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Another "All Red Kryptonite" Issue!
June 24, 2013 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Green, red, blue ... pink ... it's all crap.
posted by mrgrimm (43 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had a copy of 'Superman's Rainbow Face!' and it is always my go-to example of Silver Age Wackiness. There is an actual scene where Clark Kent is driving around with Lois and she's looking away momentarily and his skin turns blue and he thinks 'Oh no she'll know I'm Superman!' or whatever so he gets out of the car and sprints into the ocean where apparently Lois's incredibly poor vision makes it impossible to discern that Clark's face is Smurf-blue.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:51 AM on June 24, 2013


"This is a searing attack on a pillar of Superman mythology. "

Is modesty the author's kryptonite?
posted by jason_steakums at 7:54 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Anyone who hates on Bizarro is dead to me.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:02 AM on June 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


Aside from insulting kryptonite a lot, the author of the article in the "crap" link doesn't really do anything to defend his thesis that it's a bad plot device. If anything, by summarizing kryptonite's evolution over the decades of Superman comics*, he makes it sound more interesting and useful than his exemplar of superhero weaknesses, Achilles' heel**.

*(except for the weird thing in the 9th paragraph claiming Siegel and Shuster were "pulling down big paychecks". Maybe he was thinking of Bizarro Siegel and Shuster.)

**(because seriously, all that dude would need to escalate things is a metal belt above his foot.)
posted by ardgedee at 8:20 AM on June 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


ANT-HEAD SUPERMAN WILL MAKE YOU HIS QUEEN! BZZZZ! BZZZZ!
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also worth noting that he somehow thinks the Snyder Superman movie is not terrible.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:25 AM on June 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think recently I saw Superman's supposed blandness described as his "kryptonite" at one point - not sure if the author new what they'd done there.
posted by Artw at 8:26 AM on June 24, 2013


Bizarro is a goofy, backasswards villain, unworthy of a place in Superman's rogues gallery.

This is a Bizarro-World sentence if I have ever read one.

ME AM IN COMPLETE AGREEMENT!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:26 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can we get Bizarro in a Superman flick pronto?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:27 AM on June 24, 2013


Also worth noting that he somehow thinks the Snyder Superman movie is not terrible.

It's grim and gritty! And realistic! And Superman doesn't smile or have to figure out how to transform Jimmy Olsen back from being a giant turtle or anything.
posted by Artw at 8:27 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone who hates the weird powers of differently colored kryptonite is so out-of-touch with their soul/inner child that their opinions on such matters don't matter squat to me.

Way back before you could look up the actual answer on the Internet (I'm pretty sure our 'canon' was the Superfriends cartoons), half the fun of "playing Superman" was being the villain and finding yet another color of kryptonite with some uniquely weird power that affected Supes. Of course, being nerds we also eventually had to write down each of these colors so they could not be used differently again and we ended up with some non-sexual super-power-depleting version of the hanky code.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:27 AM on June 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


or have to figure out how to transform Jimmy Olsen back from being a giant turtle or anything.

See? TERRIBLE
posted by shakespeherian at 8:28 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I never really watched Smallville but I catched a part of an episode where Clark Kent's high school coach had kryptonite for rocks in his sauna stove. I never really felt the need to watch it ever again.
posted by Authorized User at 8:34 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


One man's reason for never watching Smallville is another's reason to give it another chance.

What I'm saying is the early seasons of Smallville are a gay camp classic in the vein of Mommie Dearest.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:42 AM on June 24, 2013


I twitch a little at the sight of a sub-Comic Book Guy-style analysis of kryptonite under the masthead of the magazine of Emerson, Longfellow, and Stowe, but it's still a vast improvement over Megan McArdle.

My own go-tos for Silver Age wackiness are the giganto-cephalic superbaby of Superman #224 and Superman's Satanic son of Action #410. But I admit that the latter choice may be because I owned #410 as a kid and I thought Satan-boy was kind of rowr.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:45 AM on June 24, 2013


Spoilers for "Man of Steel" below.
But I beg complainants to do this: see Zach Snyder's Superman retake, Man of Steel. It's solid and it's fun. And it's great to see a writer solve the whole character limit thing once and for all -- without kryptonite. Instead, Snyder opts for two better, time-honored solutions. He lays down better backstory, and he introduces better villains.
"Man of Steel" isn't exactly kryptonite-free. In Zod's ship Superman is exposed to a Kryptonian atmosphere which robs him of his powers, and the "World Engine" which is terrakryptonforming Earth weakens his powers while he's near it. It's not called kryptonite, but it's a similar effect in plot terms.

I agree with him that Man of Steel is a solid, fun movie though.

I thought it would be more different from the Christopher Reeve versions, but it stuck pretty closely to them. It's not exactly much grittier than them. Both have Superman's mom complaining that he'll be an outsider on Earth, both have him bullied as a child. The Snyder version scores less for grittiness when he walks away from a bar fight: Richard Donner has him beat up the guy in the diner.

