Wed
Apr 3 2013 1:00pm

“Injustice” In So Many Ways: Lois Lane Fridged In DC Video Game

Injustice Gods Among Us DC Comics Lois Lane Superman Women In Refrigerators Video Games

Women in Refrigerators. You might have heard the term. It refers to the death of a female character in comics that was done just to provide plot movement for or offer emotional “depth” to a male protagonist. This trope was coined after Green Lantern Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend was murdered, hacked up into little bits and shoved into his refrigerator for him to find. It was hailed as one of the most gratuitous murders of all time and sparked a controversy that created this now well-known call out. It is typical to hear a storyline called out for “fridging” a woman.

Well, folks, another major female character has been fridged, and once more in the DC Comics line-up. Don’t worry though, it’s not in the mainstream DC Universe. In preparation for the upcoming video game release of Injustice: Gods Among Us, DC released a line of comics giving the backstory for this fighting game. It’s in these comics we see the fridging of one of DC’s long-standing woman icons: Lois Lane. The severity and the brutality of the murder has sent shockwaves across the internet and has many people asking: was this really necessary?

Injustice Gods Among Us DC Superman Lois Lane Fridging Women In RefrigeratorsIn Injustice, Superman discovers that his beloved wife is pregnant. As he ponders what this means for their future, notorious Gotham villain the Joker decides to take a little vacation to Metropolis to cause mayhem. He kidnaps Lois (after shooting Jimmy Olsen in the head) and tricks Superman into believing that she is really Doomsday. Superman, mad with worry over Lois’ disappearance, drags Lois/Doomsday into space. Unbeknownst to everyone, Lois’ heart has been tied to a giant bomb. Lois and her unborn child die at Superman’s hands and Metropolis is blown apart. Superman, in his grief, sets out to ending all war on earth, and everything goes to hell. This is the setup for the video game.

Written by Tom Taylor, Injustice is a much darker world than the DC Universe you might be used to, and certainly it’s a dark place for a video game to begin. Yet reading the comics, one can’t help but cringe. In an age when DC Comics has been called out again and again for it’s treatment of female characters, Lois has been touted as a strong, complex character who has been written out of the damsel-in-distress role for which she was initially created. She’s evolved over time to become a career-driven, ambitious reporter, loving partner and smart advisor in a world often laden with empty-shirt girlfriend characters just waiting for a trip to that big old fridge. So what do they do with her? They kill her  to create emotional trauma for her male love interest, Superman. That is the essence of the Women in Refrigerators trope at it’s worst, and it was just done to one of DC’s longest standing woman icons.

Injustice Gods Among Us DC Comics Fridging Lois Lane Jimmy OlsenThere are a number of aspects to this story that makes this choice particularly heinous. The creators needed an excuse to make Superman go over the edge so their entire storyline could be justified. Clearly destroying the Man of Steel’s entire city wasn’t enough. Maybe shooting Jimmy Olsen in the head would do it? No, that’s not enough emotional damage, so bring on the butchered wife. But wait, comic fans, there’s more—she had to be pregnant as well. It isn’t bad enough that Lois is killed, but there had to be an unborn child in her womb to further compound the tragedy. The fact that the comic spends so much time focusing on Lois’ death as the inciting incident for the entire plot only proves that Lois is being treated as a set piece, an emotional focal point for Superman, and not as a character. Utilizing a female character as a crutch for developing the emotional life of a male protagonist is lazy, hackneyed writing at its worst and does disservice to the development of a narrative around Superman. That’s saying nothing of the disservice it does to comic fans by leaning so heavily on the old damsel in distress/violence against woman bag.

The comics further go on to demonstrate their inability to treat female characters as their own people when they go out of their way to introduce Wonder Woman as a potential love interest for Superman in one of the later issues. Diana is confronted by Ares as she fights to stand by her friend Superman as he tries to force the world to disarm all weapons. The plot takes a nice break from everything going on to make us aware Ares is worried that Diana is going to jump in the sack with Superman and make a baby, now that Lois is out of the way. Because that’s the first thing Wonder Woman would do, naturally, and the only thing the writers could think to do with the Amazon Princess—line her up as Superman’s next girlfriend. The corpse isn’t even cold and they’re reslating the single strongest woman character they have as the new Super-girlfriend. The whole thing is so poorly played and forced as to be cringe-worthy. 

