The Invention Of Kryptonite: The Real Reason The Man Of Steel Needed A Weakness

By | May 19, 2020

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(DC Comics)

There are a few things that everyone knows about Superman: He's faster than a speeding bullet, he can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and his only weakness is Kryptonite. The glowing green rock—remnants of the crust of his home planet, Krypton—has no effect on humans but renders Superman completely powerless. This weakness hasn't always been a part of Superman's legacy; in fact, Kryptonite didn't even originally appear in the comic books. Still, it's become entrenched in the character's mythology.

Born From A Bathroom Break

Superman's first appearance was on the cover of Action Comics #1 in 1938, and the character's overnight popularity quickly earned him his own radio serialThe Adventures of Superman, which ran from 1940–1951 and comprised more than 2,000 episodes, was often recorded live, giving star Bud Collyer precious few opportunities to leave the booth when nature or otherwise pressing concerns called. To give the guy a break, the producers came up with the concept of Kryptonite. In such a weakened state, they reasoned, Superman's voice would naturally change, allowing another actor to step in while Collyer took care of business.

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(Mutual Broadcasting System/Wikipedia Commons)

Superman Needed A Weakness Anyway

The invention of the mysterious green rock killed two birds with one stone. One of the biggest complaints about Superman was (and remains) the comical mismatch between the Man of Steel and any enemies he encounters. How can a human scientist defeat the last son of Krypton when he can harness the power of the Sun to shoot heat rays and fly backwards around the Earth to reverse time? Logically, there's no tension, no question of who will win. It's boring, so producers of The Adventures of Superman used Kryptonite to give Superman's villains a chance to defeat him or at least let the audience think they might. The stones worked so well that the writers of the comic books used them for the same purpose.