The photos come from 20% Theatre Chicago's Ashley Ann Woods, and the featured actors are Jess Palmert, Dionne Addai, Tony Garcia, JP Thomas, and Emilio Tirri. The director and assistant director are Alyssa Vera Ramos and Mariana Green. And I am even featured in the talkback photo, hard at work scribbling down a note.
Just occurred to me that I never posted photographic evidence of DarkRoom! The rehearsal photos don't quite capture the Puritan nature of the proceedings, and I am in the process of writing a new draft of Lively Stones, so polished images of the reading seem warranted.
The photos come from 20% Theatre Chicago's Ashley Ann Woods, and the featured actors are Jess Palmert, Dionne Addai, Tony Garcia, JP Thomas, and Emilio Tirri. The director and assistant director are Alyssa Vera Ramos and Mariana Green. And I am even featured in the talkback photo, hard at work scribbling down a note.
The Sixth Annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival was quite the experience. The audience brought a great energy to both performances, and it was fascinating to see what all the writers, directors, and actors made out of a minute's worth of material. Below are some photos from my piece, "Significant Side Effects." My play involved a mother being pushed by a doctor to prescribe Adderall to her son, when he probably doesn't medically need it. Anna Trachtman served as a crackerjack director for the short, and she helped me both cut and shape the piece throughout our quick rehearsal process. Major kudos to actors Alex Moorman and Elizabeth Dowling for their dedicated, lived-in performances, as well!
The photos from the performance are courtesy of High Five Foto and Juan Carlos Pelayo.
I never intend to double up news items into one post, but that seems to be the way of things with a packed schedule these days. Plus, it seems fitting to post multiple writer notes on the weekend anniversary of both Shakespeare's death and birth. So, without further ado!
About two weeks from now, my work will be featured in the Sixth Annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival. The event will feature sixty second plays by seventy female-identifying artists, and from the read-through rehearsal I attended, I can tell it is going to be an absolute blast! So many stories about community will be shared over the two nights of performances, and you won't want to miss out on all the laughs, cleverness, and poignant points. Tickets can be purchased here. I will be attending both shows, so come and say hello!
I am also happy to announce that I have taken up a new writing gig as a reviewer for the Chicago theatre site, Theatre By Numbers. I have wanted to get back into the criticism game for a long while now, and learn more about the Chicago scene (as there's always more to learn), and this provides the perfect opportunity. Each week, reviewers are randomly assigned a set of shows via game dice, and then we post reviews of those shows within three days time. It allows for a great variety in terms of audience experience, and I have really enjoyed flitting across Chicago to different venues and different companies to see local theatre. So far, I have written about three productions -- Mosque Alert, Trash, and The Women of Lockerbie -- but there's always more to come, and I hope to post those reviews as they happen, along with any other neat news coming down the pike.
First things first: I have received some swell playwriting news of late. I was chosen as a finalist for the Activate: Midwest New Play Festival for the second year running, which is a nice feather in the cap. And I have also been asked to pen a one-minute play for the Sixth Annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival. It's been a great challenge crafting such a short script, and I am particularly looking forward to the performance dates in May because this year, the festival is being managed and created by all female-identifying artists! It should be a good time, and I will provide more details in the weeks to come.
I am also happy to report that I read a new live lit piece at the OMNIBUS proceedings last night. The theme was "Batman vs. Superman," put up in a mock trial setting. I served as an expert witness for Superman, my goal being to prove he's cooler than Batman. Our legal team definitely made the audience feel all the feels, but alas, Batman was still judged to be cooler by the jury (read: audience). I do concede his costume is cool, and I must admit it was generally agreed that each hero has his good points. All in all, an evening well spent. Below you will find the piece I wrote for the event, about Superman and his secret identity:
Picture the newsroom of the Daily Planet. The floor to ceilings windows, the art deco globe looming atop the elevators, the rows and rows of identical desks housing rows and rows of identical reporters. An unassuming man sits at one particular cube, studiously typing up his notes. Coke bottle glasses. Slumped posture. Terrible haircut. A stylishly dressed woman walks over and slaps the morning edition on his keyboard, pointing to the byline.
“I’m confused, Kent,” she says, bumping her hip against the lip of his desk. “I can’t figure out how some yokel from Smallville is suddenly getting every hot story in town.”
