The Kryptonite Rumble!

If I’ve proven anything over the past few years at the ISB, it’s that I’m not willing to concede much, but I do occasionaly realize that my opinions are not the objectve standards by which everything is judged that I might like them to be.

That said, if you can see a cover where Silver Age Superman is squaring off to fight a gang of “The Toughest Kids in the World,” complete with Fonzie-style biker grear and grapefruit-sized chunks of Kryptonite and not think that it looks totally awesome



…then there’s a pretty good chance that we can never be friends.

Hitting stands in December of 1967, right at the height of Silver Age madness, Action Comics #357 is without question one of the craziest comics I have ever read, and considering that I’ve got a couple thousand pages worth of Bob Haney within ten feet of me right now, that’s saying something. It’s one of those rare issues that every time you think you’ve hit the height of crazy, you turn the page and it just gets crazier.

To start with, we have the main story, a Leo Dofrman/Wayne Boring classic that opens with what is clearly one of the greatest splash pages ever produced:



For those of you who can’t make it all out, here’s what’s awesome about this page:

1. Abraham Lincoln.

2. Nitro Knuckles

3. “The TNTeen Terror.”

4. This is all on one page.

The story is actually a continuation from the previous issue, where a man called The Annihilator was giving Superman some trouble thanks to his own “Nitro Knuckles,” an explosive punch that he got by drinking Kryptonian chemicals, because that’s how science was done back then. Superman is able to handle things, of course, but not before The Annihilator adopts a young thug-in-training called Pocketbook Pete.

Yes, Pocketbook Pete. The reason given for this name is that he’s a purse-snatcher of some renown, but still. In any case, Pete doses himself with the Kryptonian chemicals, and thus The Annihilator, Jr. is born!



In addition to co-opting the Americanized name of Luchador superstar El Hijo del Annihilatoro, The Annihilator Jr. quickly sets about taking over by threatening to blow up the entire world, which, while not exactly a sound plan of action, is pretty much what international politics were based around in 1967 anyway:



With The Annihilator Jr.’s powers strong enough to affect even Superman, President Johnson goes into hiding and pretty much abdicates the White House, spending his time hassling the Man of Steel into setting things right. The Annihilator, Senior, meanwhile, discovers that the Kryptonian chemicals have had the somewhat unforseen side-effect of damaging his heart, but when he tries to dose Junior with an antidote, the younger suspects treachery and throws the old man out.

Still, even an enterprising youngster with an H-Bomb punch can’t run the country by himself, so Pete decides it’s time to form a new cabinet with the members of his old delinquent motorcycle gang:



Creep, of course, is installed as Defense Secretary, and to be honest, this was where I was expecting The Annihilator, Jr.’s plan to fall apart. As it turns out, however, national defense is handled in pretty much exactly the same way as working the counter at McDonald’s:



As a quick sidenote: ICBMs? Okay. Bio-Warfare Missiles, Nerve-Gas, and Undersea Hydrogen Bombs?! Who was running this place in ’67, Ernst Stavro Blofeld?

In any case, as always happens with teenagers, boredom quickly wins out over any sense of self-preservation and The Annihilator, Jr. and his gang just cold start dropping atomic bombs all over the place. And that’s when the craziness starts, as we learn that in the event of nuclear armageddon, Superman’s job…



…is to rip up the Statue of Liberty and Mt. Rushmore and put them into orbit to keep them safe.

I love Silver Age Superman so much I can barely stand it.

While Superman’s slapping the Jefferson Memorial is safely in geosynchronous orbit, The Annihilator the Lesser’s bomber ends up crashing, and when Superman shows up to investigate, he finds himself in the ambush described on the cover, Creep and Specs having looted the government’s surprisingly huge (even for the Silver Age) supply of Kryptonite.

The reason? The Annihilator 2: Annihilate Harder’s powers have worn off and he wants Superman to go mix him up a new batch. The problem here is that the chemicals were Kryptonian, but Superman claims he can find them on other planets and gives his word to return them in exchange for not being murdered on Bikini Atoll by a bunch of high school dropouts.

In other words, Superman goes out like a punk.

But this is not the end of the craziness, as what comes next ramps things right up: Superman returns with the chemicals and The Annihilator Reloaded chugs ’em right down, as he will drink virtually anything anyone gives to him. And that’s why he promptly turns into a toddler.



But how could this be?! Superman promised to bring The Annihilator, Jr. the chemicals that turned him into the Human H-Bomb! Could it be that–>choke<--Superman lied?!

No. Of course not.



It was actually The Annihilator, Sr. who gave The Annihliator, Jr. the chemicals! And while Superman did bring them back from space, and they are the exact same chemicals, the fact that they’re not from Krypton means that drinking them will turn you into a baby.

Because that’s how science worked back then.

39 thoughts on “The Kryptonite Rumble!

  1. DC needs to reintroduce a character called TNTeen now.

    Who was running this place in ‘67, Ernst Stavro Blofeld?

    Huh, and I thought Kissinger didn’t show up until ’69.

  2. I like that the gang’s insignia appears to be Sad Cthulu. All things considered, though, I would absolutely join a motorcycle gang called the Sad Cthulus.

  3. Panel 3: I LOVE Superman’s withering expression. “Get a haircut, you darn beatnik!”

    Panel 4: Shouldn’t smashing the globe only have ONE sound effect? Is Annihilator I: The Phantom Menace’s wang doing something?

    Panel 8: If you are under 10 in the DC universe, you talk like a caveman. Even if you de-aged because of Kryptonian chemicals, you will lose your ability to construct simple sentences.

