Friday, June 12, 2015

So About That Sonic Scream Thing

Doug: Today's post is all about suspending one's disbelief, and still not getting it. Yep -- I'm looking at you, Banshee. You know what I don't get? How in the world does that dude fly using his "sonic scream"? I get the powerful force he can emit with it (well, comic book-speaking, that is). But how does the same power allow him to fly?

Doug: Here's another one -- I can roll with the Invisible Girl bending or refracting light or whatever to make herself invisible. But how does the same power set allow her to create force fields? My mind boggles (and yes, I did read that early FF when Reed "explains" it (if I'm correct, it was in The Superhero Women) -- but you know how we all feel when Big Brain starts explaining things).

Doug: So there's your job -- which characters origins or powers just leave you occasionally scratching your head? I'm sure there's a logical explanation for it all. But sometimes, this fish ain't bitin'!


Anonymous said...

As much as I love the Fantastic Four - all their powers are difficult to digest, particularly Reed's. But, heck, make mine Marvel!

Edo Bosnar said...

Banshee's flight ability is a really good example, probably the top one I'd pick for this category of "still not getting it, even when viewed through the prism of wonky superhero comic-book science." I always liked his look and general presence in the team, but the flight just did not compute.
Another one I'd add is Aquaman and his ability to communicate with and command marine animals; more specifically, where is the line drawn? Because this power worked not just with actual fish or marine molluscs like octopuses, but also whales, dolphins and seals, i.e. mammals. Now seals (sea lions and otters for that matter) spend a lot of time on land as well, and they're sort of similar to dogs or bears, in that the latter two examples are also mammals, and they occasionally venture into the water and swim quite well. So shouldn't Aquaman just be able to communicate with all animals? ... And yes, I know, I'm *really* overthinking this one...

Anonymous said...

How does Ice-Man create those platforms he rides on - by freezing the air ? No matter how far below zero it gets in Antarctica, Siberia etc the air can't freeze solid. And talking of Reed Richards - how does he do all that stretching without damage to his inner organs ? In FF #88 he even flattens his head to escape from one of the Mole Man's traps - what would that do to his brain ?? Of course, the biggest head-scratcher of all is how do the Hulk's trousers stay on :)

Doug said...

Colin --

Great call on the Hulk. Funny...

Biggest one (maybe) of all? How in the world do those tiny ankle wings all Namor to fly??

Another: Find that B&B review we did where the Flash not only runs on air, but is able to elevate to escape velocity and run all the way to the sun. WHAT THE?!?


Doug said...

"Allow", not "all".

Another mystery for the day is how the thoughts in my mind look when they come out of my fingers.


david_b said...

Another busy morning for me, but I've pondered how the 'sonic scream' power differs on the audio scale between Banshee, Blackbolt and Black Canary..?

I know we've gone around and around on Cyke's 'power beam', so I won't mention anything on that.

Scarlet Witch anyone..? Hex's, improbabilities, it seems like nearly every new creative team reinvented her powers, but it essentially followed the trends of the 60s and early 70s, where it was 'lets put a girl on the team with some kind of power, but not on par with the guys, just enough to get the men out of a jam (when she's not being held hostage)'.. Red Sonja and WW being among the few exceptions.

By the 80s/90s Wanda became darker/menacing (like Phoenix, Raven, Starfire, Sue Storm to an extent, etc..). Powers were still extremely vague, which many a writer often gave thanks to for quickly getting our heroes out of some unfortunate bind.

Anonymous said...

Favorite comics character is Firestorm, and because of that bias I've always turned a blind eye to this, but... If his powers don't work on anything "organic", then how can he use his atomic restructuring power to create things made out of plastic?? o_O

Humanbelly said...

There is a wonderfully entertaining book on precisely this topic called "The Physics of Superheroes" by James Kakalios. It developed as a companion volume to the Intro to Physics classes that he taught/teaches in college.

HIGHLY recommended!


(PS-- grngh, SO sadly, this is one of those buried-alive-in-two-projects days, and I may not have a chance to chime in on what I see as the PERFECT delightful topic for this blog--- daggone it!)

Martinex1 said...

I love this topic. Thanks Doug. Super hero powers are so inane that if I think about it at any length my head explodes (that is my own super power)!

I am glad the FF was mentioned, because I still cannot fathom where all of Reed's mass comes from. If he stretches, he should just become thinner and thinner, but instead sometimes his body just expands.

But it is the Human Torch that gets me really going. What is he burning? And how does he fly? If his body was pure flame then I guess he would float (but quickly burn out and disappear). So how does he propel himself. And I really get distracted when his arms are not on fire and he carries somebody. Huh?

Sometimes, since Johnny is always igniting in the Baxter Building, I expect conversations like this:

Sue: Johnny you burnt the couch again.
Johhnny: Did not. It was Ben's cigar.
Sue: Johnny, the carpet is smoldering.
Johnny: Ben dropped ashes.
Sue: Johnny, the new curtains are on fire.
Johnny: BEN!
Ben: I'm gonna kill you runt!
Johnny: Flame On!
Sue: Johnny!

Martinex1 said...

