From transforming into animals to getting him high and toying with his sexuality, Kryptonite sure has had its way with Superman over the years. But that just makes this unpredictable MacGuffin of a space rock all the more lovable. You never know what you’re gonna get when a writer pulls a Kryptonite laced tale out of their butt in a desperate attempt to keep your attention. Rest assured, it will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before or will likely see again, and it’ll only leave us feeling slightly dirty afterward.
That’s why Kryptonite might be the greatest thing ever created. Certainly in comics. No matter what shape, size, or color it comes in — though we’ll be venturing well beyond the typical varieties — it tends to bring some truly bizarre storylines along with it. After all, everybody knows about your everyday Green K and how in large enough quantities it could kill Superman. Boring. Who wants to see the Man of Steel dying in a swimming pool with a meteorite chained around his neck when you can watch him get drunk and fight himself? Nope, silver, pink and the like is where it’s at. Sure, most of what follows is from the ’60s and involves a lot of Red K on Supes action, but that just means double the fun. Because when was that ever a bad thing.
Here are the 15 Most WTF Things Kryptonite Has Made Superman Do.
15. Grow a Third Eye
When you’re dealing with the many colors of Kryptonite, there are any number of ridiculous combinations to be had. But let’s start with the most useless. Specifically Action Comics #275, and the time Brainiac combined the radiations of Red and Green Kryptonite in hopes that it would affect Superman in some terrible way, but instead forced Superman to inexplicably grow a third eye in the back of his head and wear some hats.
Sadly, said eyeball only appears at the end of the issue when the freaky peeper is already starting to disappear of its own accord. Of course, that doesn’t mean Superman can’t still act like a complete lunatic prior to that. When the mutation first occurs, Big Blue immediately responds by ripping Lois Lane’s feathered cap off her head and flying off wearing it upon his own head, much to everyone’s dismay. Turns out in 1961, that was about the craziest thing a man could do. Which was precisely the Man of Steel’s plan all along, because the best way he could think to keep Metropolis from finding out about his new orb was by wearing as many different hats as possible and then crazily behaving as the owner of each cap would. A swarmi’s turban. A bearskin hat. A royal crown. A Napoleon hat made out of newspaper. They’re all here. Leave it to Silver Age comic artists to give Superman a third eye and then make the entire issue about hats.
14. Impersonate a Rubber Band
Now about that Red Kryptonite. For those who don’t know, this ruby-tinged rock was formed when a meteor shower of Green Kryptonite passed through a strange, red-hued cosmic cloud. The resulting debris provoked bizarre and unusual effects in the Man of Steel that would last up to 72 hours. Like dropping acid or watching Dancing with the Stars, no two experiences are ever the same but every time is guaranteed to be strange.
Which brings us to Action Comics #199, when Superman is attacked by his own fleet of experimental creepy robots that just so happen to look exactly like him. To make matters worse, for some odd reason, Supes decided to install Kryptonite vision in one of them. Well, it’s not long before they start fooling around with Red K and turn the Man of Steel into a human Stretch Armstrong, whom they abuse to their delight. Imagine Deliverance meets Toy Story. Eventually, Big Blue breaks free and travels 20,000 years into the past to set things right. Though none of that can erase the disturbing site of seeing Superman turned into a rubber plaything and violated in a game of ring toss.
13. Steal a Motorcycle
If there’s one thing you don’t do in the corn fields of Kansas, it’s take another man’s hog. Least of all your father’s. But when Clark Kent decides to splurge on a class ring set with red kryptonite, all bets are off in small town America.
The craziest thing about Red K’s introduction into season 2 of Smallville is that it really isn’t all that crazy. If the Silver Age has taught us anything it’s that Red Kryptonite will eff you up big time. So when this meteor rock made its way onto Clark Kent’s nerdy fingers, you can’t blame us for expecting him to grow a second head or turn into a fire-breathing werewolf. Instead, we got a rebellious teenager slightly less milquetoast than he is on a regular non-Red K day. Under the ring’s influence, Clark musters the courage to ask Lana Lang out on a date, wears sunglasses, dons a leather jacket and threatens to run away from home. Of course, none of that tomfoolery comes close to topping his stealing of Jonathan Kent’s motorcycle, and then riding to school with some random chick he picked up along the way. Because Red K Clark will take dad’s bike right from under the old man’s nose, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to be late for class.
