Superman #204: "The Case Of The Lethal Letters!"

Superman #204
"The Case Of The Lethal Letters!"
February, 1968

Script: Cary Bates
Pencils: Ross Andru
Inks: Mike Esposito

There were many L.L.'s in the life of the Man of Steel.  Lois Lane...
Lana Lang... Lori Lemaris.  But now, these initials have a new meaning
in... "The Case Of The Lethal Letters!"  Superman admits defeat in front
of a television studio's camera.  He must comply with the demands from a
mysterious enemy... and put an end to his never-ending battle.  In the
shadows, the mastermind sees that his scheme has borne fruit.
Mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is being interviewed by hostess
Lorraine Delon on "Point Blank."  She asks the reporter if the Daily
Planet owes all of its success to the Man of Steel.  Clark knows that the
interview couldn't be any tougher if Miss Delon knew he was Superman.  As
he starts to tell the hostess about Perry White winning a Pulitzer Prize
long before he ever heard of the Man of Steel... Lorraine Delon begins
feeling... strange...

The interviewer stiffens up -- stares into the camera with a blank
expression... then speaks... The mild-mannered reporter listens as Miss
Delon delivers a message for Superman while under hypnosis.  An unknown
foe wants the Man of Steel to give up his heroic career.  As long as he
fights his never-ending battle, those close to him will come under harm.
This warning must be heeded... or else.  In one living room, a viewer
tells his family that Superman has managed to deal with many of the worst
villains in the universe.  As "Point Blank" is taken off the air... Miss
Delon comes back from her trance, and Clark Kent runs through a list of
suspects... including Brainiac, Lex Luthor, and the Superman Revenge
Squad.  Now on the street, the mild-mannered reporter is about to resume
his patrol... and be on the ready for this mysterious foe.  Days pass, as
Clark Kent and Lana Lang are among the many journalists about to step
onto a new monorail train...  The redheaded TV reporter is confident that
the trial run will be something else, while the mild-mannered reporter
compliments her on her appearance.

In the first train car, a button is pressed, and a lever is pulled...
The doors close and the monorail train is on the way...  Lana is trapped
on board, with the other reporters watching helplessly, and a startled
engineer wondering who stole his train.  They see that at its current
speed, the monorail train is certain to derail.  As the engineer hopes
for a miracle to save the TV reporter, Clark Kent knows that this is a
job ...for Superman!  With only a split-second before the monorail train
hits the ground, the Man of Steel carries it to safety, and hopes that
Lana won't mind the ride.

Once the monorail train is placed back on the track... Superman searches
the coach, and sees that Lana Lang is gone.  The following day at his
apartment, the mild-mannered reporter wonders if the TV reporter's
disappearance has something to do with the warning the Man of Steel had
received.  A telepathic message from Lori Lemaris has been sent, and the
beautiful mermaid has come under attack from a giant sea-monster some
fourteen miles due east of Atlantis.  It's up... up... and away for
Superman... who flies at super-speed so that no one will see him leaving
the apartment window of Clark Kent. 

When the Man of Steel closes in on the sea monster, he sees Lori vanish
before his very eyes.  After searching the sea floor, Superman realizes
that this must be the work of the same foe who abducted Lana Lang.  But
why Lori Lemaris, instead of Perry White or Jimmy Olsen?  The pattern has
become clear now.  Both of the girls share the same initials L.L.  The
next one on the list will be... Lois Lane.  The following day finds the
Man of Steel being a super-bodyguard for the girl reporter... Lois is
enjoying the view of Metropolis, as she is being carried in the arms of
Superman.  If the mysterious madman is determined to get the girl
reporter, he'll have to go through the Man of Steel first.  Both Superman
and Lois Lane are unaware that they are directly in the sights of the
secret sniper.  ZZZT  A small burst of Q-Energy is about to send the Man
of Steel out of the sky.

ZZAT!  Superman is stunned by the sudden attack, while Lois goes flying
out of his arms.  The Man of Steel begins falling, bewildered by the
force of the blast... but he must catch the girl reporter before it's too
late.  After recovering his flight pattern... Lois Lane has vanished into
thin air.  Whatever struck Superman -- it wasn't Kryptonite, and it is a
new threat in this strange battle.  He doesn't want to surrender, but for
the lives of Lois, Lana, and Lori... he must!  The production staff at
Station WMET-TV receive a colorfully-clad visitor with an important
message to be broadcast.

Minutes pass, with the many viewers of Metropolis glued to their sets,
and listening to their hero's message...  He admits defeat and is forced
to surrender to his unknown foe... He will be Superman no more.  If the
one responsible for the girls' disappearance is among the listening
audience, the Man of Steel asks for their safe return.  If they should
come to harm, the Justice League will avenge them.  One viewer tells his
family that he didn't see this one coming.  Lorraine Delon is in the
studio when Superman gives his message...  She has gained her revenge on
the Man of Steel, one which was planned over many years.  Her hypnosis
had been an act.  Lorraine Delon is the mysterious foe... and she's on
her way to the secret hideout in the warehouse area...  Miss Delon
believes that Superman is a fool if he believes that the girls will be
back sometime soon.  Since they know who she is, the L.L. girls will not
be freed.  With them gone -- the Justice League will be unable to track
her down.

CRAASH!  The JLA might not have much luck, but the Man of Steel has
succeeded...  Inside the warehouse, he sees giant-sized "L.L." initials
-- placed directly in the center of the room.  As the letters burst into
flames... Superman feels the same discomfort he had felt when the energy
tore him from the sky.

