Which superpowers rock?
October 7, 2005 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Which are the coolest superpowers of all, and why?

I have an ongoing argument with my 10 year old about which superpowers are awesome and which ones suck. I won't tell you any of my opinions or his because that might bias the responses to this question. So, help us settle it once and for all: Which superpowers are the coolest? Why? Which ones are totally lame? Why?
posted by crapples to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (80 answers total)
If I had to pick just the one thing, flying would be it. Hands down. Not the flashiest but certainly the most useful.

Up second, speed. Always loved The Flash.

Third choice, super strength.
posted by phearlez at 11:16 AM on October 7, 2005

Shape-shifting is the best. You can fly, disguise yourself or do fantastic party tricks.
posted by Alison at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2005

Until I saw the "superheros" tag, I thought you were referring to national superpowers, like the US, USSR, etc. I was about to write a mini-essay about how I think the British Empire, despite having many negative aspects, was the coolest.

Instead, I'll simply answer, "invisibility," and vanish.
posted by blue mustard at 11:22 AM on October 7, 2005

Yah Morph was my favorite character on the X-men cartoon cause he could use everyones powers
posted by matimer at 11:22 AM on October 7, 2005

Control over relative time. The ability to "freeze" time for everyone other than me would make me the most powerful entity on the planet. Nothing could stop me from destroying civilization!

(insert evil laugh)
posted by aramaic at 11:24 AM on October 7, 2005

I've always maintained that psychokinesis like that of Jean Grey would be the best superpower. It would allow you to fly, and depending on how strong it was, let you do a whole bunch of other stuff too.
posted by cloeburner at 11:25 AM on October 7, 2005

teleportation. definitely. oh! or invisibility.....can i have invisibility and teleportation?
posted by nile_red at 11:27 AM on October 7, 2005

I was always partial to telekinesis. Given enough proficiency, there's almost no limit to what it could do.
posted by Clay201 at 11:27 AM on October 7, 2005

teleportation (controlling space), controlling time, and controlling energy.
posted by rudyfink at 11:29 AM on October 7, 2005

I'm with Alison. Shapeshifting is totally where it's at. You can be anyone or anything, get into anywhere... and not to put to fine a point on it, imagine the sex!

This argument may not hold much water with your ten-year-old, though.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:32 AM on October 7, 2005

(...too fine a point, of course.)

And for all you invisibility types out there, shapeshifting offers every advantage that invisibility does.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:34 AM on October 7, 2005

Dr. Strange's magic abilities, without doubt. He could do all of the items other people talked about here so far and much, much more.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:34 AM on October 7, 2005

posted by Capn at 11:34 AM on October 7, 2005

Teleportation, definitely.

Honorable mention goes to shapeshifting and timestopping. And that scene with Magneto busting out of jail in X2 using iron filings injected into the security guard was the best scene of all time.
posted by sdis at 11:35 AM on October 7, 2005

Seeing through things. X-ray vision, I guess it's called? Generally just heightened senses of any kind - - hearing, sight, whatever. That, and flying.
posted by iconomy at 11:36 AM on October 7, 2005

NOT the boy Wonder Twin, I tell you what. Turning into a form of water? Oh, some writer had a deadline to make, methinks.

I'd say timetravel (even if you lose a fight, you can go back and fix it!). Not sure which superheroes have that though.
posted by GaelFC at 11:37 AM on October 7, 2005

Unlimited wishes. Then you have all the above. The Genie is where it's at.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:37 AM on October 7, 2005

This is kind of a cop-out (and display of extreme dorkiness), but you really have to define the question better than that, otherwise 'omnipotence' is sort of a catchall.

Now, if you go with 'traditional' superpowers (say those possessed by the original X-Men or the individual powers of Superman), I'd say it's a tossup between flight and immortality (in the longevity sense), whether via something like Wolverine's healing factor or Superman's nigh-invulnerability.

