Arguably, no superhero has permeated the pop culture zeitgeist more thoroughly than Superman. Thanks to countless comic books, radio and TV shows, animated series, movies and merchandise, the character is essentially a household name. Alongside him through it all, since his very first appearance in Action Comics #1, all the way back in 1938, has been Lois Lane. Across over a half dozen decades and numerous entertainment mediums, Superman and Lois Lane go hand-in-hand, the one superhero romance with which both comic book readers and non-readers are likely to have some familiarity.
But why is that? Romance has long been an integral part of the superhero narrative structure, but few characters have been tied so consistently with one romantic partner. Batman has had countless relationships through the years (only a few of which that were ever serious); Spider-Man, though once married to Mary Jane Watson, spent a good chunk of time before and after that marriage involved with various other women, including Gwen Stacy, his love interest in the current cycle of Spider-Man films. But while Superman has had his share of non-Lois Lane girlfriends, in comics and elsewhere (notably high school sweetheart Lana Lang and more recently, Wonder Woman), no romantic relationship defines Superman’s character more than his relationship with Lois.
In part, this is because Lois represents a connection to Superman’s humanity, to his adopted people. The idea of a supremely powerful alien using his abilities to protect and inspire mankind is made all the stronger when he also loves a mortal, non-super-powered human woman, especially during the large chunks of the character’s history when his adoptive human parents were dead. But even in those times, he still had his pal, Jimmy Olsen, to serve as his connection to humanity, and in modern stories, his parents, in some combination, are alive and well. And beyond that, any other mortal woman, such as Lana Lang, could serve the same purpose.
If Superman loving a human woman is thematically significant, why does that woman have to be Lois? What it boils down to is that Lois Lane, more than any other romantic interest, is the best possible partner for Superman. It may seem that someone like Wonder Woman, a super-powered figure equally devoted to protecting humanity, might be a better match for Superman, but it’s Lois, who is just as committed to the ideals of truth and justice as Superman, that is his equal. Lois and Superman (in his guise of Clark Kent) are both reporters; on the surface, this seems like a simple device to generate conflict amongst the characters and put them in a setting from which action-adventure plots can easily spring (and that’s certainly true). But it’s also a statement of their characters, and the fact that they work together (and have since the beginning) is no coincidence. They spend their days and nights, alone and together, in search of truth and justice. Superman has the ability to search even further for truth, to deliver justice more directly, but Lois, despite lacking that power, is no less committed to those ideals.
It is this shared commitment and dogged determination in pursuit of truth and justice, even in the face of danger or personal harm, that makes Lois, more than anyone else, the perfect match for Superman, in any era or medium.