Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.
With the tragic passing of Margot Kidder on Sunday, I was thinking of a column I do called “Follow The Path,” which is about how comic books will often make adaptations to adopt aspects that are introduced in superhero films. For instance, Spider-Man had organic webshooters in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film and sure enough, within a couple of years, Spider-Man gained organic webshooters in the comics, as well. However, that’s mostly dealing with actual plot points that were changed to adapt to the films. Another way that comic books adapt to the films sometimes is that a particular actor’s performance can ultimately begin to inform the way that the comic book character is handled within the comics. For instance, there is no doubt that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has had an influence upon how Tony Stark is written in the comics nowadays.
That was the case with Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane, who debuted in 1978, but it would not be until a big fan of hers rebooted the Superman titles eight years later that Kidder’s Lois Lane would suddenly become the Lois Lane of the comics, as well.
Byrne’s interest in Kidder (who he once noted as being the first actress who played Lois Lane that portrayed in her such a way that Byrne “got” why Superman would be so interested in her) was evident long before he took over the Superman titles.
In an issue of Avengers that Byrne drew a year after the release of Superman, Byrne worked Lois Lane and her apartment into an issue of the series, with the character being named Margot Neil, in a reference to Kidder and Noel Neill, the actress who played Lois for most of the seasons of the Adventures of Superman TV show (it’s actually Byrne breakdowns with Dan Green finishes and inks)…
However, the biggest changes happened when Byrne rebooted Superman in 1986 with the Man of Steel miniseries.
Now, please note that I am certainly not trying to say that the comic book version of Lois Lane was completely different than Kidder’s depiction prior to Byrne. Of course not. Kidder’s take on Lois was, in part, based on the general depiction of Lois in Superman comics, especially the early years of the Superman comics. It is not like Rosalind Russell just invented the archetype of the tough female reporter when she did His Girl Friday, after all. The whole point of Russell’s character in that film is that it WAS a pop culture archetype at the time and Lois Lane fit right into it.
However, it is also fair to say that over the years, Lois Lane really was no longer a “His Girl Friday” style tough reporter. She was still a strong character. Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin, in particular, wrote them some excellent Lois Lane stories in the 1970s into the 1980s. I’m definitely not knocking their take on Lois. It was good. It is just that they were working on Lois for years before the movie and thus, the movie did not really affect their depiction of Lois. They had their take and they stuck with it.
Here’s the last issue of Superman before Alan Moore’s out-of-continuity sendoff to the Superman titles and Byrne’s reboot…
Nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t really remind you much of the Kidder Lois, right?