12. Get Drunk, Act Evil, Flick Some Peanuts
The third Superman film is notable for upping the Kryptonite game by artificially combining the alchemical components of Green K with tar. (And created by Richard Pryor, no less.) The result is exactly what you’d expect — a kind of Red and Black Kryptonite hybrid that turns Superman into an evil, coked out drunkard, who miraculously splits in two and picks a fight with himself.
Superman III may have its faults, but seeing Supes get plastered and shatter bottles with peanuts is not one of them. But don’t forget sloshed Supes’ other such douchey acts, such as blowing out the Olympic torch, setting the leaning tower of Pisa upright, causing a catastrophic oil spill, and nailing a Playboy model. (Now that’s how you rebel, Tom Welling.) All this silliness culminates in a surreal fight staged at an abandoned junkyard between Bizarro Superman and Clark Kent. Are they really throwing down, or is it all just taking place in Superman’s head? Who cares. Watching mad-eyed Superman send his alter ego into a trash compactor only for the latter to rise up and choke the evil doppleganger to death is well worth the price of admission.
11. Turn Into a Mood Ring
“Superman’s Rainbow Face” is the incredible tale of the Man of Steel’s chiseled mug changing color in tune with his emotions thanks to another random run-in with Red Kryptonite. When a newspaper headline informs him that Lex Luthor has escaped prison, Superman’s face literally turns purple with rage. When he appears on a kids television show and a bunch of underage girls start kissing him, he goes red with embarrassment. When he thinks about something he hates, his face turns black. Which frankly, just sounds racist.
The rest of Action Comics #317 involves Clark Kent trying to hide his true colors and coming up with absurd ways of keeping Lois from finding out he and Superman suffer from the same pigment affliction. Like when he goes green with jealously over seeing a married couple and uses his super speed and strength to relocate an inn so the structure’s green tinged lantern can make both he and Lois appear in the same light. Or when he turns blue from sadness on account of a funeral and covers it up by jumping in the ocean and forcing a blow-up doll down a fish’s throat. In the end, he is able to hold off Lane long enough for his facial hues to return to normal. Meanwhile, some poor innkeeper is left desperately trying to figure out what the hell just happened to his livelihood.
10. Trip Out
Silver Kryptonite is one of the rarer varieties out there, and it’s known to elicit paranoia, hallucinations, and extreme hunger cravings. Which basically makes it weed in meteorite form. Silver K made it’s first appearance as a joke in Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #70 (yep, that’s a real comic) to celebrate the character’s 25th anniversary. It would later appear on an episode of Smallville as a synthetic form of Kryptonite created by Brainiac. With a mere prick of his finger, Clark whigs out, becomes convinced his friends are out to destroy him and that Lana is hooking up with Lex Luthor. Leave it to Smallville to turn something potentially awesome into teen drama fodder.
Thankfully, Silver Kryptonite made a welcomed offbeat return in Superman/Batman #46. Also known as “magical Kryptonite,” the meteorite not only displays mystical properties, but upon exposure turns Superman into a pothead. He is overwhelmed with hunger, downing cereal and brownies like it’s nobody’s business. He experiences a loss of inhibition and starts hallucinating that the rest of the Justice League are childlike chibi characters. An uncontrollable urge for more consumes him to the point of paralysis. All and all, getting high on Kryptonite sounds delightful.
9. Split in Two
You know what’s better than one color of Kryptonite? All of them. That’s exactly what we got in Superman #162, when Superman combines the radiational powers of Red, Green, Blue, and Gold Kryptonite to fuel his ingenious Brain-Evolution Machine. Harnessed correctly, it would boost not only his intelligence but make multi-tasking a breeze. Tragically, while using it, an accident (probably Supergirl’s fault) causes him to split into two separate entities: a Superman-Blue and a Superman-Red, both one hundred times smarter than the original. Together, they combine their super savvy to solve all the world’s problems, rebuild Krypton, save some mermaids, kill some ants, and satisfy two women at once by divvying up Lana and Lois. Looks like Kryptonite was the answer to everything all along. Who would have thunk?
