Friday, September 01, 2006

The Final Part of "The Colors Out of Space"

Silver Kryptonite. The cover blurb for Jimmy Olsen #70 promises that "Nobody … but nobody … will guess … 'The Secret of Silver Kryptonite'!" Well, don’t tell Mort Weisinger's ghost, but … I did.
This story is a masterful study in induced paranoia. Jimmy Olsen runs around to the curator of the Superman Museum, mermaid Lori Lemaris, Supergirl, and Clark Kent, asking the same thing -- is there such a thing as Silver Kryptonite? what about Silver Kryptonite? After all this, Superman starts wondering too -- especially since he didn't think there was such a beast. He trails Jimmy to a special lead-lined lair staffed solely by Professor Potter. While all those secret things are going on that he can’t observe, the Man of Steel is going crazy with suspense, and maybe even a little fear. I mean, sure, Jimmy and Potter are his friends. But why are they so interested in Kryptonite -- especially this new, mysterious variety? Finally, though, all is revealed: "There is no substance as Silver Kryptonite! This is just a silver box containing statuettes of your closest friends on Earth!"
But why? Here's a clue: Jimmy Olsen #70 is the July, 1963 issue. It's the year of this issue that clinches things: "It's the 25th anniversary of the day you adopted Metropolis as your official home,. Superman," in June, 1938's Action #1. The only thing is, in those 25 years, nobody has aged much, have they?

But, wait -- there's more! Here are a few lesser, one-shot Kryptonite appearances:
Action #277 tells how Luthor generates a trap for Superman involving yard-wide floating globes of Kryptonite: "My machine can manufacture synthetic Kryptonite of any kind," he gloats, including "another one -- Yellow Kryptonite! If Superman ever got within range of its deadly radiations, who knows what bizarre effect it might have on him?" But it turns out that all the Kryptonite, even the Yellow kind, is fake -- all part of a hoax to scare and humiliate Superman.
The Supergirl tale in the same issue depicts the Maid of Might's arrival, accompanied by Krypto and Streaky, at an odd planetoid that generates strange things and creatures at random, much as on Star Trek's "Shore Leave" episode. It turns out that the place is the automated "Headquarters of the Interplanetary Multi-Dimensional Practical Jokers' Club." It can, among other things, grant wishes. So when Supergirl encounters a Green K fragment, she wishes. "Wishing Well, I wish the Green Kryptonite below to change into harmless False Kryptonite -- forever! My super-vision reveals the wish worked!"
Several times, artificial forms of Green K have been concocted. In Action #226, Luthor uses an atom smasher to develop a synthetic isotope of Kryptonite." And World's Finest #132 tells how, on an adventure in the past, a Batman imposter gets a medieval alchemist to brew up a bunch of synthetic Kryptonite. As they say, kids, don't try this at home!
Jimmy Olsen #92 tells how Truff, an invader from the planet Pyron, is paving the way for a full-scale invasion of Earth. One of his weapons is the dreaded Magno-Kryptonite: "Its magnetic properties make it cling with unbreakable force to anything that comes from Krypton." Boy! Talk about static cling!
Well, friends, thus runs the tale of the many forms of Kryptonite. I hope you learned something to impress your friends with. So, the next time you visit your old neighborhood and find that your favorite vacant lot or playground has been turned into a Walgreen's or a weight-loss clinic, remember that it could be worse. Be glad your whole block wasn't turned to Green Kryptonite!

Panels and Pixels: A sad state of affairs

Panels and Pixels: A sad state of affairs

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Part 5 of "The Colors Out of Space"

Kryptonite-Plus. Action #350 tells the tale of The Heroes, a musical group that plays dressed as Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Batman, and Supergirl. But they do more than sing: During breaks at their gigs, they steal from their hosts, nabbing such things as "Carter Hagen's valuable mineral collection." When Supergirl tumbles to their racket and busts in, the fake Green Arrow pulls out some "Kryptonite-Plus from the mineral collection we stole. It's a super-powerful isotope of Kryptonite that will finish her off in minutes!" Need I explain that the Maid of Steel escapes?

Jimmy Olsen #126's cover story featured "The Riddle of Kryptonite Plus," not hyphenated. However, there really ain't no such animal. Jimmy, on the moon with another astronaut, comes across Superman's body sprawled on a pile of multi-colored rocks which Jimmy assumes are "some sort of ultra-Kryptonite." But it's all a scam, part of an elaborate, though doomed, deception by a group of super-powered aliens trying to invade Earth. And that's the last we hear of Kryptonite Plus, with or without a hyphen.

