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CSBG Archive

I Love Ya But You’re Strange – Krypto’s Red Kryptonite Sex Change

Every week, I will spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

Today, based on a suggestion from Fraser, we take a look at the time that Red Kryptonite gave Krypto a sex change!

In “The Handsome Hound of Steel!” in Superboy #101 by Robert Bernstein and George Papp, Krypto’s vanity gets the best of him when some crooks trick him into believing that they own a tranforming machine that will turn Krypto into the dog breed of his choice.

He picks collie…

The ruse is completed…

When Krypto figures out that he is still a standard mutt (through some embarrassing situations), he turns the tables on the crooks…

But he’s still not a collie. But as luck (or goofy plotting) might have it…

Collie Krypto is digging the new look…

How much more do you like Superboy now knowing when he’s flying around he’s thinking about how cool it would be to have dragon wings? I vote 400% more.

However, Krypto wasn’t JUST transformed into a Collie. Oh, no no….he was transformed into a FEMALE Collie!

So Superboy is just a dick to ALL female?

That’s a pretty grim turn of events, when you think of that puppy life just being snuffed out.

Anyhow, that was one kooky tale. Thanks for the suggestion, Fraser! If YOU have a suggestion for a strange comic book story, drop me a line at bcronin@comicbookresources.com

42 Comments

I don’t know what I like better: The Red-K-induced hysterical pregnancy the comes complete with birth, or the idea that “trick a sapient, super-powered dog into helping rob a bank” was a viable criminal scheme in Smallville.

Actually, does the pregnancy mean that “Kryptonia” seduced some male dog? Or was Krytpo daydreaming about being pregnant? Or was the lady dog a few days from giving birth in the picture he was thinking about? Also, shouldn’t Krypto have turned into a black-and-white collie?

Handled imaginary children a lot better than the Scarlet Witch did.

So, now we finally know John Byrne’s inspiration for making the Scarlet Witch’s twins disappear.

I guess my question would be (beyond so many others) if there was actually a Superboy story that featured the dragon wings plot or if it was just something created for this one story.

Just for this story.

“It would be too dangerous for a girl. Besides, your pups need you!”

Hey, Supes — the second one is probably enough on that.

Krypto…what a bitch.

FuryOfFirestorm

August 27, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I can’t wait for the New52 crossover, “House of K”, where Krypto wishes “NO MORE PUPPIES!”.

The DC Universe will never. be. the. same.

You’re welcome! And my thanks to Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics where I stumbled across this while browsing. Seen in full it’s even nuttier than I thought.

I hope Brian posts the follow-up story where Krypto pays hush money to Kryptonite Bulldog and Destructo to keep them from telling the Space Canine Patrol Agents about all of this.

So, now we finally know John Byrne’s inspiration for making the Scarlet Witch’s twins disappear.

Man, if Wanda’s response to her children being revealed as imaginary had just been, “You know, I was getting fond of them! They were kind of cute!” that would have been a pretty hilarious underreaction.

Virgin births . . . does that make Krypto Mary or Jesus? Also: aren’t “Lassies’ male Collies?

“So Superboy is just a dick to ALL female?”

Well, I guess he is consistent because he is that way with Lois as an adult in the silver age.

Curious, is there anytime where Superboy or Superman ever spoke down to his mother or grandmother (did he even have a grandmother featured in the comics?) the way he would sometimes to women?

And thanks Brian. I’d figured it was made up just for this story.

I’ve always heard Lassie was really a laddie. Brian could check that out.

I’m going with “The Red K not only made Krypto female, it also made him pregnant”, because that’s the most gloriously insane option.

The “Brigitte” that Krypto is talking about… did he have a steady, Lois/Lana-esque love interest in the Silver Age? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he did.

There’s messed up, and then there’s Silver Age messed up.

The thing that I do sort of like about these Silver Age stories is that they always seem to be a continuity unto themselves. I mean, outside of a humorous reference or a Grant Morrison story (that guy nods to everything), do these weird Silver Age tales ever get referenced again? If they were awful enough, DC could have just argued “Well, that was an imaginary tale…”

Brian from Canada

August 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Ridiculous as this story is, it’s miles more entertaining than a lot of crap out there. Thanks for posting this one Brian!

whoa, didn’t know dc comics were this lame.

