Who was Lois Lane before the Man of Steel? What was life like for a teenage Lois, living as an army brat with her General father, her mother, and her little sister Lucy? And how did she come to start working for Perry White? These are some of the questions asked, and mostly answered, in Lois Lane: Fallout, a new YA prequel to the much loved comic books featuring Clark Kent and his beloved lady reporter.
The book, published earlier this year, follows a 16-year-old Lois as she heads to another new school, this time in Metropolis, and attempts to make friends and stay out of trouble. Her plans are disrupted when a young Perry White shanghais her into working for a fledgling high school journalism project he’s heading up for the Daily Planet. When one of Lois’ new friends has big bully problem, Lois plans to break the story on the front page, but it turns out the story is a much bigger and stranger tale than even she imagined.
Lois Lane: Fallout is an extremely fun look at the inner life of one of the most prominent figures in comic book history. We’ve met Lois many times as an adult in comics and movies, and briefly as a young adult in Smallville, but for the first time, comic fans and newbies alike are able to get to know Ms. Lane through her own eyes and thoughts. Fans of girl sleuths, mysteries, video games, adventures, superheroes, and the supernatural will all find something to enjoy in this novel.
To learn a bit more about the book and how it came to be, I sat down for an interview with author, Gwenda Bond.
AGTM: How did this project come about?
GWENDA: I apparently did a very good deed without knowing it, or was due for some sort of karmic reward, because something that rarely happens happened. There was the idea for this project floating around, and somehow this name came up and they approached my agent to see whether I would be interested in writing a teen Lois Lane, and I was, of course, immediately interested, and my only question was whether I would have the freedom to shape what it would look like, because I didn’t want to be boxed in to a vision of this character.
AGTM: So were you involved in comic books beforehand?
GWENDA: I’d never written a comic, but all my previous novels are young adult novels, so I think they wanted someone who was established in this field. All of my books, if you look at them, have very strong girls in the lead and, I mean, I hate that strong female character term, but it’s a useful shorthand. All my girls, I think, are gutsy and smart. They also do solve some sort of a mystery, some more traditional than others, so for some reason I was really lucky that someone knew enough about my work to think I was a good fit for this project, because from my perspective it was the ideal thing that I can imagine someone coming to me with that matched my background.
AGTM: Were you a fan of comics before starting this project?
GWENDA: In college, I was good friends with Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant at the time. I would go to conventions and stay at their house, and actually got a tutorial in comics from the Gaiman library. So I benefited greatly from that. So I do know a lot about comics and I like comics a lot, but I’ve never written for them. It’s something I’d love to do at some point and I’m definitely a long time comic reader and fan, even before that. As a kid my brother had superhero comics, I had Betty and Veronica, so I benefited from my older brother. I was able to read a lot of the Clarmont era X-Men, and all those things when I was younger, but I feel like I got a better idea of what comics history had to offer when I was in college.
AGTM: Was it always the plan to make it about a teenage Lois Lane?
GWENDA: The idea was basically that Lois Lane was a teenage reporter. I think it makes a lot of sense. I think YA is a perfect venue and it’s filled with a lot of stories that put girls at the center of the narrative, and is perhaps better at that than other genres, in a sense. It’s not happening everywhere, but I do think YA is filled with that kind of representation and filled with women authors and creators who are very supportive of each other. So I think it’s a great fit for Lois, because she deserves an origin story of her own. We often meet Lois as an already established, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. She’s a fascinating character, so unpacking her history and how she got there is a really appealing process to me, and was a lot of fun to get to do as an author.
The other thing I think is so interesting about being able to do this is we get kind of her inferiority, as she’s developing. She’s tough on the outside, but even the toughest person has their vulnerabilities and doubts on the outside, and I think it’s great to see that personality in characters like this. Take the “strong female character” and relate them. I think Lois has always been relatable to real girls and women because she’s somebody that any of us can be, so that means that she comes with an inner landscape of doubts and fears and questions, but I do think that that she’s always confident in herself.
AGTM: One of the things I noticed about the book is that she didn’t necessarily even consider journalism as a possibility for herself until it is presented to her.
GWENDA: There’s a couple of old comics where she convinces Perry to give her the job, but it felt to me that for this character to have an arc that she needed to be searching for her place in the world. If she already knew she wanted to be a journalist that really would be less of a journey for her to go on in discovering that. I really do think that its her personality that makes her so great at her job, and I think that a lot of us don’t know what we’re best at until someone recognizes that we’re really good at something, or we happen to encounter something that we’re good at. So it felt more realistic to me than having it start from her knowing exactly what she wanted to do in that way.
AGTM: You mentioned that Lois is a very relatable character. Do you think this is why she’s been such a prominent part of the Superman comics for her 75+ years?