I think those are the only two that would satisfy any deep-seated human desires.
posted by jedicus at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2005

Definitely flying.
posted by callmejay at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2005


Everything else is cool, but as you get older and get to learn about pain, you see how useful that would really be.
posted by cptnrandy at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2005

Of course, super strength with invulnerability is better. If you're just invulnerable, you could be trapped.
posted by cptnrandy at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2005

Turning into a bug or becoming really small like "Ant Man" is definitely on the lame side. Giant Man is also pretty meh. Then there's that one guy who's just really good with a bow, who never gets any respect.

Flying, invisibility, telephathy/telekinesis are the marquee superpowers in my opinion. Super-strength and invincibility/healing factor are also very cool, but the character needs some sort of "gimmick" to go with them because those pwers aren't terribly interesting in and of themselves. Shapeshifting and taking on other people's powers are excellent superpowers, but they're usually accompanied by a tragic element (see: Rogue and Mystique) that serves as a drawback to what would otherwise be an overpowered character. Personally, I think X-ray vision and the ability to run thru solid objects are cool powers, but some folks disagree.
posted by junkbox at 11:42 AM on October 7, 2005

Another vote for Telekinesis, if it were to allow control down to the molecular level. You could synthesise virtually anything, ala Dr. Manhattan, or turn the power inward to repair and improve your nervous system, brain, organs, etc. Most of the other powers listed here could be had with a ceative application of telekinesis. All I need now is to be involved in a freak radioactive/chemical/electrical/mystical accident and I'm off to the races!

posted by Scoo at 11:45 AM on October 7, 2005

Electricity/magnetism control is where it's at. Then you can fly by bouncing off the Earth's magnetic field.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:47 AM on October 7, 2005

I'd definitely choose flying or teleportation. No more having to gather frequent flyer miles before I could go somewhere cool on vacation. And I could just step out to Paris or Mumbai for lunch... Mmmmmmm.
posted by MsMolly at 11:56 AM on October 7, 2005

Telepathy would be interesting. Maybe having a super genius mind that automagically grasps things and figures them out. Super charisma could also be fun, having superinfluence on people. Also, how about the ability warp the space-time contiuum .. generate worm holes, slow things down...
posted by blueyellow at 11:56 AM on October 7, 2005

Gravity control.

Flying, limited telekinesis, and hey, if someone is trying to beat you up you can just make him weigh so much that he's stuck to the ground.
posted by bshort at 11:59 AM on October 7, 2005

Inspector Gadget. 'nuff said.
posted by pmbuko at 12:04 PM on October 7, 2005

I think you'd want something with the widest possible range of uses; overspecialization sucks, even for superheroes. So I nominate super-speed (and I mean Flash-quality so-goddamned-fast-I-can-make-my-own-molecules-vibrate-through-to-other-dimensions fast, not the "Oooh! I can run pretty quickly!" Northstar/Quicksilver variety). You can essentially duplicate flying, teleportation, invisibility, and invulnerability through immense speed, and you can also beat the crap out of somebody before they even swing at you.

The only thing I can think of that would be nearly as useful would be Luthor-level super genius. Think of it: he's smart enough to play a nearly even game with Superman for 65 years. That's some superpower for a paunchy bald guy.
posted by COBRA! at 12:05 PM on October 7, 2005

Someone has to find the Dr.Katz clip where Dave Chapelle goes off on superheroes.

Worst superpowers: Aquaman. I mean, talking to fish? What would a fish say?

FISH: Hi Aquaman!

AQUAMAN: Hi fish! Seen anything under the water?


FISH: Hi Aquaman!
posted by GuyZero at 12:06 PM on October 7, 2005

I'll vote for teleportation, but only if I can bring my clothing and other objects with me when I *bamf*, because showing up nude would not be cool.
posted by Hlewagast at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2005

There are different best powers for different people.

Shapeshifting is good.
Flying is good. But its gotta be at whatever speed you choose, not some lame ass twenty miles an hour crap.
Invisibilities alright but not if you've gotta be naked to be totally invisible.
Super strength would be fine if it came with invulnerability too.

I always liked Forge's superpower of being able to build anything.

I think shapeshifting would be the most fun one to have. Especially after watching that episode of Family Guy where Peter gets shapeshifting powers and makes Justin Timberlake make out with Gene Shalit.

