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08 July 2004 @ 10:41 am
Super Heroes  
I really like the concept of super-powers.

Also, I think that a super-hero like Superman is the least interesting kind.
He's just too powerful.

Superman's power's (off the top of my head):

Flight (including space-flight, apparently).
Super strength.
Super speed.
X-ray vision.
Super hearing.

And, according to Mario Puzo and Richard Donner, the ability to reverse time.

The introduction of the last power, lauded by Robert McKee as great storytelling, literally ruins the character. Sure, maybe it's a great way to end a story, but if a character can fix any mistake he's made by turning back time, nothing is ever at stake.

Anyway, regardless of this last point, Superman's powers are too strong and too far-reaching. There's not much he can't do.

What I find interesting are the groups of superheroes that each have an individual power. Something narrow that only they can do.

Like the X-Men, I suppose, however Wolverine is a little too dominant.

Years ago,lukeii brought home a bunch of old Legion of Superheroes comics. I have no idea where he got them, but I guess he can answer that.

Anyway, they had a lot of hokey ideas, for instance all the Legionnaires had to be teenagers and you had to retire when you were too old, or if you got married(!).  Also, there was a stipulation that no two members could have the same super-powers - great for variety, but somewhat illogical (they couldn't think of any situation where they might need two people with super-strength?).

But, my point is, I liked these comics for the novelty factor of having a whole bunch of different super-powers, many of which were quite odd.

Cosmic Boy: Magnetism
Heh. He's like a good Magneto.

Saturn Girl: Telepathy & Thought Control
"Mental telepathy?" "Nah, mate. Mobile phone."

Lightning Lad: Shoots Lightning
This comic is set in the far future. So, surely they could duplicate this power with some sort of ray-gun. I mean, couldn't we already make a gun that shoots lightning?

Light Lass (Lightning Lad's twin): Anti-Gravity (sort of)
Yep, she makes heavy things light.

Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel: Splits Into Three/Two Bodies
Okay, so one of the bodies died. Anyway, this power would otherwise be useless except that she also has super-strength. Come to think of it, maybe super-strength was an exception they allowed more than one member to have (perhaps as long as they had other powers too).

Phantom Girl: De-materialisation
She can de-materialise her body to pass through walls and other solid objects. Nifty.

Chameleon Boy: Shape-shifting
This one was always my favourite. The ability to shift into any shape imaginable is incredibly useful and incredibly powerful. Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had this power, but didn't use it often enough (because he wanted to "fit in" apparently). If I had this power I would use it all the time. You could use it to eavesdrop (disguised as an inanimate object that's just lying around), you could use it in combat (by turning into something dangerous), you could use it for transport (by turning into something with wings or whatever), the list goes on. Also, Chameleon Boy was a nifty looking alien.

Colossal Boy: Super-growth
Er, you know, he could make himself big. Handy too was the corresponding increase in strength.

Invisible Kid: Invisibility
Again, amazingly useful. They put an interesting limitation on this power that meant it happened as slow fading. A great idea that meant he couldn't escape in an instant.

Star Boy:  Makes things super-heavy
The opposite of Light Lass. I wanna' see these two duel.

Brainiac 5: Super-computer Brain
Super-smart. He's apparently not an android, but an alien. He's sort of distantly related to the super-villain android villain Brainiac. Confused?

Shrinking Violet: Super-shrinking
The opposite of Colossal Boy (I think it's an odd coincidence that members with opposite powers tend to have opposite gender).  She can make herself really small.

Bouncing Boy: Blows Up Like a Balloon and Bounces
Yep, one of the weirder ones. When he uses his power he looks like the girl in Willy Wonka that becomes a blueberry, and he bounces around the place. Bizarre.

Anyway. That'll do for now. There are plenty more.
As I say, I really like the variety.
It must have been tough on the writers to have to come up with unique powers for every member.
Some guy called Lap?harkon on July 8th, 2004 01:29 am (UTC)
One thing I have noticed (at least with the Marvel universe) is that the magnitude of a heroe's powers are often related to how popular he/she/it is.

For example, Gambit, as a fairly random guy, his power not to dominating. But then he kinda got a bit of a following, his own comic and then he got a whole heap of extra stuff. And of course there is Wolverine...
Jacobyak_boy on July 8th, 2004 03:05 pm (UTC)
I've never followed comics that mutch, but don't you think maybe it's to do with him getting his own comic?

