Making the Grade: Types of Kryptonite

Green Kryptonite

The Original Flavor, Accept No Substitutes, Kills Kryptonians… Dead version of the stuff, Green K causes Superman immense pain, loss of powers, and eventually a horrible, excruciating death — but on the bright side, the emerald-hued pallor it bestows upon the Man of Steel makes him look quite festive. As with every great discovery in the history of mankind, we can thank an actor for giving us Green K. Specifically, we can thank the guy who played Superman in the radio show in the ’40s, a fellow who one day decided he needed a vacation from the rigorous schedule of describing his amazing feats of strength. The writers came up with kryptonite to serve as Superman’s… well, kryptonite, and listeners were treated to the thrilling sounds of “Superman” moaning in the background while Lois, Jimmy and Perry pulse-poundingly chatted for a couple of weeks. People were way more easily entertained in those days. Anyhoo, Green K: a great idea in theory, not so much when every bank robber and purse-snatcher in Metropolis is hauling around a chunk of the stuff, like a radioactive rabbit’s foot. Because if there’s one thing you shouldn’t expect any two-bit crook to find easily, it’s radioactive pieces of a dead planet that exploded on the other side of the universe. B-

kryptonite-redRed Kryptonite
Also known as “that stuff that comes in handy when we’ve already used Mxyzptlk this month and I really, really want to tell the definitive story of Superman’s beard.” From the interwebs: “Red kryptonite causes all kinds of strange, random effects, from aggression to apathy, power loss, and unexpected shape-shifting.” Other recorded side effects of Red K: transformation into a dwarf, dragon, lunatic, amnesiac and ant-headed humanoid; super-telepathy; the inability to speak or write in any language but Kryptonese; excessive hair growth; rapid aging; and the creation of an evil doppelgänger (the latter just like the evil-twin scenes in Superman III, a film that would appear to preclude the possibility of Red K imbuing Superman with the ability to avoid signing on for lame sequels). Modern-day writers tend to avoid Red K as a plot device, and little wonder; few modern-day fans are itching to read a story about Superman contracting a raging case of apathy. That said, if Alex Ross ever decided to paint a book showing Superman experiencing every possible Red K effect at the same time? I would totally buy that. C+

kryptonite-goldGold Kryptonite
This is the stuff that permanently robs Superman of his powers — or, for that matter, any Kryptonian unlucky enough to find it in their Space Wheaties. This fact was detailed in the classic Superman story featuring the scene seen here; after discovering a piece of Gold K in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, two residents of the bottled city of Kandor put their teeny selves at risk by climbing out of their bottle and sending the rock into the Phantom Zone. But they lose their super powers in the process and decide they can’t go back to Kandor (because… why, exactly?), and so they end up living in a dollhouse at Jimmy Olsen’s bachelor pad. And then one of them started asking questions like “Why the hell does a man in his 20s have a fully furnished dollhouse?” and things got awkward. I may have to reconsider that “classic” adjective. C

White Kryptonite
Ah yes, White K — the version of kryptonite that gives Superman a raging case of the stupids. No, wait, my bad — White K is actually just a form that’s deadly to all plant life, and the scene pictured here was just another of those playful pranks DC’s editors liked to pull on the biology teachers and taxonomists of the world. But let’s suppose bacteria are plants, and Superman’s plan to cure an entire race of a bacterial plague by waving white rocks in their faces worked exactly as planned. In exchange for not dying of that disease, the entire bacteria-free planet can now choose to die by starvation (adios, cereal crops), suffocation (hasta la vista, oxygen-spewing forests and algae), natural disasters (hello, mudslides and dust storms), and other diseases caused by the sudden disappearance of penicillin and beneficial bacterial types swimming through their digestive tracts. And that’s not even counting the sudden drop in stock prices suffered by that planet’s cheese and fro-gurt concerns. D

kryptonite-blueBlue Kryptonite
Jesus in a Cuisinart. Blue K? Blue K, people? We have a pressing need for a form of kryptonite that’s deadly only to Bizarros now? Bizarros, I might add, who are suddenly not so stringent on the whole “we am do everything opposite of normal people” thing when running away from deadly rocks that might kill them is exactly what normal people would do in the exact same situation? Why would anyone need Blue K to deal with a planet full of Bizarros when — and I’m quoting the Internet here so you know this must be true — the Superman-Bizarros on Bizarro World are so stupid they created Blue K golems solely to give them something to play with, much the same way you or I might construct a PlayStation out of plutonium for kicks and giggles? What I’m saying here is, we’re dealing with creatures that could be defeated by a strategically played round of Simon Says. Hauling around rocks to subdue them should not be a priority for anyone. D-

kryptonite-blackBlack Kryptonite
Black K stumbles right out of the gate by being the only form of kryptonite that (as far as I know) was first mentioned on the Smallville TV show, which apparently decided at some point after I stopped watching that having just one color of kryptonite serve as the cause of every plot development and/or mutated super-villain on the show was just too far-fetched. Black K has an effect on Kryptonians seen a few times before; namely, it splits the person into separate individuals with their own distinct personalities. Call it a less imaginative form of Red K (also known as “contrivium”). After forcing Tom Welling to act for a couple of episodes, Black K made its comic-book debut in an issue of Supergirl that saw the Maid of Steel split in two and wrestle her badder self. Surprisingly, this plot development went over very well with a large segment of the readers. C

Jewel Kryptonite
Quoth the Wikipedia: “Jewel kryptonite amplifies the psychic powers of Phantom Zone residents, allowing them to project illusions into the ‘real world’ or perform mind control. It was made from what was left of a mountain range on Krypton called the Jewel Mountains.” Which, incidentally, was an actual mountain range literally made of jewels. Save your Greenland-type real estate scams for lesser planets; when Kryptonians saw mountains made of jewels, they named them the Jewel Mountains — it’s just how they rolled. At any rate, I’m less inclined to think about the many and wacky things that lesser known kryptonite isotopes are capable of doing than to wonder: Phantom Zone residents? I hear the word “residents,” I think “ratepayers association” and “neighborhood watch,” not bodiless denizens of a hellish limbo state consigned to an eternity of incorporeal Peeping Toms (which raises the question: how many Kryptonian perverts begged for this kind of sentence?). Anyhoo, Jewel K: pretty to look at, nearly impossible to obtain in its purest form and only good for one thing. Feel free to compare to the current pop idol of your choice. C-



2 responses to “Making the Grade: Types of Kryptonite

  1. I seem to remember that in the 80s Superfriends cartoon that blue kryptonite cured Superman of red kryptonite. Am I wrong?

    • Not at all! In “Terror from the Phantom Zone,” three villains from the Phantom Zone escape and use Red K to rapidly age Superman, and the Super Friends computer tells them the only antidote is Blue K. How does the computer know that? Shut up, that’s how. Yeah, not really missing that show at all.

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