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Author Topic: Rarely-used powers of Superman and other heroes  (Read 8784 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: July 02, 2006, 01:41:35 PM »

Lots of heroes have powers they only use once, and Superman is certainly the king of that entire phenomenon. The tough part is, Superman has so many powers that it's hard to tell where a totally new power kicks in, and a new use or permutation of superstrength and superspeed take over. Add to this writers like Cary Bates, who must have sworn on a Bible somewhere to have a different use for superspeed and superstrength every issue FOR YEARS.

Superman also has several minor powers that are only occasionally hinted at: Super-Shouts, Super-Hypnotism, Super-Sensitive Nostrils, Super-Aim. and so on. There was one story that was mentioned in the index that had Superman actually control the muscles of his face to resemble another person. This was dropped, hopefully because it was a straight swipe from the pulp hero the Avenger, and they probably justly felt guilty about it.

The section on Superman's Powers on this website contains some of the crazier stuff, but here's a few things nobody mentions:

SUPERMAN'S SUPER-STRETCHY CAPE.
I don't remember the issue number, but it was a story about a kid whose "Superman Games" prevented Superman from using his "real" powers. In this story, Superman saves a town from flooding by stretching his big red cape over...the ENTIRE town.

UNTRANSFORMABILITY
Superman's invulnerability is such that any time a foe causes Supeman to change shape, like the Youth Serum from "The Five Legion Orphans" or the Gas Trap spell of Ghast in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #11 (1962) we can thus assume that Superman has resistance to any type of attack meant to transform or cause him to change shape against his will, possibly as a property of his invulnerability.

SUPER-BALANCE
Is it possible that Superman's supreme ability to determine balance may be related to his super-hearing, as is the case with Daredevil?

SUPER-SENSITIVE TOUCH
I can't remember the issue, but I do remember that Superman could use his sense of touch in Daredevil-esque ways, to read a paper by feeling the grooves of ink, and listening in to phone conversations by holding the intervening wire.

NIGHT-VISION
Superman, during the Adult Legion Story and elsewhere, states that he can see perfectly well in the dark. Arguably, this is a totally seperate power.

VISION POWERS DOING INSANE THINGS
Technically, these should count as strange permutations of existing powers, but they're absolutely worth mentioning because of how crazy the uses are for what are essentially, passive powers. I swear, it wouldn't surprise me if there's an issue somewhere that Superman uses his Telescopic Vision to bring back the dead. There was an issue of Superboy where he used X-Rays to make plants grow. In an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, notorious for not really having a handle on Superman's powers, once used Superman's Telescopic Vision to see into other dimensions.


OTHER SUPERHEROES/VILLAINS WITH RARELY-USED POWERS:


THE INVISIBLE WOMAN. Sue Storm has a rarely used ability to make invisible things visible, which she got around the same time as her forcefields. Last time she used this to my knowledge, was in CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS, to reveal the hidden location of the Contest Sphere.

THE WASP. The Wasp had powers in her first appearance involving her now disused antennae that have utterly fallen into limbo forever since (and presumably fallen off as well). This is the best example of an unused power I can think of, because not only has she not used her antennae in decades, they've actually fallen off! I guess they just don't make antennae like they used to.

NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINERThe reason I have exact numbers and what have you for this one is because I was pouring over my back issues, and Namor doing crazy things inspired this post. Namor demonstrated that he could, like the electric eel, absorb and redirect current, a power that has been mentioned a few times since. It was mentioned in several Golden Age comics, and various issues by Roy Thomas, that Namor has eyes that are sensitive to the blue-green portion of the spectrum, giving him greater sight underwater as well as in the dark.

In several FANTASTIC FOUR stories, Ben Grimm says, when trying to grapple Namor, that he is "slippery as a blasted eel!" I don't know...does being slippery count as a superpower? It certainly counts as being weird, that's for sure.

The story where the Avenging Son uses the most strange powers has to be "Suddenly, the Sub Mariner" by Roy Thomas in AVENGERS #40. Here in this story alone, Namor is able to detect underwater signals and follow them to their point of origin. EXACT QUOTE:

    "My HYBRID SENSES detect a MESSAGE - which the humans are relaying to their place of ORIGIN!"

    "Thus, I will follow this radio beams to their DESTINATION, and DESTROY all craft there..."
    [/list]

    It should be significant to note that radio, to the best of my knowledge, does not work underwater. A possible explanation may be that 1) it was another form of communication and Namor fudged it into "radio," 2) the sub, which was not shown in that particular panel, may have surfaced, making use of the radio possible.

