The Sandman Saga, popularly known as Kryptonite Nevermore is a Superman Story Arc published in Superman (Volume 1) #233-235, 237-238, 240Ė242, written by Denny O'Neil and illustrated by Curt Swan. Neil Adams illustrated the covers, including the iconic image of Superman breaking his chains. This is the first Superman storyline under Editor Julius Schwartz and the first Bronze Age Superman story.
A nuclear accident converts all the Kryptonite on Earth to iron. Superman's initial joy turns into worry when he realizes something is weakening him. A sand doppelganger is gradually draining his power, and he has to learn how to fulfill his duties in spite of being sensibly weaker and more vulnerable.
The story's goal was scaling Superman's off the charts Silver Age power levels way back to much more manageable levels, returning him to his Golden Age roots and turning him into a weaker but wiser and more human character. However, readers didn't take to this revision and Schwartz was forced to backtrack.
Kryptonite Nevermore was advertised as "A new beginning for Superman"◊ which would bring great changes to the Super-family◊. Although Superman got his usual power levels back in issue #243 and the fact that Superman was depowered was never mentioned again, some changes stuck: Clark worked as a newscaster for WGBS-TV until Byrne's reboot, Supergirl was depowered for a while in which she used a Kandorian exoskeleton to be a hero, the Legion of Super-Pets disappeared, and gimmicks like red/green K, time travel, crazy science and super-criminals were strongly reduced.
In 1992, Walt Simonson wrote and drew a post-Crisis version of "The Sandman Saga" in Superman Special.
In 2001, The Superman Adventures did a 2-part adaptation of the story.
In 2009, the storyline was collected as part of the DC Comics Classics Library and titled Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore.
Kryptonite Nevermore provides examples of:
- Advanced Ancient Acropolis: The Devil's Harp and other strange artifacts were discovered buried beneath an ancient, forgotten, unnamed city.
- And I Must Scream: Invoked. Superman is doused with magma and falls into the ocean. The water cools the magma, encasing Superman in a shroud of stone. He thinks he will be stuck there forever unless he is able to break out.
- Astral Projection: Superman has an out-of-body experience through the help of I-Ching in order to regain his superpowers which were stolen from him by the Sand Superman.
- Attention Whore: Subverted. Morgan Edge and other characters claim that Superman loves to show off and grandstand when he is waving at Lois Lane. However Superman was not showing off at all.
- Badass Boast: As Superman gets ready to stop a gang of air pirates that are strafing him...Superman: I could easily dodge! Might as well let them have their fun, though... It'll be the last thing they enjoy for about 20 years!
- Badass Normal: Weakened, injured and underpowered, Superman defeats three armed thugs. He really likes the feeling of winning without resorting to super-powers.Superman: I've had the taste of the glory of being normal! To win through determination... courage... to be no more than myself — and no less!
- Batman Gambit: A group of pirates raid a freighter to distract the Coast Guard. Meanwhile, the main body of their band captures a Government facility.
- Battle Aura: After regaining part of his powers, "an aura of power" wraps Superman's spirit.
- Beard of Evil: Ferlin Nyxly has a goatee. It is not a big surprise that he becomes a criminal.
- Beware the Superman: Several characters argue this at several points:
- Morgan is not happy about Superman being immune to Kryptonite because he thinks absolute power corrupts absolutely.Lois: What've you got against Superman, sir?
Morgan: The same thing I'd have against anyone supremely powerful... I don't trust anyone who can't be stopped! A wise man once said that "power corrupts... and absolute power corrupts absolutely!" How do we know Superman will be an exception?
- Later Superman thinks he doesn't buy his reasoning:Superman: Morgan Edge was wrong! Power isn't corrupting... It's freeing me — to do unlimited good!
- Later Superman recovers his powers thanks to Wonder Woman's mentor I-Ching... but he hasn't recovered from a brain injury, and he becomes cocky, arrogant, impulsive and short-tempered. Ching fears that Superman goes berserker unless they help him.
- Finally, after having a horrible vision in which he accidentally destroys the planet, Superman does not want to get his full powers back.Ching: Perhaps I can transfer the powers you took from Superman back to him!
Superman: No! I've seen the dangers having too much power... I am human — I can make mistakes!
