Everyone knows about kryptonite. This glowing green space rock made its debut in The Adventures of Superman radio show in 1943 before making the leap to comics. Each piece of kryptonite is a remnant of Superman’s home world of Krypton, and if the Man of Steel comes into contact with it, the powers granted them by Earth’s yellow sun will weaken, perhaps fatally. Kryptonite is so famous that the word “kryptonite” itself has become a generic term to describe anyone’s weakness.
Power-sapping green kryptonite is the most common form, but it’s far from the most interesting. Animal transformations, new superpowers and general weirdness are all on the menu when the wilder varieties of kryptonite crop up. In this list, we have ranked 15 of the craziest effects that kryptonite has ever had on the otherwise nigh-invulnerable Superman Family. Considering how often the Silver Age relied on kryptonite to supply conflict, there were plenty of incidents to choose from. The first few list items are relatively tame, but don’t tap out too soon. We’re just gradually acclimating you to the sheer mind-boggling insanity kryptonite can bring when the creative team throws logic to the wind and really lets loose. Brace yourselves, dear readers. Things are about to get weird.
15. JUST A LITTLE FUN
Thanks to TV shows like Smallville and Supergirl, red kryptonite is probably most famous for turning Kryptonians evil. But in the ’60s, the effects were more unpredictable. In Superman #163, Superman encounters the stuff and spends the next 48 hours making a fool of himself. In his Clark Kent identity, he walks on his hands, purposely sits on freshly painted benches and, after his inevitable arrest, acts like a monkey in a cage.
By the time Clark snaps out of it, he’s been locked up in a sanitarium. He talks his way out of the place with frankly disturbing ease. While this is all very strange and embarrassing, it’s nowhere near the worst thing Superman has experienced under the influence of kryptonite. Heck, it’s not even the worst thing to happen to him under the influence of red kryptonite. That’s what the rest of this list is for.
14. BAKED BY THE SUN
Aside from kryptonite, Superman’s only other major weakness is magic. So if someone were to combine magic with kryptonite, surely the results would be catastrophic for Superman, and maybe even for the Earth as a whole? Well, not quite. In Superman/Batman #44, exposure to an enchanted silver kryptonite amulet causes Superman to exhibit all the classic symptoms of reefer madness. Fortunately, he’s got his Justice League teammates to keep an eye on him.
When Superman demands more kryptonite to maintain his good mood, Supergirl has to tell him that Batman threw the silver kryptonite into the sun.
She’s clearly nervous about how he’ll react, but there’s no need for concern. Superman is too, uh, amiable at the moment to do anything more than stare petulantly into the sun and grumble about how stupid Batman is.
13. IF YOU WERE GAY
There are as many varieties of kryptonite as there are colors in the rainbow. And speaking of rainbows, let’s discuss one of the most infamous of all kryptonite specimens: pink! In a panel that has been spread far and wide throughout the internet, Superman compliments Jimmy Olsen on his choices in interior and sartorial design. In the background, Supergirl implies that her cousin’s odd behavior is due to a sudden switch of sexuality.
Yes, that’s right, pink kryptonite made Superman gay. And because he is now gay, clearly he must spontaneously gain an interest in curtains and men’s fashion. Seems legit. Though this does beg the question: what is pink kryptonite’s effect on subjects who are already gay? Would they become straight and suddenly start talking about football?
12. DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY
The villain Metallo (aka John Corben) gets his powers from an artificial heart of green kryptonite. In an episode of Justice League Action, Firestorm tries to help Superman defeat Metallo by transmuting Metallo’s heart into lead. Unfortunately, Firestorm is still new to the superhero game and instead changes the green kryptonite into other forms of kryptonite. Each change has a different, damaging effect on the Man of Tomorrow. And then there’s the pink kryptonite, which gives Superman a female body.
This incident ranks fairly low on the weird-o-meter because Superman isn’t particularly bothered by the transformation.