Anti-Kryptonite. When those nasty old Vrangs landed on the floating charnel house that once was Argo City, before their encounter with Jewel Kryptonite as described above, they didn't reckon that they were standing on the universe's only known specimen of Anti-Kryptonite.
Anti-K came about, I suspect, to cover another of those sloppy continuity errors I mentioned earlier.
Y'see, in Action #309 Supergirl learns about the Argo City religious nut, Jer-Em. As we al know (or should know), the soil of Argo City became Green Kryptonite in Krypton's explosion; only Zor-El's handy-dandy stockpile of lead sheeting saved its citizens. Later on, as we learn in this issue of Action, Argo city drifted into a yellow-sun system like our own, thus giving everyone super-powers. Then Jer-Em is alarmed and proclaims, "The Gods of Krypton would have given you wings if you were meant to fly!" (I am not making this up, I promise!)
Then, using his own powers, he flies (!) out of the protective dome and below the protective lead. Putting his hands on the bare Kryptonite rock, he super-shoves Argo City back towards its red sun before boogying back inside. Then, for the "crime" of taking away their super-powers, the frustrated Argo Citizens zap Jer-Em into the Phantom Zone. This was in Action #309.
Well sir, in Action #317 a sharp-witted reader wrote in to ask how Jer-Em had survived that long exposure to the Kryptonite below Argo City. The response? "Obviously, this was a freak type of Anti-Kryptonite which affected only non-super Kryptonians."
Oh. Obviously.
Anyway, Action #371 reiterates this doctrine, when recounting the death of Morina, Kara's childhood friend: "That Anti-Kryptonite, which could kill Kryptonians without super-powers, was to destroy all life in Argo City some years later!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

... And Now, a Note Concerning STAR TREK ...

Let It Die
(tune of Beatles' "Let It Be")
February 19, 2005
by Mark Alfred

When I find myself in fear for Trekdom, William Shatner comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, Let it die
And when a show is canceled, he is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, Let it die

Let it die, let it die, let it die, let it die
Whispered words of wisdom, let it die

And when the broken hearted geeks and Trekkies learn to get a life,
They won't die of cancer -- Let it die
For though Trek may be canceled they can always find a job or wife,
Learn to be a dancer -- Let it die

Let it die, let it die, let it die, let it die
Learn to sing and dance, and let it die

And when the Trek is over, there is still a world alive out there,
The sun will shine tomorrow, Let it die
So move out of your mother's basement, learn to shave and wash your hair,
Learn these words of wisdom, Let it die.
copyright © 2005 by Mark Alfred

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Part 4 of "The Colors Out of Space"

Blue Kryptonite. This is Bizarro Kryptonite. Its infrequent history begins in Superman #140's three-part "Son of Bizarro" novel. To prevent an angry Bizarro army's invasion of Earth, Superman uses Luthor's confiscated Duplicating Ray on Green K, correctly surmising that the product will be just a dangerous to Bizarros as the real stuff is to him. The resulting Blue K stockpile scares off the Bizarros, the only casualty being the story's heavy, a Bizarro Supergirl.
The only other appearance of Blue K is in Superman #423 when Bizarro No. 1 destroys his world and then uses Blue K to kill himself after wiping a city blockful of Metropolis citizens.

Jewel Kryptonite, aka Kryptonite Six. Action #310 tells how Lori Lemaris and the merfolk of Atlantis are stricken with a strange spotted plague. Jax-Ur of the Phantom Zone talks Superman into a 24-hour parole, saying he can cure the Atlanteans. Their quest take Jax-Ur and Superman into Krypton's past, where the criminal drugs Superman long enough to sneak to the nearby Jewel Mountains and treat a huge gem there with a strange ray. "Because my device has transmuted its elements, this mineral will be transformed into a new form of Kryptonite with incredible powers!"
After their return to Earth and the curing of the Atlanteans, Jax-Ur returns to the Zone, where his plot thickens. After Superman encounters the Jewel K that has now drifted to Earth, things start blowing up whenever Superman nears them. To his horror, Superman concludes that "Jewel K may be causing me to detonate any explosive material that I approach!"
Little does he suspect that the explosions of all those oil tanks, sea mines, and rockets have been in fact caused by the Phantom Zoners. "That chunk of Jewel K in orbit magnifies our mental commands and converts them into energy beams which detonate any explosive material we desire." Yes, it was all a scheme to blackmail Superman into letting them out of the Zone. But the Man of Steel tumbles to their scheme and throws the orbiting chunk into the sun. As he tells Supergirl, "That was a close call! The power of Jewel Kryptonite might have helped the Phantom Zone criminals take over the Earth!" If only Superman had also destroyed the first, tiny pieces he'd encountered! 18 years later, in 1982, some Phantom Zoners track down that small piece, hurled into space by Superman long ago. A few, led by General Zod, escape the Zone. They then confuse Superman by not fighting him but asking for his help against the Vrangs, an alien race which once enslaved Krypton (as earlier told in Superman #176). After a long battle (Action #548-549), the Vrangs are finished and the Zoners then turn on Superman. But he has been ready for this, and manages to return them to the Zone, finishing the saga of Jewel K by pulverizing the last fragment.