- Morgan is not happy about Superman being immune to Kryptonite because he thinks absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: In issue #237, Superman faces off against two rhino-sized ants. After the fight Superman notes that their size would have doomed them soon anyway.
- Blessed with Suck: Superman's powers make him the world's greatest hero. His powers also set him apart from everyone else, make him feel an outcast and burden him with immense responsibilities that no sane person would want.
- Blind Seer: I-Ching, Wonder Woman's blind martial arts master has a "third sight". He can "see" things hidden to normal eyes. He discovers Clark Kent's true identity, suspects his loss of powers may be of a supernatural cause, and can tell how Superman is dressed.Superman: Incredible... You're blind — yet you could tell how I'm dressed! You have what's called... Second sight?
I-Ching: My capacity is closer to... Third sight!
- Breaking the Bonds:
- In Superman #233 cover Superman breaks several Kryptonite chains with a simple muscular flexion.
- In issue #238, Superman is encased in a shroud of stone, and he manages to break out.
- Broken Tears: Superman cries when he believes his battle with his Sandman doppelganger has destroyed Earth.
- Brought Down to Normal: In issue #240 Superman has lost most of his super-powers and he is vulnerable. Even so he manages to defeat three armed gangsters.
- Bullying a Dragon: In Superman #234, tycoon Harker threatens Superman and even orders his men to shoot at the Man of Steel.
- Chekhov's Volcano: In Superman #234 Superman has to tame the Boki volcano before it erupts and kills a lot of people.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: The Devil's Harp displays a wicked, wide grin when its master uses it. It's very eerie.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Sometimes Superman does not even know what trouble he should deal with first.Superman: A disease from outer space... a plane-crash... army ants—! And that thing that camps on my trail! So many problems — I can't think where to begin!
- Clothes Make the Superman: Most of Superman's powers are natural, but his costume is always indestructible. Good thing because it keeps protecting his body when Clark becomes vulnerable.
- Convection Schmonvection: In issue #234 Superman flies over a volcano. It makes sense that he is not affected because he is invulnerable. However in issue #238 a group of criminals use a magma-hose. The nozzle is specially tempered but they are still too near from the stuff.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Boysie Harker, the tycoon that owns the island where Boki volcano is about to erupt, shoots at his employees when they try to run away.Mr. Harker: Name's Boysie Harker! I own this bay — and that island yonder!
Superman: Does that give you the right to shoot unarmed men?
Mr. Harker: That's exactly what it gives me! Those people are under contract to work my plantation... and I aim to enforce those contracts — even if I have to kill a few of the lazy louts!
- Crater Power: Superman makes a crater when he lands next to Lois in issue #237.
- Cross Counter: In the cover of issue #242, Superman and his copy punch each otherís faces.
- Determinator: Superman doesn't give up.Nyxly: Surrender, Superman!
Superman: Maybe I will... Ten minutes after I'm dead! Not a second before!
- Superman gradually lost 2/3 of his power in this story.
- Wonder Woman makes an appearance during her "No Powers" phase.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Superman accidentally rips a door off his hinges after recovering his powers.
- The End of the World as We Know It: A group of pirates led by international spy Quig take over a Government installation and threaten with detonating a hydrogen bomb and blowing the world up if their demands are not met.
- Enemy Without: The Sandman Superman, a being from another dimension charged with Superman's mental and physical vibrations that takes on Superman's form.Sandman: "I am a being woven from your mind — your heart — your soul! Can you not see—? I am you! And I fear that we may not both... survive!"
- Evil Is Not a Toy: In order to cure Superman, I-Ching performs a dark magic ritual. He is aware of the risks and the foolishness of playing with black magic, but he thinks there is no other way to help Supes.
- Evil Twin: Invoked by Superman when he meets the Sandman Superman.Superman: I don't know what you are, either! You seem... like a dark twin of myself...
- Eye Beams: Superman tries to stop a hijacked plane by fusing their electrical system with heat-vision... which chooses that precise moment to fail.
- Exact Words: Morgan Edge forbids Clark Kent to aid the inhabitants of an island in the Pacific. Clark agrees because Mr. Edge never told anything about Superman helping them out.
