Before she was a renowned reporter for The Daily Planet, Lois Lane was a kid from the Metropolis suburb of Liberty View with the natural journalistic skills to help uncover any mystery and the drive to be a star reporter.
In the new OGN Lois Lane And the Friendship Challenge out now from DC, those abilities are combined as Lois is on the case to find out what happened to the town's annual fireworks when they go missing - an adventure that will test her friendship with her best friend, Kristen.
Over the weekend Newsarama spoke with writer Grace Ellis and artist Brittney Williams about their work on Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge. We discussed the cultural relevance of using social media in the narrative, how the creative team explores Lois' journalistic skills, and why it was important for Superman to not be in the story.
Newsarama: Grace, to jump right in, what made you decide to use social media as a story device for Lois Lane And the Friendship Challenge?
Grace Ellis: Social media is such a huge part of our current cultural landscape, especially for journalists, and especially for kids. It's hard for anyone, myself included, to have a healthy relationship with social media, and I can't imagine being a kid and growing up trying to navigate that minefield.
Also, in talking to kids about it, a lot of them truly want to be internet famous, which is wild and sounds like an abject nightmare to me, personally, although I understand the allure of having a lot of people interested in your opinions.
So, I'm hoping that this book encourages readers to think critically about their own social media habits.
Nrama: Brittney, from an art perspective, how did you showcase social media?
Brittney Williams: Most of us scroll through some form of social media every day. I took inspiration from multiple platforms and incorporated that into the story.
Nrama: Are we going to see Lois' journalism skills come into use?
Ellis: In this book, Lois is very young and doesn't think of herself as a journalist yet. But she does have a lot of natural journalistic abilities, like tenacity and passion and courage, that are all a big part of this story.
At its heart, this book is an origin story. It's the origin of how Lois Lane, the world's most iconic reporter, discovers her almost-superhuman journalism skills.
Nrama: What made you decide to set the story in the town of Liberty View instead of Metropolis?
Ellis: Well, the decision was partially based on the fact that we've seen Lois in the city before, so putting her in a brand new setting was a way of shedding all of the preexisting mythos of Metropolis.
The other reason we put her in a Metropolis suburb is that it's a way of signaling that Lois has a long way to go before she becomes a reporter at the Daily Planet. This is sort of deep lore that we made up, but 'Liberty View' got its name from its clear view of the Metropolis skyline. So, in a way, Lois is growing up in the physical shadow of the great woman she becomes.
Nrama: What can you tell us about Kristen and Lois' friendship?
Ellis: Kristen is Lois' best friend. She's a new character, which was a real treat for me.
In some ways, Kristen is to Lois what the adult Lois is to Superman: When Lois gets too involved in her own drama, Kristen is there to remind her what it is to be a human. She keeps her grounded. I really love their relationship because I remember having friendships like that as a kid, those mutually obsessed-with-each-other friendships.
And I think the fact that they love each other so much makes the core story in Friendship Challenge so emotional!
I remember my editor telling me she cried even though she knew what was coming, and I've definitely teared up thinking about it, just because emotions run so hot in those types of intense friendships. In conclusion: Kristen and Lois, friends forever.
Nrama: Will there be any familiar faces that show up?
A couple, but only fleetingly. For example, Batman is a pop culture figure in Lois' world. Which doesn't mean he isn't also a real superhero! But his appearances are definitely not, uh, typical Batman cameos.
I guess the big question about this book is really if Superman is in it, and the answer is a resounding 'no.' The question we were trying to answer with Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge is 'who is Lois without Clark?', which is not something you can address with Clark around.
It's an interesting question with an interesting answer, I think, because it forced us to really boil down Lois Lane to her most fundamental parts. What makes Lois Lane, Lois Lane? And I think we landed on a great brew of passion and tenacity and courage.
Anyway, Superman isn't in it! Get outta here, Superman! Hit the bricks!
Nrama: For fans of your work on Lumberjanes, what do you think they'll enjoy about Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge?
Ellis: Oh, I think there's a lot for Lumberjanes' fans to love in this book. They have quite a few similar elements: friendship, adult-less adventures, mysteries, things like that. I don't like to describe books as 'feminist,' but there are certainly feminist themes in Friendship Challenge that are also present in Lumberjanes, like how 'girl' is not a personality type, etc.
If you're a fan of Lumberjanes, I can basically guarantee that you'll like this book.
Nrama: And now Brittney, what was the process of creating a kid version of Lois Lane?
Williams: It was a very fun process! I've been a huge Lois Lane fan for years, so after reading the concept and being inspired by little Lois, creating/designing the character was easy.
Nrama: How did you come up with the character designs for the new characters?
Williams: In general, I'm inspired by people I see out and about in the real world. The specific design comes together once I've read the story and character descriptions.
Nrama: For fans of your work on Hellcat, what do you think they'll enjoy about Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge?
Williams: Both stories are very fun, full of girl power, and have a strong friendship theme!
Nrama: Tell us a bit about your collaborative process.
Williams: I'm inspired by everything Grace Ellis writes. We bounced ideas back and forth, but I mostly took the fun story she crafted and ran with it!
Ellis: I love Brittney! She and I go way back, but this was the first project we ever worked on together. It was a real treat.
She's got such an invigorating and inspiring creative energy, and she loves Lois Lane so much, that every second of work on this book was a genuine blast. And you know, writing comics is very rewarding in general because you write your script, and whatever your vision for the book is, the artist's work is ten times better. But with Brittney, whose art in this book leaps off the page with energy, the art was a million times better than I could've imagined.
Nrama: Why do you think kids can relate to Lois Lane? Why is she a good role model?
Williams: Lois Lane is a go-getter. Even though she may sometimes fail at her goals, she always gets back up and tries again. I believe that's a trait everyone can admire and relate to.
Ellis: I hope that kids see themselves in Lois.
Look, Lois is a flawed kid: She's impulsive, she's a steamroller, she's a spitfire. She's not perfect; she's only human. But, more importantly, she's confident, she's passionate, she's smart, she's driven, she's ride-or-die for her friends. There's a lot to admire there. I admire her! She's figuring it out in the course of this book, which I think is important for kids to see.
Even if you're not perfect, that doesn't mean you can't work to become your best self and eventually becomes Superman's hero.
I would also add that I hope that kids take away the fact that they can be journalists, even as kids. The idea that media of any kind has to be created by a person and that person could be you is something that we all have to discover, and I hope that this book can be that discovery for some young people.
Nrama: To wrap, what other DC characters would you like to work on with this same all-ages treatment?
Williams: There are so many—a few I would love to see are Vixen, Big Barda, Zatanna, Thunder, Supergirl, or Superman. They would all be fun!
Ellis: Oh man, oh man! Well, any of the women characters, for sure.
What I like about this all-ages imprint is that it's not about kids with superpowers but about kids finding their place in the world, which I think is such fertile territory for any of these iconic characters. Especially for characters like Lois, who is iconic but actually doesn't have a very fleshed-out history, books like Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge are a cool opportunity to branch out and take chances and delve into some character-driven stories.