Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Again, here is the archive of the lists Lorendiac posts here – BC.
Last summer I suddenly started wondering just how often Gold Kryptonite, arguably the “ultimate weapon” to use against a super-powered Kryptonian, has actually been used to depower someone. In theory, the Earth-1 Superman (of the Silver and Bronze Ages) constantly had the threat of it hanging over his head. But in practice, how often did it actually demonstrate its dreaded capability to permanently remove Kryptonian super-powers? I had no idea!
Naturally I requested help from my fellow fans in compiling a list of such occurrences. My key requirement was that I only wanted stories that were apparently “in continuity” when first published, even if the continuity might have gotten rearranged later. This allowed me to include any Silver Age/Bronze Age stories that later got erased in the Post-COIE Superman Reboot.
On the other hand, if Gold K was used on someone in a story that was clearly meant to be separate from the orthodox continuity of its day, such as an “Imaginary Story” or “Elseworlds,” then that story wouldn’t qualify. This eliminates Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” and John Byrne’s first “Superman/Batman: Generations” miniseries, among other things.
I got several helpful responses. Then I largely forgot about the whole thing for a long time, but I had always intended to go back and compile that list, someday. Here it is, in case anyone is interested! (You’ll see that most of the uses of Gold K are from Pre-COIE continuity, but it has depowered characters in at least two Post-COIE stories, too.)
One warning: The events in Gold K stories from before 1979 have been summarized by yours truly from descriptions in online sources. I can’t swear that I have all the details accurate (and of course I leave out most of the available details that don’t directly apply to the use of Gold K within the story). If you see anything which you know I got wrong — or if you are aware of other successful uses of Gold K in stories I failed to mention (provided they are or used to be “in continuity”), then please say so!
Timeline of When Gold Kryptonite Has Been Used (First Draft)
1962. Superman #157. “The Super-Revenge of the Phantom Zone Prisoner.” Written by Edmond Hamilton.
First appearance of Gold Kryptonite “in continuity.” (It previously was shown in an Imaginary Story.) A Kryptonian named Quex-Ul had been sentenced to the Phantom Zone 25 years ago. His 25-year sentence is now up. Superman turns him loose. This is probably a mistake. Quex-Ul now has Superman-level powers and plans to use a chunk of Gold K (which Superman does not realize exists) as a weapon against Superman to depower him. After various complications, Quex-Ul repents of this plan and then accidentally gets too close to the Gold K himself and loses his own powers. He also gets amnesia as a side effect. (Most victims of Gold K, in later stories, won’t have that particular problem.) Superman arranges for him to get an honest job in the Daily Planet’s production department under a new name.
1963. Action Comics #304. “The Maid of Menace.” Written by Leo Dorfman.
Supergirl has her first clash with a new enemy, Black Flame, a Kandorian villainess who hopes to trick Supergirl into exposing herself to Gold K in an attempt to change the future (long story). Supergirl manages to depower Black Flame with the Gold K, instead.
1965. Superman #179. “When Superman Lost His Memory.” Written by Otto Binder.
This is a borderline case. Chunks of Red K and Gold K get fused together in space and then the red-gold hybrid crashes to Earth. Superman gets close enough for this unique red-gold fusion to wipe out his memory for awhile, but it has no effect on his powers. Eventually he makes a complete recovery from the amnesia as well; in other words, he lucked out.
1965. Superman #179. “The Menace of Gold Kryptonite.” Written by Otto Binder.
Jay-Ree and Joenne, two young Kryptonians in the Bottled City of Kandor (already engaged to each other as we meet them), manage to send a chunk of Gold K into the Phantom Zone, apparently on the theory that it will depower any dangerous Kryptonian criminals in there (and it will also be safely far away from Superman; I gather they are young idealists who don’t want anything bad to happen to him). Somewhere along the line, they manage to get exposed to the chunk themselves; thus they lose their own Kryptonian powers.
Note: Obviously, the part about depowering the various criminals in the Phantom Zone in one fell swoop just didn’t work out. (But I admit it was worth a try!)
1967. The Flash #175. “The Race to the End of the Universe.” Written by E. Nelson Bridwell.
J’onn J’onnz, The Martian Manhunter, shapechanges to make himself a Superman duplicate in order to escape a fire trap. I am told that in the old days, there was a long period in which the writers working with the character generally followed the theory that fire was not an awful problem for Martians when they weren’t in their natural Martian shapes — in fact, J’onn could imitate the distinctive powers of other living creatures when he duplicated their shapes! It turns out that the bad guys who set up the fire trap in the first place also have a piece of Gold K which they keep handy for emergencies (such as if Superman found their hideout, I suppose), and so J’onn is exposed to it while in his ersatz Superman form. The upshot of this, as stated in dialogue, is that J’onn will never be able to duplicate the appearance-and-powers package deal of Superman again. (One source tells me that apparently J’onn knew he could still duplicate the superficial appearance of Kal-El if he really wanted to, but he’d have none of the powers (due to the lingering effects of the Gold K), so why bother?)