GWENDA: I do feel like in some ways she’s always been ahead of her time, which is something I think made people latch on to her from the beginning. She’s one of the first working women role models, even in some of the more problematic depictions in our history. I think that just the power of her being a woman in the workplace overwrote some of those things, because there were so few characters that were so prominent and high profile that we got to see that in. And then, really, I feel like she, even though she doesn’t have powers, she has this real sense of resourcefulness, and knowledge of what’s important to her and what she believes in and an inability to stand by and watch something that’s wrong without stepping in or taking action. I feel like that is something that women and men can relate to, but that she was one of the first examples of a character that a lot of women encounter. And the fact that she’s allowed to have a romance without it being trivialized, because often the culture really treats any kind of romantic storyline as some kind of fluff that men aren’t interested in. I think one of the things that really surprised me in the reception of this book and in talking to people about it, was how many men really have that relationship as one of their cultural touchstones. I do think it’s a healthy relationship. They’re equals together and Clark has a lot of respect for Lois.
AGTM: You mentioned in a previous interview that Clark was always there in the book. He’s never mentioned by name, but he’s SmallvilleGuy. Why did you think that was an important thing to include this early in her life?
GWENDA: There are a couple things, and one of them is super nerdy. Number one is the fact that I really like that relationship, and I do feel that there is this tendency to trivialize, especially girls and women, their reading material if it somehow has that romantic aspect. I’m really resistant to that, and I also really like to write partnerships of equals, and books that show healthy relationships. So, for me, part of the fun of writing this was getting to write those characters and their friendship with each other.
But the other reason was that in Superman stories, or stories in the Superman mythos, typically Superman is the first superhero, and before Superman there aren’t superheroes. Because he’s not Superman yet, and is a teenager, it meant that in order for me to be able to keep the science fictional parts of the story, we needed to know that Superman is out there exploring his powers, and as that is happening, so are these strange sorts of occurrences.
AGTM: So what inspired the conflict in the book? The cyberbullying, but also this sort of virtual reality world.
GWENDA: My editor had asked, during a Twitter chat we had, whether it was difficult to have the characters not meet. And I said to her, you probably don’t remember this but it wasn’t in the original outline that they would meet up in the game, but for some reason, this virtual reality (and again, I wanted it to be a near future, where the tech was a little beyond what we have, but the daily life is not that different), and so the idea of the virtual reality game came about very organically. And standing up to bullies is just so much a part of Lois’ character that it seemed a natural place to start. So, when I planned the outline, there were going to be scenes in the game, but none with SmallvilleGuy, until I realized that this was a way to have physical interaction, but still in this sort of animated world.
As far as the gaming stuff goes, I really wanted it to be neutral in terms of gender. I didn’t want it to be because Anavi was a girl, because I feel like one of the things we can do with fiction is create some of the aspirational reality that we want, and obviously there are a lot of girls who are gamers, but some of the games like the one in the book aren’t the most welcoming to them, or even the safest places to be, as we’ve seen this year. So it was import to me that girls and boys reading the book could see and relate to it, and it not be a stereotypical sort of gamer hazing.
AGTM: So, I have to ask, because this is where I pulled the most comparison. Were you a Nancy Drew fan growing up?
GWENDA: You know, I never really read Nancy Drew, but I’m definitely a sucker for a girl sleuth. I love Veronica Mars, so I’m definitely all about that, so that is one of the things that’s fun to do, is play out a different version of that trope with Lois as the star.
AGTM: There have been other YA comic adaptations throughout the years. Marvel has a Mary Jane Watson one and a She Hulk one, and they’re coming out with a Black Widow one, and now DC has Lois Lane. Why do you think it tends to be the female characters that get adapted into Young Adult books?
GWENDA: I think it’s partly because if you look at the books that are the most popular in the field, from a marketing standpoint for them, it seems very easy to position these books, and I do think there are a lot of girls out there who are either actively reading manga or comics, or who are dipping a toe in there. So from their standpoint it makes perfect sense to me. You do this to try and get those people into comics through this venue where there are already a lot of girls reading stories that are written for teens. But I don’t really know how giant companies thing. I will say that I’ve seen others who will cynically assume that this is an opportunity for them to capitalize on YA, and I’m not going to say they don’t see it as an opportunity. I’m sure they do, but at least in terms of this project, everybody that I know who worked on it, there was no cynicism at all. Everyone just really felt like this was a great place to showcase the character, and really treated the project as special. The only direction I got was, “Don’t screw this up. Make this the Lois Lane that we all love.” And I feel like that is what we all really tried to do.
AGTM: Now, I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this, but are there going to be more books?
GWENDA: I’m not allowed to answer right now. I wish I could, but hopefully stay tuned, and I will say, everybody buy the book if you want more Lois, and then hopefully it will be a long running series, because I would like to tell more Lois stories.
EDIT: Switch Press have announced a sequel, titled “Double Down”, will be published next spring.
Lois Lane: Fallout is available wherever books are sold.