Hero in the Making?
The Lawndale Lanes and the
Wold Newton Family
©2010 The Angst Guy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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Synopsis: Is Jane Lane the offbeat artist soon to become Jane Lane, Hero for Hire? Her genetic code might hold the answer, thanks to a potential stockpile of famous Lane ancestors, courtesy of science fiction’s Wold Newton family!
Author’s Notes: This essay began with an online essay by James “CINCGREEN” Bowman, connecting the Lawndale Lanes to the Wold Newton family of literary heroes created by famed science-fiction author Philip José Farmer. It has since grown all out of proportion to its origins.
article has been revised with new material added on
Acknowledgements: Profuse thanks go to Outpost Daria (http://www.outpost-daria.com) for carrying the valuable information that made this essay possible. Thanks also to James Bowman, who brought up the Wold Newton connection that blew my mind, because I am a long-time fan of the dynasty that Farmer put together. Corrections and suggestions for this essay were provided by Scissors MacGillicutty (for mentioning the art movie at the start of “Monster”) and Gregor Samsa (for mentioning the Croatian movie at the start of “The Story of D”).
Crossover Daria fanfiction occasionally suggests that Jane Lane has famous relatives, most often Lois Lane of Metropolis. In his serial tale, “Shadow of a Cynic,” Ranger Thorne does a very nice job with Jane as a descendant of Margo Lane, paramour of The Shadow. Recently, however, new information has come to light that hints that Jane has ancestors that only authors of the wildest fiction could possibly imagine—and, indeed, have.
The issue came to light when James “CINCGREEN” Bowman posted a speculative essay on “The Daria Fandom Blog” (http://dariafans.blogspot.com/), dated April 15, 2005, entitled: “Jane and the More Amazing Lanes.” In the essay, he examines possible connections between the Lane family of Lawndale and Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton family, a genealogical chart Farmer developed that is quite famous in science-fiction, fantasy, comics, and pulp-adventure fiction circles.
Generation of the Wold Newton Family tree began with Farmer’s assumption that many heroic (and a few villainous) characters in fiction are genetically related, their common ancestry being a small group of people who in December 1795 were riding in two horse-drawn coaches near Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England, when a meteorite irradiated them and altered their chromosomes. Their descendants allegedly include such worthies as Doc Savage, Tarzan, Solomon Kane, Captain Blood, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes, Wolf Larsen, Phileas Fogg, The Shadow, and James Bond. A good starting point for exploration of the Wold Newton family’s current state is its Wikipedia.org entry at:
The original source material is even better, if one has access to Farmer’s seminal works on the subject: Tarzan Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (especially the latter). The temptation to connect the Lawndale Lanes with the Lanes in the Wold Newton family is almost overwhelming. James Bowman explores the topic in “Jane and the More Amazing Lanes.” Possible links between the Lane family of Lawndale and the vast Wold Newton group were suggested by reading an essay about a Wold Newton branch with the surname of Lane, described in detail online at:
(NOTE: Link is archived and works, as AOL has shut down its Hometown pages.)
A diagram of the Lanes’ family tree (sans the Lawndale Lanes) appears at:
Wold Newton family members, according to various sources, tend to be highly intelligent and drawn to crime fighting, though they often disobey the law if it interferes with their pursuit of criminals. As Farmer states in his book on Doc Savage, the crime fighters are more interested in gaining justice than in adhering to legalities. This disregard for law can reach extremes: a few family members are notorious master criminals. Many are adventurers and explorers, though not necessarily nomads; they return to their respective home bases sooner or later. And many members, primarily but not exclusively male, have great physical abilities and fighting skills. A few had curious gold or yellow irises. The one thing they all had in common was a complete lack of the ordinary.
James Bowman postulates that Jane Lane’s
connection to the Wold Newton tree is through Lazarus Lane, her
great-great-grandfather through her father, Vincent (see the online articles
for details). Lazarus Lane was a Californian crime fighter of the Old West
known as “El Diablo.” Jane’s distant cousins, descendents of Lazarus Lane’s two
brothers, include Barbara Gordon (Batgirl of Gotham City) and Lois Lane (of
Metropolis). She is also distantly related to Dr. Henry Jekyll (of Mr. Hyde
Jane’s connection to
Does black-haired, blue-eyed, lanky Jane Lane measure up to Wold Newton standards? What unusual abilities does she possess that set her apart from the crowd?