- Finger Poke of Doom: A crook tries to kill Superman with Kryptonite. After laughing at him, Superman pokes his forehead and knocks him out.
- Gratuitous Spanish: As Lois is in South America, her plane crashes and her pilot asks: "You are unharmed, señorita Lane?"
- Haunted Fetter: A Quarmerr penetrates the statue of an oriental war-demon and possesses it, causing it to come alive.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Morgan Edge slanders Superman to try to bring him down.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Two crooks run into a spirit who has possessed a statue and stolen two thirds of Superman's power. The ghost is naive, and they teach him to use his power to hurt and destroy. Suddenly he wonders why he should follow their orders instead of hurting them since he is more powerful than them.
- Hoist Hero Overhead:
- Nyxly does this to Superman during their duel.
- The second Quarmerr holds Superman overhead after knocking him out.
- Hostage Situation:
- As Lois is getting a story in South America, a group of bandits capture her and her pilot to force a group of Government troops chasing them to back off.
- A band of pirates take over a Government sea facility. The leader demands money in exchange for hostages.Quig: I want ten million dollars in gold delivered here — fifty hostages to insure you'll try no tricks — plus a hydrogen bomb! Should you refuse — my men will blast the drill hole! And you know what that would mean!
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Superman seriously considers to give up his powers because he wants to be a normal person deep-down. I-Ching talks him out of it.I-Ching: You would renounce your strength... speed... invulnerability? You wish to remain an ordinary mortal?
Superman: That's exactly what I wish! I've had a taste of the glory of being normal! To win through determination... courage... to be no more than myself — and no less! For years I've been dreaming of working and living as a plain man — without the responsibilities... the loneliness... of Superman!
I-Ching: Your attitude is understandable! But I beg you to reconsider... one does not choose responsibility! It is often thrust upon one! To refuse it is to commit the worst act of cowardice! Look around you... See a world burdened with misery... with untold agonies — a world which has need of you — as you were!
- Immune to Bullets: Superman tanks several cannon shots when he stops a band of air pirates. After getting depowered, though, bullets hurt him.
- In a Single Bound: After losing most of his power, Superman has to resort to jump to get around. Fortunately he "can cover dozens of miles with a good, hearty jump" and leap over a mountain.
- Intrepid Reporter: As soon as she hears about a band of crooks appropriating a Government facility, taking hostages and threatening with causing an environmental disaster if their demands are not met, Lois leaves to get the story.
- It's a Long Story: Lois asks Superman why he crash-landed behind her with strength enough to make a crater and why he seems so tired.Lois: S-Superman... What's wrong with you?
Superman: Never mind — long story, Lois!
- Jerkass Has a Point: Morgan Edge opines that someone as powerful as Superman mustnít be unstoppable. Superman dismisses this at the beginning, but at the end he becomes frightened of his own power.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Clark thought Morgan Edge was a jerk when he met him. He has reassessed his judgment since. Mr. Edge is a rotten, gigantic asshole.Clark Kent: Edge is the kind of man you don't like at first... but gradually, you get to hate him!
- Kryptonite Factor: Superman knows Kryptonite is now harmless because he is not affected. Magic keeps being a problem, though.
- Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Inverted. After a nuclear reaction, all Kryptonite on Earth is turned into iron.
- Kryptonite-Proof Suit: In case that Professor Bolden couldn't control the kryptonite chain reaction, Superman made a lead-coated shield to fit over the energy unit.
- Lost Superweapon: The Devil's Harp was hidden in a buried, ancient city.
- Love Makes You Dumb: A pilot tries to fight three armed bandits to impress Lois. He has the chance to catch them off guard... and he shouts before pouncing on the ringleader.
- Made of Indestructium: Superman's Kryptonian costume is indestructible. Fortunately, because a thug shoots him right when his invulnerability is below minimum, and the bullet bounces off his costume.
- The Man Behind the Man: Morgan tries to bring Superman down because he poses a threat to his true leader, Darkseid.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: After the Sandman Superman breaks the Devil's Harp, Superman reflects that they will never know whether it was "magic — or the relic of some forgotten science."
