Relationship Roundup: Clark Kent and Lois Lane
By Meg Downey
Relationship Roundup is a new monthly column written by Meg Downey that focuses on the many iconic relationships within the DC Universe. Each month, look for a different “ship,” romantic, platonic or a little of both, to take center stage.
Let’s be real, with ACTION COMICS #1000 right around the corner, you all probably knew this one was coming. After all, it’s pretty hard to talk about landmark moments for Superman without also talking about Lois Lane.
So, in this third edition of Relationship Roundup, we’re tackling one of the big ones…and that’s no exaggeration. After eighty years, they’re one of the single most iconic, beloved and immediately recognizable fictional couples in the world, even outside of comics. Even when they’re together, the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent still defines a massive amount of what we understand about superheroes and the DC Universe at large.
But for as much as we associate Clark and Lois with true love and romance these days, it was a bit of a different story eighty years ago.
The Early Years
Lois and Clark debuted together in ACTION COMICS #1, but it was far from love at first sight. In those early years, Lois may have had a curious crush on Superman, but Clark? Clark was competition for her reporting gig at the Daily Star (it didn’t become the Daily Planet for about two more years).
This incarnation of Lois worked well with the Golden Age Superman who was a bit more absolute in his vision of justice than we typically see from Big Blue today. His powers were still being figured out—he couldn’t fly, and didn’t have heat vision or freeze breath—and his personality was a conduit for the thinly veiled frustrations from two lower class kids who grew up in the Great Depression. If Superman was his creators’ vision for the ultimate power fantasy, Clark was their idea of a reality check: kind of bumbling, shy, a little awkward and not great at getting dates.
Lois, too, played into these ideas. Her cunning, drive and focus were an easy way to create a shorthand for things they thought were unattainable. As such, Clark and Lois spent the majority of their earliest years as totally opposing forces and hardly a romantic duo. Lois even began to seriously suspect that Clark was Superman as far back as the early ’40s, so Clark himself had to repeatedly, consciously make moves to keep Lois off his trail and foil whatever plans she had come up with to prove her hypothesis.
Through the Silver Age, Lois and Clark shared an on-again-off-again flirtation that always kept fans coming back for more. They had some “weddings” in all sorts of wacky “imaginary story” situations including under hypnosis, had some fights that almost always were the result of some hilariously overblown misunderstanding and in general, just kept circling around one another for years and years.
Finally Wed…Sort Of
Clark and Lois had their first ever real deal, non-imaginary, non-hijinks plagued wedding in 1978 with ACTION COMICS #484—the issue that just so happened to celebrate Superman’s 40th anniversary.
It was a beautiful, happy and most importantly real ceremony, but even so, it wasn’t exactly a normal one. It only came about because a villainous wizard (yes, you read that right) cursed Superman to remove his memories, but didn’t realize he had a secret identity. Free of his memories and his terminal self-consciousness, Clark Kent found the confidence and wherewithal to finally pursue Lois for real, and impressed by this new version of her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Lois was all in.
In what was, by that time, becoming a bit of a DC Comics tradition (see: Barry and Iris), Lois discovered Clark’s secret identity while they were enjoying their honeymoon. And, just in case you weren’t totally convinced this was a real-deal marriage this time around, once the whole wizard-memory-erasure plot was wrapped up, Clark took Lois back to the Fortress of Solitude and married her again in a traditional Kryptonian ceremony.
So that’s that, right?
Unfortunately, wrong. These events took place on what was known at the time as Earth-2, the home of DC’s Golden Age heroes and teams like the Justice Society. Shortly after the wedding, the DC Universe was rocked by CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, which effectively destroyed Earth-2 by compressing it down into bits and pieces as the Multiverse was realigned. So, sadly, this married version of the couple wasn’t the one that persisted through the ’80s and ’90s.
But What About Now?
Even after their main continuity relationship was restarted from the ground up, Clark and Lois remained fixtures in each other’s lives. They were married again in 1996 in the aptly named SUPERMAN: THE WEDDING ALBUM, which actually stuck for over a decade.
Things were mixed up again following Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert’s FLASHPOINT and the subsequent continuity reboot of the entire DCU, which left Clark and Lois—you guessed it—yet again starting from scratch, only this time at a much slower pace. Through the New 52, Clark and Lois stayed colleagues and friends, but refrained from getting romantic—at least, in a sense.
Yes, the “main” Clark and Lois in the New 52 were not a couple, but as the events leading up to 2016’s DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 unfolded, it was made clear that the married Clark and Lois from the pre-Flashpoint DCU had actually found themselves within the new continuity and had been living in secret along with their son, Jon.
It’s all a little complicated and a lot cosmic, but the long and the short of it is that the events of Rebirth slotted the married versions of Clark and Lois back into the main timeline, which is where we find ourselves now.
It’s not always been the most straightforward path, or the easiest road, but Clark and Lois seem to have a way of finding themselves back together, even when the universe itself tries to get in the way. Across eight decades, and through countless crises, impossible imaginary stories and untold amounts of drama, they remain to this day, comics’ most tried and true relationship. So, as we prepare to enter the next era of Superman stories, keep an eye out for whatever might be coming next for the Kent family. If the last eighty years are any indication, it’s going to be a doozy.
Meg Downey writes about the DC Universe for DCComics.com and covers Legends of Tomorrow for the #DCTV Couch Club. Look for her on Twitter at @rustypolished.
ACTION COMICS #1000 featuring art and stories by Brian Michael Bendis, John Cassaday, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns, Tom King, Jim Lee, Scott Snyder and more is in stores on April 18, 2018.