Krypto didn’t get a steady (IIRC) until Superman Family in the late 1970s. He took a secret identity as an ordinary dog to avoid scaring her, but ultimately it didn’t work out.
I believe Lassie was consistently played by male dogs.
Superboy’s sexism really is nuts given Krypto’s still one of the most powerful creatures on Earth.

Commander Benson

August 28, 2013 at 7:50 am

“I guess my question would be (beyond so many others) if there was actually a Superboy story that featured the dragon wings plot or if it was just something created for this one story.”

Mr. Cronin was on the money when he stated that the dragon-winged Superboy was a flashback created for “The Handsome Hound of Steel”.

However, Nicole, that cosmic cloud of red-kryptonite particles was too good a gimmick for Mort Weisinger to toss away after that story.

In “The Invasion of the Super-Ants”, from Action Comics # 296 (Jan., 1963), Superman flies spaceward and enters the cloud so he can deliberately achieve the transformation he desires—acquiring the head of a giant red ant! This enables him to communicate with a colony of giant alien ants which had landed on Earth.

It’s the same cloud, because the “Super-Ants” tale references the fact that it once transformed Krypto into a collie.

Yeah, the Super books LOVED floating clouds of red kryptonite dust.

This may have been the single most batshit insane moment in all of Silver Age DC.

knew the superman comics were crazy way back when but that has got to be the most craziest story ever. who knew red kryptonite could even cause a sex change not only that but also krypto giving birth wonder what the writers of that story were thinking about when they wrote this one.

Hmmmm…I thought the usual rule was that a given sample of Red K could only affect any Kryptonian being once; was this explained in the “Super Ants” story, Commander? There were a few examples of Red K explicitly possessing multiple-use or otherwise unique properties.

You’re right. They goofed in the Action Comics story. They made a point of only mentioning Krypto but neglected to mention that Superboy had gone through it, as well, so it shouldn’t have worked.

Commander Benson

August 28, 2013 at 10:28 am

You’re correct, of course, about standing rule that a given sample of red kryptonite can affect a Kryptonian only once, Mr. Karindu.

Kryptonite lore also insisted that each piece of red k had a unique effect. In other words, if one chunk of red k turned Superboy/man into a three-eyed Kryptonian babooch, then no other piece of the stuff would ever have the same effect on him. This rule, though, was bent or broken a couple of times—and always explained away as a “freak” mutation of red k.

The “Super-Ants” story did not provide an explanation for how the red-k cloud was able to affect Superman, again. My hunch is that, even though “The Handsome Hound of Steel” was referenced as the first appearance of the cloud, both Mort Weisinger and the writer forgot that one-panel flashback in the earlier tale which showed Superboy being affected by it. Thus, there was no in-story explanation as to why the cloud was able to affect Superman, again.

Mort Weisinger is not the most beloved of DC editors, but for all the criticisms about the man, you have to give him credit for an inventive mind when it came to explaining contradictions that slipped into the stories under his auspice.

On a hunch, I dug out my copy of Action Comics # 299 (Apr., 1963), which carried the letters of comment about the Super-Ants story. Sure enough, Jimmy Jones, of Bristol, Tennessee, caught the same mistake you did. Mr. Jones wrote:

Boy, did I catch you this time: In the January issue of ACTION COMICS, you show Superman flying through a cloud of Red Kryptonite dust which gave him the power to make one wish—that he grow an ant’s head.

However, in SUPERBOY # 101, it is established that Superboy once entered this same crimson cloud and that gave him the power to wish that he could grow wings—which it did. However, as you’ve always maintained that Red K can affect a super-being from Krypton but ONCE, how do you explain that this Red K cloud was able to make Superman’s wish to change himself work TWICE? Did you goof, or something?

Mort replied that many other readers besides Jimmy Jones of Bristol, Tennesee, asked the same question—he named four of them—but insisted that there was a very logical—and simple—explanation for this “apparent ‘goof’”. Weisinger stated that he would publish the explanation in the letter column of the next issue of Action Comics, and challenged the fans to see if they could figure it out before then.

The “Metropolis Mailbag” in Action Comics # 300 (May, 1963) saw another fan letter, from Ward Winton, of Los Angeles, California, raising the same point. (Even as the youth I was then, I knew that if Mort let himself get hammered on over a mistake that much in print, then he was ready with a doozy of an answer.)

