The 6 Least Useful Superhero Abilities in Comic Book History
You'd think it would be pretty easy to come up with a new power for a superhero -- just look around your room, choose an object, and make up a power around it. Congratulations, you just invented Liquor Cabinet Man and his nemesis, Puke Stain on the Carpet Woman.
However, when you're a comic book writer and your job depends on you churning out thousands and thousands of heroes and villains, you eventually get patently stupid ones like ...
Paste-Pot Pete (Marvel Comics) -- A Bucket of Glue
A Human Torch villain and one of Stan Lee's proudest creations, Paste-Pot Pete has the brains of a scientist but the wardrobe of a homeless Ebenezer Scrooge. He carries a paste gun and a pail of fireproof superglue that he accidentally created while working as a research chemist. Instead of starting a legitimate door-to-door business selling a miracle adhesive, he decides to commit crimes with it. Here Paste-Pot Pete demonstrates the potential of his glue gun by shooting a cop in the dick:
"But once I remove this, my thighs will be smooth, like a baby's."
In Strange Tales #104, Pete robs a bank and then attempts to steal a missile in order to sell it to foreign powers, presumably all in the same day. He wards off the Human Torch, sticks him to the aforementioned rocket, and launches him into space. Let us repeat that: Paste-Pot Pete manages to beat the Torch, a guy who can shoot fire from literally every part of his body, despite the fact that his superpower is basically a pot full of Gorilla Glue.
Gorilla Glue, and rhyming, too.
Luckily for America (and the readers, because it means the comic is almost over), Human Torch regains control of the situation and melts Paste-Pot's missile truck. He was arrested and charged for attacking police, treason, and the unrelated robbery of a sperm bank.
The vas deferens on the gun was just coincidental.
Throughout the years, Paste-Pot Pete has returned to get his ass kicked by the Fantastic Four over and over again. It probably has something to do with the fact that all you have to do to defeat him is knock over his flimsily secured bucket of glue. We'll remind you now that this guy's only talent is knowing how to attach things to other things.
"My hands! The gloves do nothing!"
Later on, presumably after learning to Google himself, he decides to change his name to something with more "dignity" and "drama to it" ... so he goes with the Trapster. He also upgraded his costume by adding wrist-mounted launchers, but this had more to do with the fact that his wrist bones have been nearly obliterated by years of wanking into a pot.
At least he decided to stop trying to sound like a legit comic title.
Turner D. Century (Marvel Comics) -- The Power of Nostalgia
Turner D. Century is motivated by his hatred of progressive social change, so he's basically a Free Republic poster with powers. What powers, you ask? Well, he's equipped with a handlebar mustache, a lovely straw hat, and a tandem bicycle with a fake woman on the back, which would be the saddest thing we've ever heard if we didn't have the certainty that he also ravages that faceless doll every night. His motivation is that he wishes that it was the year 1900 again.
A time of simpler pleasures, like driving through windows and yelling at strangers.
In Marvel Team-Up #120, Spider-Man and a senior citizen version of a D-list antihero named Dominic Fortune join forces to take down Turner D. Century. Dominic is invited to Turny D's pad and gets a first look at his new invention: a horn that kills anyone under 65.
It plays Pat Boone and Jim Reeves records, causing immediate death.
Other than pointing out the stupidity of killing off everyone who is paying for your Social Security, not to mention dooming mankind by rendering inert all genitals that actually work, Dominic distracts Turner until Spider-Man breaks through the window. After initially dismissing the time horn's effectiveness, Spidey is suddenly struck with an overwhelming urge to fall on the floor.
Spidey bravely struggled to stay alive just long enough to utter "N-no ... you're gay ..."
Turner takes to the skies and attaches his time horn to his bicycle built for two, honking every young person in New York to death. Dominic Fortune eventually catches up with him and knocks him off the bike. He's about to beat Turner to a pulp, but falls over in exhaustion due to his oldness. Suddenly, Spider-Man comes back from the dead and webs the shit out of him.
Dude, you can shoot fire from your umbrella? Why wouldn't you make that your villain theme?
