The Super-Dog That Replaced Krypto!

Krypto's reign as top dog in Smallville comes to an inglorious end in Superboy #109 (Dec. 1963), when he's seemingly replaced in Superboy's affections by a greyhound named Swifty.

Writer Jerry Siegel and artist George Papp start us off on a typical Smallville morning, as Superboy and Krypto make their routine patrol of the town. Looking on from below is Swifty, a greyhound who recalls once having super-powers himself. Krypto spots him with his telescopic vision and notes, "He's probably eating his heart out because I'm super and he isn't anymore! Well, let's face it! You've either got it, or you haven't -- and I've got it! Ha, Ha!"

Thanks to a flashback, we learn that Swifty earlier formed a bond with Superboy when the Boy of Steel rescued him from an avalanche. Tracking Superboy across hundreds of miles to Smallville, Swifty was rewarded with a serum that gave him temporary super-powers, but it's long since worn off, leaving him to watch wistfully as Krypto gets to do the things he can only dream about.

After his patrol, Superboy is seen dusting off the trophies at the Kent's home when the Phantom Zone villains decide to use their combined thoughts to compel him to destroy himself.

When that doesn't pan out, they decide to take a stab at getting Krypto to turn on his master. As a test, they compel the super-dog to free a group of crooks from the back of a police paddy-wagon, but even though he initially responds -- lifting the truck by its bumper -- he comes to his senses and puts it safely back down again.

Reasoning that it's Superboy and Krypto's super-powers that keep thwarting them, the villains decide to try their tricks on Swifty, fully aware of his history with Superboy. Under their control, the greyhound chases a cat into a tree, against his gentle natural instinct. Then the villains move on to Stage 2; giving the dog super-powers.

Luckily, the chemicals left behind by the factory workmen are precisely those needed by the villains. Of course it goes without saying that as they are red, blue and yellow chemicals, they will give Swifty super-powers.

But wait, you ask, why would Superboy colors make Swifty evil? Because of course the red, yellow and blue were added to a liquid already in the tank, a liquid with evil properties. Possibly New Coke.

Back at the Kent home, Superboy tells Krypto there's a far-off planet where humans are warring with beast-people. His plan is to take Krypto and show the aliens an example of how "humans and animals can live together in peace and friendship, just as we do!"

They don't get far, however, before the now-super Swifty shows up, and Superboy makes the two dogs compete for the honor of accompanying him on the space mission. Rather than just bite the jerk, the dogs agree and as a first test dive into the sea.

Swifty is acting under an evil influence, but Krypto can't know that, so his underhanded tactics paint him in a bad light. Already we've seen Krypto gloat over the fact that he was super while Swifty wasn't, and now his "game plan" consists of beating Swifty to his goal and stealing it before he can get to it. Nice.

As it happens, Krypto mistakenly decides Swifty is headed for a sunken submarine loaded with guns and ammunition, and brings that to the surface. Swifty, however, has been directed by the villain Jax-Ur to an alien space capsule containing amazing film footage.

Conveniently the space-faring aliens are still using acetate film with sprocket holes to fit a standard movie projector. No word on whether they included a cartoon short.

For the second test, Superboy creates three chemical pools -- one orange, one yellow and one purple -- each of which will give the dogs a different temporary power. "The dog who uses his intelligence to dive into the pool which will benefit him most," says Superboy, "will win the second round!"

Figuring "why be fussy?" Krypto rashly dives into the nearest pool, the yellow one, and emerges with elastic powers. Swifty, with guidance from the spectral Jax-Ur, chooses the purple pool and emerges with the power to speak.

With two of the three contests going to Swifty, there's no need for a third. Superboy gives Swifty Krypto's invulnerable cape and collar ("Now you'll look good during that space mission!") and Krypto is stuck with a moth-eaten, non-super hand-me-down cape from Superboy's rag pile (and STILL he doesn't bite him!).

Superboy flies into space with Swifty, unaware the dog intends to kill him. They arrive at the alien world just in time, as atomic super-missiles have just been fired by both warring factions to destroy each other. With teamwork, Superboy and Swifty intercept the missiles and neutralize them.

