It's frustrating being a teenager, unable to drive, or drink, or vote. It's like society doesn't trust you with anything.
Well, in most cases, society is right: Give a kid a car and he's immediately going to see how high he can ramp it off something. But that doesn't change the fact that some very ambitious teens have changed the world. For instance ...
#6. Superman Was Invented by High School Kids
Every elementary school kid has doodled a superhero on the back of a notebook at some point. But we're guessing your sloppy depiction of "Butt Man" didn't make you a millionaire and change pop culture forever. That is, however, what happened when a young Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel first conceived the Man of Steel in high school.
Their design would wind up being the template for pretty much every superhero that would come later. For instance, have you ever asked yourself why superheroes wear spandex and Speedos? It's not exactly practical crime-fighting wear. Well, it's because a couple of kids were most likely inspired by 1900s circus strong men like Zishe Breitbart.
Seen here about to sucker punch some rebar.
Breitbart was world-famous right around the time Siegel and Shuster were growing up. His mailing address was actually "Superman-New York," and the advertisements for his shows bragged that he could stop a speeding locomotive. And guys like him wouldn't be seen on stage without a tiny pair of shorts or tights.
As teenagers, Siegel and Shuster self-published their crude comic in a fanzine. And forget Lois, the Daily Planet, and Lex Luthor -- the first fictional superman was a creepy, sort-of evil mentalist who probably menaced renamed replicas of local bullies. After the Nazis went and soured the world on the whole concept of a "super man," Siegel and Shuster reinvented him as the captain of truth, justice and the American way.
The American way is to take your wrench-beatings with a smile.
Finding it difficult to track down anyone who had a serious interest in the character and style, it took an almost unbelievable three more years for the granddaddy of all superheroes to find an independent publisher.
What kid in the Great Depression would want to read this boring thing?
By the way, there is an almost Batman-esque element to Jerry Siegel's story. Siegel was a hugely unpopular proto-nerd, and his only solace came from seeking the elusive approval of his successful father. His father was mysteriously murdered while Jerry was still a kid, thus motivating him to dedicate his life to fighting crime. Since he didn't have billions of dollars or serious mental problems, he used comics instead of batarangs.
#5. The Inventors of Hip-Hop Were Age 17 and 12
Obviously no one person sat down and just invented hip-hop out of the blue. It evolved over time and has many fathers. But two of the most prominent fathers were a couple of kids in the Justin Bieber age range.
It was the early 1970s and everyone was getting over that whole peace and love thing. A 17-year-old named Clive Campbell had just emigrated from Jamaica, and boy did he love music and partying. He became known as DJ Kool Herc and proceeded to put on some of the first block parties.
The fan is for the auto-tuning.
Herc noticed how anxious the people at the parties got waiting for the beat to start so that they could start dancing. So he decided to play with their impatient asses by playing the beat from a song, and then fading in a beat from another song, and then fading to another beat, creating an on-the-fly mix of nothing but beats. He also had a unique vocal style of calling out in his microphone to the attendees in rhymes such as "B-boys, B-girls, are you ready? Keep on rock steady," and "This is the joint! Herc beat on the point," inadvertently laying the basis for what would become rap.
And if the lyrics ain't broke, never ever, ever fix 'em.
Soon, the DJ had his own pupils known as the first MCs, who spread hip-hop throughout the Northeast. One of these pupils, Grand Wizard Theodore (who we assume loved Dungeons and Dragons), claims that once when he was in his basement messing around with his turntable, his mom came down and started yelling at him. Trying to stop the record by pushing it down, Theodore accidentally abruptly slowed the disc and so heard the first scratch.
Promptly ignoring his mother, he did it over and over, trying to perfect the sound. And that was that -- record scratching became a thing, and later would appear on the first really successful hip-hop track ever, Herbie Hancock's "Rockit." Oh, and if Grand Wizard Theodore sounds like a ridiculous name for a cutting-edge musician, he has an excuse: He was 12 years old at the time.
It's like having your 11-year-old foxxygrrl69 Hotmail address on your CV.
#4. Sam Colt Was in His Late Teens When He Invented the Revolver
Even if you know nothing about guns, you know the name "Colt." You've heard someone refer to a certain pistol as a "Colt 45" or some character in a Western refer to his Colt revolver. Today the Colt company makes the M16 rifles carried by the U.S. military and a whole lot of other guns you've fired in a Modern Warfare game. It all goes back to one guy, who spent his teens tinkering with gun designs. So what kind of guy devotes his life to making a better killing machine?
Some men were born small, but this man gave them the means to shoot into the air and go "Yee-haw!"
For starters, Sam Colt was put into a boarding school as a kid, where he was unpopular, had no friends and did poorly in class. And like most of the other 15-year-olds, he wanted to get popular fast. So, the story goes that one day he made a crude firework and set it loose outside. This had the expected results and got him popular, until it burned down the school.
At which point he blossomed into a full-grown Fonzie.
His school days over but still interested in explosives, soon thereafter Colt had a light bulb moment and began carving the initial design of a gun in wood. A prototype was built, and this .45 caliber gun performed remarkably in its beta testing, and by that we mean it blew up. Colt reworked his design, and even went so far as to show it to some gunsmiths ... who told him it sucked and would never fire. Colt changed careers, going on the road and charging people to huff laughing gas. No, really.
This venture somehow failed, and he was forced back into gunsmithing. After opening a factory (thanks to borrowing cash from his dad), he set out selling his crude guns, and failed spectacularly.
Probably because he started making a knife 90 percent of the way through.
That all changed when one night, he found a stall on the corner of the street with a guy selling his unsold guns at dirt cheap prices. Rather than sue his ass, Colt met Sam Walker, captain of the Texas Rangers. (Yes, his name really was "Walker, Texas Ranger.") Walker not only suggested improvements for the gun, but also ordered a thousand of them for use in the Mexican-American War. The rest is history: Since then, Colt's company has sold over 30 million goddamned guns worldwide.