Yep, turns out Turner's time horn didn't even work, because the theme of this issue is that old people are useless. Spidey was fine, Dominic recovered, and everyone in town just casually got back up after being knocked unconscious for a bit. Turner put them through the same ordeal they go through every year after New Year's Eve, including the part where they wake up in Times Square without their wallet.
They considered exacting great vengeance on all old people, but basic biology had that covered.
And that was pretty much the end of Turner D. Centu- ohhh, we just got it.
Polka-Dot Man (DC Comics) -- Polka-Dot-Based Weapons
Polka-Dot Man, aka Mr. Polka-Dot, is a Batman villain from the '60s who wore a white costume covered in colored dots. That's an almost sensible wardrobe choice for a Batman enemy, but what makes Polka-Dot special is that when he rips the dots off of his costume, they turn into some bizarre weapon or device. The official scientific explanation for his power is "No one thought anyone would be reading this bullshit 50 years later."
Even in the 21st century, however, science has yet to fully understand polka.
He first appears in Detective Comics #300 to terrorize Gotham City with one of the silliest gimmicks ever invented for comics, and the dumbest part is that for some reason Batman and Robin are fucking terrified of him.
There goes a Bat-nipple. One down, one to go.
This guy's appearance creates so many unanswered questions. Where is he keeping all this shit? How does he keep track of which dot does what? And also, is there a limit to the things he can create out of tiny little dots? On the cover and the above panel alone, we have a flying saucer contraption, a literal sun, and a buzz saw. Next thing you know, he throws a whole bunch of them at Robin and they all turn into little floating fists.
All of which start taunting Robin with wanking movements.
Anyway, Batman eventually figures out that if you dot out all of his crimes on a map of the city, it forms ... well, can you figure it out, kids?
An envelope? A big "W"? Two bears high-fiving?
Yes, the puzzle Polka-Dot Man was so sure no one human mind could solve was that the map forms a stick figure, and the head corresponds with the location of his next target, a map company. Batman tracks him down and punches him right in the goddamn face, without even sticking around to hear about how stealing a bunch of atlases fits into his master plan.
Knocking out his eyes seemed a bit much. But, you know. They were dot-shaped.
Polka-Dot Man made other appearances, including in a recent Batman cartoon, but nothing will ever compare to the time he almost fisted an ice-skating Robin to death.
All eight hands will be played on the big screen by a masturbating Matt Damon.
Asbestos Lady (Marvel Comics) -- A Suit Made of Cancer
Many comic writers design their characters' powers around the cutting-edge science of the day: the Fantastic Four got their abilities from cosmic radiation, Batman from human-bat hybridization, etc. These usually seem awesome at the time, but, like the near-future world of Back to the Future II, can appear a little stupid in retrospect. Or extremely stupid.
The pseudo-science seems stupid. The purple hood's still awesome.
One of Human Torch's enemies, Asbestos Lady, fits into that last category. She and her thugs rob banks wearing fireproof suits made out of asbestos, then set the banks on fire to deter the cops, even though asbestos lining wouldn't protect you from bullets, or falling debris ... or, for that matter, dying of lung cancer from breathing that shit all day.
Luckily, she had backup from Benzene Drinker and Radium-Pants Gentleman.
Unsatisfied with her successes, she longs for something more. So, as told in The Invaders #22, she seeks out two prominent asbestos researchers and tries to force them to work for her, decrying that there is still much to learn about the "criminal possibilities of asbestos." Like a gun that shoots asbestos or a gun that shoots smaller guns that shoot asbestos -- the sky is the limit.
"What about a suit made of 15 percent more asbestos?"
"Yes, of course!"
Her plan is foiled by Human Torch, but she escapes. She later murders the two researchers for seemingly no reason, even though they were basically the only two people on Earth qualified to help her. Unbeknownst to Asbestos Lady, the scientists' son survives the attack and later joins the circus as the Fire-Eating Boy -- yes, it seems his parents' experiments with asbestos made him immune to flames. Apparently Dad had been injecting the stuff directly into his ball sack.
Asbestos Lady attempts to kill the fireproof boy, presumably out of professional jealousy, but once again is stopped by Human Torch, who is definitely the winner in this situation because he just scored himself a new sidekick.
His previous 19 sidekicks all died in mysterious hugging incidents.
