â€œWhat poison is to the average human being, green kryptonite is to Superman? Indeed, the only thing the Man of Steel has to fear in the entire universe is the ghastly green substance which was flung into space when the planet Krypton exploded!â€ (Act No. 291, Aug 1962: â€œThe New Superman!â€).
When the planet Krypton exploded into fragments as the result of a cataclysmic chain reaction originating at the planetâ€™s core, all of Kryptonâ€™s atomic elements â€œfused to become one deadly compound,â€ a compound later to become known as Kryptonite (S No. 61/3, Nov/Dec 1949: â€œSuperman Returns to Krypton!â€). Sent hurtling into outer space by the force of the cataclysm, these â€œdazzling particlesâ€ of the demolished planet, all â€œladen with cosmic energy,â€ were scattered throughout the far reaches of the universe in the form of meteors and meteoric fragments, emitting a deadly radiation to which only Kryptonian survivors are vulnerable (Act No. 141, Feb 1950: â€œLuthorâ€™s Secret Weaponâ€), â€œWhen a radioactive chain reaction exploded my native planet Krypton, long ago,â€ notes Superman in August 1960, â€œchunks of green kryptonite were formed! They scattered throughout space as meteors â€œTheir peculiar radioactive rays can bring kryptonite-fever and death to any person from Kryptonâ€¦ but are harmless to Earth people!â€ (S No. 139/3: â€œThe Untold Story of Red Kryptonite!â€).
In the texts, green kryptonite is referred to as â€œthe strange element given off by the explosion of the planet Kryptonâ€ (Act No. 141, Feb 1950: â€œLuthorâ€™s Secret Weaponâ€); â€œthe deadly rock-like element from the exploded planet Krypton whose radiations can paralyze Supermanâ€ (Act No. 142, Mar 1950 â€œThe Conquest of Superman!â€); â€œthe one substance.., that can overpower the Man of Steelâ€ (Act No. 152, Jan 1951: â€œThe Sleep That Lasted 1000 Yearsâ€); â€œthe rare element, whose mysterious radiation is the only known force capable of overcoming Supermanâ€ (WF No. 50, Feb/Mar 1951: â€œSuperman Super-Wreckerâ€); â€œa baleful new element whose rays affect only natives of Kryptonâ€ (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: â€œThe Kid from Krypton!â€); â€œthe meteor metal caused by the explosion of Supermanâ€™s native planetâ€ (WF No. 56, Jan/Feb 1952: â€œThe Superman Pageant!â€); â€œthe rare element from the shattered planet Krypton whose radiations have a deadly effect on Supermanâ€ (Act No. 174, Nov 1952: â€œThe Man Who Shackled Superman!â€); the â€œone element in all the universe can overcomeâ€ Superman (Act No. 181, Jun1953: â€œThe New Supermanâ€); â€œthe one substance that can destroyâ€ Superman (Act No. 235, Dec 1957: â€œThe Super-Prisoner of Amazon Islandâ€); â€œthe one substance in the universe feared by Supermanâ€ (Act No, 236, Jan 1958: â€œSupermanâ€™s New Uniform!â€) and â€œSupermanâ€™s one fatal flawâ€ (S No, 136/2, Apr 1960: â€œThe Secret of Kryptonite!â€).
In the words of Superman No. 84/2 -- "Kryptonite, the radioactive particles of the former planet Krypton on which Superman was born, and which later exploded, is the one substance in the universe that can affect the mighty Man of Steel! Since kryptonite fragments still float in space after the explosion of the planet, some particles often find their way to Earth embedded in meteors" [Sep/Oct 1953: â€œA Doghouse for Superman!â€].
â€œBullets! ... Fire! ... Bombs!... Acid! Iâ€™m immune to them all!â€ muses Superman ruefully in July 1959. â€œBut kryptonite is my Achilles heel ... the only substance in the universe that can harm me! It was originally formed years ago...when the planet Krypton, the world on which I was born, blew up! A nuclear chain-reaction converted every chunk of the exploding world into glowing green kryptonite!â€ (S No. 130/1: â€œThe Curse of Kryptonite!â€).
