Superman #293 (November, 1975)
“The Miracle of Thirsty Thursday!”
Writer – Elliot S! Maggin
Penciller – Curt Swan
Inker – Bob Oksner
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.25
Rolling along with our impromptu salute to the Bronze Age with this crazy issue with an even crazier cover. I mean, just look at Superman standing there all smug… and all those poor thirsty people (and a dog!). Man, if only there were some term we could use online to describe all the times when Superman acted like a di… er, jerk.
Now I ask you… is there any possible way that the inside of this book lives up to the cover? Well, probably not… but let’s find out together!
We open on the date August 20, 3475. Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those. Time-Continuum Historian Joann Jaime is pleading her case for going back in time to 1975 to experience the event known as “Thirsty Thursday” first-hand. If this sounds ridiculous to you… that’s because it is. The Time-Continuum Director, who is a fella wearing something like a miniskirt mixed with a toga, feels she might have an ulterior motive… he believes she just wants to meet Superman. After all, it seems as though every cadet they’ve sent back has a run-in with the Man of Steel. She convinces him to let her go nonetheless.
Back in 1975,we join Superman as he saves a family from a burning building… all the while complaining about how inadequate the firefighters’ equipment is. It gets a bit preachy when he suggests that the city only uses the crappy equipment in poor neighborhoods. Perhaps he’s been talking to Green Arrow. Anyhoo, he manages to save a mother and child, but…
… the child isn’t breathing! Nor does she have a heartbeat. Not a problem for Superman… a little super-heart massage is just what the super-doctor ordered to get that tiny-ticker going again!
He returns to the Galaxy Building, where Morgan Edge (who always seems to be roaming the halls) catches him coming out of the storeroom… again! He asks just what in the hell he’s doing in there… and gets a really cringy joke as a reply. Well, good cringy (if there’s such a thing)… I’ll admit, I chuckled.
At that moment… across town at S.T.A.R. Labs, hippie-dippy Doctor Ishmael is testing his newest creation… a food substitute, in the form of a liquid. He plans to test this by putting a drop in his dog’s water bowl. Turns out Dr. Ishmael is quite the butterfingers… he drops the vial of fake-food, which transforms into a gas… and makes him feel a bit wonky. He pops a few “antidote pills”… but still feels odd. Antidote pills? Man, that poor dog didn’t have a chance, did he?
Back at the Galaxy Building, our old friend Steve Lombard saunters up to Clark. Next to him is… why, it’s Joann Jaime. Guess that mini-toga wearing Director was right… she does run into Superman! And, yeah… she knows Clark Kent is really Superman. To be a jerk, Lombard ties Clark’s shoes together… which, Clark decides to play along with, lest he tip people off that he’s not a complete klutz. Joann, however, has a different idea. She uses the “matter-transmuter” she keeps in her earring (yeah) to swap Clark and Steve’s kicks… so that Lombard winds up eating linoleum.
Back at S.T.A.R. Labs, Ishmael is acting weird… almost bestial. Okay, exactly bestial.
As the 6 o’clock news hits the air, Lois Lane is preparing to start a live report at the site of the apartment fire… which is still raging! Couldn’t the (pre-Crisis) Superman have put this fire out in like two seconds? Instead he kvetches about the sub-par firefighting equipment… and just leaves them to it? C’mon. Anyhoo, suddenly the firefighters drop their (sub-par) hoses… it’s almost as though they’re afraid of water! Okay, it’s exactly like they’re afraid of water.
At that moment, we see some more Metropolitan water-fearing going on. Inspector Henderson spills the “horrible-looking liquid” all over his desk… and Lois Lane just barely dodges being sprayed by the firefighters’ hose… that sounded vulgar, I apologize. Also… we briefly rejoin Joann Jaime, and learn that she’s not the only time-traveler hanging around. In fact, there is an entire hotel full of “travelers from the future” who all want to observe the miraculous “Thirsty Thursday”. Oh! The Savage Dr. Ishmael is also out and about causing havoc… so, there’s that.
