Beating Kryptonite like the Martian Manhunter

The Manhunter from Mars is an alien, even more than Superman is. Clark Kent was raised as a human, and even his knowledge of his alien heritage does not make him think or feel less as a human would. J’onn J’onzz came to this world as an adult, fleeing the greatest trauma he had ever known, the sole survivor of his people who had witnessed and felt every single death, including those of his wife and daughter.

He is a philosopher, caring for humanity but also detached by both nature and choice from us. He observes from the outside, seeking always to learn, to understand and to integrate what he has learned and understood. J’onn’s particular kryptonite is fire, and unlike most of us, J’onn has made a long study of his kryptonite, and repeatedly attempted to cure himself of it, with not inconsiderable (if impermanent) success.

The Martian Manhunter’s method of dealing with kryptonite is the considered combination of all the methods of his fellow Justice League members. He applies his will, uses his endurance, conducts research, seeks advice, and meditates upon the truths he learns until they resonate in his heart and soul, with an intellect that is vast and cool, but ultimately sympathetic. And then he takes action. Firm, decisive action.

And in the end, that’s the only way of beating kryptonite. No one ever said it would be easy.

Beating Kryptonite like Wonder Woman

The Amazon Princess has her own way of dealing with things, but at the end, her strategy for beating kryptonite all comes down to the shiny golden lasso that she wears on her hip. After all, it has more uses than just tying people up. It also compels truth telling. And Wonder Woman herself, trusting in the infallibility of the lasso, believes without question the truths it reveals.

Now, this uncritical acceptance may not be the smartest response, but it’s hard to argue with the basic idea. In the process of beating kryptonite, when you’re applying your will and endurance to the tasks of being prepared and communicating with those who can help you, it’s all for naught unless you can recognise and accept the truth when you hear it.

That’s never an easy thing. The truth of our problems is often painful to hear and to take in, but if we can do this – if we can endure the stress of it, talk it out with our confidantes as we need to, and so on – then we are made stronger by it. Made better by it. We reduce the hold that kryptonite has on us.

Still, by itself it will only do so much. The truth may well set you free; but you still need to walk out of the prison cell yourself.

Next week: Beating Kryptonite like the Martian Manhunter

Beating Kryptonite like Aquaman

Aquaman gets a lot of crap for having lame powers. But when it comes to beating kryptonite, he may just have the most useful power of all. After all, he can talk to fish.

Stop for a moment and think about that means. The oceans cover about 70% of this planet’s surface, and they go a lot further down than any mountain goes up. Moreover, they’re inhabited at every depth, in all three dimensions. Land life is effectively two dimensional: for most life forms, it’s on the outer surface of the world. Even those that burrow don’t go anywhere near as deep as the oceans do. The total biomass of fish, molluscs, sea-going mammals and the rest dwarfs the total biomass of land-dwelling animals and plants.

And Aquaman can talk to all of them. Moreover, he has the humility to do so. He realises that he might be the King of the Seven Seas, but there’s still only one of him. And so he does the smart thing: he asks for information from the experts and advice from those he believes wiser than himself.

In itself, communication won’t beat kryptonite. But it will enable the avoidance of dead ends in trying to do so. It will enable the sharing of intelligence and wisdom both; the giving and receiving of emotional support, and much more besides. If you’re out of your depth, you could do a lot worse than to ask the advice of someone who swims there every day.

Still, talking is only half a conversation. Listening is the other half.

Next week: Beating Kryptonite like Wonder Woman

Beating Kryptonite like Batman

For all that it’s Superman who gets called the boy scout, it’s Batman who lives by the boy scouts’ motto. Bruce Wayne is one man who believes in being prepared. For anything and everything.

The first part of preparation is research. What is the nature of this kryptonite? What can be identified as its effects, its causes, its nature? How can the problems it causes be addressed? And what are the gaps in the existing knowledge? Preparation begins with understanding.

The next stage is experimentation, in the scientific sense of the term. What happens when this is tried? What about when that is tried? What if this one condition or factor is varied? Do these results fill in gaps in the knowledge, or suggest approaches for other experiments or even for possible solutions?

