another character Superman often had to save), the Fleischer Studios animated shorts, and the Adventures of Superman TV series.
Though she remained an often-abducted, yet intrepid reporter, Lois' key traits in the Silver Age were her infatuation with Superman and her never-ending crusade to prove that he and Clark Kent were one in the same. Though she got her own title, Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane in 1958, she was featured in a number of unflattering stories in which Superman would teach her (sometimes cruel) "lessons" to keep her in line and off the scent of his identity. She would also regularly compete with rival Lana Lang for Superman's affections.
By the early 1970s, the Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane title turned away from the romance angle and toward social issues, sometimes more successfully than others. The 1970 story "I am Curious (Black)" saw Lois turn African-American for 24 hours to understand racism, for example. In her short tenure on the book, editor Dorothy Woolfolk looked to address the Women's Liberation movement of the day, having Lois move into an apartment with two other women so they could all go on adventures.
After the Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane title ended in 1974, Lois largely returned to her Golden Age role of work rival/love interest, but with a more modern bent. Certainly by the release of Superman: The Movie in 1978, Lois was established as a superlative reporter and no fool. She didn't need to set up any elaborate plans to prove Clark was Superman; many stories revealed she pretty much knew anyway.
Lois was changed slightly in the 1986 Superman reboot spearheaded by writer/artist John Byrne, but aside from casting a slightly wider dating net, Lois kept her nose for reporting and her affinity for Superman. Within just a few years, the two of them were engaged, and after some slight hiccups involving Superman's death, they were married in the Superman: The Wedding Album special. (The wedding was actually delayed because editors wanted it to coincide with the wedding on the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which Lois was arguably the lead character.)
The '90s were actually a great time for portrayals of Lois on TV. Aside from lead role on an ABC TV series, a very self-assured version appeared voiced by Dana Delany on Superman animated series. In both portrayals, Lois looked to change the city of Metropolis for the better through her reporting, and accomplished it on several occasions with exposés on Lex Luthor and various other malevolent forces.
In the 2000s Lois took a major role in the "New Krypton" storyline, in which she broke ranks with her military dad and sister, Lucy, who were working together to bring down New Krypton. With the launch of the New 52 in 2011, Lois' relationship to Superman changed. Their marriage was undone and Lois began dating a new character, Jonathan Carroll. That dynamic made her more of a professional ally and/or rival for Clark/Superman, though she was also still a close friend. In the storyline "Truth," Lois is forced to reveal Superman's identity to the world to save his life.
The pre-New 52 version of Lois has also made a return. As a result of Convergence, she and the post-crisis Clark are in the DC Universe, working secretly. That version of Lois writes books exposing corruption under the pseudonym Author X.
That's not Lois' only secret identity. Lois has taken on the title of Superwoman on several occasions --- sometimes in dream sequences, sometimes in alternate dimensions, and sometimes when she is given the powers by Superman or some other force. She was also the Earth 2 Red Tornado in the New 52 Earth 2 series.
Through unflattering portrayals and more kidnappings than you can count, Lois Lane has persevered. Like any great reporter, you just can't keep her down.