Having narrowly averted armageddon, and with the example of Superboy and Swifty to guide them, the human and beast races end hostilities and devote themselves to peaceful cooperation. As a sign of good faith, the human emissary offers up "the only set of plans for the Ultimate Weapon I created" and lets Superboy burn them with his heat vision. Then he hands over the only working model, for Superboy to dispose of.

In Superboy's off-world "sanctum" we find the Imperfect Duplicating Machine™ which created Bizarro, a huge lead box with a giant hunk of Kryptonite, a colony of super-intelligent mutant ants, a lock of Luthor's hair, a piece of metal from Superbaby's rocket and robot duplicates of Lana Lang and Pete Ross. As Krypto arrives from Earth, Superboy unveils a surprise present for his pet; a Krypto robot.

The Phantom Zone villains pick now to act, prompting Swifty to open the lead box and expose Superboy and Krypto to the deadly chunk of Kryptonite.

At this point let us pause and reflect on the genius of Superboy, who stores his Green Kryptonite ("with which I experiment in hopes of finding an antidote") in a spring-loaded jack-in-the-box contraption, activated by a foot pedal. Thus every time he wants to experiment, he can launch the huge rock into his face. Well done. And yes, I know it looks like white Kryptonite, which only affects vegetation, but considering Superboy's such a cabbage head, it could still be fatal.

Note that Jax-Ur says Swifty can't be harmed because he's not from Krypton. Longtime readers will remember Luthor's temporarily super-powered dog Wolf was vulnerable to Kryptonite despite being an Earth dog. In fact, since he was "double super" he was made double-vulnerable. Thus deepens my constant confusion over who Kryptonite does and does not affect.

Anyway, the villains make their presence known by telepathy and tell Superboy the whole story of how they've controlled Swifty and arranged their enemy's doom. The Pete Ross and Lana Lang robots are unable to help, being non-super, but the new Krypto robot does pitch in, only to be smashed into parts by Swifty.

Weakly, painfully, Krypto rolls himself toward the Duplicating Machine and flips the switch (conveniently located on the base of the device...handy for dogs but probably not so much for humans). When the rays hit Swifty, a Bizarro Swifty results, and since it's his opposite, it's a good dog.

As Swifty battles his imperfect duplicate, Superboy whips up an antidote for the evil chemical and effects a swift cure with a handy bug sprayer.

All that's left now is to fasten a special collar to Swifty that will protect him from control by the Phantom Zone villains, and the newly non-powered greyhound is returned to his old life on Earth. Krypto gets his cape back and all's well.

This is an interesting tale from a number of angles, especially if you broaden the definition of "interesting" to include "crazy." It's always cool to see the Phantom Zone villains, and worth noting that in the Silver Age, the fat, bald Jax-Ur was equally as prominent, and perhaps more so, than General Zod, who would go on to get all the love in other media. This was my first exposure to "Secret Cache 3," the pre-Fortress "sanctum" of Superboy, and as far as I know it may never have appeared again. It actually makes sense to have a "Fortress" on a barren world, but it's kind of creepy to think about facsimiles of Lana and Pete wandering around on an empty rock in airless space.

One of the enduring mysteries of the super-mythos is just what kind of dog Krypto is. In the hands of artist George Papp, he's nearly indistinguishable here from Swifty, aside from the fact that one is white and the other grey. Maybe this is an indication that Krypto is the Kryptonian equivalent of a greyhound? Or maybe it just means that to Papp, a dog is a dog. At least they don't look like frothing Hell-hounds, as Wayne Boring always drew them.

I'm going to call this one a win, in spite of everything. It's kind of fun to see Krypto acting like such a jerk, and you've got to love Siegel's faith in chemicals to do literally anything. Although it does leave you wondering why Superboy doesn't just carry that bug-sprayer everywhere, and end the threat of Luthor and Brainiac with a simple spritz of "Bad-Be-Gone."