Recent texts assert that the entire planet Krypton and every single thing on it was transformed into kryptonite by the force of the cataclysm (Act No.314, Jul 1964: â€œThe Day Superman Became the Flash!â€; and many others). Numerous earlier texts, however, maintain that whereas the planet itself was transformed into kryptonite, its buildings and other artifacts of civilization were not (S No. 74/1, Jan/Feb 1952: â€œThe Lost Secrets of Krypton!â€; and many others).
Green kryptonite is a radioactive (S No. 89/3, May 1954: â€œOne Hour to Doom!â€) metal (WF No.56, Jan/Feb 1952: â€œThe Superman Pageant!â€) which is characterized by a distinctive â€œgreenish glowâ€ (Act No. 235, Dec 1957: â€œThe Super-Prisoner of Amazon Islandâ€; and others) and â€œhas certain properties similar to radiumâ€ (Act No. 167, Apr 1952: â€œThe Machines of Crime!â€). Colored red in its initial textual appearance (S No. 61/3, Nov/Dec 1949: â€œSuperman Returns to Krypton!â€), green kryptonite has been colored green in every text since then. Although Action Comics No. 158 states flatly that â€œNo substance will screen kryptoniteâ€™s raysâ€¦ not even Supermaniumâ€ (Jul 1951: â€œThe Kid from Krypton!â€), innumerable texts have maintained since then that green kryptonite radiations are unable to penetrate lead (S No. 92/3, Sep 1954: â€œSupermanâ€™s Last Hour!â€; and many others). It is interesting that though Superman may not be able to resist the effects of green kryptonite, or make himself generally immune to it as a substance, one account tells of Superboy gathering very specific pieces of green kryptonite so that he gains immunity to at least those particular chunk's deadliest effects -- in this case so he might use them to later battle Kryptonian criminals exiled in space before the Phantom Zone was used (SB No. 58, Jul 1957: "The Great Kryptonite Mystery").
In March-April 1954, Superman neutralizes the radioactivity of a green-kryptonite meteor merely by plunging it into the ocean (WF No. 69: â€œJor-Elâ€™s Last Will!â€), but the notion that the baleful effects of kryptonite can be neutralized by seawater is contradicted by numerous other texts: â€œAh! My X-ray vision shows a kryptonite meteor that fell to the sea bottom!â€ muses Superman in December 1958. â€œBut to pick it up, Iâ€™ll need the protection of lead, which alone can stop the deadly radiations!â€ (Act No. 247: â€œSupermanâ€™s Lost Parents!â€; and many others).
According to Action Comics No. 158, powerful acids and even man-made lightning cannot destroy green kryptonite (Jul 1951: â€œThe Kid from Krypton!â€), but Superman has successfully melted the substance with his X-ray vision (Act No. 252, May 1959: â€œThe Menace of Metallo!â€; and others) and green kryptonite meteors dissolve completely when subjected to the searing heat at the core of the sun (WF No. 61, Nov/Dec 1952: â€œSupermanâ€™s Blackout; see also Act No. 161, Oct 1951: â€œExitâ€”Superman!â€). The reason green-kryptonite meteors do not burn up from air friction when they enter Earthâ€™s atmosphere is that â€œkryptonite canâ€™t combine chemically with oxygen, which causes combustion!â€ (S No, 130/1, Jul 1959: â€œThe Curse of Kryptonite!â€; see also Act No. 267, Aug 1960: â€œHercules in the 20th Century!â€).
