What Were They Thinking?: Superman-ly

You know, it's surprising that Superman doesn't turn up more often here on What Were They Thinking (the place where we take a look at all of the stupidest, most ill-advised things in comic book history). Maybe it's just because he's been in publication the longest of any character in the medium, or maybe it is simply because the writers and editors who create the book a required to be madder than that Batman villain who likes hats when they apply for the job, but the guy has been involved in some of the strangest/ stupidest storylines ever put to paper. The Man of Steel has been involved in porn, he started the whole "kill off a character for a few weeks" craze and he was turned into a centaur, then a woman and then had a polygomous relationship all in the same comic. But we've talked about all of that before. This week I want to focus on this stuff here:

So, everyone knows what Kryptonite does. It's Superman's greatest weakness. Lumps of irradiated rock originating from his home planet of Krypton that can strip a Kryptonian of their powers and may eventually kill them if exposed for too long. That's all fairly basic stuff and the word has entered our cultural lexicon as a way of saying your greatest weakness (remember that, it's important later).

But that's just Green Kryptonite. Did you know that Kryptonite comes in a variety of colours? Yeah, I'm sure some of you did. So what do they do? Well, Red Kryptonite is probably the next most famous after Green. It affects Kryptonians in a variety of ways, depending on which continuity you are reading (Earth-1 or Earth-2) and if you are reading pre- or post-Crisis, but it is most famous effects are causing random transformations or  making Superman go all evil and crazy. Then you'd have Gold Kryptonite, which is considered the rarest form and can perminantly remove a Kryptonians powers, or only remove their powers for 15 seconds if you're reading Action Comics in 2008. Then you have Blue Kryptonite, which has exactly the same effects as Green Kryptonite, but it only affects Bizarro (and sometimes it causes him to become smarter because Bizarro). You have White Kryptonite which kills any plant life it comes into contact with and you have Black Kryptonite which splits Kryptonians into two seperate bodies ruled by one personality trait. And then we have Silver Kryptonite, which causes hallucinations and can have the same effect on Kryptonians as Canabis has on humans (because it's always fun to drugs). There are a few other fake or artificial strains of Kryptonite that have other weird and wacky properties, but none of those are the subject we're looking at today.

So, with all of that in mind, what do you guys think Pink Kryptonite would do to Superman? Maybe make him lose his intelligence? Or so he suddenly can't see or hear? Or it could cause him to suddenly like Justin Bieber? Something terrible like that. Well nope. We actually found out what Pink Kryptonite does in Supergirl Vol. 4 Issue #79 from 2003. It turns out, it makes Kryptonians... gay. DUN DUN DUUUUUUH.

Right. Ok. Pause a minute. This was obviously done as a joke by the writers as a pastiche of all of the Silver Age stories that would randomly introduce a new strain of Kryptonite as a plot device for the latest hijincks filled adventure, but there are a few things that I don't think they actually considered that are a bit problematic. Firstly, they wrote Superman fairly stereotypically. For example, the most common panel you will find if you search this issue on the interwebs shows Superman complementing Jimmy Olsen saying that he looks "smashing" wearing bowties and saying how "fabulous" his window displays are. And both of those words are emphasised like that on the page, so it reads as camply as possible. Meanwhile, you've got Lois Lane in the background asking Supergirl what's wrong with Superman as he's "acting strange" whilst the narration box points out that Superman has moments of "genuine weirdness". Ok, so, why do gay guys always have to use words like "fabulous"? Surely a gay version Superman would just act like Superman right? And I don't recall Superman ever turning round to Lois in the offices of the Daily Planet and telling her that her skirt looked "simply divine, darling". I mean, rather than him "acting strange" and being genuinely weird. I dunno, was it considered that weird to be gay in 2003, I honestly can't remember?

Secondly, and most pertinantly, the effects of Kryptonite are meant to be negative. Green causes pain, loss of power and death, Red causes madness and unwanted transformations, White kills plant life, Gold causes power loss. Even Blue has negative effects, even if they are only on Bizarro (and increasing intelligence does count as a negative effect on Bizarro, that's the whole point of the character). It's the most famous achilles heel in comics for a reason, it is the one thing that can beat a man who should be unbeatable. And by having a Pink strain of Kryptonite make Superman gay what they are inadvertantly saying is that being gay is a bad thing, a sign of weakness. Because that is what Kryptonite is. There is no positive natural Kryptonite, even most of the synthetic ones have negative effects (causing Superman's powers to super-charge and go out of control, causing the same effects in humans as Green Kryptonite does in Kryptonians, drains life-force to resurrect the dead. You know, good stuff). So lumping being gay in with causing pain, madness and death, even if unintentional and as part of a joke, isn't exactly a great idea. Sometimes you've just got to think things through a little guys, ok.

And with that

JR out.

JR19759

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5 Responses to What Were They Thinking?: Superman-ly

  1. I don’t know what’s worse; that it was published at all, or that it was published in 2003.

  2. I think, if you have to ask that question, always go with the former because if you can wonder why something was published at all it doesn’t matter when it was published.

  3. JR19759:
    I think, if you have to ask that question, always go with the former because if you can wonder why something was published at all it doesn’t matter when it was published.

    That notion is kind of like the ‘noble savage’ version of morality. Unfortunately, there are a surprising number of non-independent thinkers even today. Saying something is a product of the times is like saying a person is a product of their environment. Lots of people don’t have the bravery and stamina to be their own person–but then, that’s one more reason there aren’t more bizarre serial criminals, right? I’m all for individuals saying the world isn’t good enough, just so they aren’t trying to harm or limit other people.

  4. I don’t think you get the point of the Kryptonite here. After all, what’s “positive” about forcing a sexuality swap on someone? Even in 2003 that was a very, very bad thing. Whether you believe being gay is something you’re born with or something societal (and that is a whole can of worms there, in comics and meat-space), it’s still vile to forcibly “pray the gay away”, or in this case insert it. Supes is, and always has been, straight and mostly monogamous to Lois. Why do you think of being forced to be homosexual, and stereotypically camp at that, and also to betray his significant other as a good thing?

    This *is* Kryptonite, it *is* doing something bad to Superman. If someone wrote Victor Borkowski (Anole) as being exposed to Bobby Drake’s Pink Ice which forcibly straightened him out, turning him into a stereotypical Frat Bro and having him hit on Kitty Pryde, there would be an outcry and rightly so. So why do you consider it going the other way a boon? He’s one of the few openly gay characters and appeared at about the same time as this story was penned. I think perhaps the writers were trying for a message about how forcing sexuality upon someone is wrong and were just ham-fisted about it.

  5. @A Fox- Sorry, I’m not really understanding your point here, maybe I’m just being stupid or something, I don’t know. I never say that forcing a sexuality swap on to anyone is a good thing, I especially say that him being turned into a stereotypically camp homosexual is a bad thing. My whole point with covering this is that it was a bad idea because it was ham-fisted, instead of giving a message that forcing a sexuality swap on someone was a bad thing (which I don’t think was the point, I think they were just trying to joke about some of the silver age Superman stories they read when growing up and chose the worst possible subject to use in the parody) they sent a message that being gay is a bad thing because that’s what Kryptonite does. It came across as what he became was the negative, not the forced change, if you get what I’m saying there.