Superzero to Superhero: How Movies Make Lame Powers Cool

There’s no such thing as useless superpowers

Achilles:Aphrodite wields her beauty and her charm with much the same lethality as I could wield the spear. I have seen her handiwork first-hand, and it is often not as pretty as she is. I sometimes think that she, among all the Olympians, may be the mightiest of all. A crashing wave or thundering tempest are preferable to a broken heart.”  


With all the superhero movies coming out, it’s sometimes hard to keep perspective. Men and women soaring like birds, gods and monsters capable of tearing the world to shreds, and all manner of elements and lasers destroying everything they touch. But what about the heroes and villains who don’t get such godlike superpowers? Who must get by with such weak abilities as changing colors, shrinking or controlling squirrels? While many will laugh, all it takes is a little imagination to show just how powerful they really are.

Marvelous Heroes, Disparaged Superpowers

Squirrel Girl:Galactus! I am Squirrel Girl! This is my friend, Tippy-Toe. We’re here to kick butts and eat nuts, and you can’t eat nuts in space!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4

While most think of Mjolnir, Iron Man‘s armor, or Captain America’s shield, the most dangerous weapon the Avengers have is Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) Pym Particles. They enable Ant-Man to change size at a moment’s notice and can be made to work on other things as well.  Imagine Ant-Man shrinking down and pummeling your inner ear or going inside your body to destroy your organs. Or worse, leaving something inside you and letting it grow back to normal size.

He could use his control over ants to have them swarm you like in so many horror movies, and you had better pray he’s not using fire ants or one of the more dangerous breeds. Finally, he could use Pym Particles to make his ants grow to giant size, like something out of THEM! While this might sound hypothetical, both he and The Wasp (Hayley Lovvit) have done most of these things at one point or another. In fact, The Wasp has even used her superpowers to shrink down and blast Godzilla in the brain.

While Ant-Man has perhaps the most dangerous powers, he’s not the only scary hero. The X-Man Jubilee (Lana Condor) has the ability to shoot out ‘fireworks’ that are actually bolts of plasma (the fourth state of matter).  At her full potential, she can detonate matter at the sub-atomic level, making her a walking, talking fusion bomb.

Another X-man called Cypher can understand any language. This includes body language (useful in a fight), various mystical languages (oh look, he can cast spells now), and computer language (making him an expert hacker).

It probably won’t get brought into the movies, The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) can actually talk to birds in the comics. It has been suggested that between Nick Fury with all the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Falcon using all the pigeons in New York, Falcon has the better spy network.

Finally, I would be remiss not to bring up the most terrifying heroine in comics, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Tara Strong). While her superpowers only extend to having a tail and the ability to speak to squirrels, she has managed to defeat some of the most powerful villains and heroes in the Marvel universe, from Deadpool and M.O.D.O.K. to Thanos and Wolverine. She famously defeated Doctor Doom by swarming him with squirrels and even made Doom, a man who has stared down gods, fear her.

Unappreciated Powers from the Distinguished Competition

Batman: [Plastic Man] could kill us all. For him, It would be easy“.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again

DC can be even crazier than Marvel at times. The Flash treats the speed of light as the only way to measure his speed, Superman can do practically anything, and even Batman has a contingency for almost everyone. But even the weaker heroes are still incredibly dangerous.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a badass. He is extremely powerful and durable due to the crushing pressure of the oceans depths, is trained well enough to fight Wonder Woman, an immortal Amazon, to a standstill on dry land, wields a magic trident, and can communicate with everything in the sea. While people joke about talking to fish, that superpower is no laughing matter.

The ocean is home to an incalcuable number of life forms, and Aquaman can command them all, from sharks and barracudas to whales and squids. He has been known to call forth the Kraken after remarking that the surface world is not the only one with Weapons of Mass Destruction. Aquaman might even have something worse beneath the surface of the cerulean seas.

While other heroes might not have as many allies as Aquaman and Falcoln, they are no less dangerous. Plastic Man (Tom Kenny) may seem like a goofy guy with a stretching superpower but is one of the most powerful shape-shifters in fiction. He can change his size, shape, and density while also being able to disguise himself as just about anything. Throw in the fact that he’s immune to psychic powers, and you get one of the deadliest heroes ever.

When Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly and now David Harewood) was turned into Fernus, The Burning Martian, and lost his weakness to fire, the Justice League decided their best shot was to send in Plastic Man by himself to fight what amounted to a psychic version of Superman with more superpowers and no real weaknesses. Plastic Man won. Be thankful he’s an easygoing good guy.

How about the deceased C-list hero Dove (Jason Hervey)? Not much to write home about: flight, super strength, and “being at peace”? Sounds boring, until the Black Lantern Corps, an army of emotion-eating zombie Green Lanterns, tried to turn him into one of them. Because he is at peace, the Black Lantern Rings are unable to resurrect him, which also helps the heroes realize that his successor, the current Dove, can destroy them en masse.

Didya Get All That?

While heroes with standard powers (strength, lasers, flight) might be more popular, don’t discount heroes with a more bizarre superpower who can do so much more.

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