Assuming that the necessary advanced technology were available to utilize it, green kryptonite could become an invaluable source of atomic power. It retains its radioactivity â€œfor centuriesâ€ (Act No. 161, Oct 1951: â€œExitâ€”Superman!â€) and is described as a more potent power source than uranium (Act No. 252, May 1959: â€œThe Menace of Metallo!â€). Its principal drawback appears to be that it â€œcrumbles and destroys any generatorâ€ in which it is utilized (Act No. 224, Jan 1957: â€œThe Secret of Superman Island!â€), but this has not prevented at least one group of extraterrestrial aliens from developing a powerful â€œrocket fuel composed of liquid green kryptoniteâ€ (Act No. 296: â€œThe Invasion of the Super-Ants!â€). Green kryptonite also has properties that nourish the development of certain forms of plant life (Act No. 169, Jun 1952: â€œCaveman Clark Kent!â€). It also proves to be a key ingredient in the formula devised by Brainiac 5 for a serum that helps Mon-El survive exposure to lead (Adv No. 316, Jan 1964: "Origins and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes!").
Professor Bolder attempts to harness a "super chain-reaction" in kryptonite in order to to generate electrical power. He fails and the uncontrolled feedback changes much of the green kryptonite on Earth to iron (S No. 233/1, Jan 1971: "Superman Breaks Loose"). However, synthesized kryptonite and the many fragments of the material still in space remain.
Although numerous texts describe green kryptonite as an exceedingly rare substance (Act No. 181, Jun 1953: â€œThe New Supermanâ€; and many others), noting that â€œKryptonite meteors that [fall] on Earth are rareâ€ (Act No. 238, Mar 1958: â€œThe Super-Gorilla from Kryptonâ€), other texts, admittedly fewer in number, maintain that â€œKryptonite meteors often fall from spaceâ€ (S No. 134, Jan 1960: chs. I-IIIâ€”â€The Super-Menace of Metropolis!â€; â€œThe Revenge Against Jor-El!â€; â€œThe Duel of the Supermen!â€) and that â€œparticles [of kryptonite] often find their way to Earth embedded in meteors!â€ (S No. 84/2, Sep/Oct 1953: â€œA Doghouse for Superman!â€). On balance, however, the evidence of the texts is that green kryptonite is â€œvery rareâ€ and not easily acquired (S No. 128/1, Apr 1959: chs. 1-2â€”â€Superman versus the Futuremenâ€; â€œThe Secret of the Futuremenâ€; and others).
It is presumably the scarcity of green kryptonite, combined with its crushingly debilitating effect on Superman, that has motivated a number of villains to find ways to synthesize it. Lex Luthor creates the 1st synthetic kryptonite in February 1950 by ingeniously fusing together â€œa mammoth pearl from one of the giant oysters miles down under the seaâ€; â€œa couple of handfuls of dust from the dark side of the moonâ€; â€œpollen from the man-eating homocessandi plant deep in the Asiatic junglesâ€; and â€œa bit of the rare chemical binarium, preserved in the soil by a thousand years of glacial frostâ€ (Act No. 141: â€œLuthorâ€™s Secret Weaponâ€).
Dr. Vallin devises a formula for synthesizing green kryptonite in January-February 1952 that calls for stockpiling gold, silver, lead, and bismuth and then â€œfusing the... ore with acid and crackling electricityâ€ (WF No. 56: â€œThe Superman Pageant!â€).
A third method of synthesizing kryptonite, successfully employed by Lex Luthor in August 1953, is based on Luthorâ€™s observation that:
Each piece of metal that strikes Supermanâ€™s invulnerable body undergoes a slight chemical change! To a minute degree, it acquires the properties of kryptonite, but its presence is so faint that it can only be detected by means of a spectroscope!
Kryptonite is the one material that can harm Superman! By refining tons of this metal, Iâ€™ll be able to extract kryptonite---just as radium is obtained by refining tons of uranium ore! [Act No. 183: â€œThe Perfect Plot to Kill Superman!â€].
In addition, a Green Lantern's power ring can create green kryptonite, but maintaining its existance and its radioactivity requires concentration by the ring's wielder (DCCP No. 26, Oct 1980: "Between Friend and Foe!").