“Well, Lois,” Clark responds, calling her closer with a lowering of his spectacles and the motion of his hand, “I’m actually Superman in disguise, and I only pretend to be a journalist in order to hear about disasters as they happen and squeeze you out of the byline.”
A blank, disbelieving stare from Lois.
“You’re a sick man, Kent.”
She walks off as he crooks his arms behind his head and swings his feet up on his desk.
“You asked,” he quips.
This scene -- from underrated gem “Superman: The Animated Series,” and all the funnier because the truth is taken for a lie -- is one of many attempts to explain why the Man of Steel would ever masquerade as Clark Kent, seen side by side in the opposing image. That’s original artist Joe Shuster’s handiwork, by the way, and he doesn’t skimp on the details. I don’t dig our hero’s ventilated boots, but don’t you love how dismayed Clark is by Superman? Like he might faint. Like he can’t contain himself. (A bit of comics trivia: Shuster based Clark’s physique on schlubbier writing partner Jerry Siegel, and Superman’s on his own. Despite his nebbish behavior, Joe was obsessed with body-building and how others viewed his appearance.)
One of the biggest criticisms leveled against the Big Blue Boy Scout, aside from his innate decency and superpower set, is that he has absolutely no need for a secret identity, that it’s part of what makes him far-fetched, pointless, and silly. There’s no juice behind the identity, no urgent need to keep a secret, no reason to have a job like the rest of us regular Joes. Or two full-time jobs, I guess. So why? Why, why, why would he dress up like a nerd and perpetrate scams like pretending to feel pain after stubbing his toe, worrying a lack of harm will convince the world he's Superman? His performance as Clark just causes unnecessary stress, when he could spend his downtime chilling at the Fortress of Solitude, figuring out how to re-enlarge the damn bottle city of Kandor already! Even now, DC is so obsessed with resolving his dual identities that its ongoing story arc in all Clark’s books is about his being outed globally as Superman. Over the past year, readers have experienced the myriad troubles his outing brings, from being hunted by the military, taunted by the DC brand of Anonymous, and shadowed by an immortal serial killer.
Superman’s been through quite a few cosmetic changes in the last two years, too -- efforts meant to make him more relatable to the average reader. He’s grown a hipster beard and gotten a buzz cut;, so bye-bye tousled S-curl! Somehow neither change immediately raised suspicion that Clark and the Man of Steel “share the same barber,” despite their increasing similarity in appearance. And I suppose that’s always been part of the joke with Superman’s identities. He is hiding in plain sight, with only the cheapest of masks, a set of bifocals, to hide his heroic nature. It doesn’t hurt that he looks exactly like any other human being, but there’s a cruel edge to that symmetry. One could argue he’s simultaneously better than the rest of us, and puts humanity on like a costume. Some see Clark Kent as a joke he plays on mankind, and certainly that was true in the Silver Age of comics, when Lois desperately schemed to prove his identity so Superman would marry her already. Meanwhile, poor Clark sheepishly stood in the corner, unseen, begging for a date. Lois’ entanglement with both Clark and Superman is often referred to as the “triangle for two,” and it certainly marks her as consumed with appearance over substance. She couldn’t believe that her co-worker and her romantic lead were one and the same! What a dum-dum, all jilted lovers everywhere screech!
