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When We First Met – The Evolution of Green and Red Kryptonite!

Every week we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic book lore. Not major stuff like “the first appearance of Superman,” but rather, “the first time someone said, ‘Avengers Assemble!’” or “the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny” or “the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth” or “the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter.” Stuff like that. Here is an archive of all the When We First Met features so far! Check ‘em out!

Today, based on a suggestion by Omar Karindu, we look at the history of Green and Red Kryptonite and how long it took before they resembled their classic forms!

Enjoy!

Kryptonite was first introduced on the Superman radio show in 1943. It first made its comic book appearance in 1949′s Superman #61. But you might notice something peculiar about its first appearance…

Yep, it is not green (NOTE: The kryptonite is the swami’s gem)!

A few months later, Lex Luthor made synthetic kryptonite in Action Comics #141, and it ALSO wasn’t green!

The following issue, Action Comics #142, we finally see the synthetic kryptonite as green…

If you want to count this as the first appearance of green kryptonite, feel free. If you wish to wait until we see natural kryptonite be green before you’re willing to say that it is the first appearance of green kryptonite, read on!

In mid-1950, in Superman #66, Superman feels the effects of kryptonite, but once again, it is not green (well, we don’t see the color of it period)…

This continues into 1951 with World’s Finest #50 not even showing the color of kryptonite as it affects Superman….

Later in 1951, in Action Comics #158, it is explicitly NOT green….

A little while later, in Superman #71, it is once again not seen period…

Finally, later in 1951 in Action Comics #161, we see the first real green kryptonite…

That was quite a journey!
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Red Kryptonite is an interesting thing. The first appearance of green kryptonite, as shown above, was colored red. So is that the first appearance of red kryptonite? I don’t think anyone would really want to make that argument, since “red kryptonite” has such a specific meaning to it.

So instead, let us look to Adventure Comics #252, where we first meet kryptonite specifically noted as “red”…

However, as you can see, that red kryptonite does not match our understanding of what red kryptonite does…

So it is not until 1958′s Adventure Comics #255 that we first have red kryptonite do what it traditionally does (that is do weird stuff to Superman)…


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While it is fair to say that Adventure Comics #255 is the first appearance of red kryptonite, do note that even there, it is not specific about the effects. It seems like the alien is just saying that it splits beings and that is its only effect. So when did it become the traditional “different effect each time” red kryptonite?

It seems like Otto Binder first considered red kryptonite with this prototype story in 1959′s Adventure Comics #262…

And finally, in 1960′s Adventure Comics #268, red kryptonite was officially defined…

Later in 1960, in Superman #139, red kryptonite made its way to the Superman titles, as well…


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Fascinating topic, Omar Karindu! Everyone, feel free to send in ideas for other debuts that you’re curious about! Send your ideas to bcronin@comicbookresources.com!

20 Comments

There are some mistakes of attribution here. You have, “it is not until 1958?s Adventure Comics #255 that we first have red kryptonite do what it traditionally does.” Then list Adventure Comics #162 prototype story as coming out in 1962. Then you write,” And finally, in 1960?s Adventure Comics #168, red kryptonite was officially defined…” The sequences of dates and issue numbers don’t add up.

There are some mistakes of attribution here. You have, “it is not until 1958?s Adventure Comics #255 that we first have red kryptonite do what it traditionally does.” Then list Adventure Comics #162 prototype story as coming out in 1962. Then you write,” And finally, in 1960?s Adventure Comics #168, red kryptonite was officially defined…” The sequences of dates and issue numbers don’t add up.

Just a couple of 1′s where 2′s were meant to be. It is fixed now. Thanks for the head’s up!

Interesting as usual.

can not believe it took several issues to actully make kryptonite named as green and also red. not to mention the effects red has on super man. and the super family.

This still says Adventure Comics 262 came out in 1962 and Adventure Comics 268 came out in 1960.

Thanks, I changed the date to the correct year.

Great column Brian!
You must have a fantastic collection (assuming you scanned your own books for the panels in this review?)

Thanks, Sam!

My collection is not bad, if I do say so myself, but when it comes to stuff like this columns with the really old issues, I enlist online friends of mine to help me out with scans of their comics. I learned around the time of my first book that there were plenty of folks with huge collections who just love to help out with scans.

Superman #139 Curt Swan art, George Klein inks, Superman with long hair and beard, Supergirl, Krypto, red kryptonite, all around AWESOME Supes issue!

Interesting that the sub/bathysphere in the last is effectively a renamed Trieste, whose feat was recently matched by James Cameron’s minisub/capsule thingy.

I Heart Catman

April 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm

am i missing something with the first example with the swami? i don’t see any reference to kryptonite at all in that one…

Ah, good point. The swami’s gem is kryptonite. I’ll edit the piece to make that clear.

Whew, I had no idea it took so long for natural green Kryptonite to appear!

That was a very well researched piece, Brian.

coconutphone

May 1, 2012 at 9:29 am

Ha! Looks like “Superman III” got it’s ‘split Superman’ plot from that Adventure Comics 255 with a twist.

That was a very well researched piece, Brian.

Agreed. It still boggles my mind that this feature didn’t make the cut the first time around, especially given some of the stuff that did make the cut. This feature is awesome and always fascinating.

“I regret to say this–but I believe Mr. Kent is the victim of a serious–no, a fatal disease!”

“Oh, no! What disease does he have!”

“I ‘unno. I looked at the guy for like thirty seconds. But, yeah, he’s dead. You wanna get some lunch?”

It’s interesting that Superman encounters kryptonite for the first time as an adult, but then shortly later, stories show that Superboy is very familiar with it.

But I guess lots of Superboy stories played havoc with Superman’s continuity.

So in Action Comics 161, Superman uses his X-ray vision to scan the ship, which he discovers is lined with kryptonite and, over that, lead, which he admits is the one substance his X-ray vision cannot penetrate… yet he somehow is able to see the kryptonite. I love how old comic books just do not give a crap about anything at all having to do with logic.

The Martian seems to be implying that red kryptonite is somehow affiliated with Mars, the Red Planet. Interesting to see how they sort of groped their way toward the concept.

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