Finally, the knowledge gained from research and experiment is used to develop countermeasures. Strategies for dealing with kryptonite when it arises. The focus is on the short term at first, resolving the immediate problem of the kryptonite. But once that’s dealt with, the intellect of the world’s greatest detective would turn to more permanent solutions, repeating the same three stage process of preparation.

But that’s a drastic oversimplification. Research is more complex than that. And the problem of beating even one person’s kryptonite is too large for any one person to solve.

Next week: Beating Kryptonite like Aquaman

Beating Kryptonite like the Flash

On the face of it, the Flash’s only real power is moving really, really fast. Running away, basically. Which is just about the worst thing you can do in response to kryptonite, because it doesn’t do anything about the situation except make you feel worse about it.

But peel back that analysis, and the truth of the Flash’s power comes to light. Because it’s more than just running fast. Ever watched the hundred metre sprints at the Olympics? Seen how those athletes, some of the fittest people in the world, are basically exhausted by running a hundred metres in ten seconds or so? Now consider that the Flash runs something on the order of a million times faster than that, and it becomes clear that speed is only the half of it. The other half is endurance.

Endurance, to be sure, is closely related to will power, but there are significant differences. Willpower is all mental. It’s consciously applied to a situation, aggressive in its application. Endurance partakes of both the physical and the emotional. It’s the ability to hold on. It’s defensive, protective. If willpower is the clenched fist shaking at fate; endurance is curling into a foetal position and hoping that it will stop on its own.

Like willpower, you’re going to need endurance, but also like willpower, endurance is not enough on its own.

Next week: Beating Kryptonite like Batman

Beating Kryptonite like Green Lantern

Most people think that Green Lantern’s powers all reside in his wonderful, magical green ring. In fact, the ring is just a focusing device that transforms one kind of energy into another. And the energy it takes from its host is in the form of their willpower. Using the ring is like quitting smoking.

Will power is fine, as far as it goes. If you’re going to beat your kryptonite, you’re definitely going to need a lot of it. And it works just fine as a short term solution. You can will your way through nearly anything if you really need to. But that won’t address the underlying problem, just its current manifestation. It’ll stop you from having that smoke – it won’t stop you from wanting to.

Will power isn’t much use by itself. Ryan Reynolds couldn’t just will Green Lantern into being a good movie because it just doesn’t work that way. Will power is a fuel, but if you’re going to get anywhere, you also need the car and the driver. Otherwise, it’s like randomly hitting the wood with a hammer, hoping that luck alone with allow you to connect with and drive in the nail.

And using your will is always tiring: using it inefficiently will only tire you out with less progress towards your goal. You’re going to need it, but you’re going to need more besides.

Next week: Beating Kryptonite like the Flash

Beating Kryptonite

One of the greatest thrill killers ever invented is Kryptonite. You know, the little green rocks that make Superman a lot less super, a lot more man. But it’s not just Clark Kent. Everyone’s got their own kryptonite. Their own Achilles Heel. The thing that makes you less than you.

Generally speaking, when the bad guy whips out the kryptonite, it’s all over for the Big Blue Boy Scout. He’s done. He’s defenceless against it. He winds up just lying there, whimpering in pain, wanting it to end, wishing he could better resist it. Sometimes he makes some Herculean effort of will, and manages to overcome the pain and the degradation of it for long enough to shut down the bad guy and get rid of the kryptonite. But only for now. The next villain, or the one after that, or the one after that – they’ll have another dose for him to deal with, and the whole messy saga will repeat itself. Like so much about Superman, beating kryptonite is a never-ending battle.

You have, in your life, a thing that is your own personal kryptonite. We all do. Maybe it’s an addiction, a habit you just can’t quit. Maybe it’s an emotion, an activity, a belief, or even a person. A thing you know isn’t good for you, a thing that makes you fail at being the best you that you can be. Everyone’s got at least one kryptonite. And everyone faces it the best they can.

By its nature, your kryptonite isn’t something you can ever really fix, unless you’re very lucky indeed. Maybe the right combination of happy thoughts, counselling and whatever else it takes will cure you. But until then, you’ll be facing kryptonite the way that Superman does: on a case by case basis.

We know how Superman does it. But I got to wondering, how would his fellow Justice Leaguers handle their kryptonite? What powers and abilities would they bring to bear on it? How well would that work for them? And what could we learn from their example?

Next week: Beating Kryptonite like Green Lantern.