Of course, she had her own appearance to worry about in the fifties and sixties, since plot contrivances dictated she magically – horror of horrors – put on a few pounds or miraculously turned into a centaur. For every overlooked reader alive, Lois’ “friend-zoning” of Clark seemed realistic. Certainly, the easy metaphor of a geek holding all this potential the world doesn’t see was apt for Superman’s creators, given that they were misunderstood Midwestern geniuses themselves. But that take on the character has long outgrown its usefulness. In fact, Siegel and Shuster tried to end the masquerade only two years into their run on Superman in 1940. They wrote a story where Lois and Clark are trapped in a mine, and our mild-mannered reporter finds himself harmed by kryptonite, then known as “k-metal.” Once he recovers, as they struggle for oxygen, he reveals his alter ego to Lois, and flies his partner out of the shaft. Lois’ reaction to all this is amazing. First, she chastises Superman for hiding his secret, because she can better aid his crusade if she knows the full story. At issue’s end, after their enemies have been carted off to jail, she has a change of heart. “I just remembered how long you’ve secretly been laughing at me,” she roars. “I don’t like to be laughed at, Clark Kent—but—I’ll assist you … only for the good of humanity, however.” Which is my favorite kiss-off to a superhero ever published. Superman seems pretty confident she’ll warm back up to him, except this issue was never published. DC refused to disrupt the secret identity dynamics, and that resulted in years of time travel tales, imaginary stories, and plain old in-continuity adventures that showcased Clark fooling Lois time and time again. Picture 60 years of that trope. I mean, as much as writers and artists love telling stories where Lois discovers Clark’s alter ego, cartoonists like Kate Beaton regularly lampoon the messed up priorities of uncovering his identity.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Clark Kent. I have always believed that Clark is the real identity, and Superman the uniform Clark wears to operate as a hero. Which can seem hokey or outdated or whatever, but we all put on different suits to enable us to get through our days. Sarah drinking at the bar after this show because it’s her birthday is very different from Sarah instructing college-aged students on how to tell the difference between active and passive voice. But each version of myself serves a purpose. So isn’t it possible that Clark wants to seem human in order to engage as best he can with others, primarily so he can hold on to his relationships? With the love of his life, with his adopted parents, with his his co-workers. More than any other hero at DC Comics, he thrives in the presence of people (which is why all his confessions to Lois about his double life can be so powerful). Or perhaps he craves an opportunity where his service is group-oriented, rather than stacked solely on his broad shoulders. Of course, these reasons are often implanted by whomever is writing or reading Superman’s adventures on a monthly basis. The ultimate paradox remains. If you had all the power in the world available to you, would you deign to humble yourself? Would you choose to be Clark Kent?
Some of you might immediately scoff, nope. What kind of sense would that make? Others might consider the possibility, while also admitting you’d rather use his powers to set people’s toupees on fire, rather than listening for police sirens and hot news tips. But the point is, Superman forces you to ask the question. Does practicing humility give you power? Does it gift you empathy? Does altruism for the sake of altruism exist? By following Clark’s misadventures, you can ask, does that kind of charity exist in you?
“But Sarah,” you collectively cry, “emulating a white guy with superpowers isn’t exactly revolutionary!” You’re right about that – even though you could argue Superman is a stand-in for the Jewish prophet Moses, being a baby sent in a rocket ship basket to deliver the multitude from danger. Academic hoo-ha aside: how is cheering a champion fighting for the downtrodden any less complex a fantasy than watching an emotionally stunted billionaire beat the shit out of low lives every night? Bob Kane admitted that he wanted Batman to be both financially carefree and unburdened by the rule of law; his updating of Zorro’s multiple identities has paid off at the box office and on the comic book rack. Although Batman has a tragic backstory, he is not inherently more complicated than Clark. Because his paradox is easier to explain. When you ask why a man might dress up like a bat to terrify Gotham City’s cowardly lot, a murdered family makes about as much sense as any other explanation. (Also, his costume looks cool.) When you try to unite Superman’s two identities, we get self-conscious about comic book tropes and stutter about realistic stakes and moan over that flimsy pair of glasses.
Of course, Clark has a tragic backstory, fleshed out by Bill Finger -- the same author who penned Batman’s origin, by the way. Kal-El lost his entire home planet. But he was also rescued by humble people, who taught him to use his gifts for the betterment of mankind. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely summed him up in two pages. That’s enough to make Clark Kent a Superman. But if it’s that simple, why do we crave his transformation? Why is it so important to watch the man slip into a phone booth and emerge a golden god? Why did we need to watch every single person in his life mourn his death in the nineties, when we suspected he was coming back, this time with a bitchin’ mullet? Why do we love watching Clark unveil himself in front of Lois? Why do the clothes make the man?