I only found out from Ask recently that there was a US TV version of Superman II in the US where Superman doesn't kill General Zod at the end. Some people who remember that version seem shocked that Superman kills Zod. But if you remember the theatrical version, it's less disturbing that Superman kills Zod in Man of Steel: in that case he's saving the lives of civilians against a powered-up Zod, in the theatrical Superman II Zod is powerless when he's thrown off the precipice.

It's interesting how movies have become grittier in terms of filming style, but softer in terms of content. The Plinkett reviews pointed out the same thing in Indiana Jones: the earlier films had a huge body count, there are few deaths in the most recent. Jones can shoot a guy armed only with a sword in the earlier movies and it's played for laughs, but that's unthinkable today.

Modern films seem grittier in part because the heroes feel grief and angst when they kill someone, but a couple of decades ago they killed a lot more people a lot more casually: we just didn't notice it much.

posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


we ended up with some non-sexual super-power-depleting version of the hanky code.

There was that one time when red kryptonite turned Superman into a baby, and he had to cry to change back, so Lois had to spank him. I am pretty sure that red kryptonite actually had no effect at all, and we are just seeing Superman use it as an excuse for all sorts of crazy role-play shenanigans, but this may say more about me than Superman.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


He avoided knocking up Lois Lane because she has a Kryptonite diaphragm.
posted by Renoroc at 9:02 AM on June 24, 2013



There was that one time when red kryptonite turned Superman into a baby, and he had to cry to change back, so Lois had to spank him. I am pretty sure that red kryptonite actually had no effect at all, and we are just seeing Superman use it as an excuse for all sorts of crazy role-play shenanigans, but this may say more about me than Superman.

S'funny -- you never see Superman and Senator Vitter at the same time.

You don't suppose . . .

Naw, couldn't be.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2013


I'd love to see Man of Steel II be all Red Kryptonite. Like, it could transform Superman into a jerk who doesn't give a whit about the deaths of bystanders, who willingly wipes out an entire race, and who... oh nuts.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Villains of Steel
posted by Artw at 9:09 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


a sub-Comic Book Guy-style analysis

Thank you. I was trying really hard to come up with a description of that article and you've absolutely nailed it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:15 AM on June 24, 2013


we are just seeing Superman use it as an excuse for all sorts of crazy role-play shenanigans

Superman doesn't need red kryptonite for the crazy role-play.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:19 AM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Tom Scioli: It's kind of weird when your generation takes over. I just saw a movie made by a guy who obviously grew up with all the same stuff I did. It's as if the movie was made based on my own notes on what I'd like to see in a Superman movie, but getting exactly what you ask for isn't the same as getting what you want.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on June 24, 2013


He avoided knocking up Lois Lane because she has a Kryptonite diaphragm.

"...but that would kill him."
posted by FatherDagon at 9:40 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This makes me want to re-read Flex Mentallo, and figure out which pink parody came out first.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:40 AM on June 24, 2013


From the Scioli link:

Now a new version of Khan and a Zod-centric Superman movie are the blockbusters of the moment. There hasn't been a Tron movie since 2010, but the musicians who crafted Tron 2's soundtrack are currently dominating an otherwise-moribund music industry.

Because Daft Punk was some unknown and completely obscure duo prior to Tron 2.0? And there aren't a million artists coming out with an amazingly diverse array of songs and music videos? I guess music isn't his biz but damn.
posted by dubusadus at 9:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've posted this elsewhere on the internets, but I'm secretly (oops) hoping that the "Man of Steel" story is a lead-in for a Justice League movie that turns out to be the Justice Lords. Then, in Act III of the JL movie, our heroes break through and save the day from these darker, grittier, uncaring supermurderers.

Anyone want to rush a fan-film into production to beat the JL movie release?
posted by Eideteker at 9:58 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've posted this elsewhere on the internets, but I'm secretly (oops) hoping that the "Man of Steel" story is a lead-in for a Justice League movie that turns out to be the Justice Lords. Then, in Act III of the JL movie, our heroes break through and save the day from these darker, grittier, uncaring supermurderers.

And best of all? The real Justice League are animated who, Rodger Rabbit-style, fight and defeat the live-action grimdark Justice Lords.
posted by straight at 10:02 AM on June 24, 2013


How many times would you buy a ticket to go see a Bruce Timm animated Superman punch Henry Cavill's Superman in the face? Lots of times, right?
posted by straight at 10:04 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, what is up with the red sun/yellow sun crap? I think a much more plausible/reasonable thing would be that Kryptonians didn't have powers on Krypton because of the ambient/trace levels Kryptonite permeating the planet. Or at least 8-year-old me thinks that's a way better justification.
posted by Eideteker at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, all of the times.
posted by Eideteker at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, what is up with the red sun/yellow sun crap?

