Why I Won’t Be Buying Superwoman #2

SWM_Cv4Zoraida Merlo writes,

Before I begin with this post, I need to state that I have nothing but respect and praise for Phil Jimenez as a writer, for his previous work with Wonder Woman and other DCU characters. The following post is simply an opinion from a Lois Lane fan that recently bought Superwoman issue # 1.

Imagine the following scenario: You’ve been planning for 5 years your dream trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. You saved money for the trip, and you go to the travel agency to buy a full Walt Disney World Resort package and pay for it with a set date. When the day of your vacation arrives, you receive the airplane tickets and notice that something is wrong with the destination: instead of saying Orlando Fl., it says Los Angeles CA. You immediately call your travel agency but instead of trying to solve the issue, they start giving you excuses, they say not to worry that if you want to go to Orlando instead of California there is a big offer for next month or maybe you can get another package for the upcoming months. Despite the fact that both parks belong to same Disney brand, the LA one is smaller than the one in Orlando, both are in different states of US, Orlando has more parks and attractions for visitors such as the Cinderella’s castle where guests actually could stay, whereas LA has the Sleeping Beauty Castle. Making visitor’s experience differently in each park. Imagine your frustration and anger when the vacation you’ve been planning for years, saved money to afford, requested time off from work, only to find out your dream trip was botched by the travel agency. How could anyone not be angry and hurt with such scenario?

More or less this is what happened with this first issue. Instead of going to Walt Disney World Resort we went to Disneyland. We didn’t stay in Cinderella’s Castle but Sleeping Beauty. Instead of reading a story about LOIS we got Lana’s.

We have been waiting for a Lois solo book for YEARS, after all the things the New 52 did to her character, starting with the blatant sidelining from every Super book, her replacement in Superman`s life by Wonder Woman to the infuriating bad stories like Doomed, Truth, Horrirville, Savage Dawn, Final Days. We hoped DC Comics had finally learned their lesson with Lois (a character undoubtedly maligned to make room for the SMWW failure), and given her the chance to star in her own book. Bleeding Cool was the first to break the news on the existence of this book (links here and here). All the information centered on this being a LOIS LANE solo book. The only question that initially remained was which one of the 2 Loises currently walking around in Rebirth would be fronting the book? With more information coming from different sites we had no doubt this book would be starring Lois Lane as marketed by DC COMICS. The OFFICIAL description in the solicits and in Comixology specified Lois as the book’s protagonist. So what exactly went wrong?
As I’ve stated at the beginning of this article, the art and narrative are safe and sound, the story is written well enough. The issue begins with a narration by LANA LANG, which is already continuing the problematic trend of marginalizing Lois in favor of characters that are safer for men to work with. The idea of getting Lois’ story from the point of view of another female character as Lana could’ve worked under better circumstances. Specifically, circumstances, which didn’t actually pit Lois and Lana against each other in ways validating misogyny. For example, Lana is often presented as a ‘safer’ alternative to Lois as she is often characterized as a ‘sweeter’ homemaker type than Lois. Ms. Lane is portrayed more assertive and career-oriented. Lana and Lois aren’t shown as different women wanting different things in life, but often presented as a choice between the rich flavor of steak or the more bland taste of pork.

Instead of exploring Lois’s journey into becoming Superwoman or even one where Lana tells the reader Lois’ story through her eyes we get a story about LANA LANG becoming THE Superwoman of this issue from Lang’s point of view.

This story was not Lois becoming the hero we all know she is with or without powers. Even when she gets to use a nice suit for a while, the story still unwittingly uses Lois as a plot device to progress Lana’s story as Superwoman. Thus leaving us with yet another spin on the women in refrigerators’ trope – a trope Lois is increasingly and alarmingly becoming the queen of.

The bait and switch once again is used at the expense of Lois Lane, a character who has suffered enough damage especially through New 52 and has been suffering from decades of sexism since her first appearance in Action Comics in 1938. Not only is Lois once again sidelined to make room for another character in her OWN book but surprise! Her death was still used for shock value, even if the writer has hinted she is not dead. This kind of cliffhanger is not even shocking anymore. The only shocking thing is that writers, even if they are under an editorial`s mandate think that fridging Lois is something remotely worthy for shock value. How many times has that stunt been used through years on Lois? Kingdom Come, Infinite Crisis, DCU Online Legends, Injustice God Among Us, Earth-2, Flashpoint, as few examples.

Writer after writer, with few exceptions, have spit on Lois and her importance in the Superman`s myth. Many of recent stories in the New 52 have contributed to inflict damage to her as a character and added more criticism from a sexist point of view. As an example, the Truth’s arc complete presentation and Marketing showed Lois as Superman’s betrayer. She was portrayed as outing her friend’s secret identity to the world with initially no apparent reason. As the story progressed, we found out Lois did reveal who Superman was, but only because Clark’s life was at stake, as it was revealed later on the story. Superman later acknowledged Lois did the right thing. We were told what she did but none of the books working on this crossover showed the reader her motivations let alone her feelings.

