Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Few Thoughts on Lois Lane

I posted this in a comment on Written World, which I've just added belatedly to the sidebar, and thought I should share it here, too. And I thought I had linked here to Written World, since I added a sub for it to Bloglines, but I forgot the I didn't add the folder here because it includes a lot of art sites and such I didn't think fit the theme here. Anyway, the link's here now and this is what I had to say in answer to a wonderful post extolling Lois's virtues.

I grew up reading the Lois Lane comic book in the '60s. In that, Superman was the guest star. Quite often, Lois got herself into and out of trouble on her own in that book. The one I recall best is when she went after a fake medium. She exposed her (I think it was a woman) by learning how to write with her foot using chalk so she could fake out the medium with her own spirit messages on the blackboard on the floor during a seance. I spent hours trying to do that, write with chalk between my toes, just like Lois. Yeah, she was a role model. I was really happy she finally landed the man of her dreams. :)

So I read now what (mostly younger) comic fans have to say about Lois and other female comics characters with interest. They make good points re: how unfairly the females are often treated vs the males, yet I rarely notice such things. I consider myself a feminist, but I suppose, growing up with some things the norm, that a lot gets past me, especially if I'm caught up in the story. And there's the angst factor. I pay more attention to the male characters than the females, so the females who catch my attention are the ones that grab me forcibly, like Lois and Black Canary, Barbara Gordon, Kara Supergirl, Huntress (the original Helena Wayne more than the current one), Power Girl, and even Grace in Outsiders. True, Lois and even Kara weren't the most forceful characters, but they had a way of getting under my skin at an age where I could appreciate their resourcefulness.

I'm the same with TV shows and movies. I'd rather watch the men, though Xena and Gabby grabbed my attention, as did Aeryn on Farscape, and now Claudia Black is doing that again as Vala on Stargate SG-1. SG: Atlantis has Teyla and Battlestar Galactica has plenty of strong females to compete with the men for my attention, but the men are the ones I lust after and to be honest, I'd rather see them hurt or in trouble than the females. That ups the angst factor, after all, the whole hurt/comfort thing.

Men have been the traditional writers of comics, and maybe the damsel in distress has persisted because they don't know how to write women otherwise. Or maybe they subconsciously put them in a lesser role, even when the female is the star. Or maybe they're also into the angst factor, when you hurt the one you love.

It's not unheard of for writers to put their fav characters through hell and for readers to get off on it. How telling is it for me to admit I enjoyed the storyline that had Roy Harper shot, with all the fairly realistic for a comic book follow-up. Or the storylines with Wolverine being tortured, because I know he can heal, eventually.

And while there's a lot of truth to the whole women in refrigerators thing that Gail Simone brought up and there's also truth that when it happens to men (Tim Drake's father, for ex), the men are "feminized" or put in that damsel in distress role. Or that when male heroes die, it tends to be more heroic than when the female heroes die. But when it comes to killing civilains for impact, it seems to me that there simply are more female supporting characters to go around than males because traditionally, there have been more males in starring roles than females and more male writers than females and.... well, it does get a bit circular, doesn't it?

There are no easy explanations and sometimes, each case should be viewed separately, within its own context. And still, patterns emerge. I guess we just need more women writing mainstream comics. I wish sometimes, I'd been a more outgoing person back in the '70s when I walked into DC's offices looking for a job. I had no experience, nothing to offer, yet I wasn't pushy enough and didn't have the inclination or determination to work at it so I could get inside. Writing was something I'd done but had abandoned at that point, and it was another 6 or so years til I started again. To have women such as Devin Grayson and Gail Simone trusted with the main guys is great, and yet, Devin has let me down. I much prefered her writing on the supporting players, the Outsiders, Nightwing before the current storyline. In order to keep us in suspense, she's leaving too much out. She could take some lessons from Gail Simone in that regard. But I digress, something I do often.

I sometimes feel out of touch with current comics and current comics readers. I don't always see those nuances, or if I do, I can easily ignore them if I'm otherwise enjoying the comic. They're so much a part of me, I can forgive them almost anything, except a boring story or inept art. But the discussions do fascinate me.


  1. Anonymous1:19 AM EST

    Somehow I never remembered to comment on this entry even though I think it's a great one.

    I have to agree that personally my focus is on the male characters except for the exceptions you've mentioned. It is a shame that these exceptions aren't more the rule. I'd like more strong female heroines.

  2. Thanks, Kalinara. Much appreciated.:)