In preparation for this trial of the century, I tweeted Superman writer Kurt Busiek to ask what was so special about Superman. He wrote back that our hero “is an alien, and the alienation that he feels as a result paradoxically makes him human.” The Man of Tomorrow is often preoccupied by his super-senses in Busiek’s work, though a temporary loss of powers motivates one of the sweetest exchanges I’ve ever seen in a comic book, where his blurred vision, his actual need for glasses, connects him to Lois as a fellow human being. And while I find Kurt’s exploration of Superman as an alien – I mean, we all feel alienated from time to time – a fascinating take on the character, I think he’s excised the heart of the character’s enduring mystery. No one can believe Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same, because that would mean admitting the Man of Steel is vulnerable. Of course, the whole point of Superman is that his skin can stop bullets. He can’t even die properly, he just goes into Kryptonian super-sleep. But in choosing to do good, in choosing to build relationships with the human beings around him, he also makes himself vulnerable, in an invisible way, perhaps in a weightier way than if he could shed blood. He falls in love, he watches friends get hurt. In certain out-of-continuity stories, he watches everyone else on Earth fade away while he lives for millennia alone. And kryptonite excepted, the only things that affect our hero are his unscrupulous villains and his imperfect loved ones, who throw themselves into danger simply because they feel like it. I’m looking at you, Lois.
Superman’s choice to embrace what others – likely what Batman – would call soft-heartedness may seem like a tactical error. If he separates himself from people, if he wants nothing from them, if he doesn’t bother to mimic them, he could be a more efficient, but certainly more tortured and boring superhero. Sure, Clark’s clumsiness and gee-goshness are a bit of a performance; remember his decision to pretend a stubbed toe hurt? But his life as Clark allows him to pull people closer, to appear unassuming so he can see what’s best in them, in order to emulate humans as Superman. See, the magic of opening one’s shirt to reveal the thrilling S-shield doesn’t lie in watching Clark turn into Superman, but in watching Superman reveal what was already present in Clark. Neither identity can be contained, because they are one and in constant friction. Superman is both the big guy protecting the little guy and the little guy himself. He is every single one of us. And while that might not make a ton of logical sense, it gets at the heart of why he matters so much to me, and why he should matter to you.
In Action Comics 662, fifty-one years after his original creators intended Clark to reveal to Lois that he is Superman, our hero actually accomplished this feat. The newly engaged couple had to grapple with this information for a pretty mundane series of stories that ended up delaying their wedding for far too long, but it’s still my favorite depiction of Lois’ reaction. Because she acknowledges the problems of life with a super-powered alien, while completely understanding how two men could actually be one. “Actually I’m kind of relieved …” she admits. “I mean, it’s like a puzzle that suddenly makes sense because the missing piece is finally in place … In my heart I think I’ve known for a long time, but my brain would always dismiss the notion.”
Lois says what we’re all thinking. This makes sense. Not on an intellectual or narrative level, certainly, but on a deeper, intuitive one. Superman and his masquerade prove that we are all stronger than we seem. To the world, to ourselves. That we share the potential to change things for the better, that even when we hide, our best selves shine through. And maybe that’s a fantasy, too, but it’s far from silly or pointless.
Some neat news to report! In the past month or so, my work has been selected to be part of a large theatre conference and was picked as a finalist for a cool reading series.
The Mid-America Theatre Conference will take place this spring in Minneapolis, and while I will not be able to attend, it was awesome to have my short play, "The Amazing Adventures of Not-Batman" selected as a finalist for the Playwriting Symposium's Dramatist Lab. During the conference, my play would have been workshopped and staged with a collection of other writers' scripts, and then performed in a public forum setting. A cool academic accolade for a ridiculous play about a romance novelist whose work is interrupted by her own personal superhero.
Route 66 Theatre, an energetic Chicago company dedicated to new work, selected Tin Noses as a finalist for its Test Drive Workshop for 2016. This development series is particularly excellent because Route 66 gives the playwright ample time in the rehearsal room and an audience of theatre professionals to provide feedback for the finished product. While I did not win the opportunity to have the workshop, it is a deep honor to be included on the list of finalist playwrights, especially when the company works with high caliber creatives on the regular.
Overall, I have a lot of warm fuzzies about my work right now. Playwriting may involve a lot of hustling, but there is always valuable validation waiting around the corner, and cool opportunities at every turn. Here's to more work and more cool theatre people/organizations coming into my life throughout 2016!
