The Original Lois Lane Has Died

in DC, Television

George Reeves and Phyllis Coates as Superman and Lois Lane

Credit: Lippert Pictures

Phyllis Coates, the first actress to play DC Comics icon Lois Lane in both a feature film and a TV series, has passed away at age 96.

Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane
Credit: Lippert Pictures

More than any other character, DC Comics’ Superman defines what it is to be a comic book superhero. However, for as long as Clark Kent has been fighting injustice, he himself has been defined by Lois Lane, the intrepid Daily Planet reporter who acts as his co-worker, love interest, and voice of humanity.

While Lois Lane has been played by many actresses since she was first introduced in Action Comics #1 (1938) alongside the Man of Steel, few can be said to have had the impact of Phyllis Coates. Stars like Amy Adams, Teri Hatcher, Margot Kidder, and Elizabeth Tulloch all owe a debt to Coates for her groundbreaking portrayal.

Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder as Superman and Lois Lane
Credit: Warner Bros

Related: Rachel Brosnahan Cast as Lois Lane in ‘Superman: Legacy’

Phyllis Coates first portrayed the Daily Reporter reporter in Superman and the Mole Men (1951), which has the distinction of being the first feature-length film based on a DC Comics character (per The Hollywood Reporter). Alongside Superman actor George Reeves, Coates helped define the on-screen personality of Lois Lane and would continue to portray the character in Adventures of Superman, the first TV series to feature the characters.

Superman and the Mole Men Poster
Credit: Lippert Pictures

Although there had been numerous serials featuring Superman and Lois Lane prior to Adventures of Superman, they were only shown as parts of theatrical features. Bringing the DC characters to television was an enormous step forward in the history of comic book adaptations and helped pave the way for the incredible plentitude of CW Arrowverse, Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe, and other shows we know today.

Elizabeth Tulloch and Tyler Hoechlin as Superman and Lois Lane
Credit: Warner Bros

Phyllis Coates left Adventures of Superman after the first season of the show, reportedly to join another project that never materialized. All told, she appeared in 26 episodes of the series, many of which were shot concurrently to save time; consequently, Coates appeared wearing the identical costume in virtually every installment of the show.

Phyllis Coates would later say of Adventures of Superman, “We were nearly blown up, beaten up, exploded, exploited — I guess it was because we were young and dumb, but we put up with a lot of stuff…Not too long ago I saw an episode [“Night of Terror”] where I got knocked out!”

Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Credit: Warner Bros

She was replaced by Noel Neill, who had portrayed the reporter in several serials but would later return to the DC universe to play the character’s mother in the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as a nod to history.

Related: James Gunn Confirms ‘Superman: Legacy’ Cast

Coates was born Gypsie Ann Evarts Stell in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1927 and moved to Los Angeles after high school to pursue a career in show business. In addition to her iconic portrayal of Lois Lane, she was known for her long-running role as long-suffering spouse Alice McDoakes in the comedic series Joe McDoakes, which starred George O’Hanlon.

According to her daughter, Phyllis Coates passed away of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. RIP, Lois Lane.

Who was the best Lois Lane in TV and movies? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

in DC, Television

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