Lana Lang is Clark Kent's high school love interest and one of the most prominent supporting characters in the Superman mythos. She was originally created as a teenage Captain Ersatz of Lois Lane to complicate things for Superboy the way her older counterpart complicated the life of the adult Superman.
Lana was first introduced in Superboy #10 (September/October 1950). As Clark's next door neighbour in Smallville she was mostly depicted as equal parts close friend and nuisance, being determined to prove Clark and Superboy were one in the same. In keeping with the tradition set by Lois she was attracted to Superboy but had little time for the timid Clark (romantically anyway.) During the Silver Age Lana would prove nearly as much a Weirdness Magnet as Jimmy Olsen himself, going through many transformations and gaining or losing powers as the plot demanded. After gaining a "bio-genetic" ring from an alien she even had a few adventures as a superheroine using the name "Insect Queen" and ended up a reserve member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
Meanwhile Lana had started to appear as an adult in Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane (while still appearing as a teenager in Superboy stories). Many Superman tales of the 60s dealt with the Lois/Superman/Lana triangle. Later, in the 70s and 80s she was Clark's co-anchor on WGBS-TV's evening news.
Lana was substantially reinvented for Superman III, her first major role outside the comics, which emphasised her Girl Next Door aspects and her friendship (and romantic interest) with Clark rather than his alter-ego.
Post-Crisis, with Clark's time as Superboy retconned away, Lana's role was altered into being Clark's Unlucky Childhood Friend and Secret Keeper, largely keeping her characterisation from Superman III. She appeared occasionally in the Superman stories and had a rocky few years, marrying and then divorcing fellow Smallville native Pete Ross and never quite getting over Clark. Later on she returned to prominence as a surrogate mother/big sister figure to Supergirl.
In the New 52, she was re-imagined as an engineer, and became a major supporting character in Action Comics and Superman/Wonder Woman, establishing a long-term relationship with John Henry Irons. Her role as one of the very few people who Superman has confided his real identity in remains secure.
In Superwoman #1, it's revealed that when the New 52 Superman died in Superman: Super League, the blast gave both Lois and Lana superpowers, Lois getting Superman's classic powers, Lana getting the energy powers of Superman Red and Blue. Lois convinced Lana to become Superwoman alongside her — only for Lois to apparently die at the end of the issue, leaving Lana as the series' main character.
Outside of comics, Lana's first appearance was in the unsold 1961 pilot The Adventures of Superboy in which she was played by Bunny Henning. Lana played a major role in the TV series The Adventures of Superboy (where she was played by Stacy Haiduk), Superman: The Animated Series (where she was played by Kelley Schmidt as a teenager and Joely Fisher as an adult), Smallville (where she was played by Kristin Kreuk as an adult and Miranda Cosgrove as a child) and the film Superman III (where she was played by Annette O'Toole). Jadin Gould played her at age 13 and Emily Peterson as an adult in the DC Extended Universe. Emily Procter played an Alternate Universe version of Lana who was engaged to Clark in the Lois & Clark episode "Tempus, Anyone?". Emmanuelle Chriqui plays a married Lana in Superman & Lois.
Lana Lang provides examples of:
- Adaptation Dye-Job:
- Affirmative Action Legacy: For Superman in Superwoman, specifically the Superman Red incarnation from when he was split up into two energy-based beings in the late '90s.
- Alliterative Name: Lana Lang.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Gwen Stacy from Spider-Man, who was introduced fifteen years after Lana, can be seen as her Marvel equivalent, in that they're both the First Love of the main hero, had a Betty and Veronica style love triangle between them and the character's future wife/more famous love interest (Lois Lane/Mary Jane Watson), playing the Betty in this situation, and could be quite a jerk to the hero despite their affections. Unlike Gwen, Lana at least lived.
- Ascended Extra: Became the protagonist in Superwoman after sixty-odd years as a supporting character.
- Betty and Veronica: Pre-Crisis Lana and Lois were in a long-running triangle over Superman. Broadly speaking Lana was the Betty (as the childhood friend) and Lois the Veronica (as the glamorous big city gal) but they actually had aspects of each in their characters — Lana ended up a TV reporter, making her pretty glamorous too, while Lois frequently showed a softer side to her personality. Post-Crisis Lana is firmly in Unlucky Childhood Friend territory.
- Butt-Monkey: Tied with Jimmy as the unluckiest major character in the Superman mythos. Pre-Crisis it was frequently her own fault when a scheme backfired, post-Crisis she is more of a Woobie type.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Blatantly pined after Clark and still tries to win his affection, to no avail.
- Comes Great Responsibility: How Lois convinces her to use the powers she gained from Clark's death and become Superwoman. Lois tells her that she should honor Clark's memory by reminding people what his symbol stands for.
- Empowered Badass Normal: In Superwoman.
- Expy: Of Lois. She was originally introduced to be the nosy investigative love interest for a young Clark Kent. For Smallville the creators created a new character (Chloe Sullivan) to fill this role as their version of Lana didn't mesh with that role, resulting in the odd situation where they had both a Lana character and a character who was for all intents and purposes an Expy of the comics version of Lana.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Gets charcoaled in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?.
- Fiery Redhead: Iconically red haired (except in Smallville) but her fieryness tends to vary depending on time period (she was a lot more fiery in the 50s and 60s for instance.)
- First Love: She is this to Clark/Superman in many incarnations, like in Smallville.
- Friendship Moment: In pre-Crisis continuity Lana was the person who stayed with the Kents during Jonathan and Martha's terminal illness and tried to keep Clark's spirits up.
- Genius Ditz: Overlapping with Guile Heroine. Silver Age Lana was notoriously reckless and lacking in common sense even for the Silver Age but in her quest to prove Superboy was really Clark Kent she could be incredibly cunning and inventive.
- It's All About Me: Her reason for her angst with Superman is based around how he didn't choose to be with Lana during his childhood and broke her heart.
- Loves My Alter Ego: Pre-Crisis Lana was in love with Superman (or Superboy depending on the timeframe of the story). Post-Crisis (and in Superman III) she was best friends with and interested in Clark.
- Parental Abandonment: In the New 52, her parents died during the events of Superman: Doomed. Superwoman subsequently gave her a deceased brother as well.
- Parental Substitute: Post-Crisis Lana took on this role to Supergirl, taking her under her wing as her adoptive aunt.
- Pet the Dog: The pre-Crisis Lana could be plenty obnoxious at times but on many occasions she showed that beneath her often selfish exterior she was a good person.
- Secret Chaser: Pre-Crisis. The page image says it all.
- Secret Keeper: Post-Crisis. Pre-Crisis due to Status Quo Is God the times she learned Clark's secret she either forgot it thanks to some handy plot element or was tricked into thinking she'd misinterpreted things.
- Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: More significant at some points than others, however.
- Small Name, Big Ego: As a teenager in the Silver Age, with shades of a Know-Nothing Know-It-All.
- Stalker with a Crush: After Clark revealed he had superpowers and left to pursue his journey to become Superman, Lana became heartbroken and alone with the knowledge the man she loved would never be hers and became a stalker, to the extent that Lex Luthor noticed the frequency with which she appeared in the vicinity of Clark in Metropolosis and had her tortured in an attempt to gain whatever inside knowledge of Superman she might have.
- Zany Scheme: In the Silver Age, mostly to get Superboy to reveal his real identity. They didn't tend to work out.