Superman’s powers are many, varied, and seem to be constantly expanding. He can do it all and, even more dangerous for his enemies, has only one weakness: green, radioactive fragments of his home planet called kryptonite. It’s such a wide-spread idea that the term has entered our lexicon (displacing the previous “Achilles’ Heel”) as a person’s, place’s, or thing’s single weakness.
But why, in the context of the story, is kryptonite the single thing that disrupts Supes’ power?
Kryptonite is some fifty-odd light-years away from Earth, and the chance of little bits of Krypton rock not only hitting the planet but surviving the trip through the atmosphere is negligible, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. We want to know why it is singularly effective in disabling Superman. A lot of people have discussed this, so we’ll break down the popular ideas.
The first requires that you imagine Superman as a big muscle-bound plant. No, wait, stay with us. Plants absorb energy through photosynthesis, using the sun and special cells to produce energy. That’s a simple explanation, but it could explain how Superman is powered by our yellow sun (the recognized reason for his incredible strength) by a similar method. One of the theories is that kryptonite, using some resonance with Superman’s physiology, disrupts this process and simultaneously weakens Superman.
The other theory is that kryptonite actually damages regular earthlings at the same time, but the characters don’t notice. Kryptonite is said to be radioactive, which wouldn’t be noticeable until sometime later, or with extended study. The theory is that kryptonite not only removes Superman’s power (perhaps with the photosynthesis-theory explained above), but also injures through the normal process of micro tears in the body. Perhaps Superman is affected further by the material since he most likely is made up, at least partially, of the same material.
Have your own theory? Let us know! Leave a comment and tell us what you think!