COBRA!, Superman could have crushed Luthor like a bug anytime he wanted to if only he hadn't been raised by those moralistic farmers.
posted by fenriq at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2005

I'm a big fan of invisibility myself, though FoB makes the good point that shapeshifting might be even better. Controlling time is also pretty good.

Lamest superpowers is a little harder--after all, it's not so much the power as it is what you do with it, and that kind of thing requires good writers. Lame superpowers? I'm not a big superhero fan, but how about super-taste? Speed-reading? Rapid hair growth?
posted by box at 12:08 PM on October 7, 2005

I was going to say Assyria, but I guess that's the wrong kind of superpower.
posted by goethean at 12:08 PM on October 7, 2005

I'd say it's a tossup between flight and immortality (in the longevity sense)

I don't know if "immortality" is considered a superpower, but if it is I don't think I'd choose it. See Sandman #20, "Facade," for a haunting story of a superhero who wants to die, and is unable to.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:09 PM on October 7, 2005

COBRA!, Superman could have crushed Luthor like a bug anytime he wanted to if only he hadn't been raised by those moralistic farmers.

Yeah, I was thinking it would've been more accurate to credit Luthor with superhuman intelligence and drive/focus. Like, from his point of view, Superman's unwillingness to crush him like a bug is a fatal flaw that the old double-L doesn't share.

(like, think of them as athlete's-- Superman's more naturally gifted, but Luthor wants it more)
posted by COBRA! at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2005

Telepathy. Then you don't need any of the other powers - just get someone else to do it for you!

And have to agree on being small (Antman) as the lamest, and Hawkeye (the bowman) needing more respect.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:11 PM on October 7, 2005

I have long elaborate day-dreams where I have the power to phase through stuff. According to my internal comic book logic, this gives me the power to fly (phase through gas/air/etc), turn invisible (phase through light), teleport (phase through space) and a host of other wacky skillz (turn broomstick into monofiliment by phasing out everying but a single line of atoms) and other things.

Because I'm a librarian and often spend hours at the desk with nobody to ask me where the bathroom is, this has evolved into an entire saga where I am the mysterious hero "Reaperjack" (I make my body invisible except for my skeleton and wear a spooky Nazgul-like robe) who refuses to join a government sponsored group of heroes because he is unsure of their intentions. Last week's episode involved being confronted by their leader (superstrong, supertough ex-firefighter named "America's Hero") while in my secret identity. It seems that I was picked out of a crowd by one of their psychics who noticed the absense of my mind (I had phased it out to keep my thoughts private).

How will this end? What will face Reaperjack next week? Has Evolvo escaped from his glass prison? My next desk shift isn't until Wednesday, so stay tuned!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:12 PM on October 7, 2005

Telepathy? Nah, You're going to get TMI, way way TMI.

Jayne: Well, I don't like the idea of someone hearing what I'm thinking.
Inara: No one likes the idea of hearing what you're thinking.
posted by mojohand at 12:12 PM on October 7, 2005

Being able to make cellphones turn into fresh, wet turds.
posted by Decani at 12:16 PM on October 7, 2005

TMI? Nah. Obviously none of the superpowers would be terribly great without control.

Louise: Harder, Superman har...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:17 PM on October 7, 2005

There was an episode of This American Life about this, kind of....
posted by mr_roboto at 12:18 PM on October 7, 2005

Decani wins!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:18 PM on October 7, 2005

Lois. Argh!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:19 PM on October 7, 2005

There's a great This American Life episode about superpowers in which the author realizes that there are two types of people -- those who choose "flight" and those who choose "invisibility". Her argument was that those who choose invisibility are the introverts, the shy, the sneaky, the ones with guile. Those that choose flight are the ones who have something to prove, who like attention, who want to be seen exercising their power.

That said, I choose time travel.
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:19 PM on October 7, 2005

How about healing, mind control and resurrection? There was a really cool superhero in this Christian comic I read that had those powers, I can't remember his name right now.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:19 PM on October 7, 2005

Looks like mr_roboto beat me to it, sorta... us robots are all alike.
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:20 PM on October 7, 2005

I think controlling magnetic forces would be one of the coolest.

