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Small superpowers


As I've probably mentioned before, one of my favorite superpowers is that of Stone Boy, of the Legion of Substitute Heroes. He did actually have the power to turn himself into an unmoving stone statue, but what I liked best about him was this exchange:

Chlorophyll Kid: I don't know how much good my powers would be at fighting crime and stuff out on my own.

Stone Boy: Right! How does this sound...? "Stop. Or I'll stand very, very still for a surprisingly long time!"

(I think that was an actual quote from a comic, but it might've been something someone on Usenet made up. Tom, I got the exact quote (as opposed to my inexact memory of it) from an old .sig file of yours; can you tell us if it was from a comic or not?)

Biking home the other day in the sunshine, I had a momentary thought that I'd like it to be sunny and warm all the time, instead of just most of the time. But of course for that to happen here in Mountain View would require all sorts of major climate changes, which would probably result in the deaths of ecosystems and humans. And I wouldn't actually want that.

So then it occurred to me that it would be even better to have the superpower of being able to feel that warm-sunlight-on-skin warmth at any time, regardless of circumstances. (Which I suppose could be achieved by taking drugs that would make me happy and calm and slow-moving, but "superpower" sounds so much more appealing than "drug," don't you think?)

Which got me thinking about the really minor superpowers that you rarely see in comic books. (Though I imagine many of them show up in comics like Top Ten, featuring places entirely populated by superheroes.) The kind of thing that would have no conceivable use in fighting crime, or even in rescuing people. Like the ability to turn your skin a uniform blue or green all over. (The ability to turn your skin a uniform red is, of course, a real-world superpower called "caucasian sunburn.") (Doesn't that sound like a lipstick color name?) Or the ability to detect loose change behind couch cushions. There was a comic book once (a one-shot, iIrc) about a guy who discovers he has the power to magically and instantly do anyone's dishes, and he sets forth in a homemade costume to Use His Powers For Good, with the sorts of wacky results you'd expect.

The Substitute Legion (follow Wikipedia link above) had other members with pretty minor powers; and for that matter, some of the regular Legion of Superheroes members' powers weren't much to write home about. Especially, as has been noted elsewhere, Matter-Eater Lad, who (like everyone from his planet) could eat his way through anything. A Captain Comics forum thread has some discussion about useful uses for minor powers.

I suppose it's all a matter of power levels. The solar-warmth power could be turned into a comic-book-level power by increasing the range, power level, and degree of control: first you'd get a character who could emanate warmth (no need for campfires, except for cooking purposes); then a character who could make everyone around them feel lazily nice (call her "Lassitude Lass," of course); then a character who can radiate higher levels of heat; then a pyrokinetic like Pyro; and then you end up with the Human Torch, able to throw fireballs and melt guns and completely control flame and even fly.

So I suppose another approach to coming up with very minor superpowers is to take existing superhero powers and turn them way way down. The Slightly Translucent Girl. Or someone whose skin is so tough it can't be pierced by anything less than a bursting firecracker. (Or so tough that he never cuts himself while shaving.) Or someone whose fingers can stretch by up to two inches. Etc.

So what are your favorite extremely minor superpowers? Feel free to make some up and post 'em here, or refer to ones that've already been published.

I'm especially interested in ones that you would actually like to have, but that are way too minor to be of significant use to anyone (except maybe yourself). But you can also post ones you wouldn't like to have, if you'd rather. Especially if you come up with something entertainingly silly.


The ability to constantly emit the smell of greatest nostalgia for the target. Warm baking bread, your grandma's stuffy parlor, wet dog, whatever. (People probably wouldn't even notice - they would just feel inexplicably better. And remind themselves to call home.)

The ability to heal paper cuts, blisters, pinpricks, minor burns, and slight abrasions with a touch. (The hero of four-year-olds everywhere.)

The ability to talk to mollusks. (They don't have a whole lot to say.)

The ability to play the harmonica. (Some will always say this doesn't count as a superpower.)

The ability to fall gracefully down the stairs so at the bottom you are, if not unharmed, at least not embarrassed. (Public loss of dignity - a fate worse than death for many.)

