Bizarro Back Issues: Lois Lane And The Magic Typewriter That Almost Killed Her! (1971)
Tom Scioli has good taste in comics. That should probably be obvious if you look at the influences that have filtered down through his work on titles like Transformers vs. GI Joe. While most of his favorites might seem pretty obvious, though, there are a couple of others that you wouldn't necessarily know about unless you happened to run into him at a con while he was whiling away some downtime reading through a back issue. Which is exactly what happened to me a few years ago when I saw him reading Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #115.
Despite my love of Silver Age Superman Family stories, I'd never read this Bronze Age classic, but when I heard the premise, I knew I had to go find it immediately. Because this is the story where Darkseid tries to kill Lois by giving her a magic typewriter that can predict the future.
The story comes courtesy of writer Robert Kanigher and the art team of Werner Roth and Vince Colletta, so if you've ever wondered what the man who brought you the Metal Men and the Creature Commandos would do when he was given some of Jack Kirby's concepts to play with, then strap yourselves in for a pretty bumpy ride.
Unlike most Lois stories, this one doesn't open at the Daily Planet. Instead, we start off with Lois helping Verna Johnson take care of Willie Walker, the paralyzed veteran who moonlights as the Black Racer. The Racer, of course, would've made his debut only a few months earlier in the pages of New Gods #3 as a grim spectre of death who moves only at the behest of the Source, so the fact that he's showing up here, now, with the apparent goal of dragging even Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane into the Fourth World, should be a sign that we're dealing with something pretty big.
And that big event, that senses-shattering conflagration that can awaken even the Source to the doom set to come upon Metropolis? Why, it's the arrival of a brand-new typewriter as a present to Lois Lane, just in time for Morgan Edge to assign her to write a story about extrasensory perception.
There is, incidentally, no hint that she's meant to interview anyone or do any research about ESP for this story. Edge just tells her to have it in by Sunday and strolls out of the room, leaving Lois and her new typewriter to just bang out a few column inches on psychic power --- a thing that definitely actually exists in her world with a frequency and prominence that would render this kind of general overview anything but newsworthy.
The thing is, she doesn't actually write the story about ESP. Instead, her hands seem to move on their own, and within a few minutes, she's typed up an obituary for a famous chemist, twenty minutes before it's meant to happen.
Lois quickly books it to the bridge in question to check things out, and sure enough, right at 11:00, Dr. Taylor takes a fatal plunge.
Back at the Planet, Lois sits down at the typewriter again, and sure enough, she comes away with a second premonitory obituary. This time, it's opera singer Maria Kalder, set to asphyxiate in her penthouse at 1 AM. After noticing that it's one now, Lois calls up and is relieved to hear a very annoyed Maria Kalder on the other end of the line, thus proving that the first obituary was a fluke.
Or was it?!
So yeah, Maria's deader than a doornail by the time that Lois gets to her apartment, meaning that the Black Racer has claimed two victims tonight.
At this point, you've probably realized that the obvious solution to all this spookiness is for Lois to just stay the hell away from her typewriter, and possibly to go as far as smashing it with a sledgehammer and then burying it at the crossroads. She tries --- the first thing, I mean --- but just can't stay away, being drawn to it once again.
And this time, as her fingers dance over the skulls that form this hellish typewriter's keys, she comes up with a new obituary, one that's for someone a little more familiar than some random chemist or an opera diva. The next person fated to die, in an explosion at her apartment at dawn, is... Lois Lane!
Normally, I think it's safe to say that this wouldn't be a huge problem. I mean, for you or me, sure, an impending explosion is plenty to stress about, but for Lois, that's just Tuesday. The amount of times she's almost been blown up and been rescued by Superman has to number in the triple digits by this point, right? So surely he'll just pop in and save the day.
Except that this time, Superman's busy stopping a glacier from crushing a bunch of Alaskans.
And look. I'm not one to tell Superman how and when to intervene when lives are at stake, but if you need Superman to help you outrun a glacier, you've probably got plenty of time for him to show up. Like, maybe just leave that to Aquaman instead. It's technically water, right? Right.
While Superman is busy dealing with nature's slowest and most implacable killer, Lois realizes that she can't die in her apartment if she's not in her apartment, and decides to head next door to the all-night movie theater and just chill out until dawn. Unfortunately, the theater spontaneously bursts into flames, and after Lois is almost trampled by the panicky crowd, her kindly neighbors bring her back to her apartment to rest.
By this point, Superman has dealt with the glacier (literally melting it into steam with his heat vision, so thanks for really strengthening the ice caps there, Clark), and when he shows up to check on Lois after the fire, he discovers the obituaries. More than that, though, he notices a strange pattern: The three obituaries that have been written so far use every letter of the alphabet except J - and since the fire happened at the Jewel Theater, it's only a matter of time before that one gets pushed too.
With that, Superman explodes the mysterious and deadly typewriter in the skies over Metropolis, foiling Darkseid's plan to kill Lois. Which, really, is for the best. That whole thing is way too complicated, even for a dude who once built an entire amusement park that was secretly a torture machine just to mess with kids and their grandparents.
Also, I think Werner Roth might be operating under a different definition of "tenderly" than the rest of us.