Tag Archives: kryptonite

Superman 1.81: Nevermore

So, in the Superman movie — and yes, I am still talking about the movie — Lex Luthor has just deduced that Kryptonite will kill Superman, and he’s heading to Addis Ababa for an off-screen meteorite shopping trip. But the movie was out of date — according to the Superman comics of 1978, Kryptonite didn’t exist anymore.

The folks at DC Comics may have been excited about the upcoming Superman film, but there was a quiet war going on between the comics and the movie, battling to see which version of the story would take hold of the popular imagination. As it turned out, the movie won by a wide margin, and to explain why, all I need to do is show you what they tried to do with Kryptonite in the early ’70s.

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Superman 1.80: The Silver Age of Kryptonite

So, yesterday I was telling you about how Superman comics caught on to the magical story-generation powers of Kryptonite, the only substance in the world that can weaken Superman, apart from all the other ones. The idea of Kryptonite originated in the Adventures of Superman radio show in 1943, and in 1945 they used it for a huge, complicated story arc that lasted for more than three months. The comic books didn’t inroduce Kryptonite until 1949, but as soon as they caught on to it, they started using it several times a year, to do all sorts of things.

The substance was supposed to be rare, but pretty soon, it was everywhere. In fact, there are two different stories published in 1952 alone that featured bald, bespectacled scientists creating synthetic Kryptonite in their labs. Apparently, any bald guy with poor vision could whip up a batch of anti-Superman juice any time they wanted it, which was often.

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Superman 1.78: The Reading Room

It’s one of the silliest party tricks in fiction. A contestant appears at the door of 221B Baker Street, and the great detective observes, “Beyond the obvious facts that he has at some time done manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a Freemason, that he has been in China, and that he has done a considerable amount of writing lately, I can deduce nothing else.”

This appears to be a brilliant act of deduction, but Holmes waves it away. The client’s right hand is bigger than his left hand, which is apparently a thing that happens when you do manual labor; he’s wearing a Freemason tiepin, which is apparently a thing that you wear when you’re a Freemason; his shirt cuff is shiny, which is apparently a thing that happens when you do a considerable amount of writing lately; and he’s wearing a T-shirt that says Spring Break China 1891.

These are just sound effects, obviously, because it’s all a setup. Arthur Conan Doyle deliberately festoons these chumps with splashes of mud from a specific area where the clay is a unique shade of ochre, just to impress us with Sherlock’s amazing ability to deduce things from the clues that Doyle put there to be deducted upon. The author already knows where the treasure is; all the character has to do is dig.

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