Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Real Superhero Adventures: Superpowers

In yesterday's post, I pointed out the existence of a rare condition that grants those who have it what most regard as essentially "superhuman" strength.

One of the things that this makes me think of, a feature of superhero comics and other superhero media that irritates me, is the "perfect power."

My definition of "perfect power" is as follows: A superhuman or near superhuman ability that has no drawbacks whatsoever, except occasionally in unusual circumstances.

Superman's superhuman hearing is a good example of this. The only occasions on which his hearing becomes a drawback are those where the writer desires it to be so; this is almost never, and on those occasions where it is employed (e.g., in Superman IV, Clark/Superman is momentarily staggered by the extremely loud high frequency audio transmission used by Luthor to contact him), it is rather unbelievable, because Superman has probably heard much louder noises (say, a nuclear explosion) than that.

Or take 99% of characters with superhuman strength and/or regeneration. The Hulk lifts and throws aircraft carriers and the like; Wolverine has been known to regenerate from being entirely incinerated (except his bones); neither show signs of needing extra nourishment as a result of these activities. While in the Hulk's case it's sort of plausible (he can draw mass from somewhere, and presumably this is the source of his endless stamina when enraged), but why doesn't Wolverine get the munchies, at least? Is he drawing energy from sunlight and mass from the air or something? (If that's the case, he should be renamed Nettles. For that matter, maybe the Hulk should be called Kudzu.)

The aforementioned article points out one likely weakness that anyone with superhuman strength is likely to have: An incredibly fast metabolism. The kid in the article needs to be fed a full-sized meal every hour. And no matter how strong this kid gets, he'll never be as strong as even the likes of Spider-Man, much less the Hulk. However, he apparently is considerably more agile than most children his age, as well as stronger, which suggests that there's at least some plausibility to the fact that nearly all comic book characters are superhumanly agile at times (whether this is admitted to or not).

Signing off. Sorry if you were hoping for the skits I usually put in these.

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