Also why Superman is the 'ultimate cinnamon roll'
Gwenda Bond has been training to write for Lois Lane her whole life. The author started out as a student journalist for her college newspaper before taking a position as the spokeswoman for the State Cabinet of Health and Family Services in Lexington, Ky., a job that saw her regularly work with reporters.
But that wasn’t the only thing she found herself to have in common with the teenage girl who’ll grow up to become one of DC Comics’ most famous journalists — she also shared Lois’ penchant for trouble. “There’s probably more of me in Lois than any character I’ve written,” Bond tells EW. “My parents were both high school principals, which is not exactly like having an army general for a dad, but it will bring out your authority issues! The backstory of Lois getting in trouble in Fallout, I took from my own background. My parents, who were great, totally got a call about how their daughter turned a seventh-grade slumber party into a gambling den and if they could come get me.”
And now, with three young adult books — Fallout, Double Down, and now Triple Threat — under her belt, Bond is more than familiar with the character, having had to navigate her tenuous relationship with her father (one that will only worsen), as well as her burgeoning online romance with a young man by the handle of SmallvilleGuy (a.k.a. Clark Kent). Her latest (which you can read an excerpt from) finds Lois in a position familiar to fans, as she’s asked to keep the secret of a flying man who’s just appeared in Metropolis.
With Bond referencing the hallmarks of Lois’s future life while writing about her past, and also planning to have her and Clark meet in real life, EW decided to catch up with the woman currently behind the first lady of DC Comics, and get some scoop on her latest book.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: With Triple Threat, you’ve now written three books about Lois Lane. What do you feel you’ve learned about her as a character?
GWENDA BOND: She’s one of those endlessly fascinating characters, but there are people who aren’t fans of the character or don’t really know that much about her history or the comics, so there’s this overly simplified view of her. Either she’s just Superman’s girlfriend or a damsel in distress. It never fails to irritate me because, to me, this is a character with so many facets. She’s tough, but she’s vulnerable. She’s smart, but she doesn’t always think about taking care of herself because she’s more interested in justice. She gets in trouble because she’s not afraid to get in trouble, which is what superheroes do. I always say, “Trouble is what superheroes do.” I absolutely think of her as a hero. I feel like I learn new things about her every time I write about her.
In your books, Lois is a teenager and not yet the person we’ve become familiar with. How do you approach that aspect of her?
Lois never really had a teenage backstory in comics. We always meet her as an already established Pulitzer Prize-winner. So there’s a lot of blank canvas there. And she is one of those characters who is always challenging herself and she doesn’t let herself off the hook either. Her biggest challenge is being vulnerable in front of other people. I had on the first page of the outline for the first book that SmallvilleGuy is the only person she’s comfortable being vulnerable with. But even so, it is the challenge of growing into this new place that she found. And then too, taking a relationship that has not been in real life yet, into real life, which is something that a lot of people experience these days. Also, there’ve been a lot of challenges for her and her dad and it’s been nice to write him in a bit of a softer way than he gets written, because it’s his origin story, too. We know that relationship’s going to go to a pretty dark place. And, that is set up in Triple Threat. But I also wanted to give them some scenes where they’re not yet, where we see that they used to have a better father-daughter relationship.
You do feature other characters from the DC universe. Do you have to ask for permission to incorporate them? Or do you need to have a mostly original cast?
The only direction I got up front was, “This will be about teen Lois Lane getting the job as a journalist and she will have a mysterious online friend.” That was it. Also, “Perry White will be her boss.” Those were the only characters that existed. So them moving to Metropolis, the Daily Scoop, all of that just came whole cloth to me almost immediately. I really wanted to give her her own ensemble cast because Superman is all about that, and so I wanted to create this Scooby Gang for her that was her own and not populated with people who would be more associated with Superman. But I did enjoy getting to pull out some of the deep cut villains.
Did you ever play with the idea of someone like Cat Grant joining The Scoop or something?
I don’t know if there would have been resistance to that, but I wonder if there would have. But also I would have written that relationship in a completely different way. I would never have wanted them to be rivals with each other. I would want them to be friends, like with Betty and Veronica on Riverdale. That, to me, would be the way to do that. But because it so established as a rivalry in the comic, it would be difficult.
How did you decide that Lois should work at The Scoop as opposed to interning for The Daily Planet or even writing for her school newspaper?
