What Makes a Superhero Super?
The chemistry of superheroes, explained
A superhero is often associated with powers. Most (if not, all) of them wear costumes that make
them stand out. Occasionally, these suits come with flashy capes.
Thanks to the great minds of Bob Kane (Batman) and Stan Lee (Spider-Man), we get to see them
in all their glory in comic books. These two were some of the talented men behind superheroes.
Hollywood has also brought them to life—just see the work the Marvel Cinematic Universe has
done over the last decade. Reading and seeing their stories is like a good science fiction novel: a
nice escape from reality.
As much as we see them on print and on screen, you have to wonder: what is the science of
superheroes? What gets them ready to save the world and its inhabitants? Is it in their DNAs? Or
is it in their personas?
Superheroes are, frankly, fictional in nature. Surely, you don’t see a muscled stud with a red cape
flying around your town, no? Much like their existence, most of their superpowers simply aren’t
present in reality. However, they can be explained.
Fasten your seatbelts as we discover what makes superheroes super.
Superheroes are able to get into action because of their powers. They’re always ready to dive in
headfirst into things because they know they can withstand almost anything that comes at them.
Clark Kent’s strength alone is worth his “Man of Steel” moniker. Diana Prince’s genetics make
her a force to be reckoned with as Wonder Woman.
While some heroes have powers that were theirs from birth, others have acquired theirs at
different times and through different means. Thanks to a radioactive spider bite, Peter Parker is
able to do his job as the friendly neighborhood crime fighter (with great responsibility, of
course). Tony Stark’s powerful armor allows him to fly around and blast off opponents as he
does his Avenger duties. The Weapon X program gave the popular mutant Wolverine his
signature adamantium claws, adding to his regenerative abilities.
Whether natural or not, superheroes’ powers are an important component in getting their jobs
done. However, they need to have an advanced set of skills to accomplish their heroism. Take a
look at Wonder Woman for example: as if her superhuman strength isn’t enough to make her a
threat, her combat prowess makes her deadlier.
Okay, admittedly, this one isn’t strictly biological. It has more to do with character and integrity.
But it’s still very important, because, as any superhero fan would know, a lot of super villains
share the same biological weapons as heroes. They, too, can be super strong, super smart, and
invincible to weapons. Sometimes, the difference between heroes and villains comes down to
heart. Powers and skillsets aside, what makes a superhero super is his or her heart. Heroes don’t
do what they do on a whim. Captain America would not be who he is without his no-nonsense
mind-set for doing the right thing, even at personal costs. Superman wouldn’t be as beloved as he
is without his compassion for mankind.
To put it simply: the chemistry of superheroes consists of their abilities and their good hearts.
Now that it’s clearly defined, you can add NextScienceman2100 and NextSciencelady2100 into
that list. If you’re looking for heroes with a knack for science, they’re your people. Perhaps they
may inspire you to use your knowledge for the common good.
Who was your favorite superhero growing up? Feel free to let me know! Just share them through
the comments section below. You can also connect with me through Facebook, Twitter, and
Goodreads. If you want to read a hero story in the science fiction realm, check out my
Follows, Mike. 2017. “Heroes and Villains: The Science of Superheroes.” Science in School. December 6. Accessed June 26, 2019. https://www.scienceinschool.org/content/heroes-and-villains-science-superheroes.
Walter, Damien. 2016. “Science and Superheroes: How Close Are We to Creating Real Superpowers?” The Guardian. February 10. Accessed https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/feb/10/science-and-superheroes-how-close-are-we-to-creating-real-superpowers-marvel-deadpool.