Since there's nowhere near enough energy in the amount of sunlight Superman gets on his skin to power the stuff he does, it's clearly just a catalyst for some more exotic kind of physics. I don't see any problem with yellow sunlight triggering that process and red sunlight inhibiting it.
posted by straight at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2013


The Most Important Scenes from Man of Steel (As I Remember Them)
posted by MrVisible at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, the pink kryptonite from Supergirl is from 2003, which means that Flex Mentallo pre-dates it. I found an article which, as an aside, covered the different types of mentallium. If you like kryptonite, you may like these.
* Black Mentallium, which induces coma!
* Shocking Pink Mentallium, which invites him to explore complex issues of gender and sexuality!
* Silver Mentallium, which robs him of his sense of humor!
* Ultra-Violet Mentallium, which can turn him into anyone, complete with a whole life and memories!
* Lamb and Turkey Mentallium, which - we don't know what it does!
posted by Pronoiac at 10:49 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love the shapes Quitely gives the Mentallium.
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on June 24, 2013


Flex Mentallo is Quitely's greatest work.
posted by straight at 11:47 AM on June 24, 2013


It's that, We3 or All-Star. Or his X-Men run...

I just really like Quitely really...

That Millar thing he's on currently is boring and a waste of him though.
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to be a completist, there are at least three other forms of Kryptonite that the article did not address:

White Kryptonite, which is deadly only to plants.

Jewel Kryptonite, an artificial form developed by Jax-Ur (in an odd, time-traveling manner). Jewel K allows the Phantom Zone criminals to project mental force from the Zone into the regular universe, in the form of destructive beams (kind of a psychic laser focus).

Kryptonite X, which is interesting because, strictly speaking, no one actually knows about it. A marble-sized chunk of X K is concealed within a ball of yarn which is a favorite plaything of Streaky. The X K-rays grant Streaky superpowers.

(I am now tempted to do a post about the Legion of Super-Pets. Or, better the Space Canine Patrol Agency!)
posted by SPrintF at 12:58 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sure, Superman says he is here to defend the Earth, but can he explain why so many threats to our planet seem to originate from the one he left behind? Not only are we frequently bombarded by various dangerous minerals from the remnants of his homeworld, but now we have actual war criminals arriving here, looking to settle scores with the House of El and bringing super-powered mayhem to our streets. Not to mention that he has never really explained how his planet was destroyed in the first place. Sometimes it is handwaved away as "war" or "environmental disaster", but neither of these things inspire confidence in a self-proclaimed "protector". Personally, I believe that our homeworld should be defended by a human.

I'm Lex Luthor, and I approve this message.


This message has been brought to you by the Alexander and Lana Luthor Foundation for the Advancement of Humanity. The Luthor Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) organization committed to research and advocacy to promote the continued existence of humanity. The Luthor Foundation works in partnership with LexCorp, Luthor-Westinghouse-Raytheon, American Crossroads, and Livestrong.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:31 PM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's grim and gritty! And realistic! And Superman doesn't smile or have to figure out how to transform Jimmy Olsen back from being a giant turtle or anything.

I'm in complete agreement with the sarcasm, but on rewatch it's painfully obvious, that under a different director, the innate good-natured humour* that Henry Cavill brought to the role would've been much more apparent (and appreciated, at least to me). In the interrogation scene with Lois, so much of that was just straining to break through, I wanted to spend more time with that guy!

(*it's not always a given a Superman actor can do this. I adored Dean Cain in my teen years, but his Superman was all smarm.)
posted by cendawanita at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2013


From the Atlantic article (The Atlantic? Really?):
Those common, everyday criminals had no chance. Their opponent was stronger, faster and invulnerable. Superman was unbeatable. It wasn't just a problem for criminals. It was a problem for the writers of Action Comics. Invincible characters are boring.

The author's mistake here is in assuming that Superman is invincible. He is physically, but there are lots of ways to hurt someone without laying a scratch on him. That's why Superman has a secret identity: so he can do good things without endangering those he cares about. By taking out the potential for physical harm, you shift the focus of the story to other things.

Except I guess we're in an action movie, and those can't ever be about anything other than great physical danger. God I hate action movies.

(Sorry, read that io9 article between those last two paragraphs. I got bitter fast.)
posted by JHarris at 3:43 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


What the hell does a writer do with a character that easily wins every battle and dispatches his enemies with ridiculous ease?

Maybe come up with stories that don't involve punchable threats? Which a lot of writers did and continue to do?

The "problem" with Superman, in all of these essays and moviemakers' heads, is that his best points -- his sheer power, his unflagging optimism, his love of humanity in general and Lois Lane in particular, his strict moral code, his bright colors and yes, red tights -- are seen by dumb people as his weakest points. They try to get rid of these things and end up with not-Superman and wonder how it all went so badly.
posted by Legomancer at 5:20 AM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


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