Here is Weisinger’s response:

Hundreds of readers reported this seeming “boo-boo”, and in our last issue we promised to give the answer. The truth is that this variety of Red K cloud has the property of making a super-person’s wish to change his physical appearance come true whenever he passes through it, but it NEVER brings about the same physical change TWICE!

Thus, now that the Red K has already given Superman a dragon’s wings in one case and an ant’s head the second time, he can never duplicate these effects. However, should he wish to become elastic, invisible, or look like an ape, he can achieve any of these forms by passing through the cloud once again and wishing for the change desired.

We told you the solution would be simple!

And there you have it, sir. Hope this helps.

Wow, that’s a terrible explanation. I would have just copped to the goof. It’s not like Mort didn’t occasionally cop to goofs.

Commander Benson

August 28, 2013 at 10:41 am

My guess is that Weisinger wanted to keep the red-k cosmic cloud available as a plot device; thus, he had to explain why it worked on Superman again, vice admitting it was an error.

And, in fact, I’m not sure the cloud wasn’t used, again. There’s something nagging at the very back of my mind that it was, but it’s not even strong enough to term it a vague memory. So I could be completely wrong about that.

Still, that doesn’t invalidate the idea that Weisinger would want to keep the cloud around, in case a plot needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Oh yeah, I definitely recall a cloud of Red K showing up again. However, couldn’t he just have the cloud of Red K be a DIFFERENT cloud of Red K? It really tarnishes the whole idea of “one exposure, one mutation” to make it “one mutation per exposure.”

Wow, that’s a terrible explanation.

Seems no more terrible than any other piece of story “logic” found in Weisinger’s Superman.

But there’s no logic to it at all. It is just simply “You know how Red K only works once on a Kryptonian? Well, this Red K works more than once.”

Oh okay, I see what you mean now.

Here’s a better explanation: the Red K limit is once per chunk of the stuff. This is a cloud of Red-K dust, which means that there are millions of distinct Red K particles, each one of which can only affect a Kryptonian once. (Is there already a rule that says you can’t be under the effect of two different pieces of Red K at once, so the first one immunizes you for its duration? I doubt that such a rule would break any stories…)

@Jeff- that’s what I was thinking. Supes would have to go through that cloud a bunch of times to ever touch every single piece.
@Benson- and thanks for your response too. :)

@Jeff: But that runs into the second limit Commander Benson noted, namely that no two pieces of Red K had the same effect, with a few explicitly outlined “freak” examples.

This raises the question of exactly what happens when you break a piece of Red K in two (does either piece retain the original effect?)

And fine, there’s one Red K particle that turns any kryptonian into Lassie, one that gives any kyptonian Dragon wings, etc etc, and there’s some other entity at work here that reads minds and makes sure that the first particle that hits you is the one you’re thinking about. Who knows what odd meta-kryptonites you might get when you pulverize Red into pieces too small for the ‘redness’ formula to necessarily apply, and space was absolutely lousy with cosmic prankster-imps as well…

Commander Benson

August 29, 2013 at 3:34 am

“This raises the question of exactly what happens when you break a piece of Red K in two . . . ?”

I was hoping no-one would ask that, Mr. R. Not because I don’t know the answer, but because I don’t have the citation readily handy. Mort Weisinger addressed that very question in a response to a fan’s letter. But because the letter wasn’t tied to a specific story (or it was, to one of dozens of red k-involved throughout the Silver Age), I’d have to go through all of my Silver-Age stacks of the Superman family of magazines to find that particular answer by Weisinger. And I just don’t have that kind of time right now.

So, I’m hoping you’ll just take my word for it, when I get to the part below that addresses your question.

I’ve done some thinking overnight about the central issue here—the red-kryptonite cloud that caused Superboy/man and Krypto to undergo a physical transformation based upon their wishes, and that fact that it worked twice on Superman, which seemed to violate the established “once and only once” rule regarding red kryptonite.

I’m going to have to swim against the tide here and state that Weisinger’s explanation for how the cloud worked and its limits wasn’t as capricious as some of the rest of you do. Now, for those of you with science-related Ph.D.’s, I know what I am about to detail doesn’t conform to real-world science. But it is, I believe, consistent with the nature of kryptonite within the fictional conceit of Weisinger’s Superman mythos.

Let’s take what was established about red kryptonite in the series . . . .

