6 Awesome Superpowers (That Would Suck in Real Life)
We've all fantasized about what it would be like to possess the power of our favorite superhero, and Hollywood's unwritten rule that every new movie must now contain at least one character with superpowers is helping to ensure the superpowered daydreams of a whole new generation. But since we here at Cracked love nothing more than to curb-stomp your childhood fantasies (because we can, that's why), we're about to show you how having your favorite superpower would likely have pretty shitty -- if not completely disastrous -- results.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to chuck a lightning bolt at that car that just cut you off, like Storm from the X-Men? Impress all the ladies at your next backyard barbecue by lighting up the grill with a bolt from your Thor hammer? Go full-on Emperor Palpatine on your annoying cubicle neighbor at work?
"THE SHARED FREEZER FOOD HAS LABELS FOR A REASON, CHAD!"
Lightning has been a symbol of raw power ever since people thought gods lived on top of mountains and only came down to psychologically scar mortals and release Krakens. The ability to toss lightning at people -- specifically, deadly enemy people (or, failing that, jerks) -- who wouldn't want that?
So What's the Problem?
Think back to the last substantial thunderstorm you experienced. The flashes light up the room like a strobe light, while the accompanying booms of thunder rattle the windows a bit -- but for the most part, you can ignore the tempest like it's an annoying neighbor. Nature's got its territory, you've got yours ... everything's cool. And then, WHAM! A massive thunderclap sounds like it's ripped open the very heavens and challenged God to a pissing contest. The picture frames on your wall shift, your heart jumps into your throat, and you discover that your underwear is the most recent victim of Mother Nature's scorn.
"Oh fuck, what lunatic gave God a whip?"
Now imagine that effect multiplied about 11 times. Welcome to the situation otherwise known as "every time you use your handy dandy lightning power." Those piss-provoking thunderclaps are nothing compared to a strike that begins at your fingertips. That brief flash of light made by distant lightning? When it's 4 feet away, every bolt is like the sun tongue-kissing your eyeballs. You'd better hit your target with the first shot, because you're going to be seeing precisely jack-all for the next few minutes.
And the thunder's even worse. The sound levels alone can make your eardrums rupture like a cheap condom, but the shock waves produced have been known to shatter windows and push nails out of the drywall inside houses. And now that's happening right in front of you. You're firing a weapon that can cause serious structural damage to a house within mere feet of your squishy human body.
Still, it's almost worth it for the chance to ruin the annual home owner association's Potluck Pool Party.
There's a real-world device that combines blinding light with dangerous levels of sound: a stun grenade. Would you enjoy detonating one of those bad boys right next to your face? Well, every time you fire your bolts off, that's exactly what you're doing -- willingly subjecting yourself to enough sensory overload to put you in the fetal position. And we haven't even gotten to the fact that the resulting air temperatures of up to 70,000 degrees Fahrenheit would melt your lightning-flinging hand clean off (hope you brought along a spare).
Have you considered wishing for a slightly less-offensive superpower, like, maybe chucking rocks?
So let's say you lean a little more toward the defensive side when choosing which superpower you fantasize about, and you prefer your superheroes of the "destined to appear only in shitty movies" variety. Fine -- you're Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman. You can conjure up an indestructible, invisible force field to materialize around you at will. Worries like car crashes, house fires, and ninja attacks are things of the past -- literally nothing can harm you now. You're the physical manifestation of the old "I'm rubber, you're glue" bit.
We'd like to glue a rubber to Sue Storm, if you know what we mean. (We certainly don't.)
So What's the Problem?
Let's face it -- if you suddenly find yourself with the ability to blow an indestructible bubble around yourself, the first thing you're going to want to do is show it off, Jackass-style. So say you decide to leave a building in the most Hollywood fashion possible: jumping straight off the roof and activating your force field just before you hit the ground. Well, sorry to tell you this, but your shield -- indestructible as it may be -- isn't going to save you.
"Wait ... what?"
You see, when you land, you'll face the same problem that your grade school egg drop experiment did: limited cushioning. If you're suspended rigidly in the center of your force field, as in most portrayals, the impact will absolutely kill you. There's no escaping the physics of it -- you're still losing all your momentum in an instant, and the force of the impact would turn you into a nice human puree. The problem isn't fixed if you're free to move around inside your force field bubble, either, because that would be like standing in a free-falling elevator -- you'll pancake onto the bottom of your shield on impact just the same.
