Recently a new novel hit the stands: LOIS LANE: FALLOUT by Gwenda Bond. It’s been a slowly growing trend, of late – YA novels with female leads from comics. She-Hulk did it, as well as Rogue and soon Black Widow. Looking that quick list (and declaring 4 things a trend) makes me think, on the surface, that DC needs to catch up. Except they don’t because FALLOUT is one of the best books of the summer.
Bond has managed to take the core of the character of Lois Lane and explore her youth in a way that feels honest from a human perspective while still staying true to the superhero-ness of it all. Though not a simple feat in the least, FALLOUT makes it feel easy, and the deftness of character work, along with a fun plot that deals with big superhero ideas, while making sure those ideas are larger than life reflections of things that all teenagers deal with, combine to make this a novel all fans of Lois Lane need to pick up. For those new to Lois, and hello! welcome!, the novel will give you more than enough to jump right in, leaving no reader behind.
Basically when the idea of this novel was announced I worried. But the reality of it exceeded my hopes for how well this go. And so I sought out the author to ask a few questions, and nerd out a bit about Lois:
Adam P. Knave: How did this book come about?
Gwenda Bond: My agent (the fabulous Jenn Laughran, better known on the internet as Literaticat) was approached about whether I’d be interested in writing a book about Lois Lane as a teen reporter. It sounded almost too good to be true, so my only questions were really whether I’d have freedom to flesh out the concept or if there was a very defined vision for it already. Luckily, the answer was yes, there would be freedom. And I feel like we were all on the same page from the beginning in terms of wanting to do this character justice. Everyone involved treated the project as special.
APK: What is the version of Lois from other stories you enjoy the most?
GB: Oh, good question–I enjoy just about all versions of the character that feel true to her. I’m sure you know what I mean by that. Like any character who’s been around so long, there will be great and less-than-great portrayals, but in the versions where she’s funny, gutsy, determined, and yet still with heart and vulnerability underneath, it’s hard to go wrong. Margot Kidder was my first Lois, but I also love Amy Adams’ Lois and Dana Delany’s voicework, and, of course, the way she’s been written in comics over the years by writers like Kurt Busiek, Marguerite Bennett (that great one-shot, about Lois and Lucy), and Phil Jimenez (the Wonder Woman interview!). She’s an endlessly fascinating character to write and to read or watch.
Speaking of, what are some of your favorite Lois moments or incarnations past?
APK: Margot Kidder and Dana Delany will always be my Lois’ from the non-comics end of things, and no sucking up here but honestly your Lois quickly became one of my favorite incarnations as well. In comics Mark Waid’s Lois in Superman: Birthright and Grant Morrison’s in All-Star Superman are huge standouts for me as well. But yeah, when someone lays down a Lois Lane that is a journalist, every bit Superman’s equal in spirit, I respond to it.
APK: In terms of fleshing out her world, for a teen Lois, how quickly did you decide on the teen Daily Planet grouping under Perry?
GB: That was part of the original concept for the book, actually–that we’d see Perry White earlier in his career overseeing a online magazine/publication run by teens, where Lois would work. It makes a lot of sense, if you think about the wild success of something like, say, Rookie (which I adore). I wish I’d kept a list of the various names I tried out when I was coming up with what to name it, before I settled on the Daily Scoop. I’m sure there were some awful ones.
APK: I do love that it gives the reader the sense that, if we go forward to Adult Lois she’s earned her place, and has been earning it, for all this time. She has a legacy to herself. How much of that did you play with, in your head – how this story ripples forward to her adult years in your head?
GB: Oh, I definitely did! I have my own headcanon, some moments that I can imagine in the future for all of the characters involved. I won’t say what they are exactly, but they’re possible moments and interactions between characters some when they’re adults. The reason I won’t say is because much depends upon what happens in any future books in this series and I don’t want to fence myself in should I be lucky enough to get to write those. But I very much wanted this–and any stories that are to come with this Lois–to feel like something that allows us to organically envision where the Lois we know and love ends up. The Daily Planet is her place in the world. This is an origin story for her.
