This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman, a character that has resonated with enormous volume in American popular culture, and inspired comics, TV shows, cartoons, books, and movies, including the recent Man of Steel. Part of that 75th birthday celebration is another hero who also made an important debut in Action Comics #1 seventy-five years ago, one whose influence and iconic status are absolutely comparable to that of the Man of Steel, and one whose role is integral to what many have described as a uniquely American mythology: Lois Lane.
Besides Superman himself, the person most impressed by Lois's enduring tenacity, brilliance and beauty might be actress Dana Delany, best known to Superman fans for her definitive performance as the voice of Lois Lane in over fifty episodes Warner Bros. Animation's Superman: The Animated Series. An advocate for women's health, gay rights and the arts, Delany is something of a feminist icon herself, winning awards for roles as self-determined and complicated women like Lieutenant Colleen McMurphy on Vietnam War drama China Beach (for which she won two Emmy Awards), acerbic medical examiner Dr. Megan Hunt on Body of Proof, and most recently Washington, D.C. courtesan Chloe in The Parisian Woman by playwright Beau Williamson (House of Cards).
Delany shared her unique insights into the strength, vulnerability and humor of Lois Lane, and the more-or-less straight line she draws between her career playing complex women and reading the comic book adventures of her own hero when she was a little girl.
— Fans of genre fiction are very used to the actors who portray their favorite characters saying that they don't really have a sentimental attachment to those character, but you seem to really care about her. What do you remember about that early connection to Lois?
— Oh, yeah! I was thrilled when they wanted me to play her. I grew up with Lois. She was very present when I was a young girl because of The Adventures of Superman TV show with George Reeves, and I watched that religiously. I saw the two different Lois Lanes that appeared on that show, [Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill]. Then I read the comic books... Back then, at the start of feminism, Lois became this feminist character that represented the changes going on with women in the world. She had her own comic book back then, which was thrilling. After church every Sunday we would go to the drug store and I would get my comics with my allowance. I don't think I was aware of [the feminist angle] at the time. I just liked the fact that she was sassy and that she had a job and that she talked back to everybody. That was the part that I liked [laughs].
— What's your favorite moment from Superman: The Animated Series?
— Definitely in the first episode, when she's talking about "the Nietzschean ideal of Superman," which I thought was so sophisticated when I read it. And then when she says, "Nice 'S' [while looking at a photograph of Superman's physique]." I thought that really set the tone for Lois and the series [laughs]. It was kind of risqué and funny. As I said at the time when I was doing it, the scripts for the Superman were so much better than any film script I was getting. Much more sophisticated and smart.
— In what sense?
— Really good dialogue and depth. There was a dark tone to it. It just seemed to deal with human emotion and had depth and humor. This is when movies started becoming bigger and bigger blockbusters and the women tended to be more and more marginalized and kind of retro and just becoming "the wife" and "the girlfriend."