    Namor uses another seldom-used power later on in that very issue: Namor is actually able to telepathically command fish and sea creatures, instructing them to conduct a search of the sea floor to find the Cosmic Cube for him. His thought waves are described as being "irresistable mental commands." Maybe Roy the Boy confused Namor with a certain...OTHER fish guy? It should be noted that Roy Thomas wanted the Earth-2 Aquaman to be a regular member of the ALL-STAR SQUADRON before he was outvoted.

    DOCTOR DOOM. It was established in a FANTASTIC FOUR arc that Doctor Doom learned the secret of mind transfer from when he spent time among the Ovoid race. The mention of Doom possessing this mind-transfer power was more or less a throwaway line explaining how it is Doom returns YET AGAIN from defeat. Still, that hasn't been retconned away, so Doom should still have this superpower.

    THOR. Thor was, on a number of early occasions, able to create a "spell of forgetfulness" on mortals. Listings of the many things that Thor's Hammer has done is worth a post in and of itself!

    AQUAMAN. There are significant menti0ons of the fact that Aquaman has a dolphinlike Sonar Sense in some of his Sattellite Era Justice League appearances. Also, Aquaman's Silver Age weakness (he could only survive an hour out of water) was overcome by a variant of his costume, which allows him to survive out of water for hours at a time.

    IRON MAN. Besides Superman, nobody had more "one-use" powers than Iron Man's extendable armor. My favorite was his battle with the Hulk and Namor, where he donned a pair of HAMMERS over his HANDS. Or, there was his finger, through which he could shoot freon gas. Then there was the emergency remote control unit that let Iron Man pilot the suit from a distance. Jeez, I'm sure lots of people can make lists ten times this size, to be sure.
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    Gangbuster
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    « Reply #1 on: July 02, 2006, 02:33:30 PM »

    A more recent example of strange powers that I can think of is Wolverine's claws. Sometimes his claws are shown to either be razorlike (flat and sharp on every edge) or rounded and curved (with only the point at the end being sharp.) This variation is important, because with razorlike claws one could slice a dart in half in midair...with rounded claws you could puncture a wall and climb it.

    This may not be an example of a new power, but simply the convenience of the comic book creators.
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    Doctor_Vortex
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    « Reply #2 on: July 02, 2006, 06:41:43 PM »

    I think my favourite one-shot Superman power is 'super-weaving'. That's weaving as in cloth, not bad driving Smiley

    Now that I think about it, 'super-weaving' was probably just a shorter way of saying 'weaving at superspeed'. I think I still have that comic somewhere, maybe I can find it.
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    MatterEaterLad
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    « Reply #3 on: July 03, 2006, 01:58:43 AM »

    What may be most amazing about Kal's super speed powers like weaving, etc., and what may set him apart from the Flash, is that he has the knowledge to know HOW to do, re-assemble and so forth apart from the speed to do it...
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    JulianPerez
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    « Reply #4 on: July 03, 2006, 02:39:41 AM »

    Quote from: "Gangbuster Thorul"
    A more recent example of strange powers that I can think of is Wolverine's claws. Sometimes his claws are shown to either be razorlike (flat and sharp on every edge) or rounded and curved (with only the point at the end being sharp.) This variation is important, because with razorlike claws one could slice a dart in half in midair...with rounded claws you could puncture a wall and climb it.

    This may not be an example of a new power, but simply the convenience of the comic book creators.


    Interesting, I never thought of that.

    Another example of this sort of phenomenon is Captain America's shield.

    Those of you that remember the words to the Merry Marvel Marching Society, sing along!

      Because when Captain America THROWS his MIGHTY SHIELD

      The forces of evil will surely YIIIIIIELD!!
      [/list]

      Occasionally, when Captain America throws his shield, it strikes the other guy with an OOOF! sound effect like a slam. Captain America, on other occasions, has thrown his shield well enough and had the shield edge SLICE through ropes and wires, for instance.

      Here's a possible explanation: Captain America's shield is sharp on one semicircle of the shield, and blunt on the other, and Cap, with his instinctive knowledge of how to throw his shield, can either have it strike with the cutting side, or with the blunt side.
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      « Reply #5 on: July 03, 2006, 06:05:31 PM »

      Superman can digest darn near anything.  He's just a Kryptonite under Matter-Eater Lad in that regard.
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      binarysunrise
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      « Reply #6 on: July 03, 2006, 10:58:23 PM »

      From the dailies...




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      MatterEaterLad
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      « Reply #7 on: July 03, 2006, 11:04:03 PM »

      Good ones...

      On the subject of super sensitive touch, Superboy once read a playing card with lead goggles on by feeling the ink and descriminating between a black Ace and a red one...
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