Injustice Gods Among Us DC Comics Fridging Lois Lane Jimmy Olsen

I will say at least Tom Taylor does his best to explain this choice in a recent interview for IGN, citing that he did try to make the death less painful by making Superman unaware that he was killing Lois at the time. That explanation, however, sounds more like an excuse after the fact. It comes across as an attempt to make the murder more palatable for audiences that might see it for what it is—a gimmick to convince readers that the comic and game is going to be “edgy.” And all this to create a backstory for a simple heroes-and-villains Mortal Kombat-style fighting game.

Equally sad is that if not for this death, the comic could have been a dark, moving look into what happens when superheroes run amok, a what-if scenario that could set up the video game as an interesting DC Universe property. Instead, it places Injustice squarely into the land of video games and comics which cut corners on character development by falling back on the easiest thing—butchering women characters to make a big splash. Instead of being edgy, Injustice instead reminds us that the message about violence against women as a plot hook hasn’t been heard—or is just being blatantly ignored.


Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com.

28 comments
Francisco Guimaraes
2. franksands
And the story of "superman goes mad" can be excelent, as Irredeemable by Mark Waid has proven. They just need to want to make a good story.
One of the problems today is that everything must have tie-ins: a comic is making success? Make a movie out of it, and then a comic about the movie, and then a game about the movie about the comic. A big game is coming up? we need a comic and pitch in for a movie about the comic about the game.
Hammerlock
3. Hammerlock
I can't really excuse the Wonder Woman bits, but as for the other stuff:
Superman is invulnerable and a veritable demigod. The only way you can hurt him is by contrived plot device, magic, or through his relationships with his friends and loved ones. I submit that plot device and magic have been run into the ground with him.

Granted, having him kill Lois while under the influence of kryptonite-fueled fear gas, while she was also pregnant, while she was the trigger to a huge bomb, is a weeeee bit melodramatic and over the top. They probably could have clipped a few conditions from that and still had an effective driver to the story.
But if you're looking to utterly shatter an invulnerable man, you could find no better sledgehammer than his wife. If it wasn't for their lousy handling of WW later on, I could almost dismiss their offing Lois as "not personal"--her character wasn't the reason for her targeting so much as her releationship. In an alternate universe where Superman was married to Jimmy he would have been the spotlight victim here (as opposed to merely collateral damage).
Their ultimate handling of women characters is spotty at best, but I think there's far more reason to be upset at the handling of Diana's character than "fridging" Lois.
Kristoff Bergenholm
4. Magentawolf
... wait, what? Superman was convinced that Lois Lane was actually /Doomsday/... ?

I much prefered the 'Kingdom Come' version of things...
James Elkins
5. Byrd68
2 things.

1: The real question is what would cause Superman to snap. To kill an unarmed madman. This is the hero for whom "Thou Shall Not Kill" is a mantra, an ideal that has influenced, guided, inspired (almost) every other superhero/vigilante in the DC Universe. How do you break the unbreakable man.

2: The Superman/Wonder Woman romance has been a reoccuring theme in the DC Universe for decades (currently Clark/Diana are an item in Justice League and Clark/Lois aren't. Check out Kingdom Come as well), and I think that, while I'm not impressed with most of the character development/interprtation in Injustice: Gods Among Us, that particualr elephant was addressed well.

This is my inital reaction to your post but I shall re-read the comics in question and consider.
Dave Thompson
6. DKT
Bleh. The more I hear about this, the more disgusted I am by it. Kind of can't believe DC allowed it to be published.
Hammerlock
7. Audrey2
@Byrd68, you forget one MAJOR point. The Superman/Wonder Woman pairing (which I loathe btw as I think it misses the point entirely about both characters) has been a theme when LOIS LANE IS DEAD. Usually murdered in some grisly, horrible way. So let's break down what that means.

Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Strikes Again, Distant Fires. JLA: Created Equal. SHE IS DEAD. Lois Lane has been fridged more times than I can count. (She was also fridged in Superman: Flashpoint, DC Online Legends, Superman: Kal, earth 2, the list goes on and on.) It's insulting to my intelligence. And it's become a lazy, sexist, horrible thing to do to Lois Lane---who is an icon for women in her OWN right as a career woman---to repeatedly kill her off in order to make this crap ship sail.

The current Justice League set-up is really no different. Sure, Lois isn't dead. Not physically. But emotionally speaking? Yeah, in the new 52 she kind of is. Pushed to the side and margainlized. Dead in every way that mattered. A 75 year icon thrown out like yesterday's trash. The mature, modern 20+ year partnership and union of Lois and Clark that had overcome decades of sexism to gender evoluation had to be systemically gutted from the ground up in order to put Superman in such a lonely, sad position that he couldn't have the woman he really loved and turned to his friend.

It's a situation that REPEATEDLY over and over again sets WONDER WOMAN--of all women---up as Superman's second choice. (Which she still is even in the current new 52 narrative.) As this pathetic woman sitting there waiting for another woman to DIE or be out of the way so that she can move in on him.

In what world is the correct way to write WONDER WOMAN, a woman who is born of a sisterhood and above all loves and cares for ALL women as the kind of woman repeatedly waiting on another woman to DIE or be taken out of the way so that she can move in on her man? It's gross. And poor Lois. Instead of being written as the PARTNER that she is, she is repeatedly treated like a corpse for Superman to cry over.

How ridiculously unfair is this to the concepts of both Lois Lane and Wonder Woman? They are two incredibly feminist figures that represent different but equally important themes of womanhood. The idea of the female superhero and the human woman with power in her job. Two characters who deserve better than this repeated crap. And frankly, Superman deserves better too.

This article is totally on point. The narrative is disgusting from start to finish and it raises some important questions about how just truly terribly DC Comics not only views women....but views Superman. Their go-to narrative REPEATEDLY is go outof their way to make him miserable and horrible---as if it's just too hard to believe that a man as gentle and honorable as Clark could exist and thrive in this world. What you really need to ask yourself is....what is this obsession with DC Comics in "breaking" Superman and making him this evil entity?

Lois Lane deserves better than this. Wonder Woman deserves better than this. And Superman deserves better than this crap.
Hammerlock
8. Rancho Unicorno
I haven't read the comics, and have no interest in doing so. They sound shocking for the sake of being shocking - the gratuity that Shoshana mentions.

However, based on the writeup, it sounds like they weren't sidelining either woman just to sideline them:

1) With Lois, I agree with @Hammerlock. What would it take to break someone who you couldn't physically torture? I'm hardly in the same physical realm, but I've thought about what would break me. And each time, I come back to the missus and the kids. Faster and more strongly than anything else, I would end up broken. Heck, when the kids are spending the night at the grandparents or the missus is out of town, I already feel half empty - and I know that they are coming back soon enough. Take away both permamently and I'd shatter. Why wouldn't Superman?

2) With Diana, I don't see how she has been cast aside. You mention that Ares thinks that she will. So Ares is an idiot. Nothing in the article suggests that Diana has any intention of trying to replace Lois - now or later. All I see is she stands beside her friend in a time of grief. Is that so bad? If there is something to suggest that the comics write her seeking something more, please explain.
Mordicai Knode
9. mordicai
3. Hammerlock
8. Rancho Unicorno

The point of Women in Refrigerators as a meme is that you shouldn't use women in stories solely as plot elements to drive male characters.
Hammerlock
10. Audrey2
@Rancho Unicorno, I don't think you understand the problem here.

1.) First off, this idea of "breaking" Superman is old and lazy at this point. Lois Lane has been fridged in 5 elseworld stories alone in the last 18 months. ENOUGH already. What is with this obsession of "breaking" Superman?

Yes, Lois Lane is Clark's greatest strength and his greatest weakness. She's his soul. Everyone knows this. DC banks on people knowing this despite the way they have treated the character (terrible imo) in the new 52. The Lois/Clark bond is part of the way we understand Superman's humanity in many regards because most husbands know what it's like to have that weakness for that one person who may not be perfect but is perfect to YOU.

