Since her introduction, Lana Lang has been mostly depicted as Clark Kent’s first love. She was a confidant for young Clark and became his best friend and first girlfriend.
However, the character’s adult life has been constantly fluid in her long history in comics, movies, shows and more.
Originally thought up to be a rival for Lois Lane, Lana has since adapted and grown into her own. From Daily Planet Business Editor to First Lady of the United States, Lana has done it all. Her story has been a tremendously complicated one in every incarnation.
In all my years as a DC fan I always felt like the comic book publishing giant had no plan for the character. Her journey has been a turbulent one in every incarnation and, in some ways, I appreciated the uncertainty.
There are some absolutes in Superman lore, at least for me. Krypton must be destroyed, Clark has to be raised by the Kents and befriend Lana, Lois Lane has to work at the Daily Planet and eventually coin the name “Superman,” and Clark and Lois eventually fall in lave and get married.
Now there are plenty of enjoyable variations where these fixed events don’t occur, but most successful Superman storylines seemed to possess all these aforementioned themes. But what happens to Lana Lang after Clark leaves to discover his destiny? It seems she’s left in the dust as Superman takes to the skies leaving freedom for the character that writers love to explore.
We’re seeing this firsthand in The CW’s “Superman & Lois.” Before we dive into this latest interpretation of Lana, I’d like to look at past popular live action variations to better understand the fluidity of this epic Superman character.
Possibly one of the most influential live action takes on Lana Lang could be credited to Annette O’Toole, who would later play Martha Kent on “Smallville.” She brought such chemistry and charisma to the screen with adult Lana reuniting with Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) that, much like this era of Superman movies, she left a lasting impression with fans. It was the first glimpse at a live action adult Lana.
Lana was a single mother living in Smallville, Kansas and her formidable independence was something to respect, and Clark definitely did. However, the character infamously disappeared after the third Reeve movie leaving many fans pondering over possible explanations. At the end of “Superman III” Lana just moved to Metropolis and started working at the Daily Planet. She also sported a sizable diamond ring from Clark Kent, but she’s never mentioned again after the credits roll out.
In the television series “Superboy,” which aired from 1988 to 1992 on CBS, Lana Lang is played by Stacy Haiduk. Haiduk’s Lana is portrayed as college classmate and love interest to young Clark Kent / Superboy. In the series, Lana is Clark’s childhood friend from Smallville and often found herself in the middle of Superboy’s great adventures.
Much like Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane from “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1993-1997), Haiduk’s Lana served as the stereotypical damsel in need of rescuing. Yes, I said it. Thank God this trope is dead.
Outspoken and bright, this Lana only wanted the best for her friends, and the world. This incarnation holds tight to the original comic book version of the character while also bringing new light to Clark’s best friend from Smallville.
Kristin Kreuk’s interpretation of Lana Lang is, perhaps, the most famous take on the character. Kreuk played Lang for over seven years and currently holds the record for longest time acting in the role. Like many Lana’s that came before, Kreuk’s version was portrayed as the main love interest for young Clark Kent (Tom Welling). Similar to her small-town comrades, Lana found herself in constant weekly danger as meteor infected meta humans began surfacing in the dreary Kansas town. This Lana was dealing with an assortment of childhood trauma, too, and the character development throughout the run of the series was interesting to watch.
One major missed opportunity for “Smallville” (2001 – 2011) was the representation the series could’ve showed with Lana. Kreuk is part Chinese but Lana’s ethnicity was disappointingly never explored on the show.
Following “Smallville’s” high school years, Lana’s future became uncertain. After all, everyone knew where Clark and Lois (Erica Durance) were headed in life. Lana’s destiny remained unwritten, and that added an interesting richness to the character. However, her eventual evolution and reason for finally leaving the show left a bad taste with many fans.
‘Superman & Lois’
Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Lana is definitely benefiting from lessons learned with past mistakes. In a way she’s a glorious amalgamation of all past variants. When we first become reacquainted with Lana she’s a hard working mother and wife employed at a local Smallville bank. She loves her hometown and constantly strives to preserve the city while also making it a better place.