Think about it. Say Cyclops from X-Men got his own comic. How interesting is a comic about a guy whose only super-power is to be able to blast things/people with his eye ray? But, give him super-strength, telekinesis and the ability to turn invisible - you've suddenly got some possibilities.

With an ensemble comic like the Legion of Super-heroes, it doesn't matter if a particular character is limited in what they can do, because you're rarely writing for just one character, you're writing for a bunch of characters.
Jacob: foolyak_boy on July 8th, 2004 03:11 pm (UTC)
Mmm... mutch...
Robet Éivaayvah on July 10th, 2004 12:20 am (UTC)
I think that one of the main reasons Wolverine is so powerful is because he's so popular. I think that presently, Spiderman is the most powerful superhero. If they were to stage a fight between Spiderman and any other superhero, he would win. There's even an official comic book out there in which Spiderman beat the shit out of Superman (are you surprised that he used kyptonite?).

I was once told that Superman's main weaknesses were his frustratingly good will and his less-than-remarkable intelligence. Pretty crap, really.

But anyway, Spiderman is so l33t.

And I know I could write a comic book about Cyclops that'd be interesting. He only really has one real power, but that's more than some "superheroes". Personally, though. I'd like to do the character Kitty, though it'd take some serious work to make that a good story (her power is just too powerful).

'Course, I read more manga than comics. and I'm not exactly a huge reader of those, either.
Jacobyak_boy on July 10th, 2004 01:32 am (UTC)
"I think that one of the main reasons Wolverine is so powerful is because he's so popular."

Well, I could be wrong, but I think most of Wolverine's abilities were established pretty early on. It's not like they decided that since he was a popular character they would add super-healing and adamantium claws. If they did add anything as he grew in popularity it would only have been minor things like his animal senses.

"I think that presently, Spiderman is the most powerful superhero."

Really? I don't see that at all. His abilities as far as I know are:
*Spider-web (for travel and combat purposes)
*Enhanced speed and strength (although nowhere near Superman)
*"Spider-sense" (again, not as acute as Superman)

Did I leave anything out?

Anyway, he's nowhere near as powerful as Superman.
But, he is still up there with the most powerful.

"If they were to stage a fight between Spiderman and any other superhero, he would win."

Sure, but this has more to do with the popularity of Spider-man than his actual power. It's like professional wrestling, the outcome is determined beforehand based on how they think it will affect sales. Spider-man will win, despite the fact that he's less powerful, because the average comic fan wants Spider-man to win.

"I was once told that Superman's main weaknesses were his frustratingly good will and his less-than-remarkable intelligence."

That, and kryptonite.

But Superman's morality annoys the shit out of me. He has this stupid stance that it's wrong to kill anyone, so he'll hold back. Sometimes killing the villain is the right thing to do (see The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller for an excellent exploration of this).

Spider-man's morality is a lot more grounded. He's the good guy, the hero, without having to conform to some artificial concept of the preservation of life. Spider-man won't deliberately kill someone, but he'll do whatever it takes to save the day.
Jacobyak_boy on July 10th, 2004 01:34 am (UTC)
Speaking of kryptonite, I never understood why they always went on about how green kryptonite was fatal to Superman.

The number of times he's been exposed to the stuff and hasn't died should prove that it isn't fatal. :)
Robet Éivaayvah on July 11th, 2004 05:21 pm (UTC)
Spiderman is the most powerful hero because he's popular. He might not have the extreme superpowers, but I wasn't talking strictly in terms of what his powers are. Also, note that Spiderman sometimes varies the kind of web he's using for the situation (though the movie version of him would find this awfully difficult). And you missed wall-crawling.

The spider-sense is a pretty good one though. It's more of a danger sense than any kind of super hearing. It means he's extremely good at dodging.

Oh. And Venom-Spiderman would kick Superman's butt. :P

And there actually was a staged battle between Spiderman and Superman. I haven't read it, but I still think it's stupid that the only way to beat superman is with a stupid green glowing rock (the battle involved spider-web infused with kryptonite).

Wolverine did have a whole lot of a base to be a strong character, but you should take a closer look at the other characters. When she's not restrained, Storm's powers are humungous. And she also has a backstory good enough to back her up. Cyclops's power is also one of the best when used correctly (ignore the comics where he "can't track" the enemy. All he has to do is get his eyes on them). In some versions, the professor can kill people at will. And don't get me started with Pheonix.

