What Does Green Kryptonite Do to Superman?

When I say Kryptonite, the first thing that pops into your mind is likely the glowing green stone that can harm Superman. And, you’d be right – Green Kryptonite is the most common type of Kryptonite out there (although there are numerous more) and one that Superman encounters the most frequently. So, what exactly does Green Kryptonite do to Superman?

Green Kryptonite is known as one of Superman’s biggest weaknesses. When Supes is exposed to its radiation, it hurts him severely, depletes his powers and his healing factor, and can even cause fatality if he’s exposed to it long enough.

Over the years, there have been numerous versions of Green Kryptonite, both artificial and natural, but the main effects almost always remain the same. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about Green Kryptonite, its origins, different versions, and effects on Superman, other Kryptonians, and other people in general.

What is (Green) Kryptonite?

Did you notice I’ve put ‘Green’ in parentheses? That’s because most people know Green Kryptonite as THE Kryptonite and call it only Kryptonite. So, what is Green Kryptonite, and when did we first see it in the comics?

Green Kryptonite is considered, by many, the main, traditional version of Kryptonite and the first one that ever appeared in the comics. While that is technically true, Green K wasn’t actually green when it first appeared in the comics. 

In Superman #61 in 1949, when it first appeared, Kryptonite was red. However, it had all the effects of Green K, not the wild, unpredictable effects we now know to be Red Kryptonite. The rock got its signature green color a few years later when the story was reprinted in Action Comics #161 in 1951.

As early as that might be, though, neither of those appearances was the actual first appearance of Kryptonite in the DC universe. It should’ve appeared in an unpublished comic book story from 1940, where it wasn’t named Kryptonite but rather K-Metal.

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The first real appearance came in 1943 in an episode of the radio series, The Adventures of Superman. Six years later, we’ve seen it on the pages of DC Comics for the first time. But, we still haven’t answered – what is Green Kryptonite?

Kryptonite, generally speaking, is a radioactive element made out of numerous substances and compounds composed of pieces of the exploded planet Krypton, where Superman lived as an infant before being sent to Earth.

The surviving Kryptonians are highly affected by Kryptonite when exposed to a yellow sun, as it weakens them gradually until a fatal outcome if they aren’t removed from its proximity promptly.

What does Green Kryptonite do to Superman?

Green Kryptonite is probably a Kryptonian’s worst enemy, but its effects don’t come instantly. Instead, the effects are gradual and depend on several factors – the proximity in which Green K is to Superman, the amount of Green K that’s present, and the length of exposure. 

The closer it is, the bigger the amount, and the longer the exposure, the quicker and more severe the effects are. Also, there’s a difference when Superman is simply close to Green Kryptonite’s radiation or when the stone gets directly into his system, either by inhaling, ingesting, puncturing, or any other way.

There’s no difference in effects, but they are much quicker when Green K gets directly into Superman’s system.

First, if the amount of Green Kryptonite is small, and Superman isn’t exposed for too long, the rock will cause flu-like symptoms, like headaches, muscle pain, nausea, and weakness. It also starts a partial weakening of Superman’s powers, as Green Kryptonite inhibits Superman’s ability to process yellow sun radiation and poisons the energy already stored in his cells.

Longer exposure and a higher amount of Green Kryptonite cause extreme pain and almost a complete loss of powers. Superman’s skin starts getting a pale green hue, and his veins start radiating green from Kryptonite poisoning.

If the exposure continues, it will eventually lead to death from radiation poisoning. Hence, it works on Superman similarly to how nuclear radiation works on human beings. The only upside is that, unlike nuclear radiation for humans, Green K effects aren’t permanent for Superman, and recovery happens quite quickly after the exposure is ended.

What does Green Kryptonite do to humans?

Now that we mentioned humans, it’s important to note that, unlike many other versions of Kryptonite, Green K does have a certain effect on human beings. Short-term exposure doesn’t affect humans in any way, but long-term exposure was shown to have ill effects on a human’s health, having carcinogenic consequences if the exposure continues.

Alternative versions of Green Kryptonite

As I’ve mentioned, there are probably the most alternative versions of Green Kryptonite throughout the years, but essentially, they all have similar effects. For instance, Lex Luthor managed to create an artificial Green Kryptonite several times when he couldn’t find the real deal to hurt Supes.

There’s also Slow Kryptonite, a version of Green K created by Metallo in The Brave and the Vold Vol. 1 #175, where he toned down its effects to a wavelength that can harm not only Superman but humans, too.

Other than the numerous artificial and/or modified versions of the original Green K, Green Kryptonite alternative versions come in the form of a combination with other types of Kryptonite.

For instance, there’s the Red-Green Kryptonite, created by Brainiac in Action Comics #275. The alloy made Superman grow a third eye on the back of his head, which forced Supes to wear hats to hide the weird thing.

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There was also the Red-Green-Blue-Gold Kryptonite combination from an imaginary story in Superman #162. In it, Supes created the amalgamation that eventually splits him into two Supermen – Superman-Blue and Superman-Red. They live separate lives, independent of one another.

In 1967, we were introduced to Red-Green-Gold Kryptonite from Superman #192, where Clark got hit across the head with it. It made him lose his memory for a few years and all his powers, during which time he married Lois Lane and became a father to Super-Brat.

Can the effects of Green Kryptonite be countered?

Superman can counter or ‘ignore’ the effects of Green Kryptonite with the help of lead. It stops the radiation from penetrating, so if Superman wears a lead suit, Green Kryptonite cannot affect him. That strategy also works for many other versions of Kryptonite, including Red, Blue, and other well-known types of rock.

  • Luka is an amateur filmmaker, screenwriter, cinematography, and trivia enthusiast. High fantasy and fiction are his primary interest, especially Tolkien's Middle-earth universe, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Marvel Universe.