Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trading Places

I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them. Some days my belief is under such extreme suspension that I'm afraid it will snap and take someone's eye out when it goes twanging across the room. Providing comic book physics is consistant I am willing to believe a man can fly, a woman in a minskirt can grow to sixty feet tall, and a dog can become a detective on a distant planet. But one thing I have a hard time believing is that super powers can be passed around like trading cards.

Now I want to make it clear that I don't have a problem with someone copying another's power. If you can have shape changers then it's not taking it much further to suggest that one character could mimic the structures of another's body that are responsible for the power; say they copied the physical arrangement of Superman's cells that enable him to process light into a form that gives him strength or the ability to fly.

Where I fall down is that I don't see how this process could remove those physical parts from the person's body and replace them with those of a regular human. I know in some cases you could explain it by saying that it's not the physical parts that have been removed, simply that the energy that powers those systems has been drained and so they will not work until the battery is recharged, and the character only assumes that their powers have been "stolen". But even if you drained Superman of all the converted light energy that powers his abilities he should still be Kryptonian and should still be affected by kryptonite. And it does not explain situations where characters have their powers removed permanantly, or are examined and found to be normal humans.

John Byrne does a nice take on this in Fantastic Four #250 where he suggests that it's a hypnotic effect to compliment the mimickery, and the person just believes their powers have been passed on to the other character. Superman's recent depowerment and regaining of those powers is written in a way that suggests the trauma that removed his powers damaged his ability to process sunlight, but that there was also a psychological element. He liked being depowered. He enjoyed being Clark Kent and for a while being free of the huge responsibility of being Superman.


Anonymous said...

While I very much appreciated the post, let me play devil's advocate for a moment here.

Specifically in Superman's case, what if a biological or chemical attack somehow managed to interfere with his cellular conversion of solar energy? Like, say, how an SSRI drug such as Prozac actually works. And what if the Kryptonite radiation reaction is linked to the same cellular conversion process and is explainable as a sort of anaphylactic shock? It's not impossible, then, that stopping the conversion process altogether might also render Kryptonite poisoning moot, as the effect of the conversion-damping process trumps the Kryptonite effect. Thus, no powers and no kryptonite weakness.

(In fact, I'm swearing that such a thing isn't my idea, and that I actually got it from a comic at some point - I just don't remember when or where.)

Now, had they gone so far as to take x-rays and MRIs and said that he now had the physiology of a normal human ... yeah, my stupid-o-meter would have been pegged, too.

As for power transfer ... blah. I agree. It's a lame stunt.

Marionette said...

Unsurprisingly the starting point for this was Kimiyo (Dr Light) who is described by a doctor as not metahuman after the evil Dr. Light steals her powers.

How the doctor knows this is not clear. Do they have some kind of routine test?

Anonymous said...

You're looking for logic and continuity in a Judd Winick title...

Search for Atlantis. It'll be an easier hunt.

S Bates said...

How the doctor knows this is not clear. Do they have some kind of routine test?

I always got that impression. As it's sometimes called a meta*gene*, perhaps they do a DNA test and look for that specific gene? Considering in the DC universe metahumans have been around for some years I suspect they'll have developed a test for it.

As to power transference, ignoring the Dr Light instance for a moment, perhaps what happens is two instances of the shape changing that you mentioned. Not only does the person stealing the power change his own molecular structure to mimic the target's (and thus gain their powers), he also changes the molecular structure of the target forcing them to turn into a normal human. Thus the target of the power transfer is 'shape-changed' into a normal human without the metagene.

However, with the Dr Light case, I got the impression the Evil Dr Light was sucking the light power out of the Good Dr Light. Perhaps it's a form of macro quantum tunnelling which relocates the stored energy from the original host to the new one. If the Evil Dr Light was a being of lower potential energy then the light might want to 'jump' to him to attain a lower state?

No, I have no idea what I'm on about. And this doesn't explain the "no longer metahuman" bit. But it's all comic book physics. I mean, in the DC universe there are magic-users so perhaps the Evil Dr Light is using evil magic?

Anonymous said...

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