Sure we celebrate the exploits of our favorite superheroes on screen and print, but many comic book fans know about the dark side of having super powers. Whether they’re extremely powerful villains out to destroy the world or well-intentioned heroes who lose control over their powers, super-powered individuals are a world threat, at least in fiction.
Doomsday Scenario No. 8: Man and Superman
Of course, the real world isn’t threatened by superhumans. That doesn’t mean that it cannot happen sometime in our future. With advancements in bioengineering it is feasible to create super-powered humans, but that is a long way off. What is more plausible in the near future are new technologies to create battle suits like Iron Man’s. But that is another subject.
Who Watches Them? So what would happen if superhumans were to emerge? If artificially created for military use ala Captain America, this would set off a new kind of arms race as nations try to acquire their own super-powered operatives to keep up with rivals. Never mind trying to get nukes, having superhumans would give any country a definite edge. This theme has been explored somewhat in comic books and Captain America was a response to the creation of his enemy the Red Skull. In an obscure Epic mini-series called The One, the United States and the Soviet Union unleash superhumans against each other after nuclear weapons are made obsolete by an advanced entity. Also, who will keep them in check? Will the heroes in turn rule us as seen with the Squadron Supreme mini-series? It really becomes a case of “who watches the Watchmen?” as shown by DC Comics’ Kingdom Come and Watchmen or Marvel Comics’ Civil War. But even if the superhumans can be controlled what is their place in society? Can they fit in? It’s doubtful, since humanity tends to hate and fear what is different. Sadly, it is very easy to imagine a scenario where superhumans become ostracized; this will inevitably lead to conflicts between the superhumans and normal humans. The X-Men and its numerous spin-offs are perfect examples of this concept as the comic book mutants endured bigotry and hatred from humans. This hatred motivates villainous mutants like Magneto and frankly can anyone blame them for wanting to strike out against humanity? This ambiguity is what makes the X-Men comics so well-renowned. Is it possible to live harmoniously with superhumans? Well, humans have never been known to be the sharing type. It’s theorized that humanity drove Neanderthals to extinction from competition and humanity used its advantages to dominate the world. In that case, superhumans will have an edge over ordinary people and conquer or destroy us. Many supervillains try to do just that in comic books and movies.
With Great Power… Another worrying aspect are superhumans with incredible God-like powers. One of the Watchmenheroes, Dr. Manhattan was the only person in that world that possessed super powers and had the ability to destroy it. Lucky for them, he wasn’t interested in doing that and had complete control over his ability. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Solar.
He was a superhero that appeared in Valiant and Dark Horse Comics (having made his debut in Gold Key Comics) and had the power to manipulate energy much like Dr. Manhattan. During the course of his story it was revealed that he accidently destroyed his universe and wound up recreating it. The inability to control power was also shown in the classic X-Men storyline the “Dark Phoenix Saga” where mutant telepath Jean Grey is unable to reign in her growing powers and ultimately kills herself before she wound up destroying the Earth (this was also to atone for her destruction of an alien sun which destroyed an alien society). The endowment of such power on one person is very terrifying. The bottom line is that powers do bring great responsibility but staying in control is very difficult. In these instances, power does corrupt. This was seen earlier this year in the film Chronicle where a lonely teenager develops telekinetic powers and becomes dangerous despite his sympathetic background. Even Star Trek very early in its history explored the aftermath of developing super powers with its second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and of course, the famous episode “Space Seed” that introduced the genetic superhuman Khan. Then there is the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Hide And Q” where Commander Riker is gifted with Q’s vast powers and learns some harsh lessons. Seriously, if such people were to come into existence there isn’t any way to counteract them. Humanity and the world will be doomed or at the least changed radically. Thankfully, this isn’t going to happen to us soon. But these comic book tales and movies and TV shows should serve as a reminder to us about the ramifications of having super powers.