Switch Press is publishing a book about a younger, teenage Lois Lane entitled Fallout for a May 1st, 2015 release date. It is a definite interesting foray for DC comics to put one of their best known characters who is not a superhero as a protagonist in a young adult novel, and here is a review of the book.
I had a chance to receive an advanced review copy of Lois Lane: Fallout, written by acclaimed author Gwenda Bond. The book is what you would expect of a young Lois Lane, who is new to the town of Metropolis and gets a job at the Daily Scoop, which is kind of a teen version of the Daily Planet. Lois discovers a mystery involving a group of kids known as the Warheads, and she manages to get herself in trouble along the way without a Superman to swoop in and save the day.
That is the basic premise of this book, but instead of talking about it in more detail, I'm going to talk about some questions that obviously arises from a work such as this.
So, a book about Lois Lane? Is this just a DC cash-in?
Yes, we live in an age where franchises rule, and considering that DC is trying to have as big of an influence as Marvel with their TV shows, movies, and yes, comics, I would have to say that Lois Lane is an odd choice for a cash-in. After all, Lois Lane was never meant to have super-powers, which is the big comic book draw. I would say the book stands on its own as far as putting a teenage girl into a world of mystery.
So Lois Lane is a female teen detective? Haven't we seen this before?
Of course we have, just like we have seen male action heroes and superheroes. I don't know whether or not Nancy Drew was the first of her type, but she is certainly the most well-known teenage girl detective. Nancy Drew was created in the 1930s, and she is still a great figure of empowerment even today. Lois Lane was created at the same time as Superman, but in the late thirties. At the time, Lois Lane was a damsel in distress, but over the decades this character has changed into a strong female figure who was always after the truth, even if it got her killed. This teenage Lois Lane is starting out this way, and not ending this way.
Didn't Veronica Mars do the same thing?
I have watched the Veronica Mars series, and even though the characters are comparable, Fallout isn't a Veronica Mars story with Lois Lane with a find and replace going on. True, they are both mysteries, but what makes mysteries different are characters and setting. Veronica and Lois are too different, and while the Neptune, California setting really helped Veronica Mars last three seasons, Lois is dealing with not only high school but Metropolis. Also, the Fallout story deals with a little bit of a supernatural or at least paranormal element that was absent from Veronica Mars.
If anything, a better comparison can be made to Lois Lane and Chloe Sullivan. Chloe was a character on Smallville who was a young reporter for the Smallville High paper, The Torch. She was a friend of young Clark Kent, and would spend her time looking into weird events that kept happening in Smallville. Unlike most of the characters on Smallville, she was not inspired by any Superman mythos, but was created to be that Lois Lane figure. Eventually, the show declared that she had a cousin name Lois Lane, and it wasn't long (Season 4) before Lois was added to the show. Yes, I am saying that Lois Lane from Fallout is more Chloe from Smallville than she is Lois from Smallville.
So what about Superman?
Most recent versions of Superman (Smallville, Man of Steel) have Lois Lane meet Superman before he officially dons the tights and cape. This one is no exception as Lois has an online friend known only as SmallvilleGuy. There would be no reason to keep it a secret to the reader that SmallvilleGuy is Clark Kent, and the conceit is that we kind of know where the whole story with Lois and Clark is going.
Are there any other DC characters in here?
Of course, if you are doing a book about Lois Lane, then you are in the DC Universe. You can't help but tie-in characters from the DCU, but I'll describe the connections of the non-superhero characters later.
Besides Superman, I couldn't find any direct references to other superheroes, and none of them are ever mentioned. The DC Universe has in its backstory a lot of heroes in World War II, but Lois Lane apparently takes place in modern times, and nothing directly superhuman is mentioned.
This does not mean that the case doesn't involve at least something supernatural. When Lois meets the Warheads, there are unearthly forces at work, but this isn't really emphasized as much as it could.
What about other characters from the Superman story?
Perry White shows up in the first chapter, ready to hire Lois to work for the Daily Scoop. He could have been played by anyone, and it seems odd that the big guy at the Daily Planet had such a meager start, but maybe that is the point.
Lois Lane's father is in the book, and modern interpretations of Sam Lane have made him a general. He is usually shown as a militant man who runs a tight ship on his family. In the book, he is seen as kind of a blocking figure for Lois as she goes after her story. I kind of wish he had been more developed, but he does come off as somewhat sympathetic. I also wish we got to see more of Lois' mother, who comes off as June Cleaver.
Lucy Lane, Lois' sister, is also in the book, but she is pretty young and doesn't have much of a role. It wouldn't be right if she was not in it. As in, I would just say: "hey, where's Lucy"?
Are there any new characters?
Lois works at the Scoop with partners Maddy, James, and Devin. Maddy is a tough feisty female like Lois, James is a rich kid, and Devin is the smart one. As far as I can tell, they don't appear in the Superman comic in any form, so they are made up for this.
If this is a teenage Lois Lane, does it take place a few decades ago, before Lois Lane would be a woman now?
Like Smallville, it doesn't look like anyone tried to make a period piece. Instead, Lois is in the world of now, filled with Internet, cell phones, computers, and everything else that makes up our modern world. This could have been set at any time period, really, but it was probably a good choice to make Lois a modern girl in a modern world, just from an audience's standpoint.
If anything, I would say that some of the technology in Lois Lane Fallout is too futuristic. Much of the action in Fallout takes place on a computer game known as Worlds War Three, which is done on a holoset. The holoset puts a three dimensional image on ones face that is very interactive, but this type of tech is better suited for Ready Player One rather than Lois Lane. I believe that we will probably have tech like this someday, and it won't be long.
So is Lois Lane Fallout a prequel?
All I can say is: it could be. I will have to say that from The Phantom Menace to Prometheus, prequels are usually cash-grabs, attempting to pull in audiences based on familiarity. The reason why prequels do not work is because the audience already knows how it will end. About the only prequel that worked was Smallville, the retelling of the origin of Superman, but gradually the show became an alternate version of Superman.
Will there be more Lois Lane books?
I certainly don't see why not. How many Nancy Drew books were there? I'm not certain if there is a grand plan for a Lois Lane young adult series, but it could easily work as a book or TV series as far as I am concerned.
I will warn DC that there are dangers of bringing in DC universe mythology with this Lois Lane series. If they start bringing in younger versions of Lex Luthor or Brainiac into this, it could make the same mistakes that Smallville made.