11. PURPLE HAZE
In Superman Family Adventures #9, we learn of yet another new kind of kryptonite: periwinkle, which turns Supes’ skin and clothes purple and makes him a disco aficionado. The effect of the periwinkle kryptonite doesn’t last long, but so long as Superman is under its influence, all he wants to do is dance with Lois Lane. When it does wear off, he’s clearly embarrassed and flies off as fast as possible.
Lois, however, liked the experience so much that she exposes him to the periwinkle kryptonite again so they can continue their dance. But however Superman feels about his lavender complexion and sick dance moves, this is fairly innocuous as far as kryptonite side effects go. At least Lois had a fun time, for once.
10. FAREWELL, MINI ME
In the utterly bizarre Superman #125, an explosive encounter with a mysterious spaceship grants Superman the ability to, uh, shoot tiny versions of himself from his fingertips. Naturally, these pint-sized doppelgangers inherit all of Kal-El’s usual powers.
If this power were acquired via kryptonite, it would be a hell of a lot higher on this list. However, kryptonite does not come into play until later.
A group of baddies launch a green kryptonite boulder in Superman’s direction. Superman, weakened by having his powers spread out among his doubles, doesn’t notice until it’s too late for him to dodge. But don’t worry — one of the mini Supermen surfs the kryptonite safely into the ocean. Sadly (?) the kryptonite causes the little guy to slowly disappear out of existence.
9. MY OWN WORST ENEMY
A fairly common kryptonite effect is for Kryptonians to be split into two versions of themselves, usually one good and one evil. One of the most memorable incidents occurs in the movie Superman III, where a botched attempt at synthetic kryptonite causes Nice Superman and Naughty Superman to fight each other in a dump.
There was, however, one time when both halves retained Superman’s strong morals. In an imaginary story, Superman creates a crown of different varieties of kryptonite because of reasons. The resulting explosion leaves him permanently beside himself. Dubbing his new halves Superman Blue and Superman Red, both Supermen go on to end all evil in the world and live happily ever after with their respective wives. Hmm, perhaps we didn’t number this list item correctly. A superhero getting a happy ending may just be the craziest thing on this list after all.
8. THE STUFF NIGHTMARES ARE MADE OF
In Action Comics #261, Supergirl experiments on a bit of kryptonite to see if she can eliminate its harmful effects. It is a noble effort, but when it fails, she carelessly chucks the kryptonite out the window. Her new cat, Streaky, finds the altered kryptonite and acquires all of his alien mistress’ powers.
Streaky is quite happy about his new abilities, but anyone who has ever spent time with a cat should know that a cat with superpowers is in no way a good idea.
Streaky definitively proves this on his first outing by using his powers to spill an entire truckload of milk, terrorize a dog and treat a giant spool of telephone wire as his own personal ball of yarn. We should probably just be grateful that, say, a mosquito didn’t get to the kryptonite before Streaky did.
7. HALF AND HALF
After flying too close to a comet made of red kryptonite, Superman and his canine sidekick, Krypto the superdog, lose their invulnerability. At first blush, this sounds awfully similar to the effect of green kryptonite. But since this is red kryptonite we’re dealing with, there’s a fun catch. They only lose their powers in the parts of their bodies that passed through the comet’s tail.
The entire left half of Superman’s body is now dangerously normal, as is the right half of Krypto’s body. Naturally, this happens just as Lois Lane is preparing to follow around Superman for 24 hours, recording every one of his heroic feats at close range. Meanwhile, the only thing Krypto has to worry about is getting bitten by a mean old dog.
6. TALE AS OLD AS TIME
In a further demonstration of why magic and kryptonite should not mix, Action Comics #243 has Superman run afoul of a descendent of the mythological magician Circe. She asks Superman to marry her, a proposal that he obviously rejects. She’s so upset that she enhances her magic with red kryptonite and punishes Supes by giving him a lion’s head. We’re not real sure what she’s trying to prove here.