"So I just won't jump off of buildings!" you say. "It'll still protect me from car crashes and whatnot!"
Whatnot, courtesy of Cracked's art department.
Unfortunately, nope. It doesn't matter where the force comes from -- physics is kind of an asshole that way. You face the same problem whether you're falling from a building, getting hit by a car, or being crushed by a comically oversized falling anvil. That force has to go somewhere, and your fragile human bits are as good a place as any.
"On the plus side, that force field makes cleanup incredibly easy."
Sci-fi fan or not, there probably isn't a person on the planet who hasn't dreamed of having the ability to stop time like Zack Morris or Hiro from Heroes. Hiro usually used the ability to get himself out of some life-threatening situation, but let's face it: If you're reading Cracked, chances are you don't want to use it as a life preserver so much as to convince your friend that his apartment is haunted by wet-willy-giving ghosts.
"Operation Put a Spider on Everyone has been completed. Unfreezing time in 5, 4 ..."
So What's the Problem?
For starters, boredom. You know what weakness computers, cars, televisions, phones, and the Internet share? They all need time. That's because anything electronic depends on electrons to function, and quick as they may be, electrons still need some time to get from point A to point B. So that puts most modern conveniences completely out of the picture -- when you stop time, you're effectively hurling yourself back into the dark ages. So much for using your new superpower to catch up on all that Internet porn surfing you've been putting off.
"I should have just bought a goddamn Hustler."
But let's make up some rules of our own to get around that snag. Let's say you can bring things with you -- anything you're touching when you activate your power comes into stopped time with you, people and objects alike. How confident are you that you'll never forget anything? Because if you zap back into normal time and forget to bring your stuff back with you, you're stranding it in stopped time. In the seconds it takes you to realize what a dumbass you are, an eternity will have passed in stopped time. By the time you get back, your stuff will be a pile of dust. And if you show off your new power to friends and forget to hold their hands when you come back, you've just sentenced them to everlastingly plead with what they perceive as a frozen you to come back for them ... until they die of starvation, that is.
If that's not enough to give you pause, keep in mind that every time you use your power, you're basically pausing physics for everything except you, effectively shortening your unstopped life. So you may get all the naps and breaks you could possibly need, but you'll also have to explain to your friends and family why you look 80 when you're only 45.
"I'll never live to see my children graduate, but at least I had plenty of time to spank it."
Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that you have the ability to spew lasers out of your eyeballs like Cyclops (or the original Cyclops, the Comet). But maybe you're not all about the snazzy eye wear -- in that case, let's say your laser eyes are more controllable, like Superman's heat vision. Anything you can see, you can obliterate with a glance.
Superman's laser eyes beat Cyclops' laser eyes, just so we're all clear.
So What's the Problem?
Your eyes are tricky little devils. Even when you think your gaze is rock-solid steady, it's jumping around like a sugar-blasted kindergartner during Saturday morning cartoons. Thanks to science, you can see for yourself:
Keeping the screen a foot or so from your face, stare at the center of the left target for about 30 seconds. Then switch and look at the center of the blank square on the right. You should see an afterimage like an eyeball staring back at you against the white background. You've probably seen this parlor trick before, but the afterimage itself isn't our point -- try to keep that afterimage from moving.
You can't do it. You can maybe get it to stay mostly in the same spot, but it never stops wavering slightly. And the farther your face gets from the screen, the worse the effect becomes.
"Were you aiming at a passenger jet, Scott? Because that's what you hit."
The image moves because your eyes are constantly making tiny motions called microsaccades. These motions are completely involuntary, and can change your line of sight by up to a full degree. That may seem like an insignificant number, but it adds up over distance -- and it royally screws over your laser-eye power.
Let's say you want to prank your friend with your newfound superpower. He's standing halfway across a football field, rearing back to pass you the ball. You activate your laser vision, expecting to vaporize the ball right out of his hand and scare the piss out of him. Over that distance, microsaccades can divert your laser beam several feet away from your intended target without warning. You're aiming for the ball, but one moderate microsaccade and you've just jokingly incinerated your friend's entire right arm instead. Ooh! Burn!
"Sorry about that, Jimmy, I ... well, actually, I'm not sorry at all. Go to hell, kid."
But that's not even the worst of it. An off-the-shelf laser pointer has a range of around 2.2 miles. And that puny thing's like a Nerf gun compared to the double-barreled 12 gauge in your skull. That means every time you fire your badass eye beams, your natural eye movements cause you to gouge 2-mile flaming swaths out of the landscape. Unless you hate absolutely anything and everything around you, you'd better do like Mom always told you and keep your beams in your head.