But look at the WAY Lois is treated here. One story written about Superman enduring Lois's death would have been ok at one point. But this is a never ending pattern. A repeated pattern for this character. Lois is given no agency here.

Lois Lane isn't just any supporting character in the DCU. She's THE supporting character in Superman. She's headlined her own TV series. She has fans of her own. There are women who grew up admiring the character as an example of a working woman on television and comics. This is a character that MEANS something to people even outside of her love story with Superman. Yes, the love story is a part of it but Lois PERIOD means something to people. And she exists for no reason here than just to be a dead body. She doesn't even get a chance to fight for her life. The Lois I know from comics and TV and movies would fight for the life of her unborn child until her last breath. But by the time we see her with the Joker she's already un-conscious. Strapped to a table. Cut open. It's vile and dehumanizing.

2.) Yes, it's bad for Wonder Woman. The narrative openly has her state outright that she thought Lois was an incredible woman but that she will "be whatever Superman needs her to be." The implication is more than clear that Diana has had her eye on Clark and although she thought Lois was an amazing woman is glad she's dead so that she can move in on a grieving widower. It's horrible characterization for Wonder Woman.

It's also REPEATED bad characterization for Wonder Woman as she has often been portrayed in these elseworlds as this woman sitting there waiting for Lois to die. She's supposed to be the champion of women and yet they have the gall to set her up as wishing another woman dead so she can move in on the woman's husband.

This is bad, damaging characterization and treatment of two feminist icons. It's not defensible.
rob mcCathy
11. roblewmac
Have the 1990s been over long enough that I can say Kingdom Come was garbage?
Hammerlock
12. Audrey2
@Roblewmac, I don't think it's garbage. The art is gorgeous and the overall themes have resonance.

I ::do:: think that people have overlooked alot of really bad things and bad trends in the book over the years and made excuses for things it did that lead to some really crappy treatment of women in comics.

Mark Waid wrote Kingdom Come as a warning of what not to do. Not as a how-to guide. It speaks to the idiocy of current day comics that so many people didn't get the difference.

Lois Lane dying a brutal death, Superman going off the rails and Wonder Woman moving in on a grieving widower is supposed to be the warning tale. It's the "bad" end to the story. It's not Superman's happy ending. Cause no matter how the story ends, Lois is still dead. It's the bad ending to the story for Superman. It was supposed to be a one shot warning of what would happen if the heroes lost faith in the humans. Instead, it's become a blueprint to continally write these dark, depressing narratives where Lois Lane (or some other female character) get beaten to a pulp or raped or abused in some capacity for angst. Enough already.
Mike Marino
13. MinkyUrungus
It's an empty comic tie-in to a fighting game that few people will care about for any extended period of time. That's about it. Chill out.


Now let's all pay attention to the outrage-craving roblewmac here. Heh.
Luis Milan
14. LuisMilan
Killing off the pregnant wife of a superhero? Wasn't that kind of the whole basis for Identity Crisis? Which repercuted into The OMAC Project, who led us to Infinite Crisis and so on...
Hammerlock
15. Superfan
@Minky, It's a comic that will arguably be viewed by more people in the general audience than even the monthly comic readers. It's geared more mainstream.

Seriously, there is nothing worse then dudes showing up to tell the women who are offended "chill out." Thanks for the total and completely derailment. You contribute to the problem with your dismissive behavior. No wonder the genre treats women so badly with guys like yourself buying the products.

The article is on point and correct. The comic is gross.
James Whitehead
16. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Sadly this is what passes for creativity in comics these days; particularly in DC.

Could've had Lois shunted in time or some such with Supes thinking he killed her. He goes bonkers and she fights her way back to help him recover.

I don't have a lot of background knowledge of Lois. I have enjoyed her as part of the Batman Superman 'World's Finest' comics. She comes off well against the titled characters - no small feat really. Also always enjoyed how she was handled in the animated series as well.

You figure someone who is able to capture the interest of Superman would have to be a person of rare qualities. Able to handle her own, be her own person, even call Supes out when needed.

