Five Questions That Could Destroy Five Superhero Franchises

Beyond the obvious queries like “how could someone gain [superpower X] just from [scientific mishap Y]?” and “how do the police prosecute people merely tied up at the scene?”, there are some staggering foundational questions I have never heard addressed by anyone of import associated with any of the following defenders of justice.

This week…

Five Questions That Could Destroy Five Superhero Franchises

Most graphic novels do not concern themselves with realism, in the specifics of their universe. This is understandable, of course, because they are dealing in fiction (usually science-fiction, at that).

However, there are pretty big questions that deserve to be pondered. Beyond the obvious queries like “how could someone gain [superpower X] just from [scientific mishap Y]?” and “how do the police prosecute people merely tied up at the scene?”, there are some staggering foundational questions I have never heard addressed by anyone of import associated with any of the following defenders of justice.

I intend to ask those questions.

1. How has nobody figured out Peter Parker is Spider-man, via DNA?

Couldn’t the police – or any daft criminal foe (of which Spidey had many) – just study the what must be millions of web strands left throughout the city in the wake of Spidey’s swinging, and make a direct DNA connection? He leaves clues at every single crime scene (not to mention the whole way to and from said crime scene)!

It’s no surprise Spider-man has to continue to fight crime — the New York police are so inept, they can’t even capture a vigilante whose picture is plastered on every newspaper and whose identity is basically up for grabs on every tall building.

2. How does Clark Kent cut his hair and shave?

When placed in the presence of Earth’s yellow sun, the cells of a Kryptonian person (which would include the hair follicles) cannot be penetrated by any Earthly element. Even if you figure that Clark was strong enough to cut his own hair (in terms of cellular density), there are no scissors or razors of any kind that would qualify as strong enough to get the job done.

So now you’re saying “well, hey, maybe Kryptonians don’t grow hair on their head past a certain point and they don’t grow facial hair at all?” Wrong. Did you learn nothing from SUPERMAN II? General Zod and Non had facial hair. Ursa had longer hair. Jor-El has shorter hair that turned white as he aged. There are growth patterns just like Earthly humans. Superman lies!

3. How has nobody ever suggested therapy for Bruce Wayne?

Obviously therapy would not clean up the city and/or lock up The Joker but some sort of psychological treatment (either merely talking or medication of some kind) would probably keep Bruce Wayne out of direct danger, longer. Further, it would clear his mind beyond the death of his parents and he would probably recognize that his considerable wealth would probably be better directed towards helping to clean up the Gotham Police Department and, subsequently, the city.

This is one of the questions to which I may have an idea about an answer. It seems to me that nobody (except maybe Alfred) has the stature or guts to tell Batman to go see a shrink and take lithium even though he totally should have at around age 11.

4. How does Wolverine get through airport security?

There’s a few things about Wolverine that would hinder his ability to travel. Firstly, he’s like 200 years old. How does he procure a birth certificate or passport or anything? If he somehow had acquired a legitimate item documenting his birth and everything… nobody anywhere would believe that the person in front of them was 200 years old (it’s especially absurd if the guy looks like Logan as portrayed in the comics/films) and they’d have him arrested or committed. Secondly, his entire skeleton is covered with a metal alloy and, well, copious amounts of metal tend to set off metal detectors – just a little bit. Finally, not only is his entire skeleton covered with metal and would, thus, set off every metal detector in a half-mile radius, but that metal is indestructible adamantium, which means it is denser than any element that currently exists in our world (so, denser than lead). As a result, Wolverine must weigh a thousand pounds. Even if he got past security (and I have to believe the TSA has some clause about prohibiting “unkillable muscle-bound Canadians with no memory and no past, armed with unstoppable arm-knives”), they would never let someone who weighs half of a metric ton onto a commercial airliner (or train or bus, for that matter). Now I understand why he’s always alone. He has to be. Poor Weapon X.

5. How is it that the Hulk and the Fantastic Four both avoided cancer for all this time?

(Note: I’m not including Spider-man in this one because he was merely bitten by a radioactive spider, not enveloped by cubic tons of that radioactive spider’s ionized atmosphere.)

I know it’s not very tasteful to talk jokingly about a horrible terminal disease but seriously: these five were exposed to unbelievable amounts of radiation at the cellular level over forty years ago (admittedly, that’s comic book years, which aren’t exactly empirical science). None of the Fantastic Four ever pursued any sort of extensive treatment for this exposure and seemingly that was the ticket to remaining healthy. Conversely, Bruce Banner actually repeatedly exposed himself to more radiation and medical testing to try and undo the initial exposure so… maybe that’s the ticket?