A panel slides from the wall... with Lorraine Delon and her lab now in
full view...  Not knowing how the hero could have found her... she
informs the Man of Steel that it's deadly Q-Energy which is radiating
from those giant initials.  He had thought that Kryptonite was the only
thing in the universe which could harm him.  This is so, but Q-Energy
comes from another dimension, and the booby-trap was set in the event
that the hideout was discovered.  After removing the blonde wig and white
glasses, she introduces herself as -- Lorraine Lewis.  Superman
recognizes the scientist who disappeared many years ago, and she admits
that it was because she wanted to prove herself worthy of becoming his
wife.  Her first opportunity was when a Phantom Zone criminal made an
escape, and she was in the area...  Bal-Gra had been freed by the
momentary space-warp, but the Man of Steel was determined to return him
to the Zone.  With the Phantom Zone Projector in the Arctic Fortress of
Solitude, the criminal will make certain that Superman will not reach it.

Lorraine Lewis had made a working copy of the projector at her lab... As
she began to adjust the device to return the super-brute to the Zone,
THUNK  Bal-Gra, the strongest man on Krypton, is still the champ when it
comes to hand-to-hand.  As the Phantom Zone villain turns from the fallen
Man of Steel, Lois Lane throws something his way.  The brute realizes
that he has just been exposed to Gold Kryptonite,  As the girl reporter
returns the Gold K to its lead box, ZZZT  Lorraine Lewis uses the Phantom
Zone Projector on Bal-Gra, who regrets not using the Gold K on Superman
when he had the chance.  Lois smiles and knows that the brute would be
panicking.  As she is embraced by a grateful Man of Steel, the girl
reporter plans on returning the lead box to the lead vault at the Daily
Planet.  Lorraine Lewis regrets missing the chance to be the heroine.

On another occasion, the scientist presented Superman with her healing
ray invention at a banquet.  An armed man disrupts the proceedings... and
says that voices are telling him to destroy it.  POW  Before anyone else
can move, Lana Lang who had been reporting on the banquet, flings herself
at the maniac.  The gun goes off and she is hit.  Once the gunman has
been taken into custody, Lana Lang is comforted by the Man of Steel, and
Lorraine Lewis finds herself lost in the shuffle... thanks to another
"L.L." girl.  The third time came when an unmanned space capsule
disappeared at sea, and this was the scientist's chance to prove what she
could do.  With Superman searching for the capsule with the coast guard,
he is sure to spot her in her mini-sub.

She finds the capsule -- but before she can reach it... Lori the Mermaid
and other Atlanteans have already recovered it.  Yet another "L.L." has
come between Lorraine Lewis and the Man of Steel.  Since those girls who
shared her initials were always in her way towards winning Superman's
heart, the scientist decided to get her revenge.  A new identity as a TV
personality was soon adopted.  The scientist still worked in her field...
discovering Q-Energy, and now ready to make her move.  Lorraine Lewis had
wanted the Man of Steel to throw in the towel, but his death will prove
to be even better.  Even in such a weakened state, Superman's x-ray
vision still functions... and it has shown him a way out.  CRAASH!  Using
every bit of his remaining strength, the Man of Steel manages to break
through the weak floorboards... falling out of range of the deadly
Q-Energy.  The abandoned warehouse has provided Superman a way of saving
his own life.  Once his super-powers have returned, the Man of Steel
breaks through the floor on the other side of the room... When he asks
the scientist to surrender, she starts to back away in fear of him.

SSSSSSS  Lorraine Lewis... Lorraine Delon... scientist and television
personality falls backwards into one of the letters, and is disintegrated
into a pattern of dust.  After making his way around the lethal letters,
Superman frees the girls from their confinement.  When Lois asks how he
was able to find them, the Man of Steel tells them that he had heard a
quick heartbeat in the studio -- as if a studio member was excited about
his defeat.  Once he tracked down the fast pulse to Lorraine Delon, he
was able to follow her to the warehouse.  As Superman carries the water
tank containing Lori Lemaris, Lois sees that the scientist had been
foiled by the initials of "L.L."  Lana comments that in using those
letters as part of her revenge, Lorraine Lewis was killed by her own

On the cover of Superman #204 by Neal Adams, the blurb asks "Why Do These
Initials Mean Death For The Man Of Steel?"

I first read this story when it was reprinted in a DC Collector's Edition
in the 1970s.

The Ross Andru/Mike Esposito Superman resembles Guy Williams in

Looks like Lorraine Delon buys her glasses at the same place as Diana

In the reprint, Clark Kent is wearing his normal blue suit, not the brown
one seen in the story.

Caught in the tentacles of a smiling sea-monster, Lori Lemaris's face is
filled with fear, and looks like it was redrawn by Curt Swan.

Lois, Lana, and Lori are kept prisoner in cells with glass screens.
Luckily for Lori the Mermaid, she is also trapped in a water tank, too.

In the reprint, Bal-Gra is wearing purple togs, but in the story, he is
clad in green ones.

Non, the character played by Jack O'Halloran in Superman: The Movie, is
an example of a Phantom Zone Villain who was not a scientist.

The emcee at the banquet resembles Julie Schwartz.

Lana Lang finds herself under fire from an unfriendly audience member,
but the redhead moves faster than even the Man of Steel.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Lorraine Lewis's body was disintegrated by
the Q-Energy, but she came back powered by the selfsame energy?

Steve Chung
"The Review Of The Lethal Letters!"