We’ve already mentioned the fantastical occasion in Superman III when Supes and Clark split into two people. Well, it looks like that was all based in comic reality. Granted, this was an “imaginary tale” well outside canon, but it did also inspire the ’90s reboot when Superman was turned into a bolt of blue lightning for a year — a moment we wish was imaginary but unfortunately was all-too real.
8. Act Like King Kong
It was bound to happen. One of these days, you just knew Superman was going to grow into a giant and start impersonating King Kong. It just makes sense. Especially when the reason why is because Jimmy Olsen got Red Kryptonite as the prize in his Cracker Jacks box. Honestly, it would be more weird if all that didn’t happen at some point.
Superman #226′s aptly titled “When Superman Was King Kong!” begins when Jimmy, Lois and Clark go on a three-way-date to the movies. Clark buys everyone some snacks and Olsen pulls out a red gem that starts to make Superman tingle inside. (Side Story: In her Cracker Jacks box, Lois gets a tin ring, which she decides to save in case Superman ever changes his mind about marrying her.) Everyone knows combining Red K and watching the movie King Kong is never a good idea, so it should come as no surprise when Supes quickly shoots up in size, loses the ability to speak, and instantly starts acting like an apish idiot by climbing the Empire State Building and trying to eat Lois. Like all bouts with Red K, the affects eventually wear off, though not before the national guard drops a nuclear bomb on his head filled with Green Kryptonite dust and they shackle him to a giant cross. As for the mysterious red gem, no explanation is ever given as to why Cracker Jack suddenly started mass producing ways to screw with Superman.
7. Act Like an Ant
Turning him into a giant, blubbering ape isn’t the only time Kryptonite got Superman up close and personal with the animal kingdom. There’s also the occasion when a colony of giant alien mutant ants invade Earth to kidnap Lois as their queen and Superman retaliates by using Red Kryptonite to give himself an ant’s head. You know, just another day in Metropolis.
The amazing thing we learn about Red K from Action Comics #296 is that if Superman concentrates hard enough while in its presence, he can conscientiously turn into anything he wants. And apparently, what Superman wants is a really stupid ant’s head and to repeatedly say “buzz buzz.” Maybe he doesn’t understand the difference between ants and bees. Anyways, with his newly formed antennae, the Bug of Steel starts communicating with his ant brethren by erotically touching their antennas with his own. Through this we learn the oversized insects aren’t attacking Earth, but trying to warn it about the adverse affects of Atomic warfare, the type of catastrophe that befell their home world and caused their mutated growth. Thankfully, a guy who intentionally modifies the genetic makeup of his face at the drop of a hat is just the spokesperson the world needs to forewarn about the dangers of messing with nature.
6. Turn Into a Baby
You’re not really a superhero until you’ve been turned into a baby at least once. Just ask Batman. Luckily, in Action Comics #284, Superman finally gets his chance thanks to some Red K. After foiling a phony psychic, a very real ghost hand suddenly starts scrawling mysterious messages on the wall. Supes quickly comes to the obvious conclusion that the only way to respond is by turning himself into a baby.
Luckily, the Man of Tomorrow keeps a stash of Red Kryptonite at the Fortress of Solitude that has the ability to transform him into a toddler while retaining his adult mind and powers. After exposing himself to it, Superman immediately ignores the whole reason why he did so in the first place and instead spends most of the issue showing off his pint-sized abilities to anyone willing to watch. This includes winning all the prizes at a kids carnival for charity and trashing a police department when no one believes he’s actually Superman. It’s all pretty ludicrous.
