For decades, Lois Lane’s been the butt of jokes involving Superman’s double identity. A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who gets fooled by a pair of glasses? Come on, girl. This week, Lois puts it all together. And, yeah, she’s pissed.
We’ve known that she figured things out recently, but we haven’t known how. Two months ago, a short story in a free anthology comic showed that Superman’s secret identity had been revealed to the world in the current version of the DC Universe. Lois Lane was the person responsible for letting everyone know that the Man of Steel and Clark Kent were the same guy. The stories immediately following focused on how Clark was adjusting to his new reality.
The latest issue of the Superman comic finally shows how Lois put the pieces together, along with her understandably angry reaction. The main storyline started in last month’s Superman #41, which had Clark and Jimmy investigating a gun-running ring’s possible connection to a corrupt senator. Lois gets involved because she’s Lois Lane, dammit, and there’s no way she’s getting sidelined when a big story is going down. A series of events and a battle with villains later and we get this scene, where Lois comes upon a Clark Kent whose clothes are so tattered that she can see his Superman uniform beneath them. In the panels below, Lois explains that she’s been gathering data on Superman for years and part of her has been ignoring the patterns she’s been seeing. Now, she’s done being fooled.
Secret identities are relics of old-school superhero formulation, ways of creating drama that have had a hard time surviving in the modern day. Part of the reason we’ve seen some secret identities go away is the tension behind hiding behind a lie to serve the greater good. The idea of keeping the secret seems ever more childish, selfish or dishonest.
Lois’ reaction scenes in Superman #42 get right to the heart of that dissonance...
especially when she learns that Jimmy has known that Clark is Superman.
The issue ends before we see Lois write or publish anything about Clark’s identity. What remains to be seen is if her fateful article will be driven by a sense of being betrayed and/or a commitment to journalistic duty.
Superman #42 feels like a bit of redemption for Lois.
The character started off as a wish fulfillment fantasy in the early days of her existence, a brash scoop-hustling reporter who nevertheless swooned at every encounter with Superman. As time went on, various creators’ fixation on centering stories on Lois’ snoopiness, obsession with finding out who Superman was, and/or getting him to marry her made her little more than a punchline.
In later iterations, she was written as less easily duped but the idea that she could see Clark and Superman so often and not put two and two together remained a glaring flaw, especially for someone presented as a world-class journalist.
Finally, she seems independent and smart. And she’s got a legit gripe with Clark Kent. Other post-reveal scenes between Lois and Clark have shown a continued tension between the two. They’re definitely not friendly anymore. Maybe they don’t need to be.