How Superman III Led to a Major Romance in the Comic Books

Today, we see how Superman III led to a major romance in the Superman comics.

In “Follow the Path,” I spotlight changes made to comic book characters that are based on outside media, as well as characters who entirely came from outside media. I’m sure you can think of other examples, so feel free to e-mail me at brianc@cbr.com if you want to suggest some other examples for future installations.

As you might imagine, movie love interest often have an impact on the love interests in the comics, which is precisely what happened with Superman III.

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WHO WAS SUPERMAN’S LOVE INTEREST IN SUPERMAN III?

despues de Superman II was completed, the Superman movies were prepared to move forward in the franchise without Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane as the main love interest of Superman anymore. As I wrote in an old Movie Legends Revealed,

In November 1980, right before Superman II had its first showings in December 1980 (ahead of opening worldwide in 1981), the co-producer of the early Superman films, Ilya Salkind (who produced the films with his father, Alexander) wrote a treatment for a third Superman film (I amended the outline in March 1981). The treatment included the introduction of Lana Lang, who ended up being a major part of the final product for Superman III. Every other major new character, though, did not make it into the final film, although some of the themes introduced in the original treatment made their way into the finished movie. The film’s original bad guy was Brainiac (with Mr. Mxyzptlk also involved) but the major thrust of the film was the introduction of Supergirl into the Superman film universe. She would land on a world controlled by Brainiac and he would raise her and eventually fall in love with her. She rejects him and escapes him and ultimately ends up on Earth.


Here’s the really odd part, though. She eventually becomes a superhero on Earth, using her superpowers for good. Superman becomes curious about whether she’s really a good guy or not, so he goes undercover as a bad guy to see what she will do. She proves herself a hero to him and then, as Salkind writes:

“The look between the two will tell the audience that they have magically fallen in love. There is then conversation trying to find out if they are related. They are not. Then there is an idyllic sequence of Superman and Supergirl climbing up to 7th heaven We shall have to find some beautiful place either on Earth or elsewhere (ie the Milky Way).”


Eventually, that idea fell apart and instead, Lana Lang became the love interest in the movie…

Played by Annette O’Toole, Lana Lang (who Clark meets on a trip back to his hometown of Smallville and convinces her and her young son to move to Metropolis where she gets a job as Perry White’s new secretary) was a strong love interest, really (and it gave the filmmakers the chance to do some slapstick as Lana’s jealous ex-boyfriend keeps on trying to embarrass Clark and failing). O’Toole, of course, later played Clark Kent’s MOTHER on Smallville.

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HOW DID SUPERMAN III INFLUENCE THE SUPERMAN COMICS, VIS A VIS CLARK AND LOIS?

Lana Lang had been brought back into the Superman comics as a regular character in the late 1970s, but it wasn’t until late 1982, with the Superman III movie on its way, that a now-single Lana (she had almost married the alien superhero, Vartox), asked Clark out on a date in Superman #380 (by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and Dave Hunt)…


This was right in the middle of a weird storyline where Superman’s body was actually possessed by the mind of SuperBOY, sort of time traveling to the future and seeing how his life worked out. Due to him still being a teenager (and not knowing the details of Superman’s life and interpersonal relationships), Superboy caused a lot of trouble for Superman’s friendships (as he kept acting like a boy instead of a man) but he did wonders for Clark Kent’s personal life, as he went all in with Lana Lang, who he obviously remembered from his own time period…



In 1983, with the movie set to open in a few months, Action Comics #542 (by Marv Wolfman, Curt Swan and Dave Hunt) temporarily settled the whole “Lois/Superman” relationship by having them pretty much officially breakup…


It was sad, but it allowed for there to be no awkwardness of one dude dating Lois Lane as Superman and dating Lana Lang as Clark Kent…


There’s a great bit in Superman #388 (by Bates, Swan and Hunt) where Lana and Lois get into a catfight but it ends with Lana commiserating with her over how hard it is to lose Superman as a love interest….


In the next issue, Lana and Clark are on a date when we see WHY Lana digs Clark, as he really is a responsible, decent, solid guy)…


This, though, heads into a series of stories where Vartox returns to Earth to win her back and meanwhile she has a whole other stalker and it becomes a whole to-do and there’s not a whole lot of room for Clark/Lana romance in these issues.

Honestly, the Clark/Lana romance is astonishingly chaste. It was a lot like Barry Allen and Iris West when they were dating (and not after they got married, where Barry and Iris were suddenly having sex like every other issue, to the point where Barry was late to keep a submarine from being stolen because he was too busy having sex with Iris. And yes, that’s an actual plot of a late 1960s DC comic book).


They’re still dating in Superman #410 (by Bates, Swan and Hunt) when a Lex Luthor plot accidentally ends up with Clark getting fired from his reporting jobs and Lana is still there for him…


The storyline resolves itself three issues later, at a time when Lana threw her boyfriend a surprise testimonial dinner to cheer him up, but instead, Superman shows up and clears Clark’s name and gets him his job back…


That’s pretty much it for the Clark/Lana relationship, they were still dating right up until Man of Steel rebooted the universe and then, well, obviously they were no longer dating. It seems like once it was clear there wasn’t going to be a direct Superman III follow-up, the comics just stopped caring about the Clark/Lana romance, especially since the reboot was going to fix everything.

At least she DID get that great scene with Jimmy Olsen in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”…


That’s it for this installation of Follow the Path! If anyone else has a suggestion for a comic book character changing due to TV or movies, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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