Clark excuses himself from the newsdesk to “clean his glasses” while they cut away to Lois Lane’s live report. Moments later Superman arrives… notices the city-wide fear of water, and… whattayaknow, decides to extinguish the tenement fire. Could’a done that an hour ago, ya know? He lands to chat up Lois, however, before he can utter much of a greeting, he takes a hippie-dippy headbutt to the gut.
Superman attempts to subdue Ishmael, but has a rough time of it. It’s like the Doc’s gone rabid… hmm. Acting wild… fear of water… ya don’t think…? He manages to hog-tie the madman long enough to use his telescopic vision to check in with S.T.A.R. Labs. There, he learns that the city has been exposed to a poisonous gas (no kidding), and the only cure is an entire days rest. On the street, our time-traveling pals almost interfere with the past when they see some thirsty (though deathly afraid of water) children running away from an open fire hydrant.
Knowing what he must do, Superman uses his heat-vision to puncture S.T.A.R. Labs’ supply of sleep gas canisters they keep underground. I mean, all cities have those secret underground bunkers where they keep sleeping gas, and I suppose Metropolis is no different. Right? Sure…
And for the next 24-hours, Superman and Dr. Ishmael fight it out while Metropolis (time-travelers included) slumbers in the streets. We ever-so-briefly pop in on the White House where the President is confused as to how the entire city of Metropolis fell asleep. He isn’t interested enough to actually check it out, but he’s mildly curious. I’m assuming that this is supposed to be Gerald Ford… surely a favorite of Mr. Maggin.
Anyhoo… once the 24-hours passes, all the Metropolitans wake up… and boy are they thirsty… on this Thursday! Dr. Ishmael also wakes up, and is horrified to hear what he’d done. Superman decides to keep the details of “Rabid Wednesday” to himself. Surely that won’t cause distrust and panic to set in!
We wrap up with an epilogue in the far-flung future, where our gal Joann delivers her dissertation which is devoid of Superman involvement… since she was, ya know… kayoed during the event. She thinks he’s the greatest miracle of the era nonetheless.
Not gonna lie… this was kind of a dud.
I figure we all knew the story couldn’t possibly live up to that wild cover… but this was a much bigger disappointment than I’d braced myself for. I think I was expecting an Imaginary Story where Superman became king of the world (or at least water-works)… though, that kinda thing is more Silver-Age than Bronze. Another thought I had was that maybe the water was poisoned… and Superman was stopping the people from drinking for their own good!
I know it’s kinda weird to complain about a cover not matching the story… especially when at least 75% of covers these days are glorified pin-ups that have very little to do with the story within (and don’t get me started on the glut of variants)… but, I guess I just sorta expect more from these older books.
I didn’t really appreciate Maggin’s implication that firefighters in poor neighborhoods aren’t as well equipped as those in the wealthier areas. I mean, sure… he could suggest that perhaps the buildings aren’t kept up as well… and the shoddy upkeep might lead to them becoming bigger fire hazards. But, if Superman actually thinks that Metropolis is “holding out” on providing adequate fire-fighting to the poorer neighborhoods, than he really ought to do something about it… not just have a passive-aggressive little internal monologue. He’s better than that.
And, while we’re at it… if Superman is capable of putting out a tenement fire in mere seconds (which we saw him do!)… why didn’t he just do that in the first place? Ridiculous. He’d rather leave the firefighters (with their sub-par equipment) to battle the blaze rather than putting it out himself? Wonder if Supes would’ve put the fire out had it occurred in a “wealthy” neighborhood… hmmm…
Overall… I hate to report that I really didn’t enjoy this one. Is it worth grabbing simply for that wild cover? Maybe… but I wouldn’t break the bank (or your bin-diving back) for it. Doesn’t look like this bugger has been made available digitally… nor (to my knowledge) has it been collected, so this is a single-issue or nothin’ gambit.