Sorry, I've got more...

Dr. Doom: "Hey Reed, if your such a big brain and genius, why don't you harness Johnny's flame ability and power the whole city"?
Reed: "Huh?"
Doom: "I mean he has gone super nova and it didn't even hurt anybody, so surely that power can be used for good"
Reed: "But how would I get Johnny to do it?"
Doom: "I've got a fire extinguisher and some asbestos handcuffs, surely you can catch him."

3 hours and 42 minutes later, after consulting with Paste Pot, the Trapster, Johnny is hooked up to Reed's "Torcheliminatagenrator" and the city is functioning perfectly.

Doom: "Now let's capture Pym, get him to shrink the whole city and keep 10 million people fed on a single Happy Meal!"
Reed: "Great idea!"

J.A. Morris said...

Good topic, if you're keeping score, Sue's forcefield powers first appeared in FF#22:

Martinex1 said...

And again...

I know it is not a power per se, but Captain America's shield is amazing. Bullets just don't miss that thing. And despite it's size, nothing ever gets past it and hits Cap. And when Cap falls out of a building he can just land on it and it absorbs much of the impact, but when you throw it at a bad guy, it's not like a pillow... it packs quite a force.

I expect Professor X to tell Cap someday that he was using Cerebro and it tracked to Cap. And Cap, saying, "But I am not a mutant!" And Prof X explaining, "No, but your shield is... and its madly in love with you too!"

Sorry guys... this topic and all of the coffee has me hyped up.

ZIRGAR said...

Speaking of Hulk's trousers, why didn't the Hulkbusters or any of Hulk's other enemies ever try to make a trap using the same material as Hulk's pants? Seems that's the only substance on earth that he couldn't break free from. Just wondering...

Redartz said...

Blast of a topic today.

Much as I love Spider-Man, I have to question: what is that "Spider Sense"? My wife has prodded me to squash many spiders ( against my will, gentle soul that I am). Have also caught many of them to release outside. Never had any leap away and dodge at the last moment.

Peter's ability seems to work in different ways at different times. He can sense an approaching bullet or blow and avoid it. At times mere proximity to a potential threat will trigger it. Yet Aunt May once clocked him with a vase: no warning there.

As the King of Siam would put it, "It is a puzzlement."

Oh, and Martinex1, great call on Cap's shield. Perfectly balanced, he always gets it back after throwing it ( unless it gets stuck in something). One might suspect NASA would be constantly hounding him to let them 'borrow' it for study on guidance systems...

BK said...

As a kid, ignorant of science, but conversant with the cliches of science fiction, I was willing to accept the more conventionally sic-fi aspects of super-powers, like the ones that could be explained away by telekinesis or the various super-extensions of normal human abilities (strength, speed, even voice) but had a hard time with figuring out exactly what mutation would allow you to transform your skin to malleable steel or shoot ray beams out of your eyes. " Or how so many people just had to clench their fist to shoot "bolts of force." Certain superpowers I took as given since "they always had been." These include the big guns of the Marvel and DC universes. Magic characters got a pass. Now I just love all the goofiness equally.

Anonymous said...

Even accepting the possibility of a sonic scream, how could you use it without causing some serious friendly fire? If I'm in the living room, people can hear me in the basement. Wouldn't they get at least a headache?

How can a genetic mutation enable Storm to control the weather?

How can Wildfire of the Legion be sentient energy that animates a suit? He's a cool character, but sentient energy that needs a containment suit and, oh yeah, can shoot out additional energy blasts without "leaking?" Huh?

How can shrinking possibly be useful? Sure, you can crawl into a person's body and mess them up from there, but you have to get there first. Crossing short distances while shrunken is difficult because of one's reduced size. Even if you retain the mass of your full-sized form (?!?) a la the Atom and Ant-Man, your tiny fist isn't likely to knock someone out. You could get stepped on, a stiff breeze could blow you away, there's no way to breathe, etc. etc. etc. Shrinking is my least favorite super power.

Okay, Gambit can charge objects with kinetic energy and make them explode. That's kind of dumb, but not much more so than the other X-Men's powers. My question is, how the heck does he throw playing cards? Why not carry marbles or rocks or something?

- Mike Loughlin

William said...

I still don't get how Superman is able to "fly". When he could merely "leap tall buildings in a single bound" it made some sort of sense because of his super strong legs, but how does that mutate into being able to straight up defy gravity? And not only defying gravity, but flying at close to the speed of light. That's a pretty big leap in believability from just using your powerful legs to jump far. (And don't even get me started on the x-ray and heat vision, etc.)

William said...

Colin mentioned Ice Man's ramps he creates to travel on. My question isn't so much how he freezes the air to make them, but what keeps those ramps from collapsing under their own weight. I mean, what the heck is holding those things up?

Edo Bosnar said...

On the question of Iceman's powers, as I recall the explanation from the Marvel Universe Handbook, among other sources, he didn't freeze the air, rather he drew moisture from the air and his body then turned it into ice. That part I could buy, but I also wondered about the question William raises: how in the hell did they not shatter once they got more than a few feet long (while holding Iceman's own weight as well)?

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