Superman's Lost Love (Superman #12)

What I Remember:

This book is a flashback tale to Clark Kent’s college days when he fell in love with a fellow student, Lori Lemaris. The romance is doomed because Lori has a secret, she’s a mermaid from Atlantis.

It’s a pretty weird book with very little Superman in it, which as a kid is a terrible thing when you pick up a comic called Superman, yet I read it often.


Vital Stats:

Superman #12

Writer & Penciller: John Byrne

Inker: Karl Kesel

Colorist: Tom Ziuko

Letterer: John Costanza

Editor: Mike Carlin

Dedicated to the memory of Wayne Boring, the First Lori Artist.

Publisher: DC Comics

Publication Date: December 1987

Cover Price: 75¢

Re-Collection Price: $2.00 at the Exchange in Chicago


What Happens:

Superman meets with a telepathic merman named Ronal. Superman is clear that he still holds a grudge with Ronal, who he says took Lori from him. Ronal offers to put the past behind him to help him with a memorial to their lost love.

They are going to tell Lori's story to the sea, so that it could be immortalized throughout the ocean. Superman agrees and begins to tell the story of his romance with Lori Lemaris.

They "fell" in love, get it?

He begins at the University of Metropolis where a woman in an out-of-control wheelchair careens past him. In order to shield his identity, Clark melts the wheels with his heat vision and catches the poor girl.

Later they meet again at a class trip to a floating aquarium, the Ark. They begin to get to know each other better when the Ark is struck by another boat.. Clark sneaks away and dives into the water, hoping to save both the people and the fish.

As Clark tries to find a way to both dry-dock the Ark while protecting his identity he sees Lori falling into the water and into the clutches of an octopus that escaped captivity. It appears to Clark that Lori is talking to the creature. It swims off to sea, leaving Lori unharmed.

There's a Japanese cartoon where this happens.

After returning to shore, a romance blossoms between Clark and Lori. But Lori is keeping secrets, she has to return to her room by 11 every night and what’s most fishy is that she has forbidden Clark from ever seeing her legs and keeps them firmly tucked under a blanket.

Clark, despite never being able to get past second base, is madly in love and decides to propose to Lori and tell her of his powers. Lori turns him down.

Not Superman's proudest moment. 

Clark begins spying on Lori, trying to figure out where she’s really from and learns that she sleeps in a water tank. He deduces that she’s indeed a mermaid and confronts her as she’s trying to sneak away. Clark flies off with her and her legs are revealed for the first time. She tells Clark that she’s from a dying Atlantean colony, where the people have evolved to fins in exchange for being able to breathe underwater. She’s enrolled in school on the surface in hopes of learning the location of Atlantis in an attempt to save their colony. They part.

This explains why she always smells like the beach.

Years later, after learning the real location of Atlantis through his friendship with Aquaman, Clark begins his quest to reunite with Lori. When he finally finds her, she’s stabbed in the back by Clark’s informant, a crazed-sailor, who hopes to make money off of her.

How was Superman unable to stop this?


She makes a full recovery thanks to Ronal, the Merman surgeon and they then fall in love. Superman is crushed, but she tells him that Lois is the woman for him, not her.

You mean Superman has a savior complex!?

After their breakup, Clark learns that Lori died defending the city of Atlantis, the city she spent her life trying to get to.

...And the whales sing her song, forever.


Continued After Ad:

This series was an abysmal failure, would love to get my hands on the published issues and review them.


Worth Re-Collecting?

This book felt like a throwback to comics past. The kooky idea of Superman dating a mermaid felt like a Silver Age story where the premise was always insane. In fact, the story of Lori Lemaris was originally told in Superman #129 from 1959!

Wayne Boring's version...

The artist, Wayne Boring, who drew many Superman stories from the 40s and 50s, had recently died and this book was a tribute. There are whole frames that Byrne redraws like the final kiss between Superman and Mermaid. It’s like Byrne is retelling Boring’s story, the way Superman is retelling Lori’s story in memoriam.

...And John Byrne's 30 years later.


The story had a few plot points that I thought was unnecessary. The whole bit with the sailor felt rushed and superfluous. Why not just have Lori return home and fall in love with Ronal? 

I would much rather have seen the battle where Lori was killed which was glossed over.

Instant mood-changer.

The book ends with a return from the Silver Age and back to grim-and-gritty 80s where Jonathan and Martha Kent are shot while entering their farmhouse in a setup for the next issue. It’s a bit of a jolt back to reality.

I can see why I liked this book as a kid, it’s a wacky offbeat and fantastical story that would capture a grade-schooler’s imagination.


More Boring-esque art.


Next Issue:

As you can see, next week's issue was well-read.

We begin our look at the book that really got me hooked on collecting comics, Superman #75: The Death of Superman! See you next week!

Back Cover: