“The Jewel Smugglers”
Superman Daily Newspaper Strip - March 20, 1939 to April 1, 1939
After what appears to be a cringe-worthy opener where Lois Lane is busted down to Lovelorn Column duties - investigative reporting is too dangerous for girls, you see - we’re reminded that Lois Lane isn’t some fainting damsel.
Despite being plopped behind a cozy desk, Lois is quickly up and at ‘em on behalf of a battered wife and her suddenly secretive husband. In short order, she drags Clark to the seediest bar in town, almost gets him decked on the dance floor, worms her way into a criminal thug’s klatsch and ends up risking her life to expose a jewel-smuggling ring (Superman saves the day, of course, and - since their rivalry is at the heart of their flirtation - Kent steals her scoop).
We often hear the phrase “strong female character”, but tend to imagine “strong” simply means “tough” or “stern” or - more often than not - “quips, does ninja kicks”. The important word in that phrase, however, is “character”, and strength relates not to how many ninjas a female character can kung-fu punch with what witty rejoinder on her lips, but rather the quality of her character in a narrative sense.
A strong character is a character who comes complete with her own motivation, her own backstory, her own likes and dislikes, and whose absence - if she were completely removed from the story - would have a distinctive (even detrimental) effect on the direction of the plot and the actions of the remaining characters. A strong character is a character the story cannot do without.
It can’t really be argued that Lois Lane has - in her 74-years of continual publication - always been a strong character. As a matter of fact, a good argument could be made for the case that the strength of her character has been declining for the last few decades. Nonetheless, in the early days of her and Superman’s mutual run, she was as essential to the gestalt as oxygen is to fire.