She’s exceptionally intelligent, for one thing. Any high-school student who has more than a passing knowledge of Pavlov, Goya, Joan of Arc, Jasper Johns, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Warhol, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and chromosomes is not an intellectual lightweight. Granted, she tells boyfriend Tom that she likes movies with exploding eyeballs and doesn’t get into “the cinema” (“Fire!”), but she also wants to see Russian art films from the 1930s (“Monster”) and deconstruct Croatian comedies (“The Story of D”). Mentally, she’s in a completely different galaxy from everyone else at Lawndale High School, except Daria.
A clever and witty conversationalist, if on the sarcastic side, Jane dishes out pointed but accurate social observations and is an inventive storyteller (“Pinch Sitter” and “Legends of the Mall”). She speaks Spanish well enough to create “Spanglish” neologisms like que ironico (Is It Fall Yet?). However, she says she isn’t the sort who uses all the big words she knows, and claimed to not know the meaning of one big word—verisimilitude—though she did pronounce it correctly (“Monster” and “The F Word”). Smarts, she’s got plenty of, and she can hold her own intellectually even against the genius of Daria Morgendorffer. Her native intelligence is backed up with a huge dose of mature wisdom. She sees the world realistically and offers good (if sharp-edged) advice to others, though it is rare for anyone but Daria to do as she suggests.
It is noteworthy that at age sixteen, and despite conflicts with her parents and siblings, Jane possessed a strong sense of responsibility to keep her family intact. This may have been in reaction to her parents’ failure to do the same. When her parents asked her and Trent to attend a family gathering that she knew ahead of time would have a hostile atmosphere, she went anyway (“The Teachings of Don Jake”). She cared for her oldest sister’s children (“Pinch Sitter”), fed Trent when he camped out for months in the backyard (“Lane Miserables”), saved the house from being repossessed (The Daria Diaries), rebuilt the gazebo with her own money (“Art Burn”), and possesses her parents’ “Do Not Resuscitate” orders (The Daria Database, “Under the Beds, Jane’s & Trent’s”). Her morale fiber was illustrated when she passed through a period of guilt over wishing Tommy Sherman dead moments before his unexpected and actual death (“The Misery Chick”), though she was also content to leave a hazardous spill on a dance floor if only her annoying classmates would be harmed (“Daria Dance Party”).
In short, Jane, not Trent, is the glue that keeps the family going when everyone else has fled on their own self-indulgent wings. Her parents’ gross irresponsibility is well detailed in an earlier essay, “Jane and the Lanes: An Essay About the Lane Family of Lawndale.” In their favor, Vincent and Amanda Lane appear to have saved enough money for Jane to attend college (“College Bored”), though they could not be bothered to see her graduate from high school (Is It College Yet?).
A strong sense of self-preservation lies at Jane’s core, despite the appearance she gives of living on the wild side. Her decision to put off having sex until college speaks well for her strong sense of self (“My Night with Daria”). Even when partially intoxicated, she had the presence of mind to ward off the sexual advances of a fellow art student (Is It Fall Yet?). Jane describes herself as a survivor (“Speedtrapped”), likely for her ability to cope with being abandoned by everyone else in her family but Trent—and with Trent not being very helpful, either, because he is so unreliable.
Jane’s best-known talents are in the sphere of fine arts. She is frequently shown to be a creative, original, and multitalented artist skilled at sketching, painting, assembled and hand-molded sculpture, computer multimedia, interior decoration, poster-making, murals, photography, coats of arms, gluing pottery shards to walls, etc. She took life drawing in her mid-teens, which is unusual and a sign of maturity. It is my impression that most artists specialize and never become the Renaissance Man (or Woman) that Jane is. While many of her works are caricatures or involve offbeat subjects, she can forge masterworks with such skill as to profit greatly from it (“Art Burn”), though her copies can be identified as such by experts. She gained admission to a prestigious art school on the strength of her own work (Is It College Yet?), so copying the work of others is hardly her only calling.