APK: Having Clark be a presence in the book changes a lot of little things, but also seems organic. Was there ever a version of this without him in the book, and moving deeper, how important was it to you that even as a teen Lois had a connection with Smallville?
GB: He was there from the start. I love the relationship between Lois and Clark, and Clark/Superman generally. And to me it is all organically wrapped up together, so I’m glad it feels that way. I wanted Lois to have a sense that there were and be actively looking out for strange things happening the world–as Clark is out there pre-Superman discovering and exploring his powers–and so it seemed natural for the experience that opened her eyes to that would be an encounter between the two characters. The idea that they’d “meet” via a message board devoted to such phenomena, which they’d each have different but related reasons to be visiting, came early on. These are characters who genuinely like each other, who have similar views of the world and their responsibility to it and places in it, and who are friends first. I wanted to write their relationship helping shape who they each become. Plus, those conversations are the most fun to write, of anything ever.
APK: And of course the “Strange Things” that set Lois off reminded me of the train scene in the first Donner movie. Different, of course, but an easy substitute that fit both the tone of your world and would have worked in that film itself.
But with that, and Clark, come Clark’s mysterious friend who builds things that are insane technology-wise for him. You never name him but can we assume this is a young Lex?
GB: I do love that train moment and wanted to echo it, while also doing something a bit different. Obviously, what Lois and General Lane witnessed that night in Kansas was an eye-opening, worldview-changing thing for both of them. How each of them reacts and responds is another facet of the tension between the ways they see the world. It felt so true to Lois’s character that she’d immediately look for a place to tell her story.
As to the second part, no fair asking questions that would spoil the fun if I answered. (I’m laughing, seriously.) I actually added TheInventor in the very last round of revisions, and this is a figure I want to explore a bit more. I’ve seen several different theories circulating about who it might be. We’ll just have to wait and (hopefully) find out. *twirls fingers*
APK: I have about seven guesses as to The Inventor by now. And it might be more fun not knowing, but, you know, also Argh! Who! Heh.
But outside of Clark, Lois, and Perry (and General Lane and Lucy of course) were you tempted to bring in other notable characters in their early years? Jimmy, Cat Grant, or say Morgan Edge?
GB: Not really that much–probably a good thing since Jimmy and Cat are on the Supergirl show, which I’m really excited to see and am hoping is great. As cool as it is to get to play in this universe and write such iconic characters as Lois and Clark and Perry, it’s also incredibly cool to get to create new characters in the universe. Superman has always had a great ensemble of supporting characters, and so I wanted to give Lois the same kind of support cast, a Scooby Gang of her own. I also really wanted the book to feel welcoming to anyone; not just to existing fans of the comics or different media versions, but to people who’ve never really read or possibly even seen a Superman story yet. I’ve heard from several readers thanking me for making it easy for them to slip into the story and not feel like they were missing out. I’m even hearing from some readers that they’re learning who Lois Lane is through the book, which is awesome. But I did try to nest in some fun little easter eggs for those more familiar, and I hope to work in some villains and the like if I get to do more.
APK: Who is Lois, to you? Why does she matter?
GB: Do you have a year? I kid! Though I have in fact talked many people’s ears off about this. And will likely continue to do so. Lois is just as much a hero as Superman. I think she’s Clark’s hero in a lot of ways too, because she fights for the truth, and to get justice for those who deserve it, without ever backing down and with no superpowers to aid her. Lois’s spirit is something any of us can channel and be inspired by. The world can always use more Lois Lane.
APK: So, it has to be asked – are you writing more Lois novels? You built a very fleshed out version of Metropolis that is yours, and also emotionally/structurally true to the mythos, and it would be a shame if we didn’t see more of it revealed.