Whether the kryptonite is natural or synthetic, however, its effects on Superman are devastating, although they do vary according to the amount of kryptonite involved and Supermanâ€™s distance from it. Large meteors produce the worst effects, but close proximity to even a small quantity of green kryptonite, such as a piece the size of a large decorative gem, is sufficient to make Superman feel â€œlike a feeble old man,â€ incapable of even touching the kryptonite without losing consciousness (S No. 61/3, Nov/Dec 1949: â€œSuperman Returns to Krypton!â€).
â€œAs soon as I approach kryptonite,â€ observes Superman in April 1952, â€œI become weak!â€ (Act No. 167: â€œThe Machines of Crime!â€). Other texts refer to such symptoms as â€œdizzy spells,â€ exhaustion, and grogginess (Act No. 169, Jun 1952: â€œCaveman Clark Kent!â€; and many others); nausea (S No. 81/2, Mar/Apr 1953: â€œ20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Supermanâ€); loss of consciousness (S No. 66/2, Sep/Oct 1950: â€œThe Last Days of Superman!â€; and many others); and temporary impairmentâ€”or even complete lossâ€”of memory (S No. 71/1, Jul/Aug 1951: â€œClark Kentâ€™s Super-Masquerade!â€; and others). Typically, Supermanâ€™s pupils become dilated, his pulse rate falls below normal, and his respiratory rate is reduced by half (S No. 66/2, Sep/Oct 1950: â€œThe Last Days of Superman!â€).
If lured to within close proximity of a fairly large chunk of green kryptonite, such as a meteoric fragment about the size of a basketball, Superman suffers a nearly total loss of his super-strength accompanied by an agonizing semi-paralysis, referred to in the texts as a â€œkryptonite paralysisâ€ (Act No. 218, Jul 1956: â€œThe Super-Ape from Kryptonâ€; and others) and the drastic diminution of all his super-powers.
For the effects of the kryptonite to prove fatal may take hours (S No. 92/3, Sep 1954: â€œSupermanâ€™s Last Hour!â€; and others) or even days, but gradually, under â€œconstant exposureâ€ to the kryptonite radiations, Supermanâ€™s â€œmighty body becomes emaciated and his keen mind grows dim.. .â€œ (S No. 77/2, Jul/Aug 1952: â€œThe Greatest Pitcher in the World!â€; and others).
As the last vestiges of his mighty powers begin slowly waning, Superman â€œbegins to feel pain from the steady exposure to the kryptonite,â€ and he lapses into a potentially fatal â€œkryptonite fever,â€ similar in many respects to that which afflicts ordinary people who have been â€œover-exposed to radium rays!â€ Even if drugs were available to treat the illness, they could not be injected, for â€œthe hypodermic needles [would] only bendâ€ against Supermanâ€™s invulnerable skin.
â€œThe kryptonite radiations will soon penetrate my otherwise invulnerable skin and change the red corpuscles of my bloodstream to green!â€ thinks Superman desperately in July 1959 as he suffers the agonizing effects of exposure to a green-kryptonite meteor. â€œIâ€™ll become a victim of blood-poisoning!â€ (S No. 130/1: â€œThe Curse of Kryptonite!â€).
Indeed, if Superman were not rescued from the baleful radiations in time, his body would begin to exude a greenish glow, like that of the deadly kryptonite itself, and he would lapse into a coma and die. Superman has never succumbed to this terrible fate, but other Kryptonian survivors have, including King Krypton (Act No. 238, Mar 1958: â€œThe Super-Gorilla from Kryptonâ€) and virtually all the inhabitants of Argo City (Supergirl story in Act No. 252, May 1959: â€œThe Supergirl from Krypton!â€).
Superman has, however, amazing recuperative powers. Although, on a number of occasions, he has remained physically weak for a short time after having suffered the effects of kryptonite exposure (S No. 66/2, Sep/Oct 1950: â€œThe Last Days of Superman!â€; and others), in the vast majority of cases he recovers his full powers within moments after the debilitating kryptonite has been removed from his presence (Act No. 141, Feb 1950: â€œLuthorâ€™s Secret Weaponâ€; and many others).