Think of it, you could extract the iron from someone's body, collapse a star, fly... the possibilities are almost endless.

Or, being able to affect reality, ala Franklin Richards. That's cool.
posted by jackofsaxons at 12:22 PM on October 7, 2005

why do you argue with a 10-year old? :)

and my choice would be speed, hands down.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:25 PM on October 7, 2005

Never aging coupled with decent intelligence and cunning. Look at the wealth and power Ra's Al Ghul had. Who needs clown powers when you can have your own private army? Or you could be low key like Enoch Root.

All kinds of neat complications like having to come up with a new identity every few generations. Psych issues stemming from having several centuries' worth of memories. Sociopathy from seeing all your loved ones grow old and die. You could be an anti-hero, convinced you're an angel of death.
posted by malp at 12:28 PM on October 7, 2005

Obviously, omnipotence is the best superpower, but wouldn't that get boring? You'd need a lot of self restraint.

Anyone ever read those old Marvel comics about the 'infinity gauntlet'? Interesting stuff...

If I could really have anything I would choose invulnerability, both from physical harm and the ravages of time. I want to see how everything turns out. Yeah, you could get trapped, but you can get trapped now, so I'd just need to be careful and try to avoid that sort of thing.

beyond that, I would like some sort of telekinetics. I think a cool 'way' of doing telekinetics would be the ability to reverse entropy. Ordinarily a ball wouldn't just bounce up off the ground on its own, because that would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Now, technically that would limit your power to the energy you could extract from the environment, but you could focus all the heat in the air into one spot, you could cause a fusion reaction and generate a ton of heat, which you could then use to fuel your powers.

And why would you need invisibility if you had a power like that? Just scramble the brains of anyone who looks at you.

I always used to think that all superpowers flowed from something like that, an ability to reverse entropy and focus energy wherever. It would explain most superhero's superpowers.

You could even use such a technique to fix your own cells and molecules, although you'd need the intelligence to understand the positions of every atom in your body

It would also be cool to be psychic. You could just implant the memory or images of you doing these cool things in everyone's mind around you. Everyone would believe you had all these other amazing powers. (you could also remove yourself from people's vision and memory, a practical form of invisibility).
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on October 7, 2005

Never aging coupled with decent intelligence and cunning. Look at the wealth and power Ra's Al Ghul had. Who needs clown powers when you can have your own private army? Or you could be low key like Enoch Root.

Now, Enoch is an interesting case, since he obviously discovered the philosophic mercury and (apparently) still has some which he still uses every once in a while.

If I had such a thing, I would simply have become a king or something, and be known as the guy who doesn't age. History would be different, for sure, but I don't think people would have trouble accepting such a thing.

I think an immortal person could have conquered the world in a few hundred years. Unlike other rulers, they could be patient, wait out their enemies.
posted by delmoi at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2005

I also remember a Letterman Top 10 list of superpowers and one of them was the "ability to shake exactly 2 pills out of an Aspirin bottle"
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:38 PM on October 7, 2005

Being an omega-level mutant, and hosting the Phoenix force. Is my geek showing?
posted by signal at 12:44 PM on October 7, 2005

I've always answered "Teleportation" to that question, since I really do not enjoy the process of travelling, but I really really like being in other places. Especially if this teleportation would allow extraplanetary jaunts. That would be really really fun.

To show you the insanely lame level I've take the daydreaming about teleportation, let me elaborate on the types of teleportation powers I'd like. First, you see there are two types of teleportation, yourself-with-a-weight-allowance and other-people-or-things. I want both of those, and I want inertia/force-vector control at the destination. Otherwise if you teleport a long way north or south, you may be travelling the wrong speed relative to the local rotation. At least I *think* that is how the rotational physics work. A less iffy example of that would be teleporting to the ground when falling from a great height. If you don't have vector control, you break your legs at the minimum.