In the physical sphere, Jane is an extremely fast runner with great endurance. She was briefly an award-winning track star in high school (“See Jane Run”), and it appears no one was ever able to beat her in competition. In her free time, she runs regularly and appears to stay in good condition despite her eating habits (see below). The only time she was shown actually fighting was when she cursed and pounded on Tom Sloane with her fists after discovering his unfaithfulness (“Dye! Dye! My Darling”). Surprise and Tom’s unwillingness to fight back gave her the upper hand, which was good because her fighting technique is sadly lacking. Her rage burns off quickly so her common sense can take over, but she can carry a grudge a long time. Good combat technique or no, she is not above offering to rip the lungs out of those male classmates who annoy her (The Daria Diaries); it is unlikely she ever carries out such threats, however. She can dance well (“Life in the Past Lane”). She was also once in the Girl Scouts and might recall survival skills from that period (“Antisocial Climbers”). And, of course, she learned to drive long before Daria Morgendorffer did, despite their similar ages (“Speedtrapped”).
Though she often dresses predictably, Jane has a chameleon quality about her. It appears she can adopt any look or disguise with ease, but she always maintains her basic persona (“See Jane Run,” “The F Word,” and “Life in the Past Lane”). She will try new styles and outfits if she thinks they will appeal to her boyfriend of the moment. Why she pierced both ears three times each is unknown, but she seems to like the look (“Dye! Dye! My Darling”); it is not known if she has any other piercings or tattoos. Known to be forward with members of the opposite sex to whom she is attracted, Jane wears bright red lipstick that is her trademark. Interestingly, when she wants to be ignored, she is often successful, as if she can turn her attractiveness on and off like a light switch.
Jane is not perfect. Characterized by her best friend as “snide, antisocial, and resentful,” she nonetheless takes little in life seriously, mocking convention at every turn. Her sarcasm surfaces most sharply when confronted with pretension and fakery; her scorn is applied directly and in heaping amounts, even to her best friend. She is anti-authoritarian with a casual regard for rules and rule-enforcers (see incident in which she was ticketed for crossing center line in “Speedtrapped”). Vandalism and other criminal activities are possible if her artistic integrity is threatened (“Arts ‘N Crass”). Jane does not socialize with her peers, for whom she has boundless disdain, and she does not like to be around her self-absorbed family, except for Trent (“Lane Miserables”). When possible, she and Daria separate themselves from larger groups and go off on their own (“The Daria Hunter” and “Antisocial Climbers”). Her loyalties lie only to her art, Daria, and Trent. She is fond enough of Daria to forgive her friend for kissing Jane’s then-boyfriend, Tom (Is It Fall Yet?).
Until Daria appeared, Jane was content to be a lone wolf. By habit or nature, Jane is lazy and oversleeps; her personal life is undisciplined and dominated by impulse, especially in choosing boyfriends and art projects. Her bedroom, which doubles as an art studio, is a mess. Her dating relationships are a bit of a mess, too. Though criticized by Daria for cutting back on their time together in order to go on dates, this is a necessary evil for anyone looking for a partner, as Daria discovered later with Tom (“Boxing Daria”). The heart of Jane’s dating problems is paradoxically one of her greatest strengths: her refusal to compromise her identity. She won’t give up important parts of herself or her world to make a dating relationship work; a potential boyfriend must take her just as she is, and must measure up to certain standards. She dumped “Bobby Bighead” for being a clumsy kisser (“The Invitation”), Evan for telling her to dump Daria as a friend (“See Jane Run”), Tom for being unfaithful (“Fire!” and “Dye! Dye! My Darling”), and Nathan for being too self-absorbed (“Life in the Past Lane”). Jane’s sexual chameleon quality, noted earlier, never changes her true identity. She can go into a laundry room with Bobby, become a track star for Evan, try to dye her hair for Tom, and dress and dance retro for Nathan, and she can even dress in popular styles and try out for cheerleading practice (“The F Word”), but she’s always and forever Jane, heart and soul.
