Last Thursday (April 18th) was the 75th Anniversary of the publication of Action Comics #1. This, for those of you who don’t know, is the first appearance of Superman, the first comic-book superhero in a 13-page story written and drawn by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
It was overall a great day, people took a break from the horrifying news going on, and shared their memories and thoughts on one of the world’s most famous fictional characters. Mark Waid’s Twitter account was particularly brilliant. But in amongst all of this celebration, I found myself annoyed by two things. The first one is fairly minor, and it’s that several people (including CBR) saw fit to include Superman singing a song in Final Crisis as one of their favourite Superman moments, which to me, is absolutely ludicrous, Final Crisis is shit and it made me angry just to be reminded of it.
The second thing that annoyed me is rather more interesting and rather more worrying to me. It was the fact that a significant amount of comics fans were choosing to remark the day not as Superman’s anniversary, but as Lois Lane’s.
Now of course, Lois Lane’s first appearance also came in Action Comics #1, and it’s perfectly cool to make mention of her. Lois Lane is an important character in DC Comics history. But it rankled me to see people celebrating Lois over Superman, because really, she’s a supporting character to him. Superman is more important than her. Lois Lane is only relevant because of Superman, because of her relationship to Superman and because she works with Clark Kent. Even though she had a long-running solo series, it was still titled ‘Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane’, and I very much doubt there are any instalments of that book that don’t feature an appearance from Superman himself. Hell, even today, whenever she appears in a comic, chances are Superman does too (this is not to say I don’t think Lois could have stories away from Supes, she probably could, but it’s not what’s been done). In essence, Superman is the sun around which Lois, along with many other characters such as Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Perry White, Lana Lang and more revolve.
I’m sure I will be accused of sexism for saying this, but it’s true. No Superman, no Lois Lane. You should celebrate her yes, but not at the expense of the character she exists to be a foil to. People jumping to celebrate her are missing the wood for the trees.
Can you imagine if, instead of celebrating the recent 50th Anniversaries of Spider-Man and The Hulk, people were instead excited about the 50th Anniversary of Aunt May or Rick Jones. When Wonder Woman turns 75 will we celebrate Steve Trevor over her? Daredevil turns 50 next year, are we to get ‘Foggy Nelson Appreciation Day’? This is not a gender issue, it’s a matter of main characters and supporting characters.
I think examples like this show the biggest problem amongst comics fans today. We are too busy fighting smaller battles about sexism or racism or whatever that we miss what’s really important. Last Thursday was, essentially, not just the 75th Anniversary of the creation of Superman, or Lois Lane, or Zatara, or Tex Thompson, but of the entire concept and industry of superheroes. Without Superman, and without that comic, there would be no superhero comics as we know it. There would be no ‘DC women kicking ass’ at all, because there would be no DC women and probably no DC at all (although I suppose, without Superman, comics would probably still be dominated by funny animals, do they have genders?).
In fans’ rush to be seen as progressive and anti-sexist, they lost sight of the true significance of Superman, and just made themselves, and their arguments, seem small. Lois Lane deserves to be celebrated, but alongside Superman, not separately. She is, after all, Superman’s girlfriend. (Well, not at the moment, but, you know what I mean).