Sweet, Alien Love – A Superman Romance

SupermanandLoisLane3 Unless you’ve been on an extended vacation to the Planet Krypton, you’re probably aware that a new Superman movie is opening today. Man of Steel stars the dashing Henry Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent and everyone’s favorite girl-next-door Amy Adams as Lois Lane. You can safely bet a large bucket of double buttered popcorn that I will have seen this movie before the end of the weekend.

For some time I’ve mistakenly considered myself a Superman fan. I say mistakenly because when you look at the facts, I’m really only a poseur. I have seen every Superman movie made, and I religiously watched every episode of both Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville. But I’ve never read a single Superman comic in my life.

To be honest, of all of the superheroes out there, I find Superman to be somewhat mundane. After all, he’s practically indestructible so there’s little risk to his personal safety when he undertakes his acts of derring-do. I never have any doubt he’ll save the day. He’s kind of a goody-goody. And I’ve never been fond of the gym-rat over-muscled physique. If pressed to name a favorite, my superhero of choice would be a toss up between Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man.

No, when it comes down to it, I’m a fan of the romance between Superman and Lois Lane. My favorite incarnations of the story are the ones in which Clark Kent is the real man, Superman is his hidden identity, and the focus is on his relationships with the ladies in his life rather than his efforts to save the world from destruction. When watching Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, I hit the fast forward button any time the action moves away from the will-they-or-won’t-they between Dean Cain’s Clark and Teri Hatcher’s Lois.

This realization about where my affection for Superman really lies actually makes a lot of sense given my love of all things romantic. While I think it’s safe to say that Superman as a form of genre entertainment would never be classified as a romance, it shamelessly exploits the tropes so often used in romance novels.

First, there’s the love triangle between Superman and Lois and Clark Kent. Ignoring for a minute the ridiculousness that is Superman’s Clark Kent disguise*, what a fantastic conflict. Lois loves Superman, who is really Clark Kent, who in turn loves Lois, who wants nothing to do with him. That’s right up there with brothers falling for the same girl as far as tragic circumstances.

*Seriously, Lois, you can’t tell the two men apart simply because Clark wears glasses whereas Superman doesn’t? This calls into question if not your intelligence at least your powers of perception, which leads me to wonder how you ever became such a world-renowned journalist.

A big portion of Lois and Superman’s love story revolves around Lois coming to terms with Superman’s super-ness. His job takes him away from home all of the time. His responsibilities are staggering. And let’s face it, how do you ever compete with a super-powered superhero and not end up with a major inferiority complex? Make Superman a Navy SEAL, a firefighter, a brain surgeon or a high powered business mogul and you could be reading about the hero in any number of contemporary Harlequin category lines.

And there’s the issue of the fact that, technically, Lois and Superman aren’t even the same species. He’s a Kryptonian. She’s a human. He’s got super strength and she doesn’t. If you’ve never read (or even heard of) the amusing 1971 essay by Larry Niven, Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, which discusses how the differences in physiology between Superman and Lois Lane makes consummation of their relationship almost impossible, it’s quite enlightening. Can you imagine the pure angst of Superman’s wanting so desperately to be with her but knowing that he can’t without endangering her very life? Move over Buffy and Angel, here is the doomed love for the ages.

So as much as the comic book fans and superhero purists might object, I say that we lovers of romance could very easily co-opt Superman and Lois Lane as examples of a romance genre super couple like Sam and Alyssa, Jamie and Claire, Eve and Rourke. We should feel no shame in admitting that we’re headed to the local Multi-Plex this weekend not because we want to see things get blown up, but because we want to know how smoking the chemistry will be between Henry Cavill and Amy Adams.

In the end, I feel it’s worth pointing out that for those who claim that the romance genre is a silly form of escapism entertainment only enjoyed by bored housewives and women with unfulfilled love lives, the very fact that Lois Lane exists at all is proof that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. From the very beginning – Action Comics #1, June 1938 – the creators of Superman gave him a woman to love, and every incarnation of the Superman story since then has included this romantic relationship. Supes and Lois have gotten married. They’ve mourned each other’s deaths. They’ve even had a child together.

Those are surely the makings of one fine romance novel.

– Jenna Harper

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21 Responses to “Sweet, Alien Love – A Superman Romance”

  1. Jane AAR says:

    I watched way too much Lois and Clark at a very impressionable age. Like, 8 years old, watching reruns on Lifetime during the summer. Seeing all these pictures of Henry Cavill is bringing me back to my days of being in love with Dean Cain. God, what a great show. What a great romance.

    • AARJenna says:

      I was such a fan of Lois and Clark! Okay, blushing now, but I have all 4 seasons on DVD. They were gifts ;). Anyway, it’s my favorite telling of the story because the focus is almost entirely on the relationship between Lois and Clark, with the superhero stuff used mostly as conflict between them as opposed to the main plot. And Dean Cain was the perfect actor for this role because he did embody Clark Kent so well. I’m feeling the need for an L&C marathon this weekend.

      • Jane AAR says:

        I was actually just looking to see if Amazon had a cheap set of L&C on DVD! I think Hulu has a couple of seasons… next time I have internet outside of work, I think I might have to revisit it. :)

        • AARJenna says:

          Last I checked, you could stream it on Netflix. Don’t know if that’s still the case, though.

  2. BevBB says:

    Very nice post. And that’s from another longtime Lois & Clark fan. Who is also only just now working her way through Smallville. ;-)

    For what it’s worth, I attended one of the Walmart premieres of the movie last night and was absolutely blow away by it. Wow.