- Mean Boss: Morgan is the "If I say 'Jump' you ask 'How high?'" kind of boss. He is rude, demanding, gets angry constantly, and if he decides Clark Kent will stop being a reporter and work as a newscaster that is what will happen!Morgan Edge: Right now, I have an assignment for you, Kent! I want you to take this portable television transmitter and cover the launching of the new mail-rocket!
Clark: Sure... But why the TV? I'm a newspaper reporter!
Edge: You're my employee — and you'll do well to remember it! If I say you're working for my television station, you are! Clear?
Clark: I get the message, Mr. Edge!
- My God, What Have I Done?: Superman has a vision in where he fights his Sandman twin and they accidentally tear the world apart. He gets horrified, believing it to be real.Superman: Wait! — Look! The flames... the cracks...! I can't see any sign of life — anywhere! Oh, dear Lord... What have we done? For our own selfish ends, we've destroyed — everything! Forgive me, forgive me...
- My Suit Is Also Super: Superman's indestructible costume saves him from being badly injured when a crook shoots him.
- Mythology Gag: Even weakened, Superman is "able to leap over the mountain with a single bound!"
- My Way or the Highway: As far as Morgan Edge is concerned, his employees will do what he says if they like their jobs.Clark: But... this is an attack! A pretty heavy one! I'm Superman's friend! I can't!
Mr. Edge: You can... if you like your job! Clear, Kent?
- Nigh-Invulnerability: Once all Kryptonite has been reduced to ordinary iron, people think that Superman "is really invulnerable".Such is the force that his invulnerable body smashes through the roof as though it were paper...
- Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Nyxly challenged Superman to a death duel. Superman was weakened but he appeared because "Whatever else Superman may be... He's no coward!"
- No OSHA Compliance: Professor Bolden was going to test a potentially dangerous Kryptonite engine... and his only apparent security measure was Superman -the same guy who is killed by kryptonite radiation- paying attention to his experiment and saving them.
- Oh, Crap!: Professor Bolden displays a horrified expression when he realizes his experiment has gone awry.Prof. Bolden: Sound the emergency alarm—! The engine's out of control!
- One-Eyed Shot: As musician Ferlin Nyxly is playing, the camera focuses on his right eye.
- Person of Mass Destruction: In the last issue Superman sees a vision in where he and the Sandman Superman destroy the Earth during a fight. It freaks him out to the point he no longer wants to get his full power back.
- Portal Door: The lifeforms of Quarrm slips in Earth through several translucent "holes" in the air.
- Power Floats: In Superman #234 Superman hovers over the ocean while he tries to figure out how to stop a volcano while his powers are acting up.
- Power Glows:
- The kryptonite engine gives off a frightening green glow.
- Superman's spirit glows after recovering his powers.
- Powers as Programs:
- The Sandman Superman gradually drains Superman's powers.Superman: The faster I fly... the faster it flies! And I can't seem to attain top speed... Almost as though it's somehow... draining my power!
- The Devil's Harp steals abilities and powers from other people. Nyxly wanted to be a great musician, and the Harp stole the talent from a famous pianist. He wanted to fly, be super-strong and invulnerable, and the Harp stole Superman's powers.
- The Sandman Superman gradually drains Superman's powers.
- Powers Do the Fighting: In Superman #234, tycoon Boysie Harker's thugs accost Superman and hurt themselves when they hit him. Meanwhile Superman doesn't even appear to be aware of their presence.
- Put Their Heads Together:
- In #233 Superman does this to two air pirates as he is protecting a rocket.
- Superman smashes the heads of two bandits in issue #237 using this method.
- Reflective Eyes: As musician Ferlin Nyxly is playing, his right eye reflects the Devil's Harp.
- Refusal of the Call: Superman loses most of his power and wants to quit being Superman because he is sick and tired of being alone, being burdened with responsibilities and being judged and derided every time he makes one mistake. I-Ching convinces him it is not a good idea.I-Ching: Your attitude is understandable! But I beg you to reconsider... one does not choose responsibility! It is often thrust upon one! To refuse it is to commit the worst act of cowardice! Look around you... See a world burdened with misery... with untold agonies — a world which has need of you — as you were!