Yet in the Superwoman issue, we found references to that story in a way that presented Lois at fault for saving Clark. This gave Lana justification for the way she feels about Lois and her actions through that arc. Instead of having both perspectives about what happened during that time, readers were misled to believe Lois did wrong helping Clark, giving Lana the upper hand in the story.

Having Lana as the only one mourning Clark, the one with anxiety issues because she has lost loved ones, only helps Lana’s progression in the story. Ironically, Lana has been given the same backstory as Lois. Both currently share military families and have confronted the death of loved ones. Yet the writer fails to make them bond through this shared experience. In a missed opportunity panel when Lana was going through her family pictures she told Lois about her brother, who used to be military. In that moment Lois could have talked about her father’s career and how her mother’s death via cancer affected both herself and her sister. Instead, we had Lois stand there and watch Lana reviving her pain and losses.

Clark was not only Lana’s dearest friend, he was also Lois’s best friend who died in front of her eyes. Lois should be mourning him too. Why not talk about it with Lana making them realize they have more in common than what they thought? Lois is not new to losing people she loves. Again, her mother died. Her former boyfriend John Corben (aka Metallo), in the New 52 also died sacrificing himself to protect Lois and Superman. But we couldn’t have that because Lois’ POV was never written in this story, it is all about Lana’s suffering.

It is also Lana’s relatives such as her boyfriend, Steel’s niece, Natasha, her boss at the Daily Star and her coworkers who are being established as supportive characters in a book that was marketed as Lois’s book. Where are Lucy, Jimmy, Cat, Steve, Perry in this? None of Lois’s friends or family were mentioned here. NONE.

Upcoming solicits aren’t looking any promising either, at least not for Lois.
The story established LANA as THE Superwoman. This is not okay, it is not a nice thing to do. This issue is mean, cruel and infuriating. Not only to Lois but to her fans who have suffered through 5 years of hurtful narratives actively marginalizing and disrespecting the character.

Who thought this premise would be appealing to Lois fans? I don’t remember anyone asking for a Lana Lang book. Speaking for myself personally, I have no investment in a character like Lana, who has never been written with consistency, and who has primarily existed to fulfill the ideal of a “safe” woman. Lana was created for a male readership. That is narrowing the target audience once again.

I recommend everyone to read this insightful piece about the characterization of Lana and Lois through the years.

As I’ve explained before, Lana was commonly used to be pitted against Lois, while the latter was presented as more independent and career oriented, Lana was the stay at home farm girl who writers usually portrayed as the sweet girl next door and with whom they feel more comfortable working with because she never presented a challenge as a character. Thanks to Greg Pak, who gave Lana a career as an Electrical Engineer at the beginning of his run in Action Comics in the New 52, helping her to have a more prominent role than the one she had in previous reboots. Yet her characterization feels forced because too much of Lois’s traits were given to her, depriving Lana of an identity and Lois of her uniqueness.

With Lana currently playing a role of an Electrical Engineer, a farm girl, and a reporter, the character has gained relevance in the eyes of some readers who are now seeing her as a strong career woman. When years ago these traits were CRITICIZED and not socially acceptable in Lois Lane. THE first female character who battled and won a place for women’s representation in comics. Lana is just benefiting from what Lois has done previously. This is not giving Lana a true identity, It is just reinventing a character who is constantly modified in order to adjust her to what currently is acceptable for women in society nowadays.

I really don’t understand to whom this book was targeted. Clearly, DC Comics used Lois’s name as a bait to attract her fans only to give readers Lana Lang as the Superwoman. Who thought Lois’s fans will be FINE with this?

Furthermore, once again we are told to wait and see what happens to Lois in upcoming issues, adding salt to the wound. How many times has DC used the same tactic to keep readers buying books?

Honestly, I am tired of being told to wait for Lois’s turn. It doesn’t matter the Pre Flashpoint Lois married to Superman is back, because the one who was completely maligned in New 52 is now dead. AGAIN. The Lois, who deserved a book with a writer who is PASSIONATE about her, is once again kicked out from the book marketed as HERS.

Why does Lois have to be the one who is marginalized to progress a story that isn’t hers?

If first issues are used to establish the focus of the story then this one completely failed me. Why would I be interested in buying a book that has a misleading protagonist? One I am not personally invested in? That is not what I paid for. This is not what I’ve been waiting for. Thank you DC and Mr. Jimenez but I pass.

I sincerely wish Mr.Jimenez good luck with the book and hope that in the future he is really given the chance to write a full story about LOIS LANE. I can’t and won’t tell anyone what to do with upcoming issues as it is not my money. It is not my decision to make. The prerogative to keep buying Superwoman belongs to each one of the readers.

As for me DC you have my answer.

I truly I am grateful to Mr. Johnston and Bleeding Cool for giving me the chance to express why I won’t be buying the next or other issues of Superwoman. Giving me the opportunity to express the reasons why I feel left down by this book is not something I take for granted. I also want to thank @HelenaWayneBlog and to the Lois’s fans out there for their valuable insights for this article.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.