This week's DarkRoom performances of Lively Stones were incredibly enlightening. For the first time in the play's history, I feel like I know what it is about, thematically, and I have a good sense of how I can make Anne Hutchinson's journey more powerful than ever. Thanks to the lovely ladies at 20% Theatre Company, I had the opportunity to discuss and hear the play with audiences, and I received invaluable feedback about the script's structure and the impressions it leaves on a viewer. I was lucky to work with creative and energetic directors and actors -- by name: Alyssa Vera Ramos, Mariana Green, Jess Palmert, Dionne Addai, Tony Garcia, JP Thomas, and Emilio Tirri -- and I have exciting new plans for the next draft! Hint: more female characters and a conceptual question about whether it's better to work in secret than out in the open.
Below are some shots from rehearsals, to give an idea of what the finished staged reading looked like:
Hot on the heels of what turned out to be a lovely and informative reading of Tin Noses with the Trellis, I have a developmental workshop reading scheduled for my full-length Lively Stones, this time as part of the 20% Theatre Company's DarkRoom Series. My script is being rehearsed and developed with an exciting group of actors (and a cool director in Alyssa Vera Ramos) over the course of January, and will be read on two evenings at Mrs. Murphy & Son's Irish Bistro, on January 27th and 29th. 20% is dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming female playwrights, and I think my play about furious Puritans, reproductive rights, and talking to God, fits their mission pretty perfectly.
More information about the series can be found via 20% Theatre's website, or their Facebook event. One of the coolest things about the multiple workshop readings is that my play will rotate evenings with playwright Rachel Bykowski's play Tight End. Rachel is a current OU playwriting grad student, and the lit manager of 20%, and so you know you will have a great evening of theatre ahead of you, whichever -- or both -- plays you see!
Tonight is the night! After months of waiting and casting and rewriting, my full-length Tin Noses will be receive a sit-down reading as part of the Greenhouse Theater Center's Trellis Reading Series. The reading starts at 7 pm tonight, and I would love to see as many Chicagoans as possible there. There will be a bar available to all patrons and a short and sweet talkback after the play. Below is the play blurb and my list of totally awesome collaborators:
"When movie star Max is cast as a wounded World War I vet in an upcoming prestige pic, he must learn how to perform disability for the camera. Who better to help shape his physicality than ex-flame and hotshot choreographer Hannah? And her colleague Austin, who lost the role to Max, and who lives with a disability. Nope, this won't get awkward at all."
Directed by Scot West and assisted by Evelyn Gaynor.
MAX: Luke Daigle
HANNAH: Kat Evans
AUSTIN: Michael Carten
Come and rap with me about this script! It examines matters near and dear to my heart, including identity, visibility, perception, and how much I miss being in a rehearsal room on the regular.
I am proud to announce I will have my work featured in "Spooky Old Lou," a collection of short plays that will be performed by the Actors Theatre of Louisville Apprentice company on October 19th. This walk-through theatre event will contain a mix of current and past OU playwrights, and I couldn't be happier to be in their company. My short play, "Dungeons & Dragons -- A Tragedy" is being helmed by director and actress Glenna Brucken, who starred in the original incarnation of the piece at Ohio University. Anybody who wants to waltz through the haunted halls of Old Lou's house should clear their schedule for next Monday! More information about the event and tickets can be found at OU's playwriting website, or at the Apprentice company's Facebook page.
At the inaugural episode of OMNIBUS tonight, I learned a lot about the first issues of comics people read, I learned what might be some good jumping on points for manga, and I learned that origin stories may have both good and bad points. I was pumped to be asked to write and read a piece about the theme of "first issues." Thanks to Stephen Winchell and Shawn Bowers for the opportunity! Below is the piece I read about my first comics hero, posted here because everyone needs to know how awesome they are:
When I was nine years old, I fell in love for the first time. The object of my affection had black-jet wavy hair, a penchant for form-fitting blue suits, and worked as a crusading reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper. My hero wasn’t someone you’d notice in a crowd, but when a job called out to be done, they leapt into action. They served truth and justice and, maybe, sometimes, even the American Way. I’m speaking, of course, about Lois Lane.