It’s a constant struggle as “small-town friendly” societal norms cause strain on her relationships. At first she feels compelled to adhere to neighborly expectations but as the series progresses, so too does Lana’s character. She’s a powerfully independent woman and holds her family and friends in high regard.
Like the Lana Lang of “Superman III,” Emmanuelle Chriqui’s rendition is rooted in motherhood. She has two young daughters, Sarah (Inde Navarrette) and Sophie (Joselyn Picard), with fireman husband Kyle Cushing.
Lana’s relationship with her daughters is a nurturing one, but sometimes strained when opposing views are expressed. This is mostly represented in the first season of “Superman & Lois” with Sarah, who struggles from past mental health. The two grow closer when they find out how relatable they are to each other, both stressed by similar issues.
Her other daughter, Sophie, isn’t as present in the show as her older sister. Be it because of COVID regulations or whatever, her absence is sorely felt on the series and I hope future storylines feature Sophie more with her mother.
Lana’s relationship with husband Kyle has become strained as of late. Without going into spoilers, I’d say her handling of the situation while also campaigning to be Smallville’s first female mayor is commendable.
The Lang Cushing family dynamic is relatable and down to earth. There’s no super-powered members in their tree. Their problems are their own and, for the most part, are not caused by some abnormal threat.
I appreciate the sense of normalcy the Lang
Cushing Cortez family brings in a show about aliens, meta humans and inter-dimensional-beings. The show also recognizes the diverse background of Lana and her family and provides representation through continued meaningful stories. Something all past interpretations sorely lacked.
Besides her family life, Lana is also the new heart of Smallville. An unofficial title once held by the late great Martha Kent. This is presented with great magnitude when Lana announces her run for Smallville’s highest office. With the strength and support of her family and friends, Lana stands up against the abuse from competitor and sitting Mayor George Dean (Eric Keenleyside) and makes history os Smallville’s first female mayor.
An entire support system slowly builds behind Lana, and it’s something she earns wholeheartedly. She refuses to conform into Smallville norms and reminds her neighbors that differences provide strength in a community.
Another aspect of Chriqui’s take on Lana is her respective relationships with Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) and Clark (Tyler Hoechlin). Historically, Lana and Lois have been major rivals, always at odds over Superman’s affections or their own polarizing views. But in “Superman & Lois” the two show a friendship I’ve been craving since my first introduction to the characters.
Lois and Lana confide in one another. They respect each other. Their dynamic is a dramatic differential from all previous renditions and it’s something I’d like explored further in the series.
Lana and clark are best friends, and it’s great. Growing up together is definitely solidifying when it comes to friendships. Yes, Clark and Lana once had feelings for each other, but the two parted ways in a tranquil way that left strong foundations for a relationship later on in adult life.
There’s no unnecessary drama between the two. They’re friends and nothing more, and it’s refreshing to see. In many ways, their affinity to one another is reminiscent of all that came before. But their relationship is a healthy one.
There is one poignant fact that I feel slight distain for, though. How the hell does Lana not know of Clark’s true origins yet? Maybe that’s why they’re maintaining such a healthy alliance? Whatever the case, the two holding onto such a friendship is commendable and appreciated.
I have been an obsessive Superman fan for over two decades now. The Man of Steel and all related characters have enraptured my imagination for that entire time. I’ve fallen in love with all past interpretations of characters, believing each brought a new angle to their selective personification.
But Lana has never landed with me, not truly. She was lovable, yes. But she mostly didn’t get her own story in shows and comics. She was a supporting character and I felt she was seemingly treated as such for a long time, and it was frustrating. Sure, there were times where she lit up the screen or the panel of a comic, “Smallville’s” earlier years can be an example of that, but she wasn’t given the utmost respect she deserved.
“Superman & Lois” has changed all of that. Emmanuelle Chriqui has changed all of that. And I can’t wait to see more of her.