Also, if you can teleport really fast, you can emulate lots of other powers. Super speed is achieved by teleporting a millimeter at a time. Plus it would look cool, since you wouldn't have to move your legs. Ditto flying. Ditto lifting heavy things. Really it would look like you were lifting, when in fact you were fractionally teleporting the car as you pretended to lift.

If I couldn't have such mega-teleportation powers, I'd like really strong telekinesis, such as those The Turtle from Wild Cards had.
posted by Invoke at 12:48 PM on October 7, 2005

Trolling and derailing, definitely. But infinite flame power is good too.
posted by LarryC at 12:52 PM on October 7, 2005

Immortality would give you time to figure out how to acquire all the other powers.
posted by Ryvar at 12:53 PM on October 7, 2005

I already have super-parking (the ability to find a good space in a crowded parking lot).

I think telekinesis would be pretty cool. You'd really clean up at the state fair.
posted by MegoSteve at 1:09 PM on October 7, 2005

Never aging coupled with decent intelligence and cunning. Look at the wealth and power Ra's Al Ghul had. Who needs clown powers when you can have your own private army? Or you could be low key like Enoch Root.

Bingo. The amount of change any individual with super powers (other than possibly super intelligence) could cause over 80 years is still nothing next to the amount that an average person could cause over 3000.
posted by gsteff at 2:45 PM on October 7, 2005

I can't believe that no one has considered the logical limitations of flight.

If you're able to go fast enough to fly anywhere of importance, you'll hit birds and bugs and get hypothermia, especially if you choose to wear only spandex. If you fly high enough to avoid hitting said atmospheric objects, then you die from oxygen deprivation. Obviously, flight needs to be coupled with invincibility to even be considered.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 3:42 PM on October 7, 2005

I once had a dream that I was a superhero named Sonica who could control sound waves. She/I could create these bubbles of sound that could be strung together like beads. They could be "loaded" with damaging low-frequency sound or with music so I could DJ at parties.

That might not be the coolest overall, but that's what I would choose.
posted by nekton at 4:33 PM on October 7, 2005

Think this stuff through guys!

Man of steel, woman of kleenex.

Ellison wrote a great novella called Mephisto in Onyx about mindreading.

And me? I've written this twice...and realized that I'd rather write it as short fiction than to share.
posted by filmgeek at 4:42 PM on October 7, 2005

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks a ton. I don't know if this will settle things for us, but it definitely will give us a lot to talk about. Thanks.
posted by crapples at 5:06 PM on October 7, 2005

The ability to silence children.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:25 PM on October 7, 2005

I'll take all of the following, please:

the power to stir mixed drinks from a distance
the power to manipulate olives
the power to change the colour of tulips
the power to taste things that aren't there
the power to make other people's nostrils flare
the power to detect the presence of argon
the power of extremely rapid mulching
the ability to turn milk sour by breathing on it
general cheese-related powers
transmutation of tablecloths into t-shirts
immunity to pepper
ability to breathe tomato soup
super-human powers of art appraisal
the power of getting really close to stuff without touching it
detection of crickets
the ability to turn clothing invisible
super-human sense of comedic timing
godlike powers of alcohol consumption
perfect sense of balance
instant drying of books that fell in the water
communication with and control of squirrels
posted by sfenders at 5:54 PM on October 7, 2005

Until I saw the "superheros" tag, I thought you were referring to national superpowers, like the US, USSR, etc. I was about to write a mini-essay about how I think the British Empire, despite having many negative aspects, was the coolest.

Me, too, and same answer -- Cool Britannia...

The amount of change any individual with super powers (other than possibly super intelligence) could cause

cause earn

and not to put to fine a point on it, imagine the sex!

There is almost no superpower to which this does not apply -- stopping time, for instance.
posted by dhartung at 6:18 PM on October 7, 2005

Hm, I want the ability to turn off the strong interaction at will. Mmmm, unquestioned power...
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 6:31 PM on October 7, 2005

P.S. "imagine the sex" would only apply if the partner is into some serious BDSM!
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 6:36 PM on October 7, 2005

What the hell, people? How is this even a question?