The texts are divided, however, on the question of whether green-kryptonite radiations are capable of weakening Superman to the point of robbing of him of his invulnerabilityâ€”thereby rendering him vulnerable to guns, bombs, and other ordinary weapons (WF No. 87, Mar/Apr 1957: â€œThe Reversed Heroes!â€; and others), or whether, as most texts dealing with this question contend, Superman retains his invulnerability despite prolonged exposure to kryptonite and can only be killed by the kryptonite itself (Act No. 299, Apr 1963: â€œThe Story of Supermanâ€™s Experimental Robots!â€; and many others).
In situations in which Superman has no superpowers, such as that which exists in October 1964, after the Man of Steel has been stripped of his powers by the baleful radiations of a mysterious green comet, he becomes immune to green-kryptonite radiations until such time as his super-powers have been restored to him (S No. 172: pts. I-IIIâ€”â€The New Superman!â€; â€œClark Kentâ€”Former Superman!â€; â€œThe Struggle of the Two Supermen!â€; and others).
Once having been lured into a kryptonite deathtrap, Superman has coped with the deadly substance in a variety of ways, such as by using his waning Xray vision to melt an object containing lead around the kryptonite, thereby shielding himself from its radiations (S No. 145/1, May 1961: â€œThe Secret Identity of Superman!â€), or by burning a hole in the floor with his weakened X-ray vision in order to make the kryptonite fall safely out of life-threatening range (S No. 77/2, Jul/Aug 1952: â€œThe Greatest Pitcher in the World!â€). On one occasion, Superman successfully wards off the agonizing pain induced by greenkryptonite exposureâ€”albeit only for a few crucial moments, by literally hypnotizing himself into not feeling the pain (Act No. 278, Jul â€˜61: â€œThe Super Powers of Perry White!â€).
Superman has had some success with melting small chunks of kryptonite with his X-ray vision (Act No. 252, May 1959: â€œThe Menace of Metallo!â€), but this technique is inadequate for dealing with larger masses of the substance, such as, for example, an entire kryptonite meteor or meteorite (Act No.254, Jul 1959: â€œThe Battle with Bizarro!â€; S No. 130/1, Jul 1959: â€œThe Curse of Kryptonite!â€).
Because green kryptonite is the bane of his existence, Superman has conducted numerous experiments in search of an antidote, but all his efforts have ended in failure (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: â€œThe Kid from Krypton!â€; and others). He has also experimented with building up an immunity to the substance through controlled exposure to it, but these attempts, too, have been unsuccessful (S No. 84/2, Sep/Oct 1953: â€œA Doghouse for Superman!â€). Superman has, however, successfully devised a suit of special lead armor to enable him to experiment with the substance (Act No. 241, Jun 1958: â€œThe Super-Key to Fort Supermanâ€; Act No. 249, Feb 1959: â€œThe Kryptonite Man!â€) as well as a special â€œkryptonite detectorâ€ (Act No. 243, Aug 1958: â€œThe Lady and the Lionâ€), also referred to as a â€œK-detectorâ€, which â€œdetects kryptonite as a Geiger counter does uraniumâ€ (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: â€œThe Kid from Krypton!â€).
For handling green kryptonite without his special lead armor, Superman has employed remote- controlled robots (Act No. 158, Jul 1951: â€œThe Kid from Krypton!â€), gigantic shovels (S No.71, Jul/Aug 1951: â€œClark Kentâ€™s Super-Masquerade!â€) and tongs (S No. 113, May 1957: chs. 1-3â€”â€The Superman of the Pastâ€; â€œThe Secret of the Towersâ€; â€œThe Superman of the Presentâ€; and others), and other special tools (S No. 115/2, Aug 1957: â€œJimmy Olsenâ€™s Lost Palâ€; and others) designed to enable him to handle, or dispose of, the kryptonite without venturing too close to it. According to Superman No. 130/1, Superman remains safe from harm as long as he remains â€œat least 100 feet from the radiations ...â€œ (Jul 1959: â€œThe Curse of Kryptonite!â€).