Anyone who fails to deal with this also fails to get her, a prime example being Tom, who didn’t like her running off to take photos (“I Loathe a Parade”) or her tastes in movies (“Fire!”); he accidentally ate gummy bears for one of her art projects and had to replace them (“Mart of Darkness”). In the end, though, Tom knew what Jane was about, telling her, “You’re smart and you’re funny, you have a great attitude, you do everything on your own terms. You’re, like, from a cooler world” (“Dye! Dye! My Darling”). These virtues were not enough for him to maintain interest in her, though.
Perhaps Jane’s most serious personal issue is a fear of abandonment. Her accurate fears that boyfriend Tom was becoming interested in Daria caused her to become so jealous and paranoid, she felt she was no longer acting like herself (“I Loathe a Parade,” “Fire!” and “Dye! Dye! My Darling”). Her response to her mother’s butterfly quote spoke volumes for her feelings about having her parents run off on her (Amanda: “You know, if you try to hold a butterfly tightly in your hand, it will die. You have to let it go. And if it comes back, it is truly yours, but if doesn’t, it never really was.” Jane: “How about if you tear off its precious little wings?” —from “Lane Miserables”). She prefers to be the dumper, not the one dumped, as it gives her control over a part of her life she once had no control over: being left behind by someone with whom she is in a close relationship.
Despite Jane’s obvious intelligence (and despite her claims that she does not do well with grades), she deliberately underachieves in school, maintaining a C average to hide the extent of her knowledge and stay off the radar of others—or perhaps because she is too lazy to apply herself to tasks she thinks are of little worth (“Esteemsters,” “Gifted,” “It Happened One Nut,” and “Prize Fighters”). Her math skills appear to be worse than Daria’s, as she is in a separate math class (“See Jane Run” and “Gifted”). Jane sings poorly and apparently does not write music (“Jane’s Addition”). Her appetite for junk food (or any kind of food) is boundless. Curiously, though she once claimed she liked having low self-esteem because it made her feel special (“Esteemsters”), she has a very strong sense of who she is and what she’s about, as noted above.
Could Jane be a hero in the making? It is telling that she volunteers the services of herself and Daria in accompanying Mr. DeMartino into a blizzard (“Antisocial Climbers”). However, this seems to have occurred in part because they were sick of being around their fellows. She has all the self-confidence and courage a hero could ask for. She lacks only the sustained motivation to maintain an aggressive heroic life.
The prognosis for further development, however, is very good. Jane’s laziness may have begun to wane by the time she graduated high school. Under Daria’s continued prodding, Jane made an extra effort to get into the Boston Fine Arts College and succeeded, in spite of her pessimism (Is It College Yet?). She also appears to have completely gotten over the triangle/betrayal problem with Daria and Tom, though she never appears close to Tom in any scenes after the breakup.
Jane Lane is far out of the ordinary. She has not yet established herself as a mythic character on the level of some of her ancestors and relatives in the Wold Newton family, but it would not be difficult to see that come about in fanfic.
Of course, it is possible Jane’s connection to the Wold Newton group lies not through her father, but through a lover of her mother’s. Her notorious comment to Ms. Morris about her family’s genetics (“We share certain chromosome pairs. Beyond that, I’m not supposed to say.” — from “See Jane Run”) implies she might be at best a half-sister to her other siblings. Did Amanda Lane have an affair with one of the present-day descendants of the Wold Newton family? Only your local fanfic author knows for sure.
Final Note: In a separate essay, James Bowman suggests that Jane Lane’s best friend, Daria Morgendorffer, was also a Wold Newton descendant and a distant cousin of Jane’s. The essay is at:
(NOTE: Link is inactive, as Yahoo has shut down GeoCities pages.
Keeping link until website is restored elsewhere)
Original: 06/02/05, modified 10/05/06, 02/10/07, 04/24/08, 04/24/09, 08/30/09, 05/10/10