We finally find out why he so desperately needed to baby-up after a portal to the Phantom Zone appears that’s only large enough for an infant to fit through. It turns out his friend Mon-El sent the message from the other side to enlist Superman’s help in stopping some criminals from escaping. Not soon after, when the day is saved and it becomes abundantly clear Superman never had to actually to turn himself into a baby, things return to normal. But don’t worry, this wouldn’t be the last of the Babe of Steel. We’d meet him again a few years later, and this time, we’d get to watch Lois spank him. Which seems fitting, because Baby Superman is a real dick.
5. Grow a Beard
You know that weird old dude hanging outside your local grocery store with a really long scraggily beard and equally as long and gross fingernails? Turns out, that’s Superman. Or at least it was during Superman #139, when the Man of Steel had a run-in with some Red Kryptonite and came out looking like Father Time on crack.
After rescuing some folks from a meteor crash riddled with Red K, Supes is left with no choice but to wait and see what crazy hijinks will befall him this time. You see, Red Kryptonite is basically the equivalent of playing roulette, or eating a box of chocolates. Which is why it is both surprising and not surprising to instantly see Superman grow a mullet, beard, and super long, pointed fingernails that would put the most outlandish of circus freaks to shame. Unable to groom himself with his own x-ray vision and growing increasingly concerned that permanently looking like Howard Hughes will blow his secret identity, Superman blows a whistle that instantly summons both Krypto and Supergirl. (Because apparently in the 1960s, you attract a woman the same way you beckon a dog.) With his personal super hairdressing team assembled, they set about blasting the Last Son of Krypton with their eye rays until his excessively gross bodily growths disintegrate. In doing so, they provided an answer to the age-old question of how Superman shaves. Answer: by blowing a whistle.
What’s most amazing is that this isn’t even the weirdest thing to happen in this issue. That honor goes to Big Blue dressing up like a merman to try and get out of marrying Lois. Guess she can throw away that Cracker Jack ring now.
4. Breath Fire
If for some reason you didn’t think Red Kryptonite was getting enough attention on this list, then Action Comics #283 is for you. The “All Red Kryptonite Special Issue” is page after page of Red K in all its wacky glory. Two shapeshifting aliens travel to Earth to kill Superman. They start by building a pile of Red Kryptonite in the shape of a man and dressing it like the Man of Steel, in order to lure him into touching it and hopefully contract some lethal disease. Really, it’s the perfect plan. When he finally arrives on the scene, Supes instantly runs through a gamut of transformations, much to his chagrin. But as we’ve proven here, Red K has done some pretty wonderful, if not downright useful things. So maybe he should quite griping and start giving this space rock the respect it deserves.
Because who wouldn’t want the power to become a human flamethrower? Though, to be fair, Superman doesn’t so much breath fire as he does involuntarily vomit it up all over whatever happens to be in his general vicinity. It’s an act he compares to the flame-dragons of Krypton, which is ironic, because he’s the guy who killed the last one in existence. Though that’s neither here nor there. While fire heaving is pretty awesome, with a whole statue of rocks to go through, you know this issue wasn’t going to settle for just a few panels of pyro puking. Which brings up to his next Red K-induced trick…
3. Wish Sherlock Holmes into Existence
While trying to figure out what to do with the massive effigy of Red Kryptonite left by the villainous shapeshifters mentioned above, Superman wishes he could bide his time with some well-placed fog to keep Lois and Jimmy from pestering him. When a thick mist suddenly appears, it seems too good to be true, leaving Superman wishing for the greatest detective the world has ever known to help solve the mystery. That’s right, we’re talking about mother effin Sherlock Holmes. (Sorry Batman.)
With Sherlock on the case, it’s only a matter of a few panels before he’s stating the obvious and schooling the Man of Steel in what’s going on. The latest dose of Red K has obviously given Superman the power to grant wishes. But because he has a complete lack of imagination, Supes promptly uses this information to wish for the advice of his parents on what to do next, all of whom — Jor-El, Lara, Ma and Pa Kent — instantly materialize. And thus, instead of using his new found genie powers to bring about world peace, Superman shoots the breeze with his long gone Kryptonian parents, his adopted Earth guardians, and Sherlock Holmes. Family reunions don’t get any stranger than this.
