“It’s Not A Political Book, But Lois Is A Political Animal” – Talking To Mike Perkins About Lois Lane
by Olly MacNamee
I was lucky enough to be able to sit down and catch up with Lois Lane artist Mike Perkins a couple of months ago on the eve of the publication of Lois Lane #1 and a family vacation back to good old Blighty. Well, one long Summer later and in the week of Lois Lane #3 dropping from DC Comics, I thought it high time I shared our chat with the world. Just sorry it’s taken so long. But, I think it’s well worth the wait as we discuss Lois Lane, how he was always passionate about doing a Lois Lane comic, and the comic book landscape today. Have at it, readers!
Olly MacNamee: Obvious question to get the ball rolling, but how did you land the Lois Lane gig in the first place, Mike?
Mike Perkins: It was always something I wanted to do. I was talking to Dan (Didio), who, I’ve always got on well with. We would meet up and talk at different conventions, but he knew I wasn’t looking for work because I was at Marvel. So, we’d just chat; about Ross Andru, other artists, whatever really. We became good friends through these regular meet-ups. One year at Chicago we met up, and Dan knew my contract was almost up at Marvel, and so we went for breakfast and I asked if I could give him a list of characters I’d like to work with at DC Comics. It isn’t that long a list, but on it was “Lois Lane with Greg Rucka.”
OM: Wow, that’s very specific.
MP: Yeah, well I knew Greg would write a brilliant Lois Lane book, so after the breakfast I then bumped into Greg. I said, “We’ve got to work together again, on something.” But, Greg thought I was referring to Marvel work, who he said he had some problems with at the time. Then I let him know about my breakfast with Dan. It was only later that Greg called me over to his table at Chicago and said, “Mike; you, me and Lois Lane!” Which he didn’t know was on my wish list! It seems it was one of those things he wanted to do too.
So, we kept talking about it. Originally, it was even meant to be one of the titles that launched DC Comics’ DC Black Label line. But, with prior commitments at Marvel, this didn’t happen. But, when I got to DC Comics, Dan had now wanted to pull Lois Lane back into the DCU because Brian Michael Bendis had arrived. It made sense. It just meant there would be less colourful language, shall we say. Although, we did get a shower scene in the first issue! It’s been two and a half years since that original breakfast meeting.
OM: So, why a Lois Lane comic now, then?
MP: I just think it’s the right time. I mean, just look at the current political situation; fake news, the way journalists are treated by the leader of their country. Of course, it’s the right time to do it.
OM: There is certainly a knowledge of this that informs the story. Mentions of Bob Woodward, for example, which certainly sets the tone for the series from the very first issue.
MP: And, we didn’t have to pull back on anything. We always emphasised to DC Comics that it was going to be this type of book. Its not a political book, but Lois is a political animal. She’s always going to go after the truth and it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democrat or a Republican. It just so happens that journalism, at the moment, is being attacked by people in authority, so it’s at the forefront of a lot of peoples’ minds right now.
OM: It’s a very different book to a lot of DC Comics. But, how do you find your readership? A readership maybe more inclined to reading Superman than Lois Lane in her own book?
MP: We just do the best we can do, myself and Greg. We’re totally passionate about it..
OM: And that certainly shows through in the comic…
MP: We’ve got Paul Mounts on colours – who was also totally passionate about this project because his degree was in journalism – and so he totally got it, too. You just do the best you can, really.
OM: And, great feedback on the first couple of issue, too.
MP: Yeah. Its seems to have been accepted quite well. I was at dinner with Charlie Adlard and we joked that Lois Lane #1 would have been the most talked about comic the week it came out, if it hadn’t been for the surprise final issue of The Walking Dead dropping.
OM: You clearly add a lot of cloak and dagger darkness into the book.
MP: Yeah, but I pulled back from using too many grey tones because it may have made the book look more muddy. And, the story suits the darker tone. Although, in issue #3, Superman turns up and it’s a lighter scene. Even in the first two issue you’ll notice this when Clark turns up…
OM: And, I enjoyed the absences of Superman from those issues. It’s very much Lois and Clark and the modern relationship they’re both exploring at the moment.
MP: Yeah. Greg may write a description for Lois and Clark kissing and then add a side note for me: “This is a kissy book, get over it!”, for fun.
So, yeah, Lois turns up the third issue (out this week – Olly) and she’s annoyed at him. He’s there to protect her, basically because she realises if people are attacking her, she’s pressing the right buttons and turning over the right stones.
OM: And, what about her blasé attitude to that kiss with Superman?
MP: Yeah, well it does come up again, so we do address this white elephant some more. But she lives in this world where whatever she does, she’ll be criticised more than Superman ever will.
OM: Are you able to play fast and loose with Lois Lane, given here current status?
MP: Yeah, we’re allowed to send her in directions we want to send her. Luckily, Greg lives close to Brian (Michael Bendis), so they regularly meet up on Portland and discuss plot points. Making sure everything runs smoothly. Funnily enough, at my recent London signing at Forbidden Planet, Greg turned up unannounced and we were able to go to the pub and chat about Lois Lane face to face and how it will tie in with Superman, round about issue #6.
OM: And what about the bigger changes in the DCU? What’s happening in Justice League, for example. Will that have an affect on Lois Lane?
MP: I don’t think it will, because Lois Lane isn’t that kind of book. Just like Jimmy Olsen isn’t like any other book on the stands, too. They each have their own voice and that makes the difference. There was going to be some attempt to tie in with The Year of the Villain, but we couldn’t quite make it fit, so we don’t want to force something in for the sake of it.
OM: Plus, she pops up in Event Leviathan anyway.
MP: Lois Lane is a very different comic.
OM: Is the industry in a better place in terms of the diversity of genres and stories being explored by various creators across the board? I look at Justice League, Batman; it all seems like some kind of Silver Age expansion, but in contemporary comics with contemporary writers.
MP: Totally. I was just talking about this. We were talking about the early 90’s where you were asked to draw in the “Image style”. You were told to draw in a certain way! And now, you can be yourself. Although, I don’t know if you’d every get the kind of diversity you had at Marvel in the 70’s, when there was some kind of explosion of every kind of different book and genre. But, maybe DC are trying to do something about this with they division of books (Zoom and Ink, DCU and DC Black Label).
OM: Yeah. Like Vertigo. Has it really shut down, or just changed its shop frontage?
MP: With comic book publishers like Image doing what Vertigo did, I think it’s transitioned into that (DC Black label). As an imprint, it’s sad to see that name disappear, but what Vertigo did, other are doing now. What DC Black Label allows you [to do] is to deal with established DC characters much more.
OM: Okay then. One last question. Who else is on that list you showed Dan? I know you’ve already done Swamp Thing …
MP: Well, of course I still want to tackle the Trinity (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman), more Swamp Thing in longer form. I’d love to do a kind of Ocean’s 11 with Catwoman. I’d love to do that as a graphic novel maybe. Who knows, one day…
Lois Lane #3 is out this week, September 4th, from DC Comics.