- The Reveal: The Sandman Superman is a creature from the Realm of Quarrm, an alternate dimension where only unformed, shapeless beings exist. The explosion which destroyed all kryptonite on Earth opened a rift between both universes, and he escaped, passed over Superman's unconscious body and sank into the desert sand, charged with Superman's mental and physical vibrations. Slowly it became alive, took on Superman's form and began sapping his powers.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Superman does not go out of his way to break laws, but he doesn't feel inclined to obey unjust ones.Superman: I can't let that happen! If worst comes to worst, I'll have to defy Harker — and take the consequences! Because there's a moral law that's above some man-made laws! I've fought tyrants before... thought it meant defying their inhuman decrees!
- Secret Identity: Morgan Edge wants Clark Kent to work as a newscaster. Superman worries about being in full view of millions because it will endanger his secret identity.
- Secret Identity Change Trick:
- Clark needs to change clothes during a broadcast, so he sneaks out during a commercial break.
- Shortly after, a rocket takes off, and Superman takes advantage of the noise and the smoke cloud to change clothes.Superman: The smoke and dust raised by the rocket will hide me from the onlookers... so I can switch clothes without ducking into a phone booth or something!
- In issue #235, Clark leaves Lois' side, pretending that he's going to get orange juice.
- Shooting Superman:
Superman: Criminal types never seem to tire of shooting off guns! I shouldn't complain... a few cannon shells aren't even a bother!
- Superman lampshades this when several crooks open fire:
- Issue #234 gives a truly stupid example. Tycoon Boysie Harker's men shoot at Superman using 50 millimeter shells. Then one of them uses a shotgun. Later they try to punch him, and their boss headbutts' Superman's stomach.Superman: Oh, come on, fella! If your big guns didn't stop me, surely you don't expect that bean-shooter to do the job!
- In issue #235, several terrorists shoot Superman. When bullets don't work, one of them clubs his head with his shotgun's butt. Superman lampshades it.Superman: Oh... You shouldn't have tried shooting, either! My name is Superman... and bullets don't bother me a whole lot! But you've noticed that, huh?
- In issue #240, though, Superman is so weak than he can be injured by a bullet. Fortunately his costume is still bulletproof.
- Soul Power: I-Ching can use his mystical knowledge to pull souls from bodies and cure them.
- Super Breath: Superman can expel large amounts of air.
- Super Senses:
- Clark uses his super-vision -X-Ray and heat vision- and his super-hearing to stop a gang of air robbers.
- After getting his powers back, Superman tests his super-vision:Superman: Now to check my vision! Telescopic vision — Check! I can read the numbers on the bottom of a coin... locked in a basement vault in Moscow! X-Ray vision — Check!
- Super Strength: Superman rips off the roof of a plane to arrest several thugs.
- Super Speed:
- Even when weakened, Superman can run so fast that he doesn't sink.
- After getting his powers back, Superman tests his speed by flying across space:Superman: Let's see how fast I am! I'm moving at about ten times the speed of light — quick as The Flash! So I'm okay in that department, too!
- Super Toughness: Superman tanks cannonís fire several times in the first chapters.
- Superpower Lottery: Superman hit the jackpot, but in this story he gradually loses most of his power.
- The Swarm: In issue #237, Superman has to save Lois and several persons from a horde of ants. This would usually not be a problem, but he is gradually getting weaker and he cannot come near from the group because he is afraid of infecting Lois with some strange illness.
- Taken for Granite: In issue #238, several pirates douse Superman with magma. He falls into the ocean and the water cools the magma, encasing Superman in stone.Superman: To make matters worse, the water is cooling the magma... causing it stick to me like a second skin!
- Taking the Bullet: Superman dives in front of a torpedo heading towards a freighter. The explosion doesn't kill him but it leaves him dazed.
- Taking You with Me: Before Superman arrests him, Quig releases a hydrogen bomb, hoping that the explosive hits a magma pocket and destroys the world.
- Tap on the Head:
- Superman does this to two mooks in the first issue.
- In issue #237, a highwayman clubs a pilot's head with his rifle's butt, knocking him out.
- Three members of the Anti-Superman Gang invade I-Ching's home and knock him out with a blow to the back of his head.
- Tempting Fate:
- A Daily Planet headline declares Superman had become really invulnerable. Jimmy Olsen screams that Superman has nothing to be afraid of now. Shortly after the Sandman Superman begins draining his powers.
