KRYPTO THE SUPERDOGMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1955
Creators: unknown writer and Curt Swan, artist
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In 2003, Marvel Comics made the controversial move of tinkering with Captain America's origin story, to include experimentation on black soldiers before giving the Super Soldier Formula to blond-haired, blue-eyed Steve Rogers. Some said it was wrong to make alterations in the basic premises behind so well-established a character, while others didn't like giving a prior claim to the "Captain America" name to anyone but the hero who had held it for most of the past six decades. On the other hand, said some, it
seems natural Army brass would experiment on what they considered, in those unenlightened years, more "expendable" test subjects; and was the objection to making a black man the first Captain America perhaps based on racism?
Scarcely mentioned in all the hoopla was that Marvel's arch-rival, DC Comics, had made a very similar move nearly a half-century earlier, with the introduction of Krypto the Superdog.
In Adventure Comics #210 (March, 1955), readers learned that Superman's origin story had been no more complete than Cap's later turned out to have been. In sending his only son to Earth, where he grew up to be a superhero, the Kryptonian scientist Jor-El hadn't actually put the boy into a completely untested rocket. He'd experimented on animals first. Specifically, he'd used the family pet, Krypto, who was as similar to Earth dogs as the Kryptonians themselves were to Earth humans. Krypto was still in orbit when the planet finally blew up and the baby was launched. His vehicle was caught up in the wake of the more important one, and both wound up on Earth. It just took Krypto a long time to break out of the invulnerable spacecraft and rejoin his now-teenage master. And being from Krypton, the dog naturally had the complete array of super powers Kryptonians get when on Earth.
Krypto was introduced in the Superboy series, rather than that of the adult Superman, for the same likely reason Bizarro and The Legion of Super Heroes, which also started out as 1950s additions to the Superman universe, were — so he'd be available for use in stories set in either time frame. From the start, Krypto spent a lot of time romping through interstellar space. That way, he could be used whenever his presence was needed for a story, and ignored the rest of the time. In Supeman #130 (July, 1959), he returned from a particularly lengthy sojourn, and from then on both Superman and Superboy had an occasionally-seen dog.
But Krypto was more often a companion to Superboy. In fact, he was so frequently seen in that series, he even adopted a secret identity. By using indelible stain to simulate a marking on his all-white fur, and wriggling out of the collar and cape he wore in his more famous persona, he would masquerade as the Kent family's dog, Skip. When he went into action as Krypto the Superdog, he'd burn off the stain with his X-ray vision, then wriggle back into the outfit. This improbable disguise was used for years, and nobody seems to have questioned where Skip was while Krypto was cavorting around in outer space.
Krypto starred in his own stories a few times in the back pages of Superman Family, a 1970s anthology that highlighted various members of the supporting cast. But he never really had a series of his own — at least, not in comic books.
Superman's dog became a star on Cartoon Network (Dexter's Laboratory. Powerpuff Girls) in 2005, with a special preview on March 25 and a half-hour series beginning April 4. In this version, instead of immediately taking up with Superman upon arrival, he was adopted by a boy named Kevin Whitney. But Superman has a part in the series, as does his long-time enemy Lex Luthor, and even Streaky the Super-Cat (who in comic books was Supergirl's pet). He has an addition to his costume, a dogtag in the image of Superman's chest emblem. Krypto's voice is by Samuel Vincent (X-Men), Kevin's by Alberto Ghisi (a newcomer to the field of voice acting), and Superman's by Michael Daingerfield (Transformers).
After 50 years as a supporting character — and a seldom-used one at that, especially in recent years — it looks like Krypto is finally starting to produce some merchandising revenue.