Lois is sent to get a story in Metropolis’s “Little Africa” but is unable to get anyone to talk to her. Little children run away from her and adults shut doors in her face. One old lady will talk to her, but only because she is blind and doesn’t realize Lois is white. She draws the particular ire of a fiery orator who uses her as an example of the enemy “whitey.”
Lois: He’s wrong about me…but right about so many others!
Frustrated, Lois convinces Superman to take her to his Fortress of Solitude and use the Kryptonian Transformoflux on her to turn her black for twenty four hours. Back in Metropolis, her usual cabby won’t stop for her because she’s black. She has to take the subway but is convinced that everybody is staring at her because of her skin color.
This time in Little Africa, people are happy to talk with her and help her. She meets Dave Stevens, the same firebrand she encountered before, but this time because she is black he talks to her and even hits on her. He sees some kids run into an alley to buy drugs and runs after them. He interrupts the drug deal but is shot by a pair of gangsters straight out of Guys and Dolls.
Superman, who was conveniently nearby keeping an eye on Lois, swoops in and takes them both to the nearest hospital. The doctor there informs Superman that the patient is fading and needs a blood transfusion.
Doctor: His blood type is O-negative!
Doctor: He needs a blood transfusion immediately!
Doctor: We don’t have enough funds for all types!
Superman: I can’t help! Even if I were that type…no needle could penetrate my skin!
It’s understandable that small hospitals would not be able to carry every blood type because it is very expensive to buy and store blood. However, blood type O-negative is the “universal donor” and in a hospital limited to only a few types of blood, O-negative would be the one blood type they would definitely stock
What’s with Superman? He’s donated blood before countless times, usually to Lois or Lana. It’s been established in the past that his blood is compatible with every blood type, and he’s been able to “rip open” his skin even though needles don’t work. Is this simply a continuity error for the sake of plot or is Superman a closet racist? (I assume it’s the former since Lois doesn’t bat an eye at Superman’s statements.)
Previously, we learned from Superman #125 that Lois has a “very rare blood type”, yet this comic tells us that she has blood type O-negative. Seven percent of the U.S. population is type O-negative, the most of any negative blood type, so while it may not be common it’s certainly not “very rare.” Common blood types vary quite a bit across the world, so what is common in the US is not necessarily common in other areas. Given the globalization of today’s world, this is slowly changing as populations mix.
So here we have another “blood transfusion redeems racist” storyline. This story is a bit schizophrenic though. The individual racist — in this case a black man — is redeemed. However the societal prejudice against blacks — the supposed point of the entire story — is glossed over and barely mentioned.
OK, I’m not being entirely fair to the story. Lois does confront Superman about whether he would ever marry a black woman, but he never has the chance to answer fully. Dave Stevens is a complex character as he is both a racist and the best hope for his neighborhood. Still, I felt that the ending went for the easy way out and missed the big picture.