A Comic Book Entry: Underrated Superpowers

In the world of comic books, splashy powers tend to get the glory (Batman/Wolverine excepted; but aren’t they always?).  Superman is an alien god who can fly, has ice breath, heat beams, super-strength, and super-speed.  Green Lantern can make literally anything out of green energy.  The Hulk is big and green and scary and unstoppable.  Wonder Woman is super-strong, can fly, has bullet-proof bracelets, a magic lasso, and can occasionally do magic because the plot demands.  Those without splashy powers have to make up for it with splashy action scenes.  For some characters, splashy action scenes really are their power.  But there are so many powers that are completely underrated, and indeed some possessed by even the most ordinary of people.  Some of these people may not even realize they have a superpower.  So here’s a list of some underrated superpowers.  I may think of more, and will post them as I do so.

1) Power: Super-Saved

This is the power whereby Superman instantly knows that the person is in danger and immediately rushes to save their life.  Possessed by a few people in the DC Universe, most notably Lois Lane and to a lesser extent Jimmy Olsen.  Lampshaded in the DCAU cross-over movie, “World’s Finest” in which hijackers take over a plane and realize the spunky brunette is in fact Lois Lane.

Hijacker – You’re Lois Lane?  The Lois Lane who’s always saved by Superman?
Lois – I’m afraid so. [Cue Superman showing up outside the plane window]

2) Power: Angst Nullifer

This is the power of giving someone some damn perspective, at least temporarily.  The main possessor of this power until that damn retcon was Mary Jane Watson.  Ah, how I miss that power.  We all love Peter Parker/Spider-man, but sometimes his angst rocketed way past 11 and MJ was the only one who could do anything about it.  That perspective being, of course, “Stop carrying that dead albatross of guilt around your neck for everyone you’ve ever let die; you’re a superhero; it’s going to happen.  You also happen to be married to a totally hot lingerie model who loves you in spite of your numerous flaws.”  Do not underestimate this power.  It made Spider-man readable.  Now it is gone, and Spider-man is unreadable.  Other possessors are Sue Storm/Richards, pretty much anyone who’s dealt with the Thing long-term, and of course, Alfred Pennyworth.

3) Power: Calm Hulk

Exactly as described above.  A truly underrated power in the Marvel Universe.  The Hulk can’t be stopped by billions of dollars of the army’s best Hulkbusting equipment.  Even the Avengers can usually only fight him to a stand-still, and by stand-still I mean, “Only smashing up stuff in a relatively small area.”  Given the billions of dollars of collateral damage caused by the Hulk during one of his episodes, the importance of the ability to calm his rage cannot be overstated.  Countless people’s lives and billions of dollars of property have been saved by this simple superpower.  Possessed mainly by important people in the Hulk’s life, but mostly by the otherwise annoying teenaged sidekick to the universe Rick Jones and long-time love interest Betty Ross (prior to turning into red She-Hulk).

4) Power: Public Relations Staff

The power to get the general public and a good number of superpowered individuals to forget/overlook the terrible things you’ve done.  This is primarily a villain power, but without this power, many many villains would be in jail instead of continuing to carry out their evil schemes.  Again, the wonderful TvTropes website describes this power, which is “Villain with Good Publicity.”  Most long-term villains have too much history against them.  There is no one with any sense of history in Metropolis who should trust Lex Luthor.  There is no one with any sense of history in New York City who should trust Norman Osborn.  But Luthor was nearly the President of the US and Osborn ended up the head of SHIELD even though I am pretty sure he was a convicted felon at the time.  These are the types of guys who might have literal skeletons in their closets.  So how could they possibly obtain such high-level governmental positions?  A well-trained spin team that a real-world political candidate would sell his/her soul for.

5) And the most underrated superpower:

Mojo Jojo – Why should we let you join us?  You have no superpowers!
Princess – Because I have the greatest superpower of all – cold, hard CASH!
Him – Hm.  She’s right you know.

Seriously, we all love Batman, but if Bruce Wayne’s parents had been working-class people who were gunned down in an alley, the best little Bruce could have hoped for at that point was maybe becoming a cop.  There would be no Batman.  Anger and a desire for justice does not buy a Bat-mobile, but all the money does.  The same goes for Batman’s Marvel goateed doppelgänger, Tony Stark.  Remember, originally Tony was in an iron lung and could not move.  If he too was just a working-class kind of guy he would still be in that iron lung.  The same goes for villains.  Lex Luthor?  All the money.  Dr. Doom?  All the money.  Norman Osborn?  All the money.  Even heroes/villains without their own personal funds benefit from someone with all the money.  The X-men?  The school was founded on Xavier’s considerable family fortune.  The Fantastic Four?  Selling patents on the junk Reed Richards invents in the five minutes it takes him to think of something truly awesome.  Any villain mercenary?  Well, someone has to pay them.

Joker – Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Not having money is so terrible it’s often a plot point.  Part of the reason Spider-man is such a bad superhero is because he never has any money.  He’s stuck trying to work to pay bills which makes it hard to get in either quality work or quality superheroing.  The last Chris Nolan “Batman” movie even stripped Batman of his money because it is that important of a superpower.  A lot of villains have ended up that way because they just couldn’t raise the funds.  For stupid reasons, the X-men recently ended up bankrupt and that was terrible (although remedy of space gambling was worse).  The FF lost all their money for a while too, and were destitute, but luckily the Thing had a separate fund and it turned out that fund had seriously all the money.  Why?  Because as brilliant as Reed Richards is, he still needs parts to make awesome plot-devices, I mean, inventions.  Just like any other superpower, no one who has money as a superpower loses it for very long.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is do not underrate characters without inherent superpowers, especially un-splashy ones.  Sometimes the greatest superpowers of all are treated as mere plot devices and the true extent of their influence on the greater comic book universe is taken for granted.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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