So maybe the lowly superpowers we've discussed so far aren't really your bag. All this physical stuff is beneath you ... it's just not quite ultimate enough, you know?
"God's alright, but the world could use way more dinosaurs."
OK then, you're omniscient. You know every detail of life that it's possible to know: the ending to every movie, song, and book; the intricate details of supermodels' bowel movements; your mom's sexual preferences (she likes it from behind) ... everything. Every fact you could ever need, trivial or not, is tucked away somewhere inside your head. In fiction, any character with access to such an overwhelming amount of information usually turns out to be somewhat of a crazy asshole (see: Doctor Manhattan), but hey -- maybe you, random Cracked reader, are built to handle it. Maybe you are true god material.
In which case, we suggest investing in some maps of the Martian surface.
So What's the Problem?
It may all be in there, sure -- but how could you get it out? All that information can't be at the forefront of your thoughts simultaneously. You're going to need some way to filter through your own mind. Your brain has become the Internet on crack -- terabytes upon terabytes of information, all stored away in remote places, inaccessible unless you know exactly where to look.
You'd need to have the mother of all search engines programmed into your subconscious just to think straight. Every single piece of information would be buried by about a kajillion others just like it. You'd have to sort through billions of other people's pass codes just to remember how to unlock your phone. It'd be like reading through every page of every Google search -- and most people's minds go numb after approximately Page 3. You might have all of the information right at your fingertips, but you'd better hope your omniscience also came with a side effect of immortality, because you're going to need an immense amount of time to locate and analyze all that data -- destroying any usefulness the knowledge might have had (not to mention your oh-so-delicate sanity) in the process.
"I'll know how to fix the car as soon as I've sorted through all of Chinese history and several billion years of plate tectonics."
Still think you're mentally up to the task? Here, we'll answer that for you: no. No, you're not. So let's lower our sights once again and hop back over to the realm of physical superpowers, shall we? How about something like ...
Earlier we covered the considerable shortcomings of force fields at protecting you, but if escaping physical harm isn't feasible, there's still another option: super healing.
"You call that impalement?"
Say you're Wolverine without the claws, but with the facial hair (because sexy). Or maybe that cheerleader from Heroes, if you prefer your super healing abilities sans dong. You can get hurt just like you normally would, but that can't keep you down, because your body can heal from even the most catastrophic injuries at incredible speeds. It wouldn't matter if you broke every bone in your body at once, like Evel Knievel's entire life condensed into one calamitous clusterfuck of an accident -- you'd simply knit that shit right back together and come back for more.
So What's the Problem?
Two words: mental trauma.
This isn't the kind of thing you just "bounce back" from.
Regeneration doesn't eliminate pain. Walking through a wall of fire wouldn't be nearly as cinematic if you were wailing the entire time. And imagine lying broken on the ground after a failed attempt to ramp 14 school buses on a motorcycle and having to watch your liquefied organs regrow themselves in your shattered chest cavity like one of those stop-motion videos of rotting fruit played in reverse. Does that seem like the kind of experience a person could walk away from unaffected?
The extreme pain and horror you'd experience after a critical injury would leave serious mental scars, and trauma of that level comes with a bonus side effect -- post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It's hard to drink the pain away when your body is effectively immune to alcohol."
Let's go back to Wolverine for a second. What's he like? Sullen, moody, constantly on alert for anything happening around him (can you say paranoia?), prone to fits of berserker rage ... these aren't character traits, they're symptoms. The man's been torn apart so many times that he's now a walking mass of psychological scars. His berserker rage episodes? PTSD flashbacks, clearly. And no one notices what's wrong, because the man's invincible, isn't he? Well, regeneration may have healed his body, but it didn't save his mind.
With the extraordinarily long life this power grants you (because your cells can't be damaged by age, after all), you'll almost certainly be subjected to accidents that would prove fatal to any normal human. But lucky you, you'll be forced to live through them instead -- and each one will push you that much closer to complete mental instability. So ask your newly invincible self this: Is it even possible to enjoy an immortal body when the mind inside is shattered?
Nathaniel lives on a boat. He was inspired to try writing online by his friend Spencer's Internet success. If you feel like being an agent of good karma and helping him thank her, you should check her out here.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Adorable Animals the Internet Loves (Are Going Extinct).
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to shoot lightning from your pie-hole.
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