There are a lot of cool comic book blogs out there (see our sidebar for a list of a bunch of them), but I guess it is hard to pick which ones you think you’d like to read. So each week, I will feature a guest entry by a really cool comic blogger, and you all can then check out that comic blog after you see how cool they are from their guest bit. Today’s entry comes from Scott, from Polite Dissent, a cool blog where (among many other topics) Scott talks mainly about comic books and medicine.
Transfusions are performed around the world every day to save people’s lives. The fact that blood donated by one person can be used to save the life of another is incredible and a testament to modern medical science. Comic books have taken this to the next level and shown that in the right place and at the right time, a blood transfusion can grant extraordinary powers. From The Savage She-Hulk to Brat Pack to the Young Avengers, transfusions have given ordinary people super powers. However the title for most heroic blood transfusions belongs to the original superhero himself, Superman.
The first superhero blood transfusion occurred shortly after the genre began. In Superman #6 (September-October 1940), Lois Lane is critically injured by falling debris. She is rushed to the hospital where the doctors inform Clark Kent that her only hope of survival is a blood transfusion. Clark volunteers his blood and the doctors are amazed to discover that his blood “conforms to all four types!” (The story was published several years before doctors understood the Rhesus factor, the positive/negative aspect of blood types.) After her transfusion with super blood, Lois does not gain any powers, but she does recover from her severe wounds and life threatening injuries almost immediately.
Now let’s skip ahead to the Silver Age, where Superman’s blood – like the Man of Steel himself – is much more powerful than its Golden Age counterpart. “Lois Lane’s Super-Dream” from Superman #125 (November 1958) is just an imaginary story, but it sets the tone for much of what is to follow. Lois hits her head sneaking into a science exhibition and needs a blood transfusion. She dreams that she receives a transfusion from Superman which grants her powers equal to his. She dons a green costume and a yellow wig, calls herself Power Girl, and goes out to fight crime. Later in the dream, she transfuses some of her newly super powered blood into Clark Kent and he becomes her inept sidekick Power-Man. In the end, she wakes up from her dream and berates Clark for being such an ineffectual super hero.
Two years later, in Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #17 (May 1960), Superman promises to grant both Lana Lang and Lois Lane super powers, so he gives them each a transfusion of his blood. He then flies off into outer space on a “secret mission” and leaves them on Earth to fight crime in his stead. The new heroes perform their jobs admirably until they find themselves irresistibly drawn to a mysterious abandoned mill which explodes as soon as they enter it. Luckily, their super powers saved them from serious injury. Superman chooses this moment to return to Earth. He informs the girls that they had been targeted for death by Brainiac. He gave them super powers so that they could survive Brainiac’s dastardly plot, but now that the danger was over, their powers would soon begin to fade.
Sadly, the two women hung up their super hero costumes.
Superman’s blood plays a key role again in saving the lives of Lois and Lana in Superman #362 and #363 (August and September 1981). At the Metropolis Museum for an interview, both women are exposed to a dangerous and untreatable tropical plague. Neither human medicine nor Kryptonian science can cure the disease. Superman asks Lex Luthor for help (he refuses) and even travels to the future for a cure (they also refuse for fear of upsetting the timeline). Finally Superman realizes that his blood is the key. He had been exposed to this germ before and survived it, so he must have some super-antibodies against it. He transfuses his blood into Lois and Lana so that his super-antibodies can cure their infection. They recover rapidly, but don’t gain any super powers this time around.
The Byrne reboot followed a few years later, and Superman’s super blood hasn’t played much of a role since.
As a final note, Superman wasn’t always on the giving end of transfusions; at one point he needed a transfusion himself.
In Action Comics #403 (August 1971), Superman was infected with an intelligent super-germ from the future that managed to slip past his super-antibodies and cause an infection that would soon kill him. The doctors he consulted recommended a blood transfusion. He was unable to obtain Kryptonian blood since Supergirl was a different blood type and the infection prevented him from entering the bottled city of Kandor. Instead the doctors decided to flush his system with thousands of units of human blood in hope of driving the germ out.
Hundreds of thousands of people donated their blood which was forced through Superman’s bloodstream at “a blood pressure terrific enough to rip apart a 100-foot dam!”
In the end the plan failed, so Superman flew off into space alone to die. OK, he didn’t really die but instead tricked the germ into leaving his body and infecting his android duplicate instead. Now if only that worked in real life.
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