X-Kryptonite. Superman isn’t the only one looking for a Kryptonite antidote. Action #261 tells how Supergirl nabs a piece of Green K. In the sort of continuity error frequent in Supergirl stories, she discovers that "friction with the air has reduced it to about the size of a marble!" (Experts like you and me know that Green K does not burn up in the atmosphere, remember?) She tries various chemicals on the deadly fragment to no avail; so she super-tosses it with a pair of lead tongs into some nearby woods.
That night, a cute cat Linda has named Streaky comes across the Kryptonite fragment. Soon "he is absorbing mysterious rays from X-Kryptonite, something new under the sun, accidentally created by Linda when she had experimented with the chemicals!" After surprising Linda with his newfound powers, Streaky soon loses them again as the X-K wears off.
In future issues Streaky repeatedly acquires his on-again/off-again powers until, eventually, they seem to stick, enabling him to join the 30th century's Legion of Super Pets.
Since not even Streaky ever figured out the source of his powers, that little piece of X-Kryptonite may still be out there, waiting to give someone super-powers. Say, do you suppose President Reagan had come across the stuff just before Hinckley took a pop at him with his pistol?

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Next Part of "The Colors Out of Space"

White Kryptonite. In White K's first appearance, in Adventure #279, we learn that White K has no effect on Kryptonians -- or anyone else! Instead, in Superboy's words, "The rays are deadly to plants of all worlds and will turn them to dust in a few seconds! … It was Green Kryptonite until it met a space cloud and turned into something I never knew existed … White Kryptonite!"
With such odd effects, White K has turned up in some outré tales.
Action #278 describes the advent of "The Super-Powers of Perry White," wherein the Daily Planet editor eats a strange fruit that first gives him super-powers, but soon takes control of his body and will. As Xasnu the Zelmian says through Perry's lips, "I landed as a spore, grew into a mature plant, and developed fruits which an Earthling ate! As the substance spread through his bloodstream, he first acquired super-powers … and then … I finally acquired complete control of his body and mind!" (I thought I just said that.) Yes, Xasnu is the vanguard of an invasion of Earth by plant intelligences.
In only a terrifyingly short time, Xasnu/Perry has tracked Superman down to his Fortress of solitude and beaten him to a standstill. As his enemy approached with Green K, Superman acknowledges to himself, "The fiend … he's won the final round. I have no defense now …" But suddenly, like the proverbial cavalry over the hill, Supergirl bursts through the wall with a chunk of White K that destroys the alien and leaves Perry unharmed. A dramatic ending to a superior story.
Action #362-366 feature the Virus X saga, wherein Superman contracts this deadly Kryptonian plague. After frantically seeking a cure, the Man of Steel bids a last farewell to earth before launching himself in a rocket to destroy his contagion-ridden body in the star "Flammbron, mightiest solar system in the universe, whose incandescent, neutronic flames match the heat of a thousand normal suns" (Action #365). However, but a Strange Twist of Fate, his rocket takes him past Htrae, the Bizarro world, whose inhabitants pay tribute to the universe's mightiest hero thuswise: "It am Superman's flying coffin! Him going to die! Yippee! Us help him die faster by scattering Red and White Kryptonite near him! It make him happy!" And, by golly, Superman is indeed very happy when the White K kills the Virus X infection, curing him.
13 years later, in 1981, Supergirl also contracts Virus X, although Superman quickly cures her with a "White Kryptonite-powered healing ray" in his Fortress (Superman #365).
In Superman #371, the empty display replica of Kandor is taken over by a new race of miniature squatters, space refugees from a dead world. Superman enlarges two of them to try to find a way to enlarge the rest, but common Earth germs cause allergic reactions in his guests. "Once I knew what was afflicting you," says Superman after making them all better, "I exposed you to the sample of White Kryptonite I keep here," thus destroying "the microorganisms that had invaded your bodies!"
Say, come to think of it, why doesn’t the government try a chunk of White K on AIDS -- or the common cold?
All original content
© by Mark Alfred