Being a superhero is a pretty sweet gig; you work your own hours, you get your own fortress, you probably make more money than God and all of your friends are sexy astrophysicists that dress like strippers. Undeniably though, the best part of being a comic book superhero is being imbued with superhuman powers like no other. But not all super heroes have been bitten by the right radioactive bugs, been born with the right genetic mutation or airdropped from the right planet-that’s-exactly-like-the-American-midwest-but-with-more-space-Nazies. In fact, some superpowers are just plain bonkers.
The Ability to Face Reality – The Adventures of Unemployed Man
The Adventures of Unemployed Man is a comic book in which Unemployed Man (think Superman) takes on all sorts of self-interested villains who dwell in the Hall of Just Us: The Man (sinister CEO), The Human Resource (Unemployed Man’s seductress and nemesis), Nickel & Dime (an evil pair of silent killers).
But unlike Superman and Wonder Woman, none of Unemployed Man’s friends has any superpower other than the ability to face reality.
The Power to Eat Anything – as seen in Matter-Eater Lad
Matter-Eater Lad’s power is as uncreatively literal as his name: his super power is the ability to eat any form of matter. That’s right, when Tenzil Kem’s planet ran out of food, his species had to develop the ability to live off of anything and, presumably, to pass kidney stones the size of bowling balls. So who came up with the idea for a man that can eat anything? Was this a brilliant parody writer commenting on the absurdity of comics, a hilarious translation mix up by a foreign artist, a doodle from my stoner cousin Mitch’s high school math notes? Try DC comics. The same company that brought Batman, Superman and Wonderwoman was so desperate for ideas that they wrote up a character whose greatest adversary is colon cancer.
Removable Limbs – as seen in Arm Fall Off Boy
Another entry in DC’s “Fresh Out of Ideas” department is Arm Fall Off Boy. Arm Fall Off Boy would remove his arms and use them as a bludgeon against his foes. It turns out that a detachable arm isn’t any more effective than a gun, or a big stick, or a leper calling 9-1-1 in a timely manner. And the Legion, the group Arm Fall Off Boy applied to join, kindly sent his useless ass on his way so they could accept a worthier candidate like Matter-Eater Lad.
Super Translation Skills – as seen in Cypher
The X-Men are an elite unit of fighting mutants, each endowed with a special power that makes them one of the best known superhero teams in comic book culture and beyond. No one X-Man has the perfect power, but it’s their power as a collective that makes their story such a good one. But Cypher was clearly the last kid to be picked to join the X-men’s team. Cypher’s power was the ability to understand any language or relic and interpret it. He was a walking dictionary except in a fight, where at least a heavy copy of the OED could make a good projectile. Amazingly, the guy who could read really well was tragically killed by a run of the mill five cent bullet, the same kind that Woverine takes showers in.
A Specially Trained Bee – As seen in The Red Bee
The Red Bee was a masked vigilante character like Batman but without the cool costume, backstory or lasting appeal. The Red Bee fought crime in striped, “where’s Waldo” pyjamas and, when the going got tough, released his secret weapon and side kick, Michael the bee. There was nothing special about Michael, other than he was reason enough for nobody to ever return the Red Bee’s calls. As is well known about bees, as soon as they use their stinger they only get a few more hours to live. So Michael’s only real purpose was to distract evil-doers long enough for the Red Bee to sneak into the shadows and drill his enemies in the junk.
Color Changing – as seen in Color Kid
We’ve seen some pretty useless super powers so far on this list, but all of them could at least have some hypothetical use for a super hero (except Aquakid, he still sucks), but the Color Kid has absolutely no business calling himself a super hero. Basically a glorified internal decorator, Color Kid was shockingly rejected by the legion of superheroes and had to settle for the league of substitute heroes instead. Color kid’s parlour trick is as much a superpower as juggling really well or wise investment strategy.
Being Really Ugly – as seen in Yukk
Technically, Yukk the dog was the sidekick to Mighty Man, but his special power is worth noting. Yukk was so horribly ugly that he had to wear a miniature dog house over his head at all times lest that nearby children tarnish their innocence by seeing his repulsive face. Occasionally, Yukk would remove his mask to frighten enemies into submission or open Mighty Man’s options. Yukk proves once and for all that being ugly doesn’t mean you can’t be useful, it just means that you’re horribly and irreversibly different from everyone else.