Bizarro Back Issues: And Then There Was The Time Krypto Got Super-Rabies (1959)
It might be easier to visualize the stiff poses and flat coloring that make up the art, but it's that sweet, sweet dialogue that really serves as the hallmark of the Silver Age. It's all bold proclamations about whatever's happening right this very second --- often with sentences that would take way longer to say out loud than the event they're meant to be describing --- capped off by as many exclamation points as you can get away with in a single word balloon. But for all of its memorable quirks the dialogue of the era makes for some pretty fun reading.
Like, for instance, in 1959's "The Colossal Super-Dog," in which every single line in the story is the best line in the story.
If you're looking to read it yourself, you can find it courtesy of the great Otto Binder and George Papp in Adventure Comics #262, a comic book that also contains a story where Aquaman, having defeated all possible sea-crime, decides to open up a hospital for sick fish, and a Green Arrow story that I think we're all better off not reading. So just so you know where we're at here, the story we're about to go through is even more Silver Agey than the one where Aquaman uses a Swordfish to operate on a shy turtle. Which, incidentally, is the kind of Aquaman story that I think we could all use a little more of.
For now, though, we're focusing on Krypto's growth spurt, so go ahead and get your Silver Age Plot Point Bingo Cards handy: We've got some Space-Rays to deal with.
Admittedly, it's not Red Kryptonite, the go-to plot device of the era, but I think it's close enough to go ahead and tick off that free space in the middle.
Naturally, Krypto makes his usual mistake of flying straight for Clark Kent as he's walking through town with Lana Lang, threatening to blow his secret identity --- a plot point that happens so much in old Superboy comics that I was momentarily convinced that I'd written about this issue before. But no, we're going in a completely different direction with today's weirdness, and it starts with Superboy having to deal out a punishment for his dog.
I will believe that dogs talk that way before I will believe that any human being (or Kryptonian, I guess) has ever strung the words "to remind you sharply to avoid Clark Kent hereafter, I must punish you" together and then said them out loud. That said, I will concede that it sounds an awful lot like Sailor Moon's catchphrase.
Once he's back at home, though, Krypto begins to undergo a strange transformation. Thanks to the "rainbow radiations" of the combination meteor, Krypto is rapidly growing in size. First, he's big enough to snap out of his collar and cape, and then, Otto Binder's not-quite-human dialogue strikes again:
Krypto's not quite done growing yet, though. Before long, he smashes through the roof of the house, and keeps growing to truly Cliffordesque proportions. And that's just the start of the trouble.
Seemingly crazed by his own rapid growth, Krypto loses his sugar and begins what is essentially a reign of terror that won't end until the Army decides to intervene and put an end to him once and for all. For starters, he chases a sausage-shaped blimp around as though it's an actual giant sausage --- and hey, did you know that Smallville, Kansas, was such a big market for Stanton's Sausages that they felt the need to advertise via blimp? --- but it gets even worse when he turns on his master, attempting to eat the now relatively tiny Superboy.
Superboy, in a leap of logic that's pretty big even by Silver Age standards, decides that Krypto must have forgotten who he is because he no longer has a cape. The Kents just sort of go with it.
Alas, it doesn't work. Krypto does his level best to shake off Martha Kent's drapes, dragging Superboy from the depths of the ocean into outer space, leaving Superboy a sobbing wreck that his best friend has turned on him. And to make matters worse, a gigantic flying invulnerable dog is still terrorizing the countryside.
It gets so bad at one point that Superboy has to improvise with the help of, to use another phrase that was definitely written by a human being, "a nearby boardwalk of amusements!"
If you take nothing else away from these columns of mine, let it be the knowledge that we need fewer comics where superheroes call each other by their first names, and more comics with clearly labeled Replicas Of Famous World Structures.
Superboy uses the ersatz Washington Monument as an even-more-ersatz stick for Krypto to fetch, luring him into orbit where he can't hurt anyone. But alas, that's a temporary situation, and time is running short to fix things before they're going to have to put Krypto down.
Oh, I'm sorry, did you think I was kidding about this story bringing in the Army to kill Superboy's dog? Because I was not.
Also, please note that in this panel, Superboy refers to Krypto's affliction as "super-rabies." I have no further commentary for that, as it is amazing all on its own.
Considering that Krypto is now an uncontrollable menace to the entire planet, Superboy tearfully agrees to help the Army put him down, and heads off to gather up the government's supply of Just In Case Emergency Kryptonite. The fight is surprisingly brutal for 1959, with Superboy leading Krypto to an army camp where he's pelted by Kryptonite shells, and Krypto trying to burn the camp to the ground with his X-Ray vision. Eventually, though, it's over --- but not because Krypto is killed by Kryptonite.
And that's how it ends. Funny how everyone always talks about the giant key to the Fortress of Solitude or the Bottle City of Kandor, but the Living Memorial For A Paralyzed Krypto Infested With Radioactive Super-Rabies never makes the list of Great Silver Age paraphernalia.
Okay, fine, that's not the end. There are actually two more pages to the story, and if it's possible for this thing to get any weirder than it already is, they're the ones for the job. It turns out that the solution is, of course, more radiation!
Hey, I just got Silver Age Bingo!
After using the same meteor to turn himself into a giant (which for some reason does not also drive Superboy mad with Space-Rabies), Superboy just shoots X-Ray vision at Krypto for "hours," and then does the same thing to himself with the help of a couple of gigantic mirrors to shrink himself back down to normal size.
So yeah: Compared to that, Aquaman's Underwater Hospital seems pretty pedestrian.