To be sure, when red kryptonite was introduced in 1959, there were some growing pains in getting the details consistent, e.g., where it came from, whether lead blocked its radiations, and so forth. But by 1961, the contradictions were hammered out.

Now I have to back up a little by stating that, in the Superman mythos, kryptonite was established as an unstable element. Weisinger stated this plainly in a response appearing in the letter column of Adventure Comics # 354 (Mar., 1967), when he explained how something as simple as Color Kid’s changing the inherent colour of green kryptonite to blue would alter the element’s properties.

But the instability of kryptonite was demonstrated frequently before that. In fact, the origin of red kryptonite, as it was finally settled upon, supports the element’s instability.

“The Untold Story of Red Kryptonite”, from Superman # 139 (Aug., 1960), relates that red k was created when a swarm of green-kryptonite meteors passed through a strange cosmic cloud in space. Each individual chunk of green k was thence changed into a chunk of red k. This became the standard explanation for red k.

Notably, the consequence of passing though the cosmic cloud dramatically altered the properties of the element, thus suggesting the instability of the element. (Nor was this a one-time occurrance; white kryptonite was created in a similar fashion, when a different flock of green-k meteors passed through a different cosmic cloud.)

Eventually, the following properties of red kryptonite became codefied:

Any given piece of red k could affect an individual super-powered Kryptonian once and once only. After that, he became immune to that specific sample.

The effects lasted for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. (Usually.)

Each piece of red kryptonite induced a unique affect. (Usually.)

And to get to the question that you asked, Mr. R., the unique effect of a sample of red kryptonite resided in the piece as it existed when it passed through the cosmic cloud that converted it from green k to red k. If a crook got his hands on a six-pound chunk of red k and split it up into three two-pound pieces, all three pieces were still the same chunk, as far as its effects on Superman or another super-powered Kryptonian were concerned. If the Man of Steel were exposed to two-pound piece # 1 and it turned his face purple, once the transformation wore off, he would then be immune not only to two-pound piece # 1, but to the other two-pound pieces, as well.

This was what Weisinger established in that letter-column response.

Now, on occasion, the readers saw red k fused—either by accident or deliberately—with other isotopes of kryptonite and that proved to result in bizarre effects that broke the usual rules for either isotope individually. Red and green k were combined in Action Comics # 275 (Apr., 1961) and red and gold k were combined in Superman # 178 (Jul., 1965). Thus, further reïnforcing the notion that kryptonite is so inherently unstable that it doesn’t take much of a change on a molecular level to alter its given properties.

What the readers never saw, though, in a Silver-Age tale, was what happened if Superman was exposed to two different chunks of red kryptonite at the same time. Was he struck by the effects of both? Or did the effects cancel each other out? Or did something completely unprecedented occur? We never saw.

At least, not definitively.

But I believe that goes to the crux of how the red-k cloud was able to allow Superman to alter his appearance more than once. And Jeff R. was on the same track in one of his previous posts.

Now, it is possible that the large red-k cloud was the result of one massive meteor of red k being pulverised. If that were the case, then all of the particles would have the exact same effect on Superman, and once he was exposed to any of it, then he would be immune to the rest of it.

But it’s more likely—or, at least, equally possible—that the red-k cloud was composed of particles from several different pieces of red k, all intermingled into one nebula. As I said, no story ever showed Superman being exposed to separate pieces of red k at the same time, so there is no specific history on what would result from it.

However, given the previous instances which clearly showed that kryptonite was so unstable that it didn’t take much to radically alter its established properties, then it opens the door to make Mort’s explanation—that the cloud could repeatedly allow the Man of Steel to alter his physical appearance, but a specific change could be induced one time only—plausible.

Yes, it’s gratuitous, to be sure. But it’s not a stark violation of the “one piece of red kryptonite affects him one time only” rule.

[...] these the greatest 3 X-family stories ever? Is anything cooler than Red Kryptonite, trans-genderer of superdogs? Yes, there is something cooler. Geof Darrow art. He gives a pretty good interview too. Or if [...]

[...] I Love Ya But You’re Strange – Krypto’s Red Kryptonite Sex Change (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) [...]

David Spofforth

July 1, 2014 at 6:29 am

It reminds me of Peter David’s tribute to the Silver Age at the end of his Supergirl run when Superman started complementing Jimmy’s bow ties and Lois said that he’d been acting so strange since his exposure to pink kryptonite!

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