GB: This is one of those times when I have to say I can’t answer at the moment. But stay tuned. And everyone go buy the book. The better it does, the more Lois there will be. 🙂
APK: As an author, how do you view working with someone else’s characters vs. your own material? How do they differ for you, in process and mindset?
GB: It’s not nearly as different as I expected it to be. I had a realization early on that no matter how iconic a character is, if you’re going to write them, you have to get in close enough that they feel like yours (even if you’re really just borrowing them). That said, the fact Lois and Clark are so well-established probably did make it easier to get a handle on them more quickly than I do with new characters I’m developing from scratch.
APK: In a modern age of non-traditional journalists how do you see Lois changing?
GB: I feel like as much as we are often down on it and “newspapers are dying” etc. etc., journalism is more important than ever. In this last year alone, we’ve seen so many truly important stories emerge where collectively we would never have known what was happening if journalists–nontraditional and traditional–weren’t on the scene, tweeting and blogging and also writing stories. Teens are often treated as these checked-out slackers, but so many of them are tremendously motivated, socially conscious, and politically engaged. Lois is no different.
APK: True! I was leaning more toward Lois being part of a traditional journalist structure in a time when many her age would follow those footsteps in a different path. I’m not saying Lois should be a blogger, but just wondering what the mindset is, for her, to aim directly at wielding traditional media.
GB: Lois has an innate understanding of–and frequent frustration with–the usual hierarchies of power. This is part of why she’ll never stand idly by if she sees something wrong. And I think that would be true in a newsroom or in the larger world. But to me it also means she has an innate understanding and appreciation for amplifiers of voices that disrupt or challenge those hierarchies. Print journalism, perhaps particularly in this Metropolis that is our world but not quite, is still a bastion of that as she sees it. And so Perry’s job offer appeals to her right away, because she sees how it will allow her to more effectively take action and uncover injustice. There’s also something fun about putting a character like this into a setting where there are rules–obviously, I get to bend some of them, but if she was a blogger primarily, there would be less of those.
APK: Nellie Bly – the greatest, or the greatest? Yes, we interrupt this interview to gush about Bly. So?
GB: The greatest! Such a fascinating person and personality, and how could I resist putting a nod to her in the book? One of my proudest moments so far was last week, it was Nellie Bly’s birthday and there was a google doodle and someone tweeted that they knew who she was because they’d just read Fallout. I can die happy.
APK: Oh that is spectacular! Obviously Bly influenced Lois in creation but I don’t think anyone has ever done a time-bending Journalist-mystery team-up between the two yet. …why has the world not given us this gift?
GB: Seriously. Also, someone please write me fanfic of Lois, Agent Carter, and Miss Fisher teaming up in some parallel universe to solve a giant mystery. Nellie Bly can be their patron saint.
APK: As it comes up a fair bit in the book – What kinds of music does Lois listen to, in your head?
GB: My playlist for the book. 😉 Seriously, though, I think Lois likes music that challenges authority, but she’s also way more into the written word than anything else. So she listens to whatever is put in her path by her friends.
APK: Hah, fair enough. Fallout isn’t your only book, of course. Woken Gods, Blackwood, and Girl On a Wire are also available for readers to dig into. What will fans of Fallout find in those novels?
GB: All my books are about smart, gutsy girls in extreme circumstances, usually tangling with a mystery of some kind. So I feel like Lois fits right in–if I had to suggest one for people who enjoyed Fallout, I’d say Girl on a Wire. Jules is a daredevil high wire walker who gets embroiled in a family mystery when her clan, The Amazing Maronis, join a ritzy new modern touring circus. There will be a companion novel set in the same circus coming next year, Abracadabra Girl (working title), about the daughter of a Las Vegas stage magician who wants to become one herself, which gets complicated when she discovers she can do real magic. I’m channeling some of my Zatanna love into that. And I just got the rights back to Blackwood and The Woken Gods, following the lamented demise of the upstart imprint that put them out, so they’ll be available in e-book again soon, and you can find used print copies.
Thanks for doing this — it was so fun geeking out over all things Lois with you.