Bizarro Back Issues: Secret Of The Super-Box! (1957)
Getting super-powers can be a tricky bit of business. Sure, you could always wait for a magic space ring to just literally fall out of the sky, and if you're confident in your ability to be a protagonist and not just a background character, I suppose you could always try to fall into a nuclear reactor and hope you get a new costume out of the deal, or train yourself to be a world-class karate detective, but if you can't afford a rocket car to go with it, you might just end up wasting your time.
Or you could just wait for "Wizard" Holton, Criminal Scientist, to show up and offer you a big Box of Super-Powers that you can wear on your back. All things considered, that's probably the best way to go.
Or at least, that's what we can learn from Otto Binder and Curt Swan's lead story in Adventure Comics #241, "The Super-Outlaw of Smallville." And just so you know, the backup story in that issue involves the debut of Green Arrow's teen girl sidekick, Queen Arrow, a girl cursed by a strange potion to sleepwalk into a life of archery-based crimefighting. And since we're talking about this story and not that one, it should give you an idea of how weird things are going to get before we're done here.
We open at a Pet Circus --- which I can only assume is something that happened back before a lot of people knew about television and had to entertain themselves somehow --- where Superboy is scheduled to put on a demonstration of super-pet tricks with Krypto. Unfortunately, Krypto hasn't come back from space --- this will be important later --- and so Superboy is left to entertain the kids all on his own.
But while he's busy juggling pet carriers, the show is interrupted by the arrival of "Wizard" Holton, who robs the box office with the help of a clearly labeled and mysteriously Krypto-sized Box of Super-Powers strapped to his back:
As Holton explains over the course of a chase scene, he has secretly developed a box charged up with cosmic energy that can allow him to duplicate all of Superboy's powers, and that once he's done with a personal crime wave, he's going to "sell it to the underworld syndicate for a cool million!" So really, he's not just racking up money for himself, he's embarking on an extremely effective advertising campaign.
For certain values of "effective," anyway. It seems that while flight and X-Ray vision are part of the package, the Box of Super-Powers can't give Holton the kind of invulnerability that he'd need to drill up through the floor of a bank without putting a drill attachment on it, or crash through a wall without wearing a giant metal cone on his head:
But then, I suppose that's where the real money is. You sell the Box for a million and that's all you can get. Once you start marketing the accessories, that's where the big money is.
Clearly, Superboy has to get to the bottom of this before things get any worse, and the only way to do that is to make Holton think that he's already cracked the secret of the Super-Box. To that end, he slaps together an empty box --- made of lead, of course, so that Holton can't see into it to find out that he's faking --- and starts flying around on his own:
But here's the thing: Holton knows that Superboy is a fake, because it turns out that the box can't be duplicated. It has one very unique component and there's only one of them in the entire universe: Krypto!
"But hang on a second," you're saying, "We already knew that was coming! You blew that surprise like seven paragraphs ago!" And that's true, dear reader, I did, but there's a reason for that. It turns out that Krypto being inside the Super-Box isn't the weirdest part of this story. Really, the question we should've been asking all along isn't whether it's Krypto in the box, but why Krypto's been helping this guy commit crimes.
And the answer... is Kryptonite Hypnosis.
If you're like me, you may have had a moment of, "Hey, that's not how Kryptonite works," but folks, none of us are in any position to tell Otto Binder how anything in a Superman comic works.
In any event, the Kryptonite has left Krypto so weak that he can be hypnotized into obeying Holton's every criminal whim, and on top of that, Clark Kent has inadvertently revealed his secret identity to Holton by pretending to duplicate something that could not possibly be duplicated! Even after a botched attempt by Holton's underworld contacts to steal Superboy's box to prove that it's fake that's foiled when Krypto momentarily breaks through the conditioning...
... the poor super-dog ends up right back in the box with no way of escaping.
Incidentally, it's around this point that Holton reveals that he's been commanding Krypto through a microphone hidden in his lapel, giving him spoken commands that somehow went unnoticed while Superboy --- who possesses the power of super-hearing --- was chasing him around earlier.
The good news, though, is that Krypto has proven that he can break through the hypnosis and defy Holton's orders. He just has to do it without being noticed to avoid being Re-Kryptonited and stuffed back in his criminal pet carrier. So, after a few days, once Holton drops a handful of stolen diamonds in the box so that he can get them back to his hideout, Krypto uses his heat vision to heat them up enough to melt through the lead box and make his escape.
I would say that maybe the bigger problem here is that Holton still has a chunk of Kryptonite that's roughly the size of a Big Mac, but Superboy has a shockingly convoluted plan to take care of that, too. If you thought that stuffing Krypto into a Jansport and pretending that you had a box made of super-powers was weird, wait'll you see this:
Of course, there's still the most pressing issue: Thanks to Superboy's ill-advised attempt at smoking out Holton by pretending to give Clark Kent super-powers, he inadvertently revealed his greatest secret. But he's even got an answer for that. Before he drops him off with Chief Parker at the Smallville Jail, Superboy takes Holton to the Kent household and straps on his own version of the Super-Box, and sure enough, it gives Holton just enough super-powers to convince him that Clark's box was legit all this time.
And that, of course, is because Krypto was inside this box, too, and the "Krypto" that Holton saw sitting obediently in the yard was yet another dummy. So from this, I think we can learn a couple of things. First: At the age of fourteen, Clark Kent had multiple dummies of himself and his dog. Not robots, but dummies, which is somehow even weirder.
Second, if you can be fooled by your own trick because you can't tell the difference between a real dog and a RealDog™, then you probably ought to be in jail just on general principle.