Superzero to Superhero: How Movies Make Lame Powers Cool

 

(Spoilers for Captain America: Civil War, Ant Man, Blackest Night)

Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, a man with shrinking superpowers

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shows unique superpowers can be deadly

He could control every creature that lives in the sea. But I don’t think either of you know what that really means. Do you know, do you understand, do you have any idea how much life there is in just one single square mile of sea? I don’t think you do… and if you multiply that by lots of miles in every direction… I’d never seen anything like it in my whole life… and God as my witness, I hope to never see it again.”  -Batman about Aquaman

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 powers? 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 Powers

I don’t need luck, I eat nuts” -Squirrel Girl

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). And while 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 faced off against gods, fear her.

Unappreciated Powers from the Distinguished Competition

He could kill us all. For him, It would be easy“. -Batman on Plastic Man

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 ability 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 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 “perfect peace”? Sounds lame, until the Black Lantern Corps, an army of emotion-eating zombie Green Lanterns, try 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 many of them at once.

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.

* In Ant Man, Hank Pym had a keychain that looked like a tank. Only problem? That wasn’t just a key chain.

** Yes, Godzilla exists in the Marvel Universe. Believe me, we’ll be getting to him soon enough.

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