Guess they needed an 'edgy' Superman & forgot to be creative. Glad that this is only a tie-in to a video game. Sad that this passed muster at DC. A very disturbing trend on how they are handling female characters in their universe.

As to Kingdom Come, well I loved it. I do think that Lois death in that wasn't a 'fridging' as had Lois survived she wouldn't have let Superman retire. Her death wasn't what drove him away. It was the public's choice of the hero that would kill over the one who wouldn't that did it.

Kato
Hammerlock
17. Superfan
@Kato, Kingdom Come was a classic fridging. It was just better written with great artwork. Lois's death is the catalyst for the entire plot of Kingdom Come. In the original book, she doesn't even speak. We don't see her fight for her life. We don't even see her die as her death was off-page. She has no agency at all. (They went back in the sequels and tried to fix some of that by actually showing her final moments with Superman but it was a done deal at that point.)

In the subsequent book, you see that Lois begs Clark with her last breath to not go after her killer. He tells her as she lays in his arms that he's going to go after The Joker and kill him. Lois begs him not to. Clark obliges and stays true to his promise and wants the Joker to stand justice because that stayed true to what he and Lois stood for. So yes....then he turns his back on the public when they prefer the killer to him. But her death is still the catalyst and she has no agency in the original book.

The entire premise of Kingdom Come when they were creating it was quite literally: "What would happen if the Joker killed Lois Lane?" She was the plot device from page #1. That's the definition of fridging.

The book itself has good moments and beautiful artwork. But it also led to a turning point in comics that encouraged other authors to rely on those kind of cheap stunts.
Mordicai Knode
18. mordicai
12. Audrey2

Preach! Kingdom Come is a How Not To, not a How To!
Hammerlock
19. Hedgehog Dan
I like Kingdom Come, despite it did not age well - mainly because of this was a How Not To for comics that are now deemed as garbage, but then, it seems I am naive, since those trends are actually coming back, as this article shows.

Yeah, I also hate this stuff because it was repeated over and over and over and over again. Instant angst = killing a beloved one. Now all the extreme stuffs are justified and now we can pretend that we are mature! Now it is a cliche that does not even cause any catharsis from a reader.

But here is a thing, I advice: there is a comic called Sojourn which gender-inverted this trope, and killed the husband (and daughter) of an archer. Lets just do this for a while: kill Batman, so we piss off Catwoman, kill Hal Jordan to piss of Star Sapphire, kill Steve Trevor, kill Green Arrow, make and then kill a boyfriend for Power Girl. Not for a short period, but a longer one, so there would be always one male hero who is dead for the sake of a characterization of a heroine.

Or just let this trope die already.
Hammerlock
20. Hammerlock
Huh, I didn't know they've fridged Lois a half dozen times in the last year or two--I don't exactly keep up with the stories like I used to. So that being the case, it's totally run into the ground at this point and yeah, this story is intellectually bankrupt for it. Had this been relatively lightly travelled terrain I'd say it was fair game--loss of loved ones should be fair game in any story with a long-running character, especially one with a physically invulnerable protaganist--but at this point its less fair game and more gamey expired equine.
As to "why would they need to break superman"--stories, especially comic book stories--need conflict. The best conflict is when there is something on the line, or a real risk of loss--or the consequences/ramifications of loss. And to satisfy their game environment, superman has to get a serious personal motivator to undergo some radical crusade--to push him over the edge is required. What would do that? Losing Lois was the easy answer...unfortunately the DC writers have apparently been going to that particular well waaay too often, apparently. Someone tell them the bucket just hit the bottom.
Huh, I didn't know they've fridged Lois a half dozen times in the last year or two--I don't exactly keep up with the stories like I used to. So that being the case, it's totally run into the ground at this point and yeah, this story is intellectually bankrupt for it. Had this been relatively lightly travelled terrain I'd say it was fair game--loss of loved ones should be fair game in any story with a long-running character, especially one with a physically invulnerable protaganist.
Hammerlock
21. Hammerlock
Wow. Just reread that and I really do not punctuate well at 3AM. Sorry!
Hammerlock
22. Rancho Unicorno
@Audrey2 - fair enough.