1968. Action Comics #367. “The Evil of Alpha and Beta.” Written by Cary Bates.
A bomb will soon go off if Supergirl is detected using her powers. The bomb will allegedly kill everyone at Stanhope College (they’re all trapped inside a big force field with the bomb, I’m told — I haven’t read this story). Supergirl deliberately exposes herself to a piece of Gold K as part of a plan to prevent that massacre from happening.
Note: In the following issue, it will turn out that a couple of time-traveling cops from the 37th Century had done something sneaky to prevent Supergirl from actually being affected by the Gold K — although she didn’t realize this at the time she made her “sacrifice” — and so her status quo as a super-powered Kryptonian will continue. But within the context of this issue, she definitely opened up a lead box and let the Gold K get close enough to affect her — as far as she or the reader knew at the time!
1970. Adventure Comics #400. “Return of the Black Flame.” Written by Mike Sekowsky.
This story has an atypical portrayal of Gold K. Black Flame, apparently a trifle peeved over the way she got permanently depowered in her first appearance, manages to trap Supergirl somewhere with Gold K in the vicinity, stated to be gradually leeching away her powers. After Supergirl gets loose, her partially-faded powers soon come back. Frankly, it sounds to me as if the writer was none too clear on the rules of Gold K — or, to put it another way, maybe the Black Flame had taken an ordinary piece of Green K and painted it Gold for the psychological warfare value to make Supergirl feel extra-scared when she started feeling weaker and weaker? (Best I can do to rationalize what was apparently a poorly researched story.)
1979. Action Comics #500. “The Life Story of Superman.” Written by Marty Pasko.
Lex Luthor creates a clone of Superman, carefully adjusting the clone’s memories to make him think of Lex Luthor as a trustworthy but tragically misunderstood humanitarian, and the clone and the original fight. The real Superman finally manages to remove the clone’s super-powers by exposing him to a chunk of Gold K. The story ends on that note. (Two years later, in Action Comics #524, we saw Superman brainwash the clone — and arrange for plastic surgery for him — so the poor guy could end up replacing a missing-in-a-plane-crash journalist named Dan Reed and living out a normal life.)
1982. Legion of Super-Heroes #293. “Within the Darkness.” Part 4 of the Great Darkness Saga. Written by Paul Levitz.
A very powerful minion of Darkseid turns out to be an evil clone of Kal-El. The clone is depowered when Element Lad turns the air around him into Gold K.
1983. DC Comics Presents #55. “The Parasite’s Power Ploys.” Written by Bob Rozakis.
The Parasite has been siphoning off Superman’s powers. Air Wave II (“Hal Jordan,” the juvenile cousin of the Green Lantern of the same name) uses a chunk of Gold K to remove those powers from the Parasite. Been a long time since I last read that story, but I think Air Wave explicitly asked Superman at the end if the “permanent” effect of Gold K exposure would mean the Parasite could never again absorb any of Superman’s powers, and Superman said (roughly paraphrased from memory): “I wouldn’t count on it.” Nonetheless, Gold K has just been “successfully” (if not permanently) used to remove powers from a certain person, so the event belongs on this list.
1983. Supergirl #12. “Guess Who’s About To Die.” Written by Paul Kupperberg.
Facing six doll-sized (but full-powered) clones of herself, Kara Zor-El uses a piece of Gold K to depower all of them. (Several issues later they will magically merge into a single life-sizeclone of the original, but still powerless, and Supergirl will offer to help the clone find a new, normal life for herself.)
1987. Action Comics #591. “Past Imperfect.” Written by John Byrne.
The super-powered dog Krypto (of a Pocket Universe) wants to help his master, Superboy (also of the Pocket Universe), in a slugfest against Superman (of the main Post-COIE timeline). Krypto heads for where a chunk of Gold K is kept for emergencies, knowing it will depower him if he tries to handle it, but hoping to use it against this weirdo “Superman” character regardless. Krypto is promptly depowered. A bit later, Pa Kent (also of the Pocket Universe) exposes Superman to the Gold K as part of a medley of several types of Kryptonite . . . with no effect whatsoever! It appears that the Kryptonite of the Post-COIE DCU and the Kryptonite of the Pocket Universe emanate completely different types of radiation.
1988. Superman #22. “The Price.” Written by John Byrne.
Wrapping up another story arc set in the same “pocket universe” mentioned immediately above, the Post-COIE Superman uses a piece of the Pocket Universe’s Gold K to depower three Phantom Zone criminals who have already murdered the entire human population of the Planet Earth of this Pocket Universe. He then pronounces a death sentence on them and exposes them to Green K until they’re dead.
Note: One of those criminals was the pocket universe’s version of “General Zod.” I am told that in the Post-Infinite Crisis DCU, the official word from Superman’s editors is that any and all previous “Zod” characters have now been Officially Erased from Superman’s Modern Continuity in order to clear the decks for yet another version of Zod! That would logically include the erasure of this controversial story, Gold K and all!
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