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15 Coolest Ways Comic Book Superheroes Obtain Their Powers5

By Christopher Littler

The 15 Coolest Ways Comic Book Superheroes Obtain Their Powers

According to the French writer Romain Rolland, a hero is “a man who does what he can.” It’s a remarkably simple definition, and while I have a personal distrust of the French, I have to agree. The same is true of superheroes, who are like heroes, except they wear funny outfits and have multiple versions of themselves across several universes – because comic book writers have a tendency to want to put their stamp on something regardless of how confusing it might be.

My point is, superheroes do what they can, and oftentimes what they can do is a reflection of how they first gained their powers. There are as many origin stories as there are superheroes, but the coolest ones are always the ones where a normal guy goes through some sort of transformation that makes him slightly more attractive to bimbo’s – but not Mitch from the KoldCast TV series TV Face. He’s just a budding entrepreneur. When he decides to write his own comic book, a mysterious publisher enters his life and guides him through a series of superhero-esque tests (whether or not Mitch hooks up with bimbo’s remains to be seen). But what does make Mitch similar to most superheroes is his unconventional acquisition of powers. For more examples, here are 15 of the coolest ways comic book superheroes obtained their powers.

TV Face – Episode 1


1. Being Disintegrated and Reassembling Yourself Like a Watch: Dr. Manhattan

When Physicist Jon Osterman forgot his watch and stepped back into the “Intrinsic Field Subtractor” to retrieve it, there’s no way he could have known the door would close behind him – dooming him to instant disintegration. There’s also no way he could have known that he was living in a comic book (ahem, graphic novel), a format where ninety-nine percent of lab accidents lead to superpowers. Osterman becomes Dr. Manhattan, a blue-skinned superhuman who lives in a quantum universe, which is kind of hard to explain without travelling to Scotland and making the fifteen hour buggy ride to Alan Moore’s “privacy hut,” but, apparently, it means he has a free pass to act like a total dick and walk around with his man parts hanging out. If that’s the case, then I’ve been living in a quantum universe since I was fifteen.

2. Mutated by Toxic Waste: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Living in the sewers is a shitty situation, even if you’re a turtle. Of course, there’s always the off chance that someone might dump a chemical so toxic that it transforms you into a giant mutant version of yourself and, that a similarly mutated rat will teach you the ways of being a ninja. That’s not going to happen to everyone, though, so you might as well make friends with the turds.

3. Injected with the Blood of Wolverine: Deadpool

Wolverine is hands-down the coolest superhero of all time. He’s a feral beast with the power of regeneration and a skeleton made of unbreakable metal. We can’t hope to become him, so we hope for the next best thing: to have scientists inject us with his blood. Unfortunately for Deadpool, Wolverine’s superblood makes his cancer aggressive as hell, and it ravages his body and mind. The “merc with a mouth” survives, of course, but the ordeal makes him a little cranky, and prone to breaking the fourth wall.

4. Being Sent to the Future as a Baby: Cable

I’d have to make a chart to adequately explain Cable’s history. Let me try to do this: He’s the son of Cyclops and Madeline Pryor (whose own history is so batsh*t convoluted she should just be renamed Retcon Girl). He was sent to the future after his mother tried to use him to open a portal to Limbo – that’s where the demons are! – and shortly afterwards was injected with a deadly techno-organic virus. That was probably a smart move. It’s just irresponsible to raise a child in that kind of atmosphere. Better to send him to the year 4935, where genocide runs rampant at the hands of Apocalypse, and he can be raised by his time-confused half-sister.

5. Making a Deal with Malebolgia: Spawn

CIA agent Al Simmons is sent to hell after being murdered by his own boss. Here he makes a deal with Malebolgia. one of the major lords of hell, and a real ugly son-of-a-bitch, to become the office corp for Hell’s army, Hellspawn. This means he commits an eternity to doing Satan’s bidding in return for being able to check in on his fiancé, Wanda, one last time. Good thing she wasn’t going to the bathroom at the time!

6. Being Selected by a Panel of Super Power Aliens: Green Lantern/Hal Jordan

It’s always flattering to be commended by a panel of your peers. For example, I was recently voted Alcoholic of the Month. The point is: it’s even better when you’re commended by a superior. That’s what happens to Hal Jordan, who happens upon a dying space alien named Abin Sur whose been looking for someone “utterly honest and without fear.” Jordon then is given the power ring and green lantern. Flattering words, Mr. Sur. I sure hope you don’t say that to everyone who finds you on your deathbed.