The exact magnitude of their powers depends on the story requirements and the writers responsible (especially when you might see Superman struggling to carry a building, and a few series later he's able to move planets).

What I liked about Superman from the start was that he won because of his wits, rarely luck and rarely his pow
Mr Sinisterglintsinisterglint on July 11th, 2004 11:41 pm (UTC)
Yak Boy: "Like the X-Men, I suppose, however Wolverine is a little too dominant."
Ryan Scott of The Uncanny X-Sprites once referred to Wolverine as 'the living embodiment of a deus ex machina' (I'm unsure if that's exactly what he said, but it's close enough for government work).
Ayvahrobby: I think that one of the main reasons Wolverine is so powerful is because he's so popular.
Or maybe he's popular because he's so powerful? No, I think his popularity is due to a combination of his abilities and his personality. The guy is practically unkillable (and even if he does die, Marvel will just resurrect him to boost sales), his claws and reinforced skeleton are cool, plus he's a bad-arse.

And re: Superman's turning back time –never mind for a moment that as a plot-device it was pretty lame, but the idea that reversing the direction of the Earth's rotation would reverse the flow of time is ridiculous.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 12th, 2004 04:13 pm (UTC)
Wolverine is definitely killable. I'm sure there are plenty of mutants who are quite capable of a "LETTER OPENER TO THE EYE ATTACK!!!!". Then again, you might have read a comic where Wolverine was able to regenerate brain tissue, but as far as I currently know, that's impossible.

Spiderman would beat Wolverine. Though I'm betting Wolverine would give him a hard time about it... Hmm. I wonder: Can Wolverine heal asphyxiation?

Anyway, yeah. Wolverine is popular because of those three reasons: personality, claws (was it three or four on each hand) and bones.

Superman is lame. The movies were decent, but we're talking about what is practically the oldest superhero (I'll ignore all the ones who were like him but faded into obscurity because they were even worse). People like Superman, but his story makes Dragon Ball Z look like the best stuff ever written (actually, now that I think about it -- the entire Dragon Ball series shares a lot in common with Superman -- a pod lands on Earth; a baby human-like alien with mysterious powers comes out and is adopted by a guy who lives out in the country. The alien grows up to have an extremely strict sense of morals regarding killing people (though by the end his philosophy becomes a bit more grounded). He can fly, and he is powerful enough to destroy planets one quarter of the way through the story, and by the end he's supposedly about a million times as strong as he was then).
Jacobyak_boy on July 13th, 2004 01:12 am (UTC)
Well some count The Phantom as the oldest superhero, but he's more like a proto-superhero.

The Phantom is the middle-man between the old detective comics and the superhero comics.

He doesn't have any superpowers per se, but he is supernaturally fast, strong and deadly accurate with a pistol (though he always aimed for the hands to disarm, and not kill). He deliberately cultivates superstitious mumbo-jumbo in the local tribes that believe he is an immortal (whereas the truth is that as each Phantom dies he passes the mantle on to the next generation).

Anway, the main thing that The Phantom comics introduced that changed the face of comic books forever was the costume. Yes, The Phantom was the first hero to wear his underpants on the outside.

The purple colour was actually a printing error (his costume was meant to be grey), but they stuck with it, creating the vivid imagery of the brightly costumed hero, that would be taken to new heights with the garish red, yellow and blue of Superman.

Whether or not The Phantom is considered a "superhero" is cause for debate, but if Batman (who likewise has no innate superpower) is considered a superhero, then so should The Phantom.
Robet Éivaayvah on July 13th, 2004 08:48 pm (UTC)
All right. I stand corrected then. I can't believe I'd forgotten the Phantom.

But on the other hand, the Phantom is becoming a more and more obscure superhero.

Oh, and I think superheroness is more dependent on a state of mind than on the presence of superpowers.
Jacob: hypnotoadyak_boy on July 13th, 2004 12:55 am (UTC)
I think the big problem with the Superman movie, and I'm sure that Kevin Smith would back me up here, is that it wasn't written or directed by comic fans, but by A-list Hollywood types (although of course Puzo was also a novelist).

I've got no idea about the writer of Spider-man, David Koepp, but I do know that the director, Sam Raimi, is a big comic fan from way back.