If you think about it, most superpowers aren’t that impressive. I mean aside from them being, y’know, superpowers. It’s the level of control heroes and villains have over their powers that really makes them amazing.
By way of example, the following story:
At one point while The (future) Wife and I were dating, she was lying with her head on my chest. “I can hear your heartbeat,” she told me. “That’s good,” I replied. And then I closed my eyes and waited.
And The (future) Wife sat bolt upright “It’s gone!”
I was laughing pretty hard, so it took me a few seconds to explain where it went: I can slow my heartbeat.
It’s a minor trick I learned from Wing Chun. I don’t do the breathing exercises on a daily basis anymore, but I can still freak the doctors out when they go to take my blood pressure. At the time this took place, I was practicing Kung Fu about 5 days a week, so I could cut my heart rate in half, or even by two thirds. To The (future) Wife, who had been listening to my resting heart rate, it probably sounded like I’d just died. Hilarious.
You can see why I get invited to so many parties.
Now, I’m not suggesting that when I finish this blog post I patrol the rooftops of New York as “Heart-Murmur Man”. But I am suggesting that what’s more impressive than a superpower is supercontrol.
Take, for example, Cyclops. In case you live under a rock or something, he’s the dude who shoots lazers out of his eyes. (Note to comic nerds: I’m generalizing, step away from the keyboard, eat some Cheetos, and calm the hell down.) Right. Where was I? Oh, lazer-eye guy. Ok, so here’s the thing, and I want you to bear with me for a second: shooting lazers from your eyes is not all that great.
Technically speaking, all that does is give you the ability to carve a giant swath of destruction. Effectively, this is like me handing you a bazooka with infinite ammo. Ever unlocked those in video games? They’re entertaining for about 5 minutes, before the utter impracticality makes you swap it for something more intimate. Like a car to run people over with.
So what’s really impressive about Cyclops, is his (somewhat bullshit, if you ask me) ability to change his laz-o-vision from bazooka destruction to sniper rifle precision and back again. Shit, he even stuns people with his “deadly” optic blasts in some comics (hilarious). Sure he has an ability, but what’s truly amazing is that he’s mastered every conceivable point on that power’s spectrum. It’s the same for virtually any comic character.
The Flash runs really fast. He also seems to be able to think as fast as his feet move, and stop and corner on a dime. The edge of one. Doing Mach 4. Running fast? Neat trick. Impossibly precise control at sonic boom speeds? Now we’ve got a superhero.
Limits are put on super hero powers, but not on their control of those powers. Which is interesting, because you rarely see that sort of thing in real life. Every once in a while, a member of our species attains extremely precise control over their muscles. And you wind up with someone like Bruce Lee.
Or, say, my yoga instructor. Who earlier this evening managed to not only hold a pose that defied most of what I’d learned about human anatomy in four years of university-level figure drawing courses, but then delicately unfolded from it like some kind of humanoid blossom.
Superpowers? No. Supercontrol? Yes.
So clearly, what’s really impressive is supercontrol. I mean, lazer eye beams are only useful if you regularly fight terrorists, or can’t be bothered to look for a bottle opener. But precise muscle control? I can think of about a billion uses for that.
And half of them rhyme with Llama Bootra.