Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and twenty-second week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.
Click here for Part 1 of this week’s legends.
Lois Lane had her own nationally syndicated newspaper comic strip.
More False Than True
As I noted the other day, a bunch of readers all sent in comic strip-related legends after the Woody Allen comic strip legend a few weeks back. Today, reader Gene D. wanted to know if it was true that Lois Lane had her own nationally syndicated comic strip for a time.
The answer is tricky, Gene. The answer is “sort of,” but saying yes I think would be misleading enough that I think it’s probably most accurate to say no, not really.
In 1939, the “Superman” comic strip began as a nationally syndicated strip syndicated by the McClure Syndicate. By the early 1940s, it was one of the most popular adventure strips in the country. The success of the strip was a dream come true for Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (National Comics – now DC Comics – was the one who had the deal with McClure. They would then pay Siegel and Shuster after McClure paid them). However, right from the start, Joe Shuster struggled with deadlines. One of the biggest problems that a syndicated strip could have is missing a deadline, as obviously you don’t want newspapers to skip strips at any time, as they lose the benefit of readers buying their newspaper to GET the strip in the first place. McClure Syndicate didn’t want to piss off the hundreds of newspapers that were carrying the strip.
They then came up with an idea where they would offer newspapers a free extra strip that they could use with the “Superman” Sunday strip as they wished. Dubbed “Lois Lane, Girl Reporter,” the strip was produced by National Comics without Siegel and Shuster’s input (the production of the strip was deducted from Siegel and Shuster’s pay) and offered to newspapers for free. The problem, though, was that the “Superman” Sunday comic strip was a half-page comic strip. A common practice in Sunday comic strips was comic strips that would take up 3/4 of the page, which would then leave room for a traditional four panel comic strip that would be called a “topper.” The toppers either starred minor characters from the strip or were just unrelated material by the creator of the strip. This way a comic strip could take over a full page. The issue here, though, is that since “Superman” was only taking up half a page, why would you want to add a topper to it when that would prevent you from filling up the rest of the page with another half-page strip?
Thus, these free “Lois Lane” strips weren’t really all that helpful to newspapers, and as such, the few newspapers that actually published them published them sporadically (as National Comics delivered 12 strips at once, for the newspapers to do with as they pleased). They began appearing in 1943 and the last one was published some time in 1944.
Here are a couple of examples…
In 1943, Lois Lane appeared in the first “Lois Lane, Girl Reporter” comic strips. They would run as “toppers”
Therefore, I take it that you understand what I mean when I say that she didn’t REALLY have her own nationally syndicated strip. National just gave out 12 free strips as an apology for Siegel and Shuster’s lateness (Shuster would ultimately begin farming out the work) and a handful of newspapers took them up on the offer. It’s still a very interesting piece of comic history, though.
National, by the way, then picked up the idea for themselves, producing a “Lois Lane, Girl Reporter” back-up feature in “Superman” (by Whitney Ellsworth and Ed Dobrotka). The strips were interesting in that Lois really was solo in them, but at the same time, she didn’t always come off that well (just look at the banner image for this article – that was the first strip and right off the bat, Jimmy Olsen is being a dick to Lois and her response is, like, “Hey, I occasionally do stuff without Superman’s help!” One really good one, though, was in “Superman” #33, where a cop and some reporters try to mess with Lois but she instead uncovers a major crime ring and then takes out the bad guys all by herself like a total badass…
Man, it’s ridiculous how much Lois Lane dropped off, coolness-wise, from the 1940s to the 1950s.
As an added treat, here are a couple of awesome Kate Beaton strips about Lois Lane, Reporter. Beaton is a world treasure….
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at CBR: Learn the story of how one of the stars of “Aliens” accidentally auditioned for the film!
Check back Sunday for part 3 of this week’s legends!
And remember, if you have a legend that you’re curious about, drop me a line at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com!