I first encountered the woman primarily identified as Superman’s girlfriend during the series of action-packed Fleischer cartoons produced in the early 1940’s. Though the Big Blue Boy Scout was obviously the main draw in those shorts – they feature volcanoes erupting, buildings falling, and robots wailing on the Man of Steel, and were first screened in movie theaters, though I caught them in reruns on the Disney Channel as a kid – still, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Lois. In her first appearance, she looms large over her editor’s desk, as he recommends that she allow Clark Kent to accompany her on a fact-finding mission involving a series of threatening letters sent to the Daily Planet. “But Chief,” Lois protests, “I’d like a chance to crack the story on my own.” As Perry White rubs his chin and considers her request, she simply jets out the door, with a zippy, “Thanks, Chief!” trailing behind her. Now you may ask, why would I worship someone who willingly hops in a plane and flies unprotected to a deserted rocky island, from which a mad scientist is using a particle beam death ray to destroy downtown Metropolis? Because Lois Lane doesn’t run away from trouble. She always, exclusively, inevitably hurtles toward it. No permission or male escort needed.
And let’s be clear. If anyone looks like a chump in that scene, it’s Clark Kent. Rather than running after his secret crush and suiting up as Lois’ second-in-command fly boy, or even quickly donning his tights and cape, Clark just shakes his head and remarks to Perry White, “But Chief, don’t you think that’s an awfully dangerous mission?” Gee, Clark, how’d you figure that one out? You’ve only got x-ray vision and super-hearing, and in case you forgot the opening narration to your own series, you’re more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If you want to protect Lois, you have plenty of resources at your disposal. But no. You choose to sit in the newsroom and worry instead, only jumping to Lois’ aid once a nearby radio declares buildings are melting all around the city.
In optimistic moods, I tend to hope that Superman’s reactive attitude stems from Clark’s intrinsic understanding of Lois’ nature. He knows Lois will do whatever she wants, regardless of a superhero’s grim forecasts. But I also know that without Lois rushing headfirst into peril, time and again, there would be no plot to cartoons like this. She needs to be kidnapped by the villain, in order to motivate Superman to come to her rescue and right all wrongs. At age nine, I’d consumed enough media to know this turn of events was coming. Every episode of “Inspector Gadget” I watched, every Nancy Drew novel I devoured, every comic book I flipped through at the grocery store – they all told me competent women eventually wind end up helpless at the mercy of bigger, stronger, mentally unbalanced men. It’s a tale as old as Popeye the Sailor Man, not to mention hundreds of Robin Hood ballads written long before that. What makes Superman stories different – or at least distinct – is Lois. Sure, she runs towards jeopardy armed with only a reporter’s pad and a pen, and that could seem foolish. But her unapologetic nature and drive to prioritize her own needs are traits to admire. They are, in fact, part of Lois’ original DNA.
Pick up Action Comics number one, and the first thing you’ll see on the cover is a hulking Superman shattering a Studebaker against a boulder, while civilians scatter in terror. It’s an impressive debut for the character; Joe Shuster knew his way around an iconic image. But once you peek at the pages inside, you get a fuller sense of his life from script-writer Jerry Siegel. As Superman, he thwarts an evil plot to execute an innocent man on Death Row; then he turns around as Clark Kent, and promises to be a bulldog on a political corruption story for Perry White. As originally rendered, Clark is confident and cool in both identities; the audience is never meant to question which is the real man behind the cape, because both personalities fight for truth and the little guy. It’s only when he sidles up to Lois Lane’s desk that the scared simpleton version of Clark appears. “W-what do you say to a – er – date tonight, Lois?” he asks, a shaking hand shoved in his jacket pocket. Turns out the one person Superman fears is his potential girlfriend, and that revelation actively defines Clark for the audience. Turns out Lois Lane is his kryptonite.
And why shouldn’t she be? Even in the first issue of Action, she’s a firecracker. In the back half of Superman’s initial adventures, Lois gives Clark a break and goes dancing with our hero, only to be accosted by a meathead who interrupts their waltz and insists she’d prefer to cut a rug with him. When Clark refuses to stand up for himself, or for her, Lois declares she’s leaving and slaps the interloper across the face. She informs Clark that he’s a spineless coward, and refuses to talk to him back at the office. Hey, I never claimed Lois was cuddly. After all, she’s a damsel-in-distress who never actually cries out for Superman in those Fleischer shorts. Her most fervent desire is always, always to get the scoop. She may tell her fellow muckrakers that any tale she telegraphs is thanks to Superman, but what’s more notable is how often she remarks, “What a story this is going to be!” as she straps herself on a jewel-stealing robot, or runs underfoot of a two-ton Godzilla while the Man Of Tomorrow tries to subdue the creature. Really, every story is a job for Lois Lane, and Superman just happens to be there at the same time.
