Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Green Kryptonite Speaks!

Occasionally during the Silver Age, writers got the idea to tell the story from the standpoint of an inanimate object. I've written in the past about how Wonder Woman's Golden Lariat and her Invisible Plane got a chance to tell their stories. It was an original idea, but perhaps carried too far in a series of stories called Tales of Kryptonite.

The series ran for four issues in Superman, #173, 176, 177 and 179, as the chunk of Kryptonite, which had originally been part of a statue awarded to Jor-El, found itself interacting with various members of the Superman family. Hilariously, the Green K here tries mental telepathy:

At the end of the story, Superboy is oddly unaffected by the piece of Green K; it turns out that Lex Luthor had accidentally created a device that made Superman invulnerable to its radiation. But Superboy assumes it's just a rock that looks like Kryptonite and throws it into the Arctic so he won't be fooled by it at some later point.

In Superman #177 things get even more improbable. A plane carrying Clark Kent over the Arctic is about to crash, and the passengers bail out. Clark lands near that same piece of Green K, but manages to escape with a rather cool method:

Improbably, this trip turns out to be the one that convinces Supes to build his Fortress of Solitude, so it's a significant event in the life of the Man of Steel. But this piece of Green K is bound for even more glory, as a professor uses it to create a ray that neutralizes Kryptonite against Superman. Unfortunately it turns out to make the Krytonite deadly for humans.

In the end Superman uses a pair of lead tongs to hurl the chunk into space. But it goes through a red "cloud" in space which turns it into red kryptonite and sends it hurtling back to Earth.

The Red Kryptonite appears in Superman #177. At first Superman can detect no ill effects, but then he discovers that he's unable to speak or write in English, only in Kryptonese. How can he avoid exposing his Clark Kent identity to Lois when he shows up in the newsroom speaking and writing this strange tongue?

Answer: By exposing Krypto to talking dog Red Kryptonite!

The series finally finished in Superman #179. A mysterious ray transforms the Red K, now apparently harmless to Superman (since it only affects him once) into Gold Kryptonite, which will rob him of his powers permanently!

Up till this point the series had been rather silly and pedestrian, but the finale redeemed things a bit. Seening the Red K transmute into Gold K, the Kandorians devised a plan of action. They would send one member of the Superman Emergency Squad (a group of Kandorians who were on call to be tiny, super-powered assistants when needed) to use a Phantom Zone projector to dispose of the dangerous element.

The person would be protected in a lead suit. As it happens, Jay-Ree is chosen, but his girlfriend Joenne insists on accompanying him. While getting rid of the Gold K, they are both briefly exposed to the rays and decide to make their home on Earth for the good of Kandor:

Of course, that's good characterization but awful genetics; acquired characteristics are not handed down to the next generation. This was in an age when nobody was supposed to notice that Superman was of an alien species and quite probably could not breed with Lois. And of course it leaves unanswered the question of just who Jay-Ree and Joenne's children are going to marry.

But despite this obvious glitch, the rest of the story charms, with the little couple doing all sorts of cute stuff. Jimmy Olsen builds them a miniature home inside his pad, and Superman himself presides at their wedding. At the end, Gold Kryptonite threatens to return, but I believe that this was the end of the Tales of Kryptonite.

1 comment:

SteveAsat said...

"Wait...we could always adopt, you know. Superman was adopted and he turned out okay." "Eh, I think I'd rather be a miniature super-powerless family living among aliens who are technologically millennia behind Kandor."

DC Comics: where readers are punished for thinking too hard about plots.