    Panel 9: Superman tearing off his own face and revealing himself to be your father? Yeah, that one came straight out of Weisinger’s therapy sessions.

  4. American undersea nuclear bombs of the 1960s:

    Mark-45 torpedo
    Nuclear Depth Bomb (NDB)
    W44 (ASROC rocket launched depth bomb)
    W47 (Polaris SLBM)

    Creep has unrealistically few options at his disposal. Ask me about the Davy Crockett nuclear bazooka, or the Blue Peacock chicken powered nuclear landmine (!), or the plan to blast the Panama Canal down to sea level (Operation Plowshare). The 60s really were like that.

  5. “His explosive power could blow up the EARTH… and ME with it!”

    I like how the fact that he could get hurt is a bigger bombshell than the whole freakin’ planet getting destroyed. Thanks so much, hero.

  6. I think it was back in the early 60’s that a plan was proposed to use atomic bombs to excavate a new harbor on the coast of Alaska. God, it must have been fun living back then when civil engineers, and not hippies, did all the drugs.

    And I’m surprised LBJ didn’t just pick that punk up by his ears and kick him in the backside. I’m sure it would have worked out fine; the punk’s got “Nitro Knuckles,” not a “Nitro Ass” after all.

  7. Ask me about the Davy Crockett nuclear bazooka, or the Blue Peacock chicken powered nuclear landmine (!)

    I’m not sure that I’ve ever said this to an ISB commenter before, but I would like to hear more about this.

  8. For more sixties nuclear crazy check out projects Pluto:
    and Orion:

    From the Pluto article:
    “Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, Pluto’s sponsors were having second thoughts about the project. Since the missile would be launched from U.S. territory and had to fly low over America’s allies in order to avoid detection on its way to the Soviet Union, some military planners began to wonder if it might not be almost as much a threat to the allies. Even before it began dropping bombs on our enemies Pluto would have deafened, flattened, and irradiated our friends. (The noise level on the ground as Pluto went by overhead was expected to be about 150 decibels; by comparison, the Saturn V rocket, which sent astronauts to the moon, produced 200 decibels at full thrust.) Ruptured eardrums, of course, would have been the least of your problems if you were unlucky enough to be underneath the unshielded reactor when it went by, literally roasting chickens in the barnyard. Pluto had begun to look like something only Goofy could love.”

  9. Even in the Silver Age, someone should have taken Annihilator, Sr. aside and explained that a mask with a triangular cut-out below the eyes labeled “Nose Goes Here” is not a good fashion choice.

  10. Also, is it just me, or does Superman look strangely unconcerned about the ambush on that cover? “I seem to be surrounded by young boys with handfuls of Kryptonite. You know, I didn’t think it was Thursday, it felt a lot like a Tuesday. Oh, well.”

  11. “…is to rip up the Statue of Liberty and Mt. Rushmore and put them into orbit to keep them safe.”

    words can barely describe the awesomeness of that plan.

    and the simple twirling of the arms and legs to make the plan happen…just, wow…

  12. See, the thing about these old Silver Age stories is that your recaps are so much more entertaining than the actual stories themselves. DC really needs to put out an illustrated collection.

  13. “DC needs to reintroduce a character called TNTeen now.”

    There was a TNTina in the Titans mini-series where they fought the Clock King.

  14. “Yes, dear, we’ll die a horrible, slow death from the atomic fallout here in South Carolina.

    “But thank God that, having been tossed into space, South of the Border will escape the effects of nuclear annihilation…

    …thanks to Superman!”

  15. Project Orion is another excellent addition to the list of atomic oddities! This one never got off the ground, some hippies whined about fallout and such.

    During the late 1940s Stanisław Ulam realized that nuclear explosions could not yet be realistically contained in a combustion chamber

    Instead, the Orion design would have worked by dropping small shaped charge fission or thermonuclear explosives out the rear of a vehicle, detonating them 200 feet (60 m) out, and catching the blast with a thick steel or aluminum pusher plate.

  16. Why is Tony Moore, the artist on Fear Agent and Punisher at the moment, lurking to the left in the background of the last panel?

  17. Project Orion is used in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Footfall.

    It’s an alien invasion novel and the humans last-ditch effort to win the war id to build Project Orion just outside of Portland.

    Oddly enough, I just had a long conversation about the Davy Crockett project with Sean Punch (the line editor for GURPS, shameless name-drop) and a few other people. We were comparing it to the Nuclear hand-grenade in Paranoia – which was always issued to teams as an experimental device and kept getting reissued to teams because no one ever reported back on how effective it was as a weapon, except when you failed to use it at which point your character tended to be shot for treason.

  18. hey! the Davy Crockett basically lets me know where the Fat Man gun is from in Fallout 3.
    sure the name is a different nuclear weapon, but the model is more like that one.

  19. Project Orion also shows up in Poul Anderson’s “Orion Shall Rise”, where it’s one of the major focuses of a secret rebellion in a post-apocalyptic world where the Maori are in charge. I think.

  20. Of all the bizarre ideas for weapons during WWII, the Bat Bomb has the distinction of being the one that would have actually worked pretty much as promised.

    As for the Davy Crockett, this line from Wikipedia got me: “Both recoilless guns proved to have poor accuracy in testing…”

    It fires a freakin’ A-bomb! How accurate does it need to be?!

  21. My list of what’s awesome about that splash page would have included

    5. Putting one’s own face on Mount Rushmore
    6. “Small-time cats”