The fact that Clark Kent and Lois Lane start out as rivals, then become partners (and in most continuities, a married couple) is due entirely to Lois’ take on their relationship. Clark may be cut in the classic mold of the pursuer, or the wallflower who was right under her nose all along, but Lois is the one who decides to be with him, and share his secret, rather than expose him – though she’s done just that to protect him in a recent storyline (while in the Silver Age, she tried to trick him into revealing his secret identity every issue). Still, oneupmanship and duplicity lie at the heart of their initial workplace rapport. In the cartoons, Lois steals Clark’s press pass, locks him out of cars, advises him to file a story by phone so she can sneak off to cover a new angle, and at one point, ensures he gets buried under rubble rather than nab the lead. She has to know, and she has to know first. So it only makes sense that she would take part in routinely pulling the wool over society’s eyes when it comes to her husband’s alter ego. Conflict of interest be damned; Lois Lane thrives in the thick of things! And anyway, she has bigger fish to fry, like making sure the gold bullion on the Billion Dollar Limited doesn’t get looted before she finds a way to stop the train from hurtling off a cliff.
Which is not to say Lois always laughs in the face of danger. She feels fear like anybody else. When she first encounters Superman in the comics, he towers over her, as if ready to pounce, barking, “You needn’t be afraid of me.” Lois recoils on panel, the strap of her dress slipping off her left shoulder, suggesting something weird and terrifying could happen at any moment. But a quick flick of the eye tells the reader that she arrives safe and sound at the newsroom the next day, ready for a knock-down, drag-out with her editor over this flying man story. In the shorts, she is often the single person staring down death at the hands of whatever menace Superman must stop. While he can be pushed to the ground by lasers, she can be electrocuted, drowned, and in one odd case, sealed in molten lead by bird people. Because she stubbornly risks her safety, Lois could be viewed as an arrogant, reckless harpy; often, I have seen people respond to her that way. (Those people usually want Superman to date Wonder Woman, which is what’s happening currently in the never-ending brave new world of DC Comics' reboots.) But I’d only agree with the haters if Lois didn’t display fear. Under duress onscreen or on-panel, her eyes draw wide with terror, knowing that she has mere seconds to live and could really use a hand. She may not cry out Superman’s name, but she knows what’s at stake, and that vulnerability makes her human. It makes her just like me.
As I grew older, I left behind my penchant for comics and cartoons. Not only were they kids’ stuff, they were decidedly not girl stuff in my small town high school. I had no one to talk to about my forbidden love. I found life easier if I pretended my obsession didn’t exist. It wasn’t until a rediscovery of Superman comics in my mid-twenties – after a short career in journalism, natch – that my fervor for Lois was renewed. I was pleasantly surprised to see that not much about her has changed between the 1940’s and now. She still argues with colleagues about the best way to break a story; she still finds herself wielding the mightiest weapon during the heat of battle (aka, a pen), and she still has an incredibly complicated relationship with the Man of Steel, whatever the era. What’s more, she’s as bull-headed and fierce as ever. In reacquainting myself with the bustling, busy world of Metropolis, I realized that I needed to follow Lois’ example, and confess my love proudly. Lois would never hide part of herself away. She doesn’t need a secret identity. She never apologizes for who she is or what she wants, and she views headaches as opportunities. That, above all, may be why I fell in love with her. Lois Lane taught me how to run towards trouble, how to evaluate risks, and face my own weaknesses. I suppose she’s not your typical superhero. She doesn’t have a gaudy costume or a bunch of gadgets. But she helped a little girl see the truth: that everyone has potential, no matter their powers, and that all I needed to start my own story was me. And what’s more superheroic than that?
Animation Stills: Fleischer Studios, and maybe one or two from Famous Productions?
Action Comics #1: Joe Shuster, art; Jerry Siegel, words.
Flight At Harvest Time: A News Blog
Check this page for updates on Sarah's writing, her productions, collaborations and thoughts on comics.