On the Lois thing, I was thinking about the article this morning, and came to your conclusion. On the surface, it doesn't seem like a bad story. The problem is the constant repetition that undermines her strength of character. How many time can Worf get beat up before you wonder if maybe people overestimated his strength and combat skills? I was thinking of the story on its own, which is gratuitous but understandable. In context, it damages the viability of Lois long term.

On Diana, thanks for the clarification. Like I said, the summary left me unclear on her thoughts.
Iain Cupples
23. NumberNone
The best conflict is when there is something on the line, or a real risk of loss--or the consequences/ramifications of loss. And to satisfy their game environment, superman has to get a serious personal motivator to undergo some radical crusade--to push him over the edge is required. What would do that?

Here's a point that bears repetition: the issue with this comic is that the writers already had Superman unwittingly kill someone, had Metropolis completely destroyed as a result, and by the way, had the Joker straight-up murder Jimmy Olsen. That's quite a lot to be going on with, if you want to push Supes over the edge. Some might say it was enough.

Clearly, DC did not agree. On top of that, they had to have that someone be Lois. And on top of that, she had to be pregnant. Because, you see, having your woman murdered along with your unborn child is the ultimate motivator. Nothing, not even the total destruction of an entire city, can compare.

And that, there, is the essence of the 'women in refrigerators' problem, at least for me. Not just that female characters are relegated to providing motivation for the male characters, but that they are treated as self-evidently the ultimate motivation. That's where DC are moving from a mere 'lack of imagination' to 'deeply problematic'.
rob mcCathy
24. roblewmac
I do Crave a little outrage on Kingdom Come. I was new to the internet and the hate mail I got over what I genuinely belived was pretty pictures hung on a weak script was upsetting.
But clearly the of Joker killing Lois is somthing that WORKS on a HACKY level
1. Batman really should have killed Joker years ago
2. Joker has no real beef with Lois so it packs a punch.
3. You've got a guy BATMAN never killed but Superman does? That would be punch two.
The question being will Lois ever kill Joker?
Mike Marino
25. MinkyUrungus
So everyone forgot about this, right?

I wonder how many copies it sold...
Mike Marino
26. MinkyUrungus
I'm still going to say that this was tied to a fighting game from the makers of "Mortal Kombat".
Hammerlock
27. Avishek
DC is really hot footing it these days.

From positives like Simon Baz, a possible female GL and Batwoman's comic run to serious negatives like the recent John Stewart death rumours, Batwoman's marriage getting cancelled because apparently saying weddings aren't super-heroic (pre-New 52 Ollie, kick the guy's ass, won't you?) hide the obvious homophobic mentality and finally, the Harley Quinn nude suicide drawing contest.

But you have to admit, Tom really had to come up with some very good reasons to destroy the 'good' in Superman.

Jimmy's death he would have mourned but beyond capturing the Joker, he wouldn't have done anything.

Metropolis destroyed - well, that would be horrible but Supes not as flawed as Hal. So, maybe atmost Kingdom Come scenario.

Lois's death at Joker's hands. Well, we've seen the outcome - Kingdom Come.

But Lois's (and his unborn baby's) death at his own hands. That is simply brutal. In one full sweep, Supes godliness compared to the fragile humanity is exposed. And the entire human angle of Superman becomes a facade.

Look, I hate the 'women fridging thing'. I always believe a balance is required in every sphere, even comics. But when you have to create the scenario of Supes becoming a kind of dictator, you have to kill his soul - and that is Lois.

Yes, the Superman turns evil thing has been done very badly most of the time, but Tom is actually trying very hard to show his descent in the little page count he has.

The major gripe has been the WW characterization. I just hope that there's a solid reason behind this (because I found none in the game) and as Bats (or was it MM?) said once about something being 'off' in WW, I'm hopeful Tom will address this soon.

The book is enjoyable (much more than the game) so give Tom a chance.

But I do wish DC would be more open-minded to changing these underlying issues of homophobia and misogyny within their ranks.
Hammerlock
28. Egmont Oeurveture
D.C. is staffed, owned and run by lazy misogynists.
So is Hollywood.

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