50 minus 2: Power talk

Posted: 15 August 2014 in comics, fiction, life, don't talk to me about life
Tags: , ,

If you read super-hero comics, sooner or later, in a day-dream or seven, you’ll wonder what you super-powers you’d like to have.

The best answer to this, of course, is “America”, but leaving aside the political satire for once, what super-power would I actually want.

Well, I’ve an extra bone in my foot … at least I did have until I had it removed some years ago, and its removal and a few other problems with it have been well documented here and elsewhere.

So, no adamantium feet for me, dammit. But if you do wonder what powers you’d like to posess, even if you’ve only a semi-decent knowledge of super-hero comics over the past few years, you’ve a few hundred powers to choose from.

Running down the most obvious:

Flight: This is the power that most egregiously springs to mind. The power to lift off, fly anywhere you want to and, presumably land safely, although I suspect that landing is probably far more difficult than it looks. Getting up in the air is one thing, but landing? As David Gunson said in his incredibly funny What Goes Up Might Come Down, A good landing is defined as one after which you walk away….

Add to that problem the small but inconvenient fact that I have no sense of direction and would just as likely go in the wrong direction to my destination. Furthermore, given the current state of the world’s media, and the ghoulish fascination the public has for anything different, I suspect that this power would be one which would be difficult to keep to yourself. And what’s the point of a super power that you never get to use, eh? So, flying’s out.

Telepathy: Sorry, you couldn’t pay me enough to have this power. I know my own limitations and I don’t think I’ve got the willpower to be able to only read in people’s minds what I want to discover. I suspect that if telepathy genuinely existed, i.e. the power to ‘read people’s minds’, anyone with such a power would be quickly driven insane. No, not from the ever present background psychic buzz that would be around, but from the overload of trivial information that would of necessity be attached to the important information. Say I want to discover whether or not I’m getting a pay rise, so I take a peek inside my boss’s noggin. And, immediately, I’ve faced with the knowledge that he needs to get the car fixed at the weekend, because there’s a nasty knocking sound under the bonnet and he really hates the latest song released by that band that he loved when no one knew them but they’ve sold out and does his daughter really have to eat in the car and leave the wrappings on the backseat and who’s been smoking in the back room and now that the election’s been called he really should decide who to vote for and… and… and…

You see the problem?

So telepathy is out, unless it’s a very defined and refined telepathy, about which more in a minute…

Next up?

Well, Invisibility is tempting, I’ve got to say. The knowledge that I could discover what’s going on around me when no one knows I’m there. Probably the best way of living up to Robert Burns’

O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!

But you know what? I’m not so sure I’d want to know that necessarily. Surely there are times when ignorance is bliss. No, despite the obvious temptations, I think I’ll pass on this one as well.

Super-speed is another one that I don’t think I’d really like, to be brutally honest. So I could run fast? Who needs that? I’ve a car when I want to get somewhere beyond walking distance, and anyway, from what I’ve seen from Flash or Quicksilver, it’s only objective time that’s affected. Subjective time isn’t affected at all. Peter David nailed the problems of speedsters for me in an issue of X-Factor when he had Doc Samson interview the team members and the following dialogue ensued:

QUICKSILVER: Tell me doctor… Have you ever stood in line at a banking machine behind a person who didn’t know how to use it? Or wanted to buy stamps at the post office, and the fellow in front of you wants to know every single way he can ship his package to Istanbul? Or gotten some counter idiot at Burger King who can’t comprehend “Whopper, No Pickles?”

DOC SAMSON: Well… yes… I suppose…

QUICKSILVER: And how do you feel on those occasions?

DOC SAMSON: Impatient. Irritated. A little angry sometimes.

QUICKSILVER: Precisely. Because your life is being slowed to a crawl by the inabilities or the inconvenient behavior of others. It’s not a rational or considerate attitude to have, but there it is. Now, Imagine, Doctor, that everyone you work with, everywhere you go your entire world is filled with people who can’t work cash machines.

OK, so if I’m dumping super-speed, how about super-strength?

Well, to be honest, I can’t imagine a more useless power to have… unless you’re fighting super villains. Seriously, so I’m incredibly strong? What can I actually use it for? Opening tough pickle jars? Finally managing to tear open the wrapping on a blank video cassette? Nope, I can’t think of a single solitary use of super-strength, beyond possibly feeling comfortable holding The Complete Bone at arms’ length; and since I don’t like Bone, that’s probably where I’d put it – at arms’ length.

Magneto’s powers? The power to control metals? I take it back, there is a more useless power than super-strength.

Thinking further, the number of super-powers that exist in the world of comic books that appear only to exist so that they’re there to use to fight super-powered beings of another persuasion are legion. John Byrne, in a column in John Byrne’s Next Men freely admitted that when he created Alpha Flight, the primary consideration as to what powers they had was that they group had to be able to be convincingly hold their own against the then group make-up of the X-Men.

And yet… and yet… after due consideration, I keep coming back to the one super-power I’d really want, and it comes from a character in an X-Men story, or to be more precise, in X-Men vs. The Avengers.

The series, written by Roger Stern and drawn by Mark Silvestri (apart from the final issue which was credited to Tom DeFalco/Jim Shooter as writers and Keith Pollard/Joe Rubinstein as pencillers), saw print in 1987 and featured a character that I don’t think ever appeared again. A pity, since the power The Light had was simple, discreet, and just about perfect.

He had the power to instantly know whether or not someone was telling the truth.

Simple as that.

And you know what, that’s a power I’d like to have.

It’d made dealing with some submissions editors a whole lot easier for a start…

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Comments
  1. Elayne Riggs says:

    See, for me it’s telekinesis, because I have it (and flight) in a lot of my dreams and I “know” how it works and it constantly frustrates me that I can’t get it to work when I’m awake. :)

  2. Rajiv Mote says:

    Teleportation would be my pick. Zero commute to work, time to have breakfast (and lunch!) with my daughter, and the ability to have dinner and an evening walk with my mother, 500 miles away. Every day.

  3. There was a character that briefly appeared in Heroes who was online. I guess her brain did some kind of telepathic TCP/IP because she could send instant messages, read email, surf the web, all in her head. OK, I have a smartphone so I can do most of that without a massive amount of effort anyway, but that seems like a pretty cool (and somewhat useful) thing to have, and one that would still allow a more or less normal life.

    I like the idea of teleportation but I get enough bruises just moving my limbs around by the usual means to know it wouldn’t end well. I’d give it a week, tops, before I had a serious accident by teleporting into a non-empty space.

    As for the strength thing.. have you ever read “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex”?

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