2. Turn Gay
No one’s every accused Superman of being politically correct. After all, this is the same guy who once transformed Lois into a black woman so she could infiltrate Metropolis’ “Little Africa.” Though that doesn’t make Pink Kryptonite any less messed up.
It was only ever featured in one panel, and even then, just by name. Despite that, Pink K’s appearance in Supergirl #79 was more than enough to earn it a spot as the most notorious form of Kryptonite ever put to page. You see, whereas Green Kryptonite weakens Kryptonians, Pink Kryptonite turns them gay. As in lame stereotype gay. To the point where Superman instantly becomes an expert on male neckwear and finds himself drawn to a terrified Jimmy Olsen’s “window treatment.”
The entire issue is a satire of the Silver Age, with a dizzying plot line that includes current Supergirl Linda Danvers traveling back to the Pre-Crisis era to save the multiverse, marrying Superman, having a child with him, and then abandoning said child because she failed to save the multiverse. In between all that, she also finds the time to have a good laugh at homosexuality, just in case you doubted for a second how awful she was.
1. Become the Sphinx
Ever wonder who the Sphinx was modeled after? It was Superman. Built the pyramids? Superman. How about helped King Arthur pull the sword from the stone? Superman again. Or killed Jesse James? Well, it wasn’t Superman, but he did go back and prevent it from happening. All thanks to our old friend Red K. During the Pre-Crisis era, Superboy was simply Superman in his youth. So technically, these transformation happened to the Boy of Steel, as did many other bizarre kryptonite run-ins, such as when he turned really fat or grew extra fingers. In fact the modern day incarnation of Red K was first introduced in a Superboy story. So we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about Superman’s youthful fun with everybody’s favorite transmogrifying space rock. Which brings us to Superboy #103 and a Red K threefer, with an entire issue devoted to rewriting history in Superman’s honor.
Three different pieces of Red Kryptonite break the time barrier and hurtle back in time. Superboy follows in hot pursuit, because he and Krypto were regularly defying the laws of physics back then. In one instance, he travels to Camelot, where he turns into a giant magnet to pull the sword out of the stone and help Arthur become king. In another instance, he transforms into the Wild West outlaw Jesse James. But by far the best (read: most insane) was when he finds one of the rogue meteorites in ancient Egypt and ends up as a freakish human-faced lion. Never one to waste an opportunity, he uses his new lion-boy look to rule over the fearful pharaohs and force them to institute fair labor laws. In gratitude, Egypt’s freed slaves construct a monument in his honor, so that when we look upon the statue of the Sphinx today, we can take comfort in the creepy fact that Superman is always watching.
Honorable Mention: Krypto the Super-Dog Gets a Sex Change
Before we go, it would be wrong not to touch on one of craziest things Kryptonite ever did, even if it didn’t happen directly to Superman. Though messing with a guy’s dog might be worse. That’s right, Krypto the Super-Dog has a run in with some Red Kryptonite in the pages of Superboy #101, and things get weird. Super weird. Even more weird than the time Red K caused the Hound of Steel to turn into a fish, or the time his tail detached and took on a personality of its own. Nope, on this occasion, Krypto ends up inadvertently flying through a cloud of kryptonian space-dust at the exact moment he wishes he were a handsome collie thoroughbred. Miraculously, it comes true, with one side effect. He’s now a female dog. And pregnant.
Seeing this, Superboy has a good laugh at Krypto’s expense. Because women. When the day finally arrives and Krypto gives birth to a brood of puppies, Superboy wastes no time in doubling down on being a jerk by renaming him Kryptonia and inhumanely spraying the dog in the face with perfume. Also, by informing him/her they can’t hang out anymore. To add insult to injury, just when Kryptonia is starting to get attached to her pups, they disintegrate. Which Superboy also laughs at. But alls well that ends well, because when Krypto finally returns to his regular ugly mutt self, Supes says they can be friends again. Moral of the story: what the Kryptonite giveth, the Kryptonite taketh away. Also, don’t be friends with Superman. Unless you’re a man. And at least more-than-a-little-bit sexist.
Know of any other amazing WTF Kryptonite moments? Tell us in the comments.