    • AARJenna says:

      Thanks for the movie recommendation. I’ve been a bit sad/worried/concerned about the critics’ lukewarm response to it. I don’t really care in general what they think – if I like a movie, I like it – but I always worry that if the movie doesn’t do well, they’ll pull it from theaters too fast. But hearing that you enjoy it – and knowing you are an L&C afficianado! – means I’m very likely to love it, too.

      • BevBB says:

        I think the thing people have to understand going in to see it is that if they’re expecting the regular triangle-built-for-two relationship scenario that plays out around the Daily Planet and Metropolis, then they’re going to be disappointed. Lois and Clark met and have a definite relationship in the movie. Lois is a major part of progressing the plot. But, ultimately this one is a movie about him and his origins. About him being an alien SECRETLY living among us for the first decades of his life.

        As well as the reasons behind why it all happened the way it did.

        In that respect, it’s just simply wow inducing.

        And the action stuff can make you believe in super-powers, too. ;-)

  3. Nathalie T says:

    I didn’t watch Lois and Clark but I’ve seen all ten seasons of Smallville. I really liked that they were friends before they became a couple.

  4. Jim says:

    I have to confess that I’ve never been able to look at Superman quite the same way since reading SF writer Larry Niven’s hysterically funny 1971 essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”.

  5. AARJenna says:

    Just got home from seeing Man of Steel. I loved it – my husband did not love it. Henry Cavill made a most excellent Superman, and while the romance between Clark and Lois is not prominent, it’s there! Plus, this Lois Lane is far from a damsel in distress – much more of an active participant in the story. Perhaps I’ll write a review and post it on AAR After Hours next week.

    • BevBB says:

      I think that’s probably going to be a fairly typical divide with this movie because the weirdest thing seems to be happening around some of the comic-oriented sites I check regularly (AKA as Superman fan sites) and that’s that people who ordinarily would be complaining that there isn’t enough action in something like this are instead complaining that there wasn’t enough emphasis on the “relationship” between him and Lois. I mean, seriously, that’s their main gripe about this movie? o.O

      But women. the not so dedicated comic book Superman fans and/or those not even that keen on action movies who have seen it are blown away by the whole package. I think it truly is about expectations and if people go in simply open to the story being told, it’s an incredible movie. I mean I went in with some serious reservations about it and was still like whoa, wow.

      • AARJenna says:

        Just submitted my review which should be up on the AAR After Hours blog on Monday, but I said in my piece that I think this movie will be very much a love it/hate it thing. I personally loved it because for the first time, I believed Superman/Clark Kent as a real person. All other incarnations were fun but simply too over-the-top to take seriously. This version avoids all camp. And even though the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane was kept fairly professional in Man of Steel, there was definitely heat and attraction and affection that gives you every reason to see them as a couple.

        • BevBB says:

          I’d love to read it when it goes online, so please post a link here in this thread because I’m not subscribed to the After Hours blog.

  6. Nicky Wells says:

    I love that thought ~ not a fan of Superman, but the romance in it. Yup, that would be me all over. Thank you! x

  7. Angela says:

    I’ll admit I have always hated Lois Lane. How does a smart and educated woman get fooled by a pair of glasses? Or is she so superficial that she won’t look beyond those glasses and realize there is more to Clark Kent? I could never get into the romance between Lois and Superman, always felt she was more infatuated with the fact of Superman’s powers and “alienness”, then anything else.

    Though to be fair Amy Adam’s Lois Lane is by far the best.

    • AARJenna says:

      I agree that Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is fantastic – she seems real. I never liked Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane because I never really liked her as an actress in general. As for Teri Hatcher, her portrayal definitely fell into that scenario where she came off as superficial by falling for the Superman personae as opposed to the real Clark Kent, at least in the beginning. I don’t recall enough of the Brandon Routh/Kate Bosworth film to remember much, which I guess says something right there.

      Without revealing any spoilers, I do like how they handled the whole Clark Kent/Superman alter-ego thing as far as Lois Lane goes. She doesn’t end up looking stupid for buying a pair of glasses as an effective disguise.

      • Angela says:

        Absolutely! They finally handled it right! It makes so much more sense and it doesn’t leave me shaking my head.

  8. Elizabeth Rolls says:

    LOL! I googled and found the Larry Niven essay. Loved it! Thanks so much for the laugh.

  9. Aida says:

    “In the end, I feel it’s worth pointing out that for those who claim that the romance genre is a silly form of escapism entertainment only enjoyed by bored housewives and women with unfulfilled love lives, the very fact that Lois Lane exists at all is proof that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. From the very beginning – Action Comics #1, June 1938 – the creators of Superman gave him a woman to love, and every incarnation of the Superman story since then has included this romantic relationship. Supes and Lois have gotten married. They’ve mourned each other’s deaths. They’ve even had a child together.”

    I so totally agree!

  10. Georgia Carter Mathers says:

    Without escapism where would we be? Some of the most celebrated writers use fantasy and love to ask questions about who we are. To me, Superman represents the age-old conflict between good and evil, home and alienation. The romance represents tropes of falling in love with men who have secret identities or dreaming that a god-like figure who flies, stops bullets and bends steel could fall in love with us. The romance and the escapism is anything but silly. Without the escapism of longing and dreaming and the not knowing the future for love, the world would be pretty boring. But that’s just my take on it.