No matter what, after a dozen years or so of fighting the forces of evil by flaunting their irradiated cells, all five of them would be in serious trouble.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

  • Kevin

    1. No one has Peter Parker’s DNA to match it up with.
    2. Maybe Superman’s hair doesn’t grow (also, hair is technically dead human tissue, or in Superman’s case Kryptonian, so the same rules may not apply).
    3. Because not many people have had conversations with Batman about his sanity. And why would they? He is a flippin’ hero people like what he does.
    4.Wolverine doesn’t fly commercial.
    5. Sometimes, when exposed to radiation, you don’t get cancer but your kids have birth defects or you have weird growths. Or you end up like the Hulk or the Fantastic 4…or Spiderman…or Doctor Doom

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    @ Kevin I think the child birth defects is an interesting idea they should pursue. Maybe Mister Fantastic’s kids aren’t deformed in a sad way but maybe they’re hulk-like monsters hellbent on destroying the world. Think of the inherent drama!

    …or something like that.

  • Jeanette

    1. Peter Parker un-masked himself during the Civil War arc, a feat that actually caused the internet to shut down because of so many internet searches (in comic universe that is). I’m with Kevin on this though, no Peter DNA to match him to Spidey. Also Wolverine knew Peter was Spiderman because Peter smelled like Spiderman (I don’t remember what issue).
    2. Supposedly he uses his heat vision and a mirror, however that’s bull**** because it’s heat vision not laser vision and mirror can melt.
    3. He’s a rich guy and can do what he want, plus he is practically a genius level IQ so his logic would probably do circles around someone with merely a ph.d study-level in psych.
    4. When he flies he uses the X-men plane. They actually answered this in Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #6 in the fist page. He uses misdirection and places faux grenade in some jackass’s bag. Also he only weighes about 300 lbs. He’s only 5’3″. Without the metal he’s like 195. (From the marvel website)
    5. The same answer to how they got their powers, it’s a comic book. The real question to ask is how they avoided giving radiation to other people (and you can add Superman into this, supposing he lived next to a sorority).
    Great article nonetheless, gonna link it onto my comic book store’s forum!

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  • http://estebanwaseaten.tumblr.com/ Justin Brown

    I like that people care this much about these thoughts and just wanted to inject a little more discourse:

    a. I felt that the police could conceivably have Peter’s DNA on file seeing as his uncle was involved in a carjacking a few years ago and they probably talked to Peter about it (as he was so closely involved in the events). Additionally, they inevitably brought Peter in for questioning from time to time, as he is Spidey’s “personal photographer”. Also: it’s the future — science and technology are ahead of our current capabilities in the Marvel/Spidey universe and so I’m assuming they probably have some sort of DNA techniques going on.

    b. Bruce Wayne may be a genius but the dude still has issues that he needs to work out in a way other than beating up criminals. Additionally, I don’t care how smart someone is, if you’re enduring the mantle of the bat (which is basically like secretly being a superstar pro athlete, a politician, and a sheriff all at the same time, multiplied by 1000) for as long as Bruce has, at any given point in his history, he would really have a lot to deal with, upstairs. Granted, the day Batman “finds himself” is the day the series ends, so… I understand why the subject has never been seriously pursued.

    c. Wolverine was alive for quite some time before hooking up with the X-Men so the X-Jet isn’t an easy answer for a majority of his life (I’ll believe that he maybe could forge documents in the earlier days of air and train travel, before he was given the adamantium skeleton). The misdirection with a grenade is cute but I’m clearly observing these superhumans from the perspective of a modern, realistic American (or international) setting. You could put five grenades in someone else’s bag at the airport but everyone doesn’t stop looking at/listening for the metal detectors, at that point. If anything, getting past the TSA would be even more difficult once there was a serious security threat identified nearby (like, say, a grenade found in someone’s bag). Further, I’ll concede one thing: I remember in one Ultimate X-Men issue where Wolverine was asked about how he made it through airport security and he simply said “four words: I am a professional”; that’s the only real answer I’d buy because I wouldn’t want to argue with him, directly. Dually, I know that some things are “explained” in comics (like Marvel’s official bio claiming he only weighs 300 lbs.) but there’s no way someone as big and muscular as Wolverine (whether he’s 5’3″ and as big as a silverback, as in the books or if he’s over 6 feet tall but still a cut 225 or so, as in the films) weighs only 300 lbs. when that ripped body is combined with all the adamantium.

