Back when I was writing the “Private Life of Clark Kent” stories for SUPERMAN FAMILY, editor Julie Schwartz and I would often come up with a plot that centered around something that was actually happening in the DC offices.
One month, I suggested we do a story about a blood drive at the Daily Planet. This presented a challenge because Clark would never be able to donate and if anyone tried to stick a needle in him, his invulnerable skin would bend it. Well, this was just the type of plot Julie enjoyed – put the hero in a seemingly impossible situation, then get him out of it.
The story, “Clark Gives Blood, Superman Saves Lives” (SUPERMAN FAMILY #214 – January, 1982) opens with Lana Lang dragging Clark into the blood drive, while our hero gives every possible excuse for not donating:
* “I think I’m getting sick to my stomach.”
* “A man on my bus had a bad cold – kept sneezing the whole trip.”
* “I’m allergic to needles.”
* “I can’t stand the sight of blood.”
* “You know how frail I am.”
Not surprisingly, Lana will have none of this nonsense and Clark finds himself in a chair being interviewed by a nurse named Evig Doolb. After asking him questions and checking his blood pressure and temperature, Nurse Doolb pricks Clark’s finger to get a sample of his blood so that the iron level can be checked. When he passes (“I AM called the Man of Steel!” Clark muses to himself.), she escorts him in to the donation area.
Once Clark is lying down, there is no trouble getting the needle in his arm and in just a few minutes, he’s donated a pint of blood. Before long, he, Lana and Jimmy Olsen are sitting in the canteen having juice and cookies. Jimmy, has told Clark that he donates blood four times a year and adds, “I’ll let you in on a secret – I really do this for the cookies!”
Using his super-hearing, Clark finds out that some of the blood is needed elsewhere very quickly, but there is no way to get it there. Maybe in the real world, but in Metropolis all it takes is a quick change and the Man of Steel is there to transport it.
Superman returns to the blood drive to report he’s delivered the blood and one of the nurses says, “Is there any chance you would like to donate a pint of blood?”
“Yes, I’d like to,” replies the Man of Steel. “Well, go ahead and try –!”
But, of course, the needle bends.
So… how did Clark give blood? The nurse who interviewed him, Evig Doolb, was actually Zatanna and since the Man of Steel is affected by magic, it was her command that enabled him to do so. What command, you ask? In case you’ve forgotten, Zatanna’s magic works when she speaks the words backwards, so just giving her name was enough.
Okay, maybe this wasn’t a landmark story in the Superman mythos. And maybe the explanation was a bit weak.
Plus, Julie and I had to contend with master continuity nitpicker E. Nelson Bridwell on this one. Past stories had established that anyone who got a transfusion of Superman’s blood would gain super-powers for a brief period. We assured Nelson that the magical spell would prevent this from happening, then ignored the problem in the actual story.
But the story gave me a chance to promote something I have felt strongly about for more than twenty-five years – donating blood. Thanks to some research done by my wife Laurie and information provided by Donna Kirdahy of Long Island Blood Services, I was able to dispel some of the myths about blood donations and provide a lot of factual information as well.
Why use a Superman story to promote blood donations? One reason was what I saw happen at the Warner Communications blood drives, which were held twice a year. Despite the large number of people working for the corporation, very few would take the time to donate a pint of blood.
After the merger with Time, Inc., when Time-Warner’s office staff numbered something like 15,000 people, less than 100 of them showed up for the blood drive. This despite the fact that it was held during work hours and the company was giving away books, music, and all sorts of other prizes to anyone who donated.
DC Comics, however, always had a strong showing at the blood drives – we once had almost 25 volunteers out of a total of 110 donors – mostly because I would urge people to give. In fact, there was one time that a print salesman came to have lunch with me and I dragged him away to donate a pint before we went to eat. To this day, he tells people, “Negotiating with Bob on pricing was tough, especially when he told me he wanted a pint of blood… literally!”
Some things you should know about blood donations:
* Less than 2% of the people in the United States donate blood. Immediately following the September 11 attacks, thousands of people went to the local blood centers and hospitals to donate. When it turned out that the need for blood would not be anywhere near what had been thought, many of the would-be donors were given appointments a few weeks later. A substantial number of these people never returned.
* Blood does not last forever. It can be stored for a period of weeks and then cannot be used. Platelets, which can be gathered separately through a process called apheresis (more about that in a few paragraphs), last only a few days. There is a constant need for a fresh supply; just because you donated four years ago does not mean you shouldn’t do it again.
* There are no substitutes for blood. No magic juice from a lab, no animal blood, nothing. There only place to get blood for people who need it is from other people.
* There are a lot of restrictions that eliminate people from the potential donor pool: Health conditions, lifestyle choices, where they’ve lived. Despite these, the number of eligible donors dwarfs the number of actual donors.
* You can donate whole blood every 56 days. You can do it to feel virtuous. You can do it because you think it is your patriotic duty. Or, as Jimmy Olsen said, you can do it as an excuse to eat a lot of cookies.
In the early 1990s, after I had joined the Five Gallon Club, one of the Blood Center folks asked me if I’d be willing to do a platelet donation. I had never heard of apheresis, but decided I’d give it a try.
Simply put, the blood flows from your body into a machine where the platelets are removed. Then the rest of it is returned to you. When I started doing this, the blood went out one arm and back in the other. Now you have a choice of a one-arm or two-arm procedure. And where a whole blood donation can take only a few minutes, apheresis donations take in the neighborhood of an hour and a quarter.
But platelets are a vital component of blood and are used most often for leukemia patients. A single apheresis donation provides the same number of platelets as eight whole blood donations.
How fast does your body replace the platelets? You can donate again in three days, though they suggest a minimum of two weeks and usually schedule folks for once a month.
I’ve made more than 60 platelet donations; there are plenty of the “Saturday morning regulars” who’ve surpassed that. Most of my donations have been splits – because of my size and weight, they can get twice as many platelets from me in a single donation. That’s the equivalent to getting the platelets from sixteen whole blood donations.
I don’t know any of the people who have gotten my blood or my platelets and I probably never will. So I can’t say whether any of the donees gained Answer Man powers for however brief a time.
I do know that I’ll keep donating for as long as they’ll let me; you can do it till you’re 76 and even longer with a doctor’s note. I’ll also keep trying to persuade others to donate too. (I’ve recruited a close friend at work to join the “Saturday morning regulars.” Now we sit in chairs across from one another and talk and that hour-plus goes by really quickly.)
So what about you? Are you willing to help make that 2% of the population into a larger number? Haven’t you got a couple of hours every month or two to do something that can so directly save someone’s life?
Or can you come up with a better excuse for eating Lorna Doones for breakfast?
You can make an appointment to donate blood by calling the American Red Cross or your local Blood Center or hospital.
After you’ve done that, get your daily dose of trivia at my Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia.
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Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.