Dark side, obviously. Not that I've read any extended universe stuff or anything, but apparently some of those dudes could make stars implode.
posted by Eamon at 6:38 PM on October 7, 2005

I always thought the Soviet Union was the best. That Soviet charm, the KGB, huge armes, beetroot, Lenin, MiG fighters...

Thats where my vote goes!
posted by schwa at 6:50 PM on October 7, 2005

J M Strazinskys "Rising Stars" shows us why invulnerability isn't all it's cracked up to be without super strength. (suffocation is a very real possibility even if you can deflect bullets)
posted by Megafly at 6:59 PM on October 7, 2005

Invisibility rules above all other superpowers!
-You can get in places for free!!!
-Lots of easy sneaking around
-Optimal conditions for pranks (fake flying objects, freaking people out, etc.)

Ideally, invisibility would be combined with teleportation, but if I'd have to pick one of the two, I'd still go with invisibility. (If you ask me when I'm tired and in a hurry, I might change my mind on this, though)

My least favorite superpower (because obviously I have several) is superhuman strength. Blunt force is too easy, and not very classy. Also: it's hard to do tiny finicky things like replacing a light bulb or tying shoelaces if you don't know your own strength!
posted by easternblot at 8:01 PM on October 7, 2005

On further consideration, I think communication with and control of squirrels would be the best. Also, it should include long-range telepathic communication with squirrels. And the first thing I'd order my backyard squirrels to do would be to go out and recruit some squirrels who have the power of invisibility to join my mighty rodent army.
posted by sfenders at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2005

Along the lines of what Decani wrote, I'd opt for the ability to send a very painful electrical jolt (or maybe a toothache) through anyone who is a public eye- and earsore by abusing cellphones, honking needlessly, popping chewing gum, swearing at or manhandling children, spawning annoying children, ... well, I've made my point.
— (signed) The Komeuppance Kid
posted by rob511 at 10:51 PM on October 7, 2005

I'd choose immortality combined with the abilities to choose to remember something absolutely perfectly or discard a memory never to be troubled by it ever again. I'd spend the rest of my life reading every book I haven't had the chance to and learning as much as I could. I'd learn hundreds of languages and all the other things I don't have time for. I'd put several paycheques in to a bank account and several centuries later I'd have a fortune. I'd have experience enough to deal with anything and for those moments when you feel sad about something you can discard the memory for ever (no more sad Highlander-style flashbacks for example).

That'd be just dandy I reckon.
posted by longbaugh at 7:26 AM on October 8, 2005

Having given this not a small amount of thought, I couldn't have only one. Flight would be great, until you're 500 miles from nowhere over the Pacific and lost. There has to be a way of psychically 'tagging' areas so you can get there-and-back. I'm sure things look much different from 20,000 feet. With little oxygen. In a thunderstorm. So I'd have to be able to stand those conditions too.
Why stop at Earth? I want to be able to hover 1 million miles above Jupiter's Great Red Spot and awe at the sheer power of it and fly through the The Star Pillars of Sharpless 171 [link]. And get back - thus the 'tagging'. Flight, speed, invulnerability, I'm so greedy.
delmoi - Hey, I've wondered this about the immortality angle: if we assume that humans aren't supposed to live for say 1000+ years, how do you deal with that? Friends and I were talking about that when we used to play Vampire: The Masquerade (yes, me a geek). If you've been alive for that long, wouldn't you stop being what is known as human? You've lived long and amassed more knowledge, and most importantly experiences, than anything else ever. How would you relate? Or would it be a cyclical thing - human to non-human to human and over again?
Just thinkin' aloud here...
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2005

100% accurate gaydar! I'm sure that Wonder Woman, in one of her incarnations, possessed that lesbian superpower.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2005

I was all for telekenesis until I saw Carol Anne's. Perfect gaydar without a doubt.
posted by honeydew at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2005

What, no mention of eye lasers?! If you are irritable, eye lasers are the superpower for you.

posted by ikkyu2 at 5:04 PM on October 8, 2005

Super speed is just low-grade time travel.
posted by flabdablet at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2005

« Older What's wrong with Randroids?   |   What is this job called? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.