Of any plague on old Krypton, none was more feared than Virus X.
It caused a rapid-acting fatal disease akin to Earth's leprosy, and came in two distinct forms -- the native Kryptonian Leprosy which did not affect Earthlings, and the more terrifying re-invention of Virus X by Lex Luthor that destroyed all creatures with a touch.
The virus was first brought to Krypton's Stuvar airport by an ailing victim who had commandeered a craft and escaped Uger, the plague planet. He spread it to the airport staff and, in the throws of the Panic Syndrome, the staff spread it to their families. Kryptonian scientist Tharb-El studied the disease but could find no cure for the afflicted or even destroy samples of the virus itself.
Tharb-El did find that the original form of Kryptonian Leprosy did not affect Earth people, and thus when his kryptonite canister of Virus X crashed on Earth, all were immune apart from Superman, Supergirl and the Kandorians.
Superman immediately felt ill after Jimmy Olsen impulsively opened Tharb-El's kryptonite capsule, and the Man of Steel smashed it deep into the earth -- scattering Kryptonite shards. Jimmy became his constant nursemaid while Superman completed a number of bucket-list legacy projects across the globe, finally leaving his epitaph carved into the moon.
Supergirl travelled to Krypton's past, and learned that Tharb-Ol had ensured that the kryptonite capsule carried only dead Virus X, and thus Superman could not have been infected. A close observation of his nursemaid Jimmy Olsen revealed a Green Kryptonite shard embedded in his camera. Superman had been poisoned by Kryptonite. There was no Virus X and once the Kryptonite was removed, Superman recovered.
Years before; Superboy had needed a means of faking his own death; and perusing his total recall of life on Krypton, he chose Virus X. Pete Ross was brought to a planetoid where Superboy and Krypto claimed to have been doused with Virus X by the Superboy Revenge Squad, but it was all an elaborate hoax to test Pete, who took Superboy's place.
The Leper from Krypton
It was Lex Luthor that actually brought Virus X to Earth. He had learned of the disease from one of Kal-El's earlier encounters and gained access to the Biochem lab within Metropolis prison, where he irradiated some deadly Earth microbes with Kryptonite for several weeks until he produced the deadliest pathogen: Virus X. Unlike native Kryptonian Virus X, Luthor's could infect any living creature, whether it was his lab rats, or Superman.
Luthor's ally, Ventor Caine, chose the most unlikely victim to super-hypnotize into inoculating Superman with Virus X -- Clark Kent. Clark spilled the virus on himself, and immediately his hand began to turn green and scaley; and he went into the Panic Syndrome, which is the first symptom of Kryptonian Leprosy.
Once infected, Superman could not touch anyone or anything without them dying in minutes. Luthor announced to the world that Superman was now the Leper from Krypton; and that first night all shunned him. Firefighters did not want his help. Crooks surrendered at the sight of his green scaley skin, the police announced on loudspeakers that he should leave town. As a final precaution, everything in the Superman Museum was dissolved in acid.
While they had time, the U.N. General Assembly met, and gathered the world's best doctors; who could do nothing but ensure the safety of others by encasing Superman in a clear fibreglass covering. Ultimately Superman left Earth the way he did Krypton -- in a rocket. His only option was to plunge himself and the Virus X he carried into the neutronic sun, Flammbron, so that he and the virus would be fully consumed.
There were two different strains of Virus X. The native Virus was contagious only between Kryptonians, and did not effect Earth people. Luthor's Virus X, on the other hand, also spread by contact and would kill terrestrial creatures after a span of thirty minutes. Kryptonians typically died thirty days after contracting Virus X.
- Panic Syndrome: Extreme physical exertion and paranoia. Sweating and delirium.
- Leper Effect: No sense of pain. Green mummified skin. Highly contagious.
- Death: In Death, victims remained contagious unless exposed to Element 202.
As there was no existing treatment, the only option was to project Superman into the Phantom Zone until a cure was found; but Virus X's vehemence was so feared that even the Phantom Zone inmates refused to allow Superman into the immaterial Zone for fear that it could still be caught.
Even in the Thirtieth century, Brainiac 5 could not find a cure for the native Kryptonian Leprosy, using his advanced knowledge and science. He simply knew that nothing on Earth would halt the course of the disease. The Kryptonian scientist Tharb-El had discovered that "Element 202" would destroy the Leprosy virus; but it was also fatal to the patient. In the end, Tharb could only seal his samples of virus in the capsule with Element 202 and fire it into space to ensure its destruction. And that capsule made its way to Earth.
The Bizarro Cure
Superman's Funeral Rocket passed a number of familiar worlds on the way to his living cremation in Flammbron; and the final world he saw was Htrae, the cubic home of the Bizarros, who celebrated Superman's death by trying to kill him. A pair of Bizarros hurled meteors of Red and White Kryptonite at Superman's passing bier, while Superman had a last laugh at their stupidity. It was only later that Superman realized that the White Kryptonite had killed Virus X and restored his body -- just before he plunged into the neutronic fires of Flammbron.
- It was not disclosed whether Lex Luthor's Virus X was indestructible, as the original native Kryptonian Leprosy could not be destroyed. It could be assumed that Luthor's did not persist in the environment; as Clark Kent's pillow, a cat, and a rabbit were also infected with Virus X; yet it was never heard of again.
- Though Virus X first made a named appearance in Superman #156, the exact same situation happened to the Superman in Superman #66, except that writer William Woolfolk called it "Walker's Disease" rather than Virus X. A fragment of Kryptonite was lodged in Jimmy Olsen's camera, and it sickened Superman enough that he was given one month to live. He called his friends around and completed great labours like irrigating the desert; smashing two uninhabited planets together; and engraving the exact same epitaph on the moon; complete with his secret identity revealed.
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