7. Inhabited by a prime universal force of life and passion: Phoenix

Being a powerful psychic like Jean Grey is handy in a lot of scenarios – figuring out who drank the last of the skim milk, playing blackjack with cheater-face Colossus, and, most notably, when dying on a space shuttle and in some need of some serious Phoenix ex machina. Thus was the birth of the Jean Grey as Phoenix, a being that would help her out in a jam and eventually lead to her committing genocide at the tune of, oh, about five billion. Of course, that’s if you believe that that’s the real Jean, and not a duplicate version of her created by the Phoenix too… oh forget it. Let’s just move on…

8. Building a Secret Weapon and Killing Your Kidnappers With it: Iron Man

Anyone who’s been kidnapped, and forced to make a weapon of mass destruction, dreams of getting revenge on his kidnappers in a most deadly fashion. Tony Stark is a man who makes good on his dreams, and he uses the suit he’s been building on the sly to mutilate his captors and then continues to use it to fight crime. He also uses it to pick up chicks, move cars that double park him, and – funny enough – substitutes as the Tin Man every year at the San Diego Comic Convention.

9. Going Bat Sh*t Crazy in Vietnam: The Badger

Norbert Sykes is a Vietnam vet suffering from a bad case of multiple personality disorder. “The Badger,” a crime-fighter who can talk to animals, is just one of the many people who exist within his head. Beyond the martial arts expert, there’s also Pierre the murderer, Gastineau Grover Depaul the inner city youth, Leroy the dog, and many others. But it’s the titular Badger who does the crime fighting in this send-up to the genre, and he’s about as endearing as a homicidal schizophrenic can be.

10. Bombarded by Cosmic Rays: the Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four are subjected to the cosmic rays during one of their regular Sunday space-outings, but for some reason the damn things affect them in drastically different ways. That’s like if you put two bowls of soup in a microwave and one of them came out steaming hot and the other came out a bowling ball. The team leader, Richard Reeds, doesn’t seem too perturbed by this inconsistency, but I don’t see why he should – he drew the best of the lot. Who wouldn’t want to be a brainy Stretch Armstrong?

11. Denied Admittance into Heaven: the Spectre

Okay, so being denied admittance into heaven isn’t the “coolest” way to become a superhero, but not everyone works in a lab full of radioactive spiders. Some people, like hard-boiled cop Jim Corrigan, have to roll with the punches. When you’re bounced out of heaven and given a shot at murdering those who killed you, toss on a green cloak and make sweet, sweet revenge.

12. Deducing Batman and Robin’s Identities: Red Robin/Tim Drake

During a night out on the town, young millionaire Tim Drake spots Robin doing the same move he used to do as a Flying Grayson and does the one thing Batman’s villains could never do: figures out his secret identity. Years later, after the second Robin dies and Batman completely loses his sh*t, Tim uses this knowledge to squeeze his way in as the new Boy Wonder. Of course, getting involved with the Bat has its costs: Drake’s mother dies and his father is crippled in the meantime. He has to be orphaned to get the job? Those are some pretty rigid job requirements. But then again, it’s a bad economy.

13. Being tossed into an Atomic Reactor: Sun Boy

The only reason Dirk Morgna survives being tossed into an atomic reactor by his dad’s co-worker, the deviously named Dr. Zaxton Regulus, is because he has a “one-in-a-million genetic structure.” Some would call that “highly improbable” or “circumstantial” or “extremely lazy writing,” but I think it’s more like “where preparation meets opportunity.” Regardless, the atomic reactor gives young Dirk the power to generate light (and eventually heat), which is why he’s currently working at the Justice League building as a lamp.

14. The Mob Murdering Your Family: The Punisher

Frank Castle doesn’t have any powers to speak of, but for what he lacks in abilities, he more than makes up for in commitment. There’s no one alive who wants to see criminals pay more than the Punisher. He will literally do anything it takes to make sure what happened to him never happens to anyone again – even if by carrying out his plans he’s depriving a lot of men’s children of their terrible fathers. Of course, the only people who can try to explain this to him are his colleagues, and who’s going to take advice from a blind dude in a skintight red suit?

15. The Government Giving You Steroids: Captain America

Captain America represents everything that’s great about this country: freedom, confidence, and blatant hypocrisy. In an effort to create a super-soldier, the same government that puts billions of dollars into a war on drugs uses a “Super-Serum” on guinea pig Steve Rogers and creates what they call “the perfect man” – they also give him a burst of something called “Vita-Rays”. Whether or not you believe drugs are as damaging to society as politicians say they are, you have to admit there’s something amusing about the fact that the man who fights for truth, justice and the American way is more doped up than the entirety of the New York Yankees.

TV Face – Episode 2

TV Face – Episode 3

Watch more episodes of the comic book horror series TV Face

Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.

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Must Reads 4/21/2014