Everyone knows that kryptonite is Superman’s weakness. Not everyone knows there are several variations of kryptonite, each with their own effects. Gold kryptonite strips a Kryptonian of their powers forever. Red kryptonite is unpredictable, and leads to some very Silver Age results. Platinum kryptonite gives non-Kryptonians superhuman abilities. There’s synthetic kryptonite which usually turns the victim evil, blue kryptonite is only harmful to Bizarros, and x-kryptonite which was an accidental creation by Supergirl that gave her cat Streaky powers. Not to mention the tweaks to the effects made for television shows. It’s a bit much, and I wouldn’t be opposed to DC cutting it back down to one type of kryptonite.
For starters, there seems to be some difficulty keeping the side effects nailed down. There are some variants – like gold kryptonite – that stay constant, but others change depending on the medium. “Smallville” was notorious for tweaking what most of the variants could do to a Kryptonian. In the TV series, red kryptonite released inhibitions and made Clark act out of character. It worked alright in the story, but I can only imagine how many “Smallville” fans were confused when they discovered it did something else entirely in the comic books. Consistency is key, and there’s a lot of inconsistency from medium to medium.
From a narrative perspective, the creation of the multiple, naturally occurring variants is a bit far fetched. In the comics, fragments of the planet Krypton became radioactive and landed on Earth. Some of them passed through an additional radioactive something or other, and then landed on Earth as a variant. The standard green variety is a chance occurrence, but now we’re to believe that a second and third event happened to create different types of kryptonite? It gets a little harder to suspend disbelief.
Even further, there’s already overwhelming discourse about the existence of kryptonite and its perceived overuse. We as comic readers know it isn’t in every issue, and doesn’t get used nearly as much as it does in the movies and TV shows, but kryptonite has a reputation. The existence of the other types only further cements the idea that the most harmful thing in the DC Universe for Superman is a glowing rock. It’s standard trappings of the Superman mythos for us, but to an outsider, it makes the character seem a little less cool. Fortunately, the variants don’t show up too often, but I don’t think they should really show up at all.
As a fan of the Silver Age, I love the variants. I think they’re a fun element that led to some memorable stories. I also believe they should probably be retired. Just like green kryptonite can’t be the only thing that poses a threat, the variants shouldn’t be the only things that cause chaos for Superman. The only variant of kryptonite I gladly accept is blue kryptonite. As I mentioned earlier, it’s only harmful to Bizarros. Unlike the other types, this wasn’t created by a chunk of Krypton passing through a radioactive cloud. It’s an imperfect replication of green kryptonite, therefore it only hurts imperfect clones of Kryptonians.
Now that I think about it, what colors would imperfect copies of the variants be? What would they even do? Could the imperfect copy of gold kryptonite restore powers to a natural Kryptonian? This is why there should only be one type of kryptonite!
We’ve discussed Kryptonite and its use forever. Too much Kryptonite. Not enough Kryptonite. It should only be used sporadically. The more Kryptonite the better the challenge. Etc, etc, etc… But no matter how you cut it Kryptonite will always be a part of Superman’s life.
However, while Green Kryptonite has continued to exist in the mythos since the Post-Crisis era, it has basically been the only type. Yes, there have been some versions of red and possibly a few other colors through the years, but those were special cases. For instances, in the story “Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite” Mxyzptlk manufactured a type of red Kryptonite which made Superman lose his powers. But that’s about the extent of it.
Pre-Crisis we had every variant of Kryptonite in the color spectrum. That is not necessary today. Or is it? Those different colors were involved in some crazy stories especially in the Silver Age. Do we need to go back to that type of storytelling? No. But I can imagine what today’s creators could do with the different types. For instance, Gold Kryptonite takes Clark’s powers away, and while I don’t love a powerless Clark story, if put into the right hands it may prove entertaining. We have a weaker Superman in the comics at the moment which was not a result of Gold K, but even weakened he soldiers on as if he can still juggle planets. Used correctly Gold K can give us a Superman that, though powerless, is as much a symbol of hope as full powered, god-like Superman.
The color I miss the most is Red Kryptonite. Red has made for some of Superman’s wildest stories. Red could change Superman into literally anything. Animals, bugs, a giant, split him into three beings. The possibilities were endless. Now should we bring back that type of story? I don’t think so. But Red K can still have various effects on Clark. Mood changes, different powers, etc. In the right hands some amazing stories can be told.
The point of all this is, it would not hurt the character if well told other versions of Kryptonite existed in current continuity. There are creators out there I’m sure would love to play in that sandbox. Don’t take it too far, but it would be nice to revisit some of these variations in modern comics.
I remember the days when every color of Kryptonite was on display in the Fortress of Solitude. I believe they were fake or inert, but like everything else in the Fortress it had to be displayed. Statues of Lois, Jimmy and Perry. Displays of his worst villains and Kryptonite. It’s like Superman was an obsessive compulsive. He had to show every aspect of his life. And there proudly exhibited was every type of Kryptonite. Sounds a bit ridiculous but it helped the reader know which type did what. I don’t expect to see that now but knowing there are different types out there is enough to make us curious. Each color could have a different effect with its Pre-Crisis counterparts. I don’t expect this to happen anytime soon but it’s still fun to think about.