When discussing superpowers, most of us tend to talk about the best of the best. The ability to fly, superhuman strength, invisibility… these are the skills that make comic book characters powerful and effective when it comes to fighting crime. However, in the history of comic books, there have also been a number of completely worthless superhero powers to emerge. Below are ten of the worst.
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When push comes to shove, the ability to turn into a puddle of water isn't all that amazing. Despite this fact, Zan uses his powers time and again to thwart the evil plans of countless supervillains. Sure, his "form of water" powers get stretched a bit to make him more powerful (he's turned himself into an ice golem, a blizzard and a cage with ice bars), but that doesn't diminish the fact that this skill is pretty lame.
After getting struck by a rainbow from a different dimension, the Color Kid is bestowed with the power to change the color of any object. Beyond the ability to redecorate his home in a single bound, this skill has few practical uses. Not surprisingly, his early application to join the Legion of Super-Heroes was rejected.
The title of Captain Marvel has belonged to a variety of different superheroes. The worst of the bunch appeared in a 1966 comic that found the robotic hero with the supremely bizarre ability to detach his body parts from his torso. From here, each arm could punch a different henchman, each leg could kick out a criminal, and, well, I guess his head could bite a fifth enemy if necessary.
During the age of anti-Nazi propaganda, The Thunderer emerged as one of the worst pro-American crime fighters. As a mild-mannered radio announcer, Jerry Carstairs (Carstairs!?) grew upset with the way America was handling Nazi jerks. As such, he assembles a costume that includes a built-in microphone. With no other powers at his command, yelling is his sole ability.
Matter Eater Lad has a stomach of steel. While the ability to eat iron bars might be a pretty cool party trick, it doesn't often help out when it comes to fighting crime. His one moment in the sun came when an indestructible machine threatened to destroy the entire universe. Thankfully, Matter Eater Lad solved that problem by consuming the entire device.
The ability to reach things across the room isn't exactly a useful superpower. Sure, plasticity can help you slip under a door frame or possibly take a punch, but there's hardly any type of destruction potential from the ability to become rubber. That is, unless you transform your body into a giant rubber band and thwack the enemy on the back of the neck.
Let's face it: superhero characters created as a tie-in to a product don't typically do all that well at the comic store. Such was the case for Dazzler, who was created as a cross-promotional character for Casablanca Records and Marvel. Essentially, Dazzler has the ability to change sound vibrations into light. This means that she might be able to temporarily blind an opponent. Or, if the criminal happens to be epileptic, then a nice strobe effect might prove a good way to induce a seizure.
Though Richard Stanton (a.k.a. Madam Fatal) didn't really have any superpowers, his one advantage that he used repeatedly to catch criminals was the ability to convincingly dress up as an old lady. Supposedly, this caused his enemies to underestimate him when a fight broke out.
In reality, the ability to call a shark to your aid is helpful in only a very few limited circumstances. Take this fish out of water, and all of a sudden Aquaman's telepathic ability is essentially useless. To compensate for this fact, it is eventually revealed that Aquaman can communicate with any animal that has evolved from marine life (such as humans). However, one can't help but think this evolution is something of a cop out.
If you had the power to command a specific animal, you'd probably hope that animal was lions or bears or something with big sharp teeth. Unfortunately, Squirrel Girl is stuck commanding an army of tiny rodents. Unlike Aquaman, this communication cannot be done telepathically. Rather, the squirrels must be within earshot of her so that she can speak squirrel-talk (or sometimes English) to them.
Originally published July 1, 2011.