I was a huge Sassy fan growing up, and Rookie, which is the new generation of that. There is a [push] in traditional media in trying to figure out how to get young readers. So it just made sense to me. I wanted them to have their own discreet thing. I didn’t want it to be a bunch of adults from the newsroom with them or based at the school, even though they’re all coming to the same school.
I know it was a part of the brief for this project to include Clark, but what have you been keeping in mind as you approach writing their relationship in the books?
To me, that relationship is such a cornerstone of those characters. I’ve always looked at this project as the way in which Lois becoming who she becomes, influencing how Clark discovers what a hero is. Other people said that she’s “Superman’s superman” but, in a real concrete way, she’s giving him a model for what somebody does. Even to the extent of, “He’ll become a journalist, too, because he sees that that’s the way to do good and a good cover story.” I definitely wanted all of the books and their interactions to feel like, the versions of these characters that those of us who love them are attached to when they’re adults could see that reflected here.
When I first started the book, I had this idea that they would never get to meet. I got around that a little bit by creating the virtual reality game; that was not in the outline. I realized as I was writing: “Obviously, I’ve created this game, so, I can have scenes with them together.” Those scenes gave them a way to start to get to know each other in what feels like a physical space. But Clark and Lois are an inextricable part of each other. So it made so much sense to me that they would meet in a way I have them meet. Because Superman in the traditional Superman stories is the first superhero and I wanted to preserve that rather than complicate it with other heroes existing. So we know that young Superman remains out there, experimenting with his powers, and we know we’re going to find out weird things were going on, it made sense to me that Lois would be one of the first people to realize that, and that Clark would, obviously, be monitoring reports of anything that was weird. Not just to see if he had shown up on anyone’s radar but, in case there are other people like him. The thing is, he does meet someone like him. She just isn’t an alien with superpowers!
And they actually get to meet in real life in this book! Tell me about that.
The question I get asked every book is, “Will these two ever meet?” And, it is the next logical step. This is the next place that Lois has to grow into, this relationship. So, I really just wanted to make it so delightful that readers would just explode with happiness. That was my goal. I feel like we all desperately need stories that make us happy right now, that are about good people. So, I’m hoping that this will be that for a lot of people who are reading it.
I know you don’t know yet if there’s going to be another book, but do you know what might be next for the pair of them?
I always know what happens next when I finish a book, especially the Lois ones. We’ll see. It may or may not be somebody else that gets to play it out, but I do think that they would immediately begin FaceTiming each other once they met in person.
I didn’t realize this until now, but the whole conceit of her not knowing he’s Superman still works, even though she’s met Clark.
That’s right. He’s not Superman yet. These books are part of his journey towards becoming Superman. Especially this one. I wanted just to start to see the beginnings of his journey. Also I really don’t like it when people are like, “Oh, Lois is so dumb for not knowing.” So, I tried to address that pretty directly in this book.
But it’s really interesting because we see her keep the secret of a man who flies in Metropolis, which we know is something that she will do in the future.
Lois is also a secret-keeper. One of my favorite moments in Triple Threat is this moment where she’s really worried that Clark is going to be furious with her because she’d lie to him about something pretty big for quite a while. And, he’s like, “What leg do I have to stand on here?” [Laughs] I’m so frustrated with superhero shows and media often when the heroine’s kept one secret and the hero’s kept [another] for the entire season. And she’s just supposed to like, shrug and get over it, but it never works the other way. So, I knew Clark wouldn’t be made because he knows he’s done it to a much greater degree.
As you’ve said, this is Clark’s story too. What are some of the things you’re considering when writing his characterization?
There are two characterizations of Clark: the good, real, true one that we’re discussing; and one where Superman is a jerk who’s trying to outsmart Lois, which there is a history of this in the comics. But to me, that is no one’s preferred version of Clark Kent that they would want to hang out with or date. He’s the ultimate cinnamon roll. He doesn’t have any of that weird need to be the alpha male. He knows better. Superman has embraced what’s best about humanity.
And this book finally does tell us who the Inventor is. Right?
It does, without a doubt. But it does not definitively tell us whether that person is good or bad yet. But it definitely answers that question. I hope it’s a little bit of a different take on this character than people have seen before.
Triple Threat is currently available for purchase. Order it here.