    I know we’re arguing semantics, I’m just saying.

  • Jason

    I got 1, How come Wolverine’s teeth aren’t silver?

  • http://estebanwaseaten.tumblr.com/ Justin Brown

    I have no idea. It could not have been to keep his teeth exposed for cleaning (I would assume the healing factor applies to tooth decay so I doubt Logan even owns a toothbrush). It can’t be because constantly having an unsealed metal in your mouth would be dangerous because well, the aforementioned healing factor eliminates all danger and, well, having an unsealed metal next to vital organs can’t be very healthy, either.

    It does seem weird, though, because they presumably coated his jaws in adamantium, too, and the teeth are RIGHT THERE. Come on, Weapon X!
    .-= Justin Brown´s last blog .."Ordinary riches can be stolen. Real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that…" =-.

  • Doc Brown

    Peter’s DNA is only everywhere if you go by that bullshit movie “organic” webshooter crap. The original webbing was made in a lab. That plus a full body suit = no DNA left behind.

  • http://estebanwaseaten.tumblr.com Justin

    To be fair, the biological webshooters have also been in some of the comic books.

  • Rodrigo

    John Wayne, as the Fantastic Four, was exposed to radiation in a Utha desert and didn’t became the Super Uncle Ethan. How come?

  • Diane E.

    There’s no adamantium in Wolverine’s teeth because despite being hard and white(ish) they aren’t bone.

    Teeth are made of living tissues with nerves inside and connecting ligaments that attach them to the Alveolar bone. That’s the bone is under the gums and what holds your teeth in place. Wolverine’s has adamantium in his so it’s unbreakable, which is why you don’t generally see him getting them knocked out.

    And for the record I’m not obsessed with teeth, I’m obsessed with Wolverine ;)

  • Carlos

    1. Ditto on the webshooters.

    2. I heard it stated once that Superman’s suit itself seldom was damaged because it was against his skin; hair protruding from his skin might presumably be cut (because it is dead tissue).

    3. If Batman got therapy, he might stop fixing other people’s problems…and be just like all the rest of the billionaires.

    4. Wolverine’s bones aren’t made of adamantium, they’re laced with it. When something is indestructible, you need less of it to perform a certain task. Therefore you’d need a few pounds to make him indestructible, not replace all his bone tissue with hundreds of pounds. Therefore 5’3″ bodybuilder physique + 100lbs adamantium = 300lbs. A metal detector probably isn’t needed for a chartered plane. As far as paperwork, he worked for the CIA, Canadian government, Japanese government…can’t they falsify genuine passports?

  • Nerd

    1.) The webshooters shoot out a synthetic material. The design is supposedly genius and would guarantee Peter a job at most chemical engineering firms if he ever released it.
    2.) Kal-El shaves with Heat Vision and a special mirror as someone already alluded to
    3.) Bats isn’t technically crazy, just focused. The Bruce Wayne disguise is effective but think of him as any other hyper focused super politician genius type. Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill. Eccentric and focused, but not insane.
    4.) Wolverine has a special pass for a “Plate in my head” (Secret Wars #1) up until a few months ago that would have been more than enough to get through security.
    5.) The radiation exposure was not your typical radiation. The Fantastic Four were exposed to “Cosmic Radiation” of an unspecified nature, meaning who knows what the heck it really was. Judging by the 4 exceedingly different mutations, it stands to reason that it was in no way “regular” radiation as we know it, and we can’t expect it to have traditional easily predicted side-effects. Banner was exposed to “Gamma Rays” and they somehow mutated him. In Banners case, if we accept that his cellular structure was unique enough that it could change him into a giant green hercules rather than instantly kill him from radiation poisoning, then it is not at all unrealistic that it would have no negative effects on him at a later date either.

    I’m surprised that these really commonly known “questions” would be asked here. These have all been answered in the comics, and a few short minutes of digging would have answered all of them.

  • Epiclonnesity

    Well spider mans webs are not from spidey himself but a device on his arm.
    Superman cuts his hair with his fingers
    Bruce Wayne is pretty sane sooo…
    Wolverine has a fake birth certificate and he has someway of getting past the metal detectors
    I don’t know about the last one though

  • ZEUS THE GREAT

    Didn’t Superman also grow facial hair in Superman 3 after he was subjected to that man made Kryptonite?