Episode 22: Kryptonite

In Comics, DC Comics, Entertainment, Golden Age, Kryptonite, Superman, Top Ten by adminLeave a Comment

Kryptonite of All Colors

This week on The Heroes, Villains and Sidekicks Show we’ll be doing something a little different. We won’t be talking about a character on the show, we’ll be talking about an object. An object that comes in many colors, some that kill, some that induce madness and some that give you three eyes and six arms, but they all come from the same place, the planet Krypton. That’s right, we’ll be looking at the history and backstory of Kryptonite in all is various colors.

Ok, so let’s get into the origin and backstory of Superman’s least favorite rock. Now Kryptonite actually debuted in The Adventures of Superman radio show, way back in 1943 in a story arc titled “The Meteor from Krypton” and the cool thing is I actually found the recording and there’s a link to it in the post for this show. I added a piece of the show to the episode, it’s the first time I heard a Superman radio show and it was really fun. It then shows up in the serialized television program Adventures of Superman in 1952. But before all of that, back in 1940 Jerry Siegel wrote a story that was never published called “The K-Metal from Krypton” that featured a substance from Superman’s home that drained him of his powers and gave powers to regular humans. The super huge Superman fan Mark Wade found the script and with help of other comic artists the comics was drawn and is out there online for use to enjoy.

But just what is Kryptonite? It’s pretty simple really, it’s a piece of Superman’s homeworld Krypton. Pieces of his exploded home planet that then made their way across space to his new home. It’s kind of sad when you think of it, he’s alone, no home world, but these pieces are all around Earth and they can kill him. I mean it would be nice if he could carry a small smooth stone from his planet to just have. I do that all the time, when we travel I’ll pick up a stone and carry it through the trip and then put it on my window sill at home to remember the trip. But Clark is not that lucky.

So this little green rock gives off a radiation that disrupts and destroys Kryptonian cells, driving out the solar radiation that empowers Superman or other Kryptonians and eventually kill them. Now the first mention of Krypton was in the radio serial, but it made its first appearance in comics way back in Superman 61 in 1949. Whenever I read something like this I am always amazed. I mean that is almost 70 years ago. That this character and all the stories around them have survived. It’s just incredible. And one of the coolest things is you can go visit where it all started, the houses where Superman was created. I was visiting a friend in Cleveland and our first stop was to Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s house. You can walk right up to the front fence and look at the houses. I’ll actually post some pics.

One thing that really surprised me, when reading Superman #61 was that Kryptonite started off, not as green, but red. That totally surprised me. The first time we see Kryptonite it’s a small red gem on the turban of a phony swamie. Lois has visited the swami to do a little expose and debunk him. In the process he notices that she is Lois Lane and realizes why she is there. He grabs her and she yells for Superman. When Superman shows up the swamie panics and says he’s going to put a hex on him and waves his fingers at him. Superman looks stunned and exclaimed he feels drained of all strength. When his tries to punch the swami he almost falls over and the bad guy gets away. But what the swami doesn’t know is that he doesn’t have any mystical abilities, it’s the little red gem he’s wearing. Superman can’t understand what is happening but he doesn’t think it’s magic so he plays Batman and does some detective work. The trail leads him to jewer that sold the stone to the swami, who then tells Superman he got that gem from a minor named Harry Peters. Superman flies off to talk to the minor and the minor tells him that he thinks the stones are meteorites.

Now this is where we get all Golden Age. Superman travels at the speed of light traveling backwards in time to follow the path of the meteor’s all the way back to their origins. So faster and faster he travels until he breaks the time barrier following the meteorite fragment all the way back to its place of origin…the planet Krypton. He lands and cannot be seen by the inhabitants since as they put it, he is not of their time. But he’s really there, he is walking among his ancestors but he doesn’t know who they are. He then follows someone who looks a lot like him by the name of Jor-El. He sees Jor-El and his wife put their infant son into a rocket to escape their dying world. Superman follows the infant’s rocket to witness the fate of the child. The rocket crashes on Earth and Superman sees his parents, the Kents, take the child from the rocket and he suddenly realizes the truth of it. Clark now knows why he is different, why he can do the things he can. And I’ll quote this part, “So at last, after all these years, Superman is at last aware of his birthplace, and why he is the strongest man on earth!” Again, so wild right, Clark didn’t even know where he was from, that he was Kryptonian until Superman issue 61, and this is the first time Kryptonite was introduced in print.

Superman defeats the swami by blowing off the turban from a distance and secures the rock. He then purchases the remaining Kryptonite from the jeweler and has it delivered to a Mr. Smith, who is actually Superman in disguise. Superman then sinks the Kryptonic in the middle of the ocean as he wonders if there are anymore fragments from his homework left out there that may come back to harm him.

Now Kryptonite has gone through many different changes over time due to different DC events through the years, Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis. Although it pretty much does the same thing for the most part there have been some changes and updates in colors and effects Kryptonite has one Kryptonians and humans. So let’s go over the different types of K out there, Now some of these are part of canon, some have only appeared in satires or elseworld time stories and others are from TV and the movies.

Let’s start with the basics and then move into the more obscure variations:
Green Kryptonite: We’ve covered this one. It weakens and and potentially kill a Kryptonian.

Red Kryptonite: This first appeared in Adventure Comics #252 in 1958. It originally weakened Superman but in later years it has the effect of causing behavioral issues with Kryptonians. Usually making them evil.

Blue Kryptonite: This is an imperfect version of green K that debuted in Superman 140 affects Bizarro characters. It can also sometimes reverse the effects of red kryptonite.

Gold Kryptonite: When Kryptonite is exposed to atomic radiation it changes it’s molecular structure and changes to gold k. It deduted in action Comics 299 and takes away a Kryptonians powers permanently. In post-crisis times the loss of powers is only temporary.
White Kryptonite: Debuted in Action Comics 279 and kills all plant life. Strange one, but not the strangest.

Orange Kryptonite: This is where we start getting into the weirder stuff. Orange Kryptonite gives super abilities to any animals that come into contact with it. It debuted in Action Comics #261 when Supergirls cat Streaky come in contact with it and gets superpowers.

Black Kryptonite: This splits Kryptonians into two separate entities, one good, one evil. This first debuted in Supergirl #2 in the 2005 series.

Jewel Kryptonite: Debuted in Action Comics #310 in 1964 and increases the psychic abilities of Kryptonians that are trapped in the phantom zone.

Red/Green Kryptonite: This was created by Brainiac and debuted in Action COmics #275 in 1961 and can mutant a Kryptonian.

Pink Kryptonite: Now this is a strange one. It was in just one panel of a satire issue that was poking fun at Silver Age comics. And believe it or not, it turned Superman gay. Now this was just a satire story that was poking fun at all the weird and different forms of Kryptonite from the Silver age. There’s a pretty amusing panel from that issue in the post for this episode.

Now there are at least a dozen more types of kryptonite out there and I’ll add the remainders to the site. The key thing you’ll need to know is that you are more than likely never going to see many of these types of Kryptonite out there in the DC Universe. After Crisis a lot of Kryptonites were erased from canon never to be seen again. But some do pop up. For instance Red Kryptonite just appeared in the first season of Super Girl on the CW, making her lose her inhibitions and go all evil. One fun part of that episode was when Kara was affected by the red k she went to a bar and flicked peanuts at bottles smashing them. This was a direct nod to when Christopher Reeves was effected by a synthetic kryptonite making him evil. It was really the only good scene from the entire movie. Yep, Superman 3 was not a good film. So the different types or Kryptonite do pop up from time to time, but I have to think that we’ll never see pink kryptonite become a part of any storyline soon.