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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

7 Comic Book Superpowers the World Can Do Without

From “rainbow breath” to incredible weight gain via donuts, here are 7 superhero powers the world doesn’t need.

1. The Power to Eat Things

Picture 331.pngIf you’re desperate for heroes with mediocre superpowers, look no further than the Legion of Super-Heroes, the 30th-century superhero squad that started out in 1958. Packed with uninspiring members, the legion featured the likes of Bouncing Boy (who could bounce around like a ball), Chlorophyll Kid (who could make plants grow faster) and Dream Girl (who could tell the future through dreams). But the strangest of all was Matter-Eater Lad, who just ate things. Matter-Eater Lad’s finest moment was stopping an indestructible machine from destroying the universe… by eating it. The storylines were that good. In 1993, DC Comics decided that the character was too silly for the newer, grittier style of comics, and he was rewritten as the Legion’s personal chef, who didn’t really get involved in the combat.

2. Fighting Nazis by turning them into Doves

Picture 322.pngDuring WWII, male comic book heroes weren’t the only ones pounding on Hitler and throwing punches at Nazis. A few female supers joined in the fight as well. One such character, hidden in the pages of Quality’s Military Comics (1941), was a young, pretty reporter named Joan Dale who gained her patriotic powers after a visit to the Statue of Liberty. Gazing upon the national symbol, she wondered: “Gosh! Just think of all the GOOD a person could do if they had the POWERS that the Statue of Liberty must possess!!” While we’re not certain which idiot tipped the savvy reporter off on the statue’s magical powers, Lady Liberty hears the wish, visits Joan in a dream, then grants her superpowers to aid American troops in the raging world war. Or at least, that’s what she believes. So does this newly created Miss America get to beat up Nazis like the boys? Not exactly. Her main power seemed to be turning bad guys into doves. The confusing bird trick proved a little dull for most comic book fans, and the Miss America storylines were promptly ignored. In a very brief comeback in 1984, it was revealed that the whole time Joan Dale could actually control molecules, meaning that she could do practically anything! Why she’d wasted everyone’s time turning Nazis into doves, however, was never explained.

3. The Power to Talk Loudly

Picture 341.pngIf Black Bolt told a joke, he’d bring the house down. Of course, if he said anything at all, he’d bring the house down. As King of the Inhumans, a mysterious super race based on the moon, Black Bolt packs a great set of lungs. So great, in fact, that he causes utter destruction with his “quasi-sonic” scream, even with the faintest whisper. As a result, the soft-spoken superhero usually keeps quiet, speaking only when he needs to destroy things. While it might seem like an inconvenient power, old Bolty doesn’t seem to mind. When he isn’t occupied with superheroics, he quietly rules his kingdom with his wife, Medusa, who no doubt can’t believe her luck: a husband who won’t talk back! The books have yet to reveal what happens when he gets the hiccups.

4. Detachable Body Parts

Picture 351.pngSince the 1940s, there have been no less than seven superheroes called Captain Marvel. But the strangest might be the one briefly published by M.F. Publications in 1966. As a robotic superhero, Captain Marvel could will his body parts in different directions, just by yelling the command: “Split!” This allowed him to fight numerous villains in various locations all at once. His feet would separate and karate kick evil-doers, while his left and right hands would be jabbing and punching in different parts of the room. Presumably, he could also use his torso to hip-check villains, Black Knight-style. It was never really made clear how any villain worth their salt could be overcome by a disembodied finger or foot – and since the comic hasn’t been published for over 40 years, we’ll probably never know. Although robot Captain Marvel is the least famous of the Captains Marvels, he hasn’t been forgotten. Some readers view the books as camp classics.

5. Rainbow Breath

Picture 361.pngAdmittedly, I have no idea what this does, but according to the text – when used with other powers like “X-ray strength”, “speed-squared” and “shame-vision” – it’s “enough to topple most 21st century Western economies.” Maybe, but the Lucky Charmed halitosis still sounds pretty dumb. Rainbow breath is just one of the 1,204 super-powers (including “nuclear poop-vision” and “larynx-freezing vision”) that belong to Seth, a monstrous, genetically-engineered hillbilly who fights the influential superhero team The Authority (published by Wildstorm Productions) in 2002. So, how do you take down a force like Seth? The superhero squad finally beat him by finding his failsafe mechanism and transforming him into seven chickens (yes, seven chickens), all of which were then eaten by his own family.

6. Donut Power

Picture 381.pngFat Momma was one of the final two contestants in the first season of the Sci-Fi Channel’s “reality” show Who Wants to be a Superhero? in 2006, but was defeated in the end. No doubt, several parents – concerned for their children’s health – were relieved. Fat Momma was Nell Wilson (both in the comics and in reality), who got her power from eating large quantities of donuts. Unfortunately, her powers are exactly what you’d expect from such a source. She can become super-heavy enough to plummet through buildings to catch bad guys on the ground floor. When angry, she can grow to five times her size. And when she’s eaten too much, she can deafen enemies with her “Super Burp”. Her weakness? Diet food, which causes her to shrink. This biggest loser became something of a celebrity, and even though she didn’t win Who Wants to be a Superhero?, she was given her own comic book, in which she says “When ever you pick on a poor innocent child you’ll have to deal with… FAT MOMMA!” Unless, of course, they know how to climb staircases.

7. Super-Whatever: Superman’s Stupid Powers

Picture 391.pngWe can’t let this list pass without mentioning the most famous of all superheroes: Superman. Famous he might be, but consistent he isn’t. With most heroes, you know what you’re getting. Superman, however, has whatever powers make it easiest for the writers to get him out of whatever predicament he is in. You know about his super-strength, super-speed, ability to “leap buildings in a single bound” (and more impressively, fly), even his X-ray vision and his freeze breath. But in the 1940s, for one comic only, he escaped an alien prison by merging himself with the wall. Then he molded his face to look like one of the aliens, and convinced them to go home. Convenient? Sure, but that isn’t the half of it. In his radio serial, Superman could walk through walls and split into two Supermen – only when necessary, of course. And who can forget the 1980 movie Superman II, where he was able to wipe Lois Lane’s memory of his secret identity with… a kiss! Super convenient.

Superman’s most ridiculous power, however, emerged in the 1970s, when a monstrous villain demanded to fight him, just as Clark Kent was meant to be reading the news on live television. What did he do? He grabbed one of his colleagues and used “super-hypnotism” to make the guy think that he was Clark Kent. The hapless guy then put on his glasses and read the news, while Superman went out and battled the monster. Presumably, all the TV viewers were fooled as well. Comic-book readers, however, must surely have known that they were witnessing one of the biggest rip-offs in comic-book history.

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