I love this article on Bitch Blogs about the history and inspirations for Lois Lane. There’s going to be a Part II tomorrow, and I can’t wait! My fiance is a huge comics fan, and we have a lot of the Showcase books of old comics, so I’ve actually read some of the older Superman stuff, and also the Superboy and Legion of Superheroes stories that feature Lois and Lana Lang (Superboy’s girlfriend) being told that they can’t handle whatever important thing, because they’re clearly just girls. I love that, sexism aside, these characters were still motivated to go out and prove themselves, even if the writers were using that as comic relief and a convenient way to get them into trouble so they could be saved. I also love the point the post makes about Lois being a marker of the ways that attitudes towards women, especially professional women, have changed over time.
The article also makes me think about ways to use comics in the library, as a way to get kids and teens engaged with reading. Getting kids involved with some of the older comics and using that as a jumping off point to discuss some of the historical elements (I’d love to get a bunch of comics from the 80’s and show them say, the giant cell phones. Remember those?) of what was going on, and the ways that comics reacted to the larger contexts of the time. Like, how often did Superman fight Nazis? A lot? And Superman was created by Jewish guys, right? Not that it’s a terribly deep analysis right there, but as a different angle for studying history and reading, I think comics could definitely help refresh the process for some kids. It could also be used as a way to look at gender studies and race issues. Like with this article, having kids read comics featuring women from different eras and then talk about the different ways the women are presented and treated might be an interesting way to get kids engaged with the history of feminism. Along the same lines, I can think of some interesting conversations about the way race relations are portrayed in comics.
Too often I see educators and other adults dismiss comics as having no educational value, but I think there’s a lot that can be found in them with some guidance. I’m not necessarily saying that every comic is worth reading, and I’m not going to start handing kids Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose (LINK IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) or anything, but I love the idea of taking something kids will engage with and using it to help them learn about other things, as well as encouraging reading in general.
In conclusion: Lois Lane rocks and is a better reporter than Clark Kent anyway.