Permanently deforming him just shows that Superman was right to turn her down.
Anyway, Lois tries to cure Superman by kissing him, which doesn’t work. Eventually, Superman works out that kryptonite was mixed in with Circe’s magic. This leads him to assume she must herself be Kryptonian, even though everyone and their cat — literally — has been shown to have access to kryptonite. With his new knowledge, Kal-El creates an antidote that returns him to his normal square-jawed self.
5. SUPER MOODY
The Last Son of Krypton undergoes his most colorful transformation to date in Action Comics #317. We’re sure you will not be at all surprised to learn that red kryptonite is yet again the culprit in this case. Entirely against his will and much to his frustration, every emotion Superman feels now plays out on his face in obnoxiously bright hues. Jealousy turns him green, embarrassment turns him red, and so forth.
Shenanigans ensue as Superman struggles to keep his face from betraying his true identity to the ever-nosy Lois Lane. He even goes so far as to rip a restaurant off its foundation just so he can use its distinctive green lighting to hide his own face’s green glow from Lois. Maybe next time Clark Kent should just call in sick…
4. APING THE APE
This adventure starts quite normally: with Clark, Lois and Jimmy going to watch King Kong on the big screen. They stop to buy some Crackerjacks, and Jimmy’s prize looks like a red marble but is actually red kryptonite. You’d think Jimmy would be able to tell the difference between a toy and an object that can kill his supposed best friend.
To be fair, Clark doesn’t notice anything amiss either until he starts feeling tingly in the middle of the movie.
Clark quickly leaves, and once out in the street, he begins to change. He grows exponentially taller. He loses his intelligence and his ability to speak in anything but growls. And yes, he even kidnaps Lois and drags her to the top of a tall building while the army shoots at him. Ultimately, the authorities have no choice but to chain him to a giant crucifix with green kryptonite chains. That’s some really confusing symbolism there.
3. KILL IT WITH FIRE
Thanks to her abuse of a magic ring, Supergirl wakes up one morning to find she has turned into a devil, horns and all. She still retains enough of a conscience to express dismay at her evil thoughts and appearance. Is there any way she can restore her normal non-demonic self?
Fortunately, along with the ring came a note explaining that the only way to end her demonic possession is to bathe in a cleansing fire. But Supergirl is Kryptonian, and ordinary fire won’t have any effect on her. So what does she do? Visit the kryptonite fire falls, a relic of old Krypton that somehow survived the planet’s destruction. One quick flight through the flames and the Maid of Might is restored to normal.
2. DC’S ANSWER TO HANK PYM
One of the few times Superman exposed himself to kryptonite on purpose was in Action Comics #296. When giant, bulletproof space ants invade Metropolis, no one is able to communicate with them to figure out what they want. In a desperate attempt to save the planet, Superman flies through a space cloud of red kryptonite while wishing really, really hard that he had an ant’s head. It works, allowing him to have a chat with the would-be invaders.
The answer to this mystery somehow manages to be even stranger than the set-up, or the steps Superman took to solve it.
1. THE JOYS OF FATHERHOOD
We’ve mentioned red kryptonite more than any other variety. And yet we still have not discussed the craziest kryptonite effect of them all. In Superboy #101, Krypto becomes infatuated with a collie. He’s still daydreaming about his crush when he flies through a red kryptonite cloud — yes, the same one from Action Comics #296 — and is transformed into the girl of his dreams.
He also apparently wanted to have a family with her. Almost immediately after the transformation, Krypto realizes he’s in a family way and slinks off to give birth to a litter of super-powered puppies. As for Superboy, he is mellow about all this. He brings presents to celebrate the pups’ birth and sprays Krypto/Kryptonia with perfume because… because girl dogs wear perfume? Is this a thing on Krypton? More troubling is the fact that, once Krypto returns to normal, his puppies are never mentioned again.
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