I love superheroes, and while I have not spent a terrific amount of time reading graphic novels, I have seen every comic book movie that I can get my hands on. (Yes, I realize this is no substitute, but I have a lot of reading on my plate so give me some time) I also have the benefit of the hours that my close friends have spent reading their favorite graphic novels. I have spent hundreds of hours discussing the origins stories and the subtleties of all the classic super heroes and their powers, and have developed and sort of sense for what makes a good superpower.
A good superpower does not give the protagonist unlimited options, so something like the ability to all matter is a power that gives the super hero too many advantages. Who would be able to stop him? What kind of obstacle would have to overcome? It might make for a good one off here the main struggle is an internal one, or emotional in nature. Something along the lines of the movie The Nines.
No, to me the best powers from an entertainment perspective is the power that has an inherent down side, to prevent the hero from relying on it too much. The hulks ability is a prime example. Bruce Banner is nearly indestructible (and in some versions, literally indestructible) ,but he looses control and often harms the ones he cares for. Rogue is another hero with a great power, she can acquire the power of anyone she touches (a useful power in a world filled with mutants) but this means that she can never touch the ones she loves without hurting them. these powers create a great internal struggle with whether or not they want them. Do you pursue a cure? Is it even possible to cure? And in the meantime shouldn’t you use these abilities the protect those who need it?
Another good ability is one that simply has its limits. Like The Flash how is commonly dumped on for not being powerful enough or having a badass attitude. But the limited quality of his powers just means that he has to use his mind just as much as his ability. Wolverine is an interesting version of this dynamic. His mutant ability is a passive one he just has a perfect immune and repair system, enabling him to recover from any wound almost instantly. It’s what he does this the powers that makes it so interesting, because of his healing ability he can withstand being infused with Adamantium, he can also take bigger risks and last longer in a fight. the power itself is actually kind of lame, but not when used to its full potential.
One last version of superhero is an interesting one because they are not actually super. The Batmans and the Punishers, the vigilante superhero is most interesting to me because they have no supernatural edge, in theory this level of hero could be attained by any one with the will and resources. The inherent weakness is obvious, they are human, they can be slain, and compared with some of the other heroes out there, pretty easily too.
On the flip side of this comparison is which power would be the best to have personally. And for this category it is hard to choose. For me it comes down to whether you have the choice of a hero’s powers or just a single power. Because its hard to beat Superman’s suite of powers, but any one of them would be kind of lame. Think about it if you could fly as fast as Superman but were not indestructible, you’d flatten like a pancake every time you landed, unless you were super careful every time you would at least break a leg. Another go to power for most is invisibility, but in most presentations of this power you have to be naked for the feat to be pulled off, now if the close come with you I might have to go with this one. In my opinion if you close become invisible because you are touching them, what about your shoes? And if your shoes go too, then why not the planet since you are touching that indirectly too? Anyways what would you really do with this power that you can’t do with porn, or a good spy cam? I mean I guess it would be useful in a game of hide and seek but, that’s about it.
You might be tempted to go with Invincibility but what version are you taking? Wolverine, or Superman? Superman’s means like the obvious choice, but you would be a invincible human, and therefore susceptible to human diseases, so come time for your flu shot or a tracheotomy (where the put a tube in your throat to help you breathe) you are screwed. I do like wolverines version, no more paper cuts, no need to worry about broken limbs, muggings would be laughable, and at least in wolverines case you should be immortal, or damn near it. This power doesn’t have a lot of down side. But like I said earlier, not a lot of cool stuff either, since there is no such thing as Adamantium.
One power that has always seemed like the best choice is a supernatural persuasion, like The Persuader from Marvel or Nina from Alphas. Any kind of Jedi mind trick would be incredibly powerful in the real world. You could be a businessman,or con-man. You could open new opportunities for yourself to do what you leave for a living or just pick up chicks with ease. In a modern society I think that the power of persuasion is a clear winner as far as usefulness. But it suffers that same flaw as the healing factor, not many cool tricks, though you could be a pro at hypnotism. The last power that I’d like to have is the time freeze. this is a super cool ability as long as you don’t get frozen too. think about the awesome tricks you’d be able to do; disappearing acts, seeing “around” corners, unbeatable reflexes, you could gain access to forbidden areas, and you would never be late again.
So in the end maybe not the coolest powers to read about or watch and this is just my opinions on the whole thing. All I know is that if I ever meet a genie I know what power I’m wishing for.
And that’s my take on superpowers.
In the comments below:
What power would want and why?