- Clark has to come up with a way to stop a swarm of ants, and thinks "But there's no hurry — No immediate danger!" A second later, two monstrous ants kick him from behind.
- In issue #238 Superman sets out to arrest a pirate band. Since they appear to be only armed with guns he thinks: "Maybe this task won't be as tough as I figured". Then they start the magma-hose.
- There Can Be Only One: The Sandman Superman warns Superman that they have to fight because from his point of view Earth is not big enough for two Supermen.
- There Was a Door:
- In issue #240, a mother and two kids are trapped on the top floor of a burning skyscraper. Superman leaps upwards, falls on the building's roof, breaking it, and lands inside the top floor.
- In issue #241 Superman bursts through the wall of the Edge's apartment. This time he has no good cause.Superman: I don't feel like using doors — or windows either! The wall is good enough for me!
- Thinking Tic: Superman often grasps his chin when he ponders something. In issue #237 he does this as he wonders about an astronaut's sudden sickness.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Harker threatens Superman with having the law on him. Superman doesnít want to break any laws, but he will do if he has to.Superman: I can't let that happen! If worst comes to worst, I'll have to defy Harker — and take the consequences! Because there's a moral law that's above some man-made laws! I've fought tyrants before... thought it meant defying their inhuman decrees!
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Harker headbutts Superman, knocks himself out and cracks his skull. He didn't kill himself by sheer luck.
- Lois Lane and a pilot are captured by bandits. At one point, the three bandits turn away. The pilot decides to take advantage of their distraction to capture the ringleader... and he completely ruins his surprise attack by screaming "Smelly goat! I shall vanquish you!" when he lunges.
- Troubled Fetal Position: Superman wants to renounce his powers because he is tired of being a hero but I-Ching talks him out of it. Superman pulls his knees up and covers his face with both hands while he resigns himself to get his powers restored.
- Ungrateful Bastard: In issue #240 Superman cannot prevent a skyscraper from toppling down. The following day everyone laugh at him and Superman is distraught because people turns on him as soon as he makes one mistake.Superman: Ridicule... Laughter! So soon, they've forgotten all I've done... My years of service... of sacrifice! I guess I'm being bitter — and I don't care! I've a right to bitterness... No man has a better right! I've denied myself the comforts of home... family... to continue helping these... ingrates! I thought they admired me... for myself! I've lived in a fool's paradise!
- Up, Up and Away!: Superman flies stretching his left fist upwards in the first page.
- Use Your Head: Tycoon Harker head-butts Superman on the stomach. Of course, he knocks himself out.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Kryptonite was lethal to Superman and Supergirl, but it is rendered harmless in this story.Superman: No... Not impossible! Ordinarily I'd be out cold if I stood this close to Green K... yet it's having no effect on me at all!
- What Have You Done for Me Lately?: Metropolis folks begin mocking Superman because he makes a mistake after more than one decade protecting them.Superman: Ridicule... Laughter! So soon, they've forgotten all I've done... My years of service... of sacrifice! I guess I'm being bitter — and I don't care! I've a right to bitterness... No man has a better right! I've denied myself the comforts of home... family... to continue helping these... ingrates! I thought they admired me... for myself! I've lived in a fool's paradise!
- What You Are in the Dark: A swarm of ants is gaining on Lois. She cannot run because she is dragging an unconscious man and his weight slows her down. She knows she can save her life if she abandons the pilot, who is unconscious owing to his stupidity, but she knows she cannot leave the man.Lois: They're overtaking us... We'll both die — unless... unless I abandon the pilot! After all, it's his fault we're in this mess! Why should I pay for his stupidity? No! No matter how desperate the situation, I must be human! — Merciful! I must try... And not give up hope!
- World's Strongest Man: As the introductory lines note, Superman was the most powerful being on Earth. After his struggle against the Sandman Superman, though, that title goes to his cousin Kara Zor-EL/Linda Danvers alias Supergirl.
- X-Ray Vision:
- While he is broadcasting his first newscast, Superman's X-Ray vision reveals a crook hiding behind a blockhouse.
- He also uses his X-Ray vision to locate two air pirates through a plane's roof.