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The time that Superman was stuck in kryptonite-related self-quarantine

The Man of Steel got a little antsy in the Fortress of Solitude

“You guys... are SO messed up,” Superman tells the Justice League, who appear as tiny, big-headed versions of themselves due to his exposure to enchanted silver kryptonite, in Superman/Batman #46, DC Comics (2008). Image: Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Shane Davis/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

There aren’t many threats in the DC Universe dangerous enough to keep Superman cooped up at home, but they do exist. And even the Man of Steel gets restless when he’s self-quarantined.

And when Superman gets restless, he annoys the heck out of Batman — or at least that’s what he did in a 2004 arc of Superman/Batman, when Earth had become covered in shards of kryptonite, and Superman had to hole up in the Fortress of Solitude.

What kind of series was Superman/Batman?

Originally written by Jeph Loeb, and drawn by a rotating cast of artists, Superman/Batman was DC’s mid-2000s Superman and Batman team-up series. These days, it’s best known online as that comic where Superman and Batman have intertwined narration boxes where they often lowkey sounded like they were about to kiss, but it was a big favorite of mine back in the day. Loeb knew how to combine a close character focus with big crazy comic book action, and how to give his artists plenty of room to show off.

But how did he put Superman in quarantine? Long story short, scientists detected a rogue piece of the planet Krypton that was on a collision course with Earth. Fortunately, Earth’s superheroes managed to destroy it before it made impact. Unfortunately, it exploded into many, many multi-colored shards, which rained down all over the globe.

For Superman’s own safety, and the safety of all those he might protect in the future, the Man of Steel agreed to stay in the Fortress of Solitude for two weeks while the Justice League rallied trusted superheroes around the globe to recover and destroy as much of the kryptonite as they could.

In the meantime, he was able to take shifts of monitor duty, the Justice League equivalent of working from home, and only left the Fortress briefly and for essential tasks, like saving a flaming blimp from crashing into Gotham’s skyline.

But if Superman found it easy to just sit around and let other people save the world, he wouldn’t be Superman. Which is why Superman/Batman #8 opened with the Man of Steel on the phone with Batman, asking if he can leave yet.

Batman, who is at that very moment diving to the bottom of Gotham Bay to pick up kryptonite, tells him no.

“There must be something I can be doing,” Superman protested.

“You already are doing it,” Batman insisted.

Superman complains about his self-quarantine in the Fortress of Solitude while the rest of the Justice League runs around picking up Krytonite, in Superman/Batman #8, DC Comics (2004). Image: Jeph Loeb, Michael Turner/DC Comics

Eventually Batman threatened to tell Lois Lane what a pain in the butt he’s being, and that got Superman to log off. Which is right when the issue’s real story began, with the first appearance of Supergirl in two decades.

2004 Superman sets a great example for 2020

Superman wasn’t just holed up in the Fortress of Solitude because kryptonite is a danger to him alone. He was there because if he were disabled by kryptonite it would present a huge risk to Earth to not have its powerful protector around. So he worked from home, going out only for essential tasks, and did his part to put keep himself and anyone else from unnecessary danger.

And he still gets antsy and restless — so he reached out to a friend. Even a grumpy one.

“Go play with your dog,” Batman tells Superman as he scuba dives to the bottom of Gotham Harbor, in Superman/Batman #8, DC Comics (2004). Image: Jeph Loeb, Michael Turner/DC Comics

Superman: The hero we need, and the hero we deserve.