Superpowers & The Super Body

By Guest Writer Nick Gonzo

Science and technology is the stunted whipping boy of the super hero comic book industry. It's the tied up and beaten gimp residing in the basement of every writer, waiting in fear, shaking in its tear encrusted latex one-piece for its master to come get Medieval on its ass. It's the crutch, the support, the much needed bathroom break that we all use and abuse from time to time. The greats have used it, Stan Lee especially has taken a huge info-shit into the living brain of science over the years, it's the way to get out situations scot-free. There are several ways we abuse science. The first one is to make a situation happen. You think of all your favorite classical superheroes, and not one of them doesn't owe their power to some horrific accident incurred in the mighty path of science, unless you're thinking of the Punisher. Spider-man, New York's friendly neighborhood web-slinger was bitten by a radioactive spider at a science exhibition that bended, twisted and stretched his genetic code like a slinky so that he gained the proportional strength and agility of a spider. He gains the ability to stick to walls and an extra developed sense of precognition, allowing him to detect danger.

How fucking lucky is that?

Of all the changes being bitten by a spider could have done to him, he gets a whole array of super abilities. The poison could have given him some hyper-developed disease that shredded through his platelets, leaving him a huge hemophiliac globule. The alteration of his genetic code could have lead to the interweaving of spider and human DNA giving him bucket loads of hair and compound vision. The possibilities were endless, and endlessly disturbing. The pathogens in his blood could have effectively wiped out humanity with vile death spider irradiated vomit pox. I for one look forward to the day I can read comics about a twisted, hairs, mandible infested pariah that solves crimes whilst coughing up a disease that makes peoples skin rot off. How more misunderstood can you get?

In fact our man Peter Parker is steeped in all three of the above mentioned abuses. He is a serial science tormentor, because if you think about it, the powers he does have wouldn't work. Spiders can walk on walls because when you get really tiny, every surface is porous, and little hairs can grip into these holes. I mean when you are a spindly orb of limbs made of gristle and eyes the size of a marble, you don't have much weight to support. It's like a person rocking climbing as long as they have enough holes they can climb most places. But in the case of Spiderman, he too possesses the same interaction with these tiny pores that an arachnid does. Every surface would hold a ridiculous amount of grip to him. Everything he touches he would affix to the tips of his fingers, putting on a jumper would take him years. Imagine it, all the Green Goblin would have to do is catch him masturbating and it'd be like throwing a net over him. What would really be cool is if his body counter-acted this by releasing a clear oily fluid similar to the one actual spiders secrete to stop themselves getting caught up in their own webs. Nothing says super human than persistently leaking pheramonal oil.

The problem with super strength is one that has pissed me off for bleeding years. It's the same one I have with the Six Million Dollar Man, because adding a robotic arm and metal legs does not mean you can lift a car over your head. No matter how strong you are, without an alteration in bone density, the weight of whatever you're lifting would crush your skeleton to a fine powder. In Steve Austin's case, without structural support heavy lifting would cause his spinal column to collapse and his entire body to fold itself into his stomach. Spiderman would resemble a condom full of shattered wood. To clarify the second abuse is not taking science far enough. I am fully aware we are talking about a superhero in a kids comic, but there is nothing worse than starting a thought experiment like "What if a nerd got spider powers and started fucking up bank robbers" then not fully explaining it. I want an explanation god damn it! Don't just dip your toe in the water, dive in.

Thirdly and lastly, science is widely used as the God Machine, the Deus Ex Machina. Science is a fantastic way to explain things away. In Peter Parkers case, they made him into a frigging genius. I mean for the love of God, he invented a tiny propulsion system that fires a liquid polymer from a cartridge that upon contact with air forms into an adhesive string with the tensile strength of steel. It's proven itself to be fire proof, super hardening, highly stretchy and impossibly strong. If he released the product into the industrial world he'd make so much money he could buy out Oscorp and have the Green Goblin pimping himself out for Jet Glider fuel. Instead, he keeps it to himself and uses his vast intellect to explain away problems. In my career of reading Spiderman comics I've seen him cure a virus, build a machine for detecting certain types of radiation, create a radar from scratch and clone himself. He is infinitely intelligent, but only when the plot requires him to be.

Instead of embracing the full spectrum of scientific and technological possibilities open to them, the Super Hero comic simply uses information to its own end. It's wrong, and silly and dull. Here I aim to talk about comics that get it right, wrong or simply speculate about the responsibilities technology and the future offers us.

And why Superman should really be a massive dick.