In the spirit of this month’s RPG Blog Carnival on superheroes, I present some of the strangest superpowers ever to grace the pages of a comic book. Perhaps you’ll find them inspirational. In no particular order:
Eyes in your Fingertips. This is the rather unique superpower of the Ten-Eyed Man, an old Batman villain. He was blinded in an accident, but a skilled doctor was able to reconnect his optic nerves to his fingertips, allowing him to see through them. Somehow, this made him a master escape artist as well — when he was imprisoned, he had to be kept with his hands locked into a box, or otherwise he’d escape. He had a couple other gadgets, like a jetpack and a bullwhip, but for some reason, everyone he met was really impressed by his ability to see through his fingers. The character was finally, mercifully killed off in DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths series.
Detachable Limbs. There are several superheros with the ability to separate their limbs from their bodies and control them at a distance. One of the seven heroes from various publishers named Captain Marvel had this ability (this one was a rather unsuccessful robot superhero by M.F. Enterprises). Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) is the appropriately-named DC Comics hero, Arm Fall Off Boy, a reject of the Legion of Superheroes team whose signature move was to pull his own arm off and beat his opponent with it. Really.
The Power to Eat Anything and Everything. Speaking of the Legion of Superheroes, Matter-Eater Lad, who boasted this power, was not rejected for membership. I guess when you’ve already accepted Bouncing Boy, the bar is set pretty low. Still too high for Arm Fall Off Boy, though. Poor guy gets no respect. Anyway, while the comic’s writers were often writing Matter-Eater Lad out of the book for extended periods, probably because they couldn’t figure out a way to make his power seem useful, he did save the universe at least once. By eating an indestructible machine. Well, almost indestructible, I guess. Hope the Legion offered good dental benefits.
Color Changing. While we’re discussing the Legion, here’s another reject: Color Kid, who possessed the ability to change the colors of objects. The extent of his powers was never very well defined. He once swapped the colors of the ground and the sky to confuse opponents, for instance. He also transformed all of the green kryptonite on earth to blue kryptonite, for which Superboy was probably grateful. (Oddly enough, the color change seems to have affected the kryptonite’s radiation, too. But we’re talking superpowers here; scientific accuracy is already out the window.) On other occasions, he’d blind people with a strobing ray of color, or use his powers to camouflage people. In fact, he turned out to be surprisingly useful and subtle, and eventually, as an adult, he was accepted into the Legion after all, under the name Color King. They still wouldn’t accept Arm Fall Off Boy, though. They have some standards.
Also worth mentioning here is the Flash villain Rainbow Raider. He didn’t change things from one color to another, but he did do the strobing color blast thing. He also “drained the colors” out of people, leaving them white, and somehow this also drained their energy. The Raider himself was a colorblind would-be painter. Named Roy G. Bivolo. This may be the worst concept for a supervillain ever. Even worse than Turner D. Century, who misses making today’s list because he had no superpowers, but who was so strange and silly that I just had to mention him.
Prehensile Hair. Marvel’s hero Medusa, of the Inhumans, is probably the best-known character with the power to control her hair as an extra limb, and cause it to stretch. She’s far from the only one, though. In Western comics, this ability appears to be exclusive to female characters (including DC’s Spider Girl, who appeared in, you guessed it, the Legion of Superheroes). Men aren’t entirely left out, though; there are a few Eastern comics and games that include such a power, usually associated with a kabuki performer — such as Kabuki Quantum Fighter.
Of course, Marvel’s Ruby Thursday goes one better: she has a prehensile and malleable head. Which can also fire energy blasts. If you were a superhero, would you want to fight a villain with a malleable plastic energy-bolt-shooting head? I didn’t think so.
Welding Dogs to People. Well, this one may not have been a superpower — the book never explained just how it was possible. But the character Dogwelder, of Garth Ennis’ Section 8, did just that: he spot welded dead dogs to evildoers. Just goes to show that you don’t have to go back to the 60s to find weird superpowers — this guy’s from 1997.
Bee Training. Quality Comics’ Red Bee character (now owned by DC) was an otherwise normal assistant DA who fought Nazis and gangsters with the help of his trained bees. He kept his favorite bee, Michael, in his belt buckle. I am not making this up.
Causing Natural Disasters. It’s far from a useless power, but this one is definitely off the wall — how do you make an earthquake or a meteor strike useful? One way is to make the powered individual a supervillain, as DC’s Major Disaster was for a time — when he became a hero, he was generally reduced to trying to use his powers to stop disasters, and eventually sidelined. The Legion of Superheroes reject (you were waiting for it, weren’t you?) Calamity King, on the other hand, was simply given very limited control over his powers, which acted on a smaller scale, causing nearby things to unexpectedly break. Calamity King later became a member, by the way, presumably because he wasn’t Arm Fall Off Boy.
Universal Translation. This is one of those powers that would be incredibly useful in reality, but is quite boring for action-oriented comics, and so is often underrated and underused even by characters who possess it. Marvel’s New Mutant Cypher could translate any language (including alien languages and machine language) and crack any code, but he was an otherwise-normal human being, and eventually was killed off. DC’s Green Lanterns’ rings possess translation capabilities as well, as do various other hypertechnological items.
And to round things out at an even ten:
Slipperiness. There are quite a number of heroes and villains whose superpower is to be hard to hold onto or “nearly frictionless.” It seems particularly popular at Marvel, perhaps because of Spider-Man. The fifth-string villains Slyde, the Eel, and the Answer all had this ability, as did the hero Skids (via a near-frictionless and always-on force field).
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