In a shocking plot twist, Asbestos Lady later died of lung cancer from breathing that shit all day. If only she had met some sort of expert who could have warned her about that, and then not murdered them for no reason.
Dan the Dyna-Mite & TNT (DC Comics) -- If They Touch Their Hands, They Explode
This duo appeared in multiple issues of Star-Spangled Comics in the '40s, and like every good American comic of the time, they fought somebody tangibly related to Adolf Hitler at some point. Also like every other good American comic of the time, the writers were completely unaware of all the homoerotic overtones in their own work.
Or so they claimed.
Chemistry teacher Thomas N. Thomas and his star student Danny Dunbar give themselves powers while experimenting with radioactive materials (which was part of the school curriculum in the '40s). The powers were activated when they both accidentally touched each other, although disturbingly it's not mentioned in what way.
Nor is it mentioned why they used their real initials.
Donning the alter egos of TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite, they somehow figure out how to funnel their powers into their "Dyna-Rings" so they can turn them on when they hold hands. Sure, the elemental powers are nothing to shake a stick at, but that's the whole problem. Whenever they activate their powers, they create a huge explosion all around their bodies. What if Dan shakes Thomas' hand at, like, his uncle's funeral or something? "Oh Shi- BOOM!" Time to schedule a couple more.
The rest of the time they have to say hello by awkwardly nodding at each other.
Another problem: What happens if they lose one of the rings down a storm drain or drop them in the toilet while they're "conducting experiments"? Or if they're separated for some reason? Or if, you know, one of them dies? Because that's exactly what happens when, in the most predictable death in comic books, TNT gets killed in an explosion in the Young All-Stars series. Dyna-Mite assumes that he lost his powers until he figures out that he could just wear both rings and slam his knuckles together. Surely this development will get rid of all the sexual connotations, right?
"I'll need at least 15 minutes and some pics of John Hamm shirtless."
The Kangaroo (Marvel Comics) -- The Power to Leap Reasonably High
Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, the Rhino, the Vulture, the Scorpion -- Spider-Man has a proud tradition of fighting animal-themed villains. OK, maybe not so proud when it comes to the Kangaroo. Trust us, his name is the least ridiculous part of his origin.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #81, Australian stereotype Frank "Bruce" Oliver goes to live in the Outback with kangaroos. He goes where they go and eats what they eat (so he rechews his own puke?), and somehow he gains the powers of kangaroos simply by hanging out with them.
"If only I could jump like them ... oh hey, there I go."
Using his newfound jumping skills, he becomes a boxer but promptly gets disqualified for drop-kicking an opponent in the face, which is apparently against the rules in Australia.
He would have tried professional wrestling, but even he had more dignity than that.
Shunned by his fellow man due to his ability to jump higher than is socially acceptable, he flees the country and decides to live a life of crime, calling himself the Kangaroo. Eventually, he meets up with Spider-Man after he steals some experimental bacteria, thinking it's a suitcase full of money.
Ignore the "Wait, you don't understand!" guy. He never knows anything.
Eventually he is defeated and hops away, which nicely illustrates the real stupidity of his jumping power. OK, so he can do something that regular, non-NBA-playing people can't, but in the superhero universe it's all relative -- he's (sometimes willingly) going against a guy who can leap across tall buildings and swing around the city using indestructible webbing. Maybe he should take on Daredevil first and work his way up from there, is what we're saying.
And then, in a later issue, a doctor upgrades his arms and legs with jet propulsion.
Covered by Australian health care, for obvious reasons.
Now he has the ability to kick through concrete and jump 100 feet into the air. Finally, the Kangaroo is a worthy opponent! This doesn't last very long, though, because he soon kills himself by exposing his own body to deadly radiation, despite Spider-Man's attempts to tell him that's stupid.
Brought down by his own hubris. And gamma rays. Just like a kangaroo.
Related Reading: These characters shouldn't feel too bad, because some of the beloved superheroes have utterly useless powers. Like the Invisible Woman who, according to her husband, "should be kissed and not heard". Speaking of useless powers- read about the REAL man with an invulnerable crotch. Feel like taking a trip back to fiction-land? Read about the worst weaknesses in Superhero history.