Yep, from an actual comic. Specifically the Ty Templeton written and drawn Secret Origins issue telling, well, The Secret Origin Of The Legion of Substitute-Heroes. Which was generally pretty faithful to the telling of the story in their first appearance in Adventure Comics, but with funnier dialogue (another favorite of mine in the .sig file went "Sun Boy gave me a flying belt as consolation for not making the team. It's the Legion of Super-Heroes home game, that's what it is!" --Polar Boy)

Dishman was the dish cleaning character. I'm pretty sure there've been minor characters who could turn their skin a single, different, color with no other effects, but I'm not recalling any names offhand.

And I'll defend Matter-Eater Lad; his power is only wimpy because he's a good guy. If you think about it, you'll realize that Mano, feared member of the villain group The Fatal Five, has the same power as M-E Lad; it's just localized in his hand rather than his mouth, and he's got no qualms about disentigrating an opponent by touching them. M-E Lad isn't going to threaten to eat someone. But otherwise, if you want a piece of something (or all of something) effectively disintegrated, M-E Lad can do it.

Minor power: line karma. The ability to pick the line from multiple lines that will get me through fastest.

My personal superpower is "fall asleep anywhere". I believe I acquired it through having been bitten by a radioactive kitten (or perhaps through a long acquaintance with a cat that I named Logan because of his Adamantium claws). It is a very useful power to have when travelling on aircraft, but rather less useful when driving.

I always wanted to be Milk Man, with the ability to ascertain whether dairy products have gone bad. Perhaps this is because in Real Life, I have such a bad sense of smell...

This does bring up another generalization about minor superpowers, that instead of being superpowers with the power turned way down, they are superpowers narrowed to risibility. Instead of being able to transform into anything made of water, DeliMan can turn into any variety of pickle. Or, instead of being able to fly, the Long Intestine can make only his internal organs lighter than air, which prevents him from digesting properly but is otherwise not terribly helpful.

And what about those whose superabilities are merely social? Unable to cloud men's minds (and know what evil lurks in their hearts), the Good Pal knows which movies will go over well with a particular group of people. Or what pizzas to order.

Then there's the ability to tell from out on the sidewalk whether a particular establishment has clean, usable restrooms with diaper decks. That wouldn't be bad.


For tuned-down superpowers, I'd like to have the power to read my own mind.

I have a superpower which is the ability to find parking spaces, or rather there's a parking fairy in my car that does. Sometimes I'd like to trade this superpower to be able to find binkies or keys.

Little T's superpower is to be able to vomit at any time without minding. C fears for him in college.

At first I thought I'd like the superpower to instantly change dirty diapers. Except then I thought I'd have to go and use my powers all the time with other babies and that doesn't sound much fun.

I always liked the Legion of Substitute Heroes. Porcupine Pete, Infectious Lass, Chlorophyll Kid: all brilliant. My favorite was always Color Kid, who had the remarkably useless power of making things change their color. Honestly, I think this guy should have packed away the consolation flight ring and taken up a career in interior decorating.

On the animated incarnation of "The Tick", there was one episode where the titular character was trying to train some new heroes. One of these was Sarcastro, whose super power was, well, sarcasm. I thought that was well-nigh brilliant! Finally, a hero for those of us who are more than willing to stand aside while others actually try to do something, and then mock them when they fail... or even succeed! Not a terribly effective power, but a great name.

My favorite for a while was the ability to create subtitles, floating in mid-air, visible to whoever would be most amusing/appropriate/etc.

My favorite for a while was the ability to create subtitles, floating in mid-air, visible to whoever would be most amusing/appropriate/etc.

I'd like the minor superpower to be able to cancel our cable television service. Or have a real conversation with someone in American Airlines catering.

I'd settle for the minor superpower of Shopping With Confidence Boy, who never worries that he's bought the wrong thing. Or perhaps Alphabetical Boy, who can rearrange CDs and books with a mere glance at the shelf.

But these are all superpowers I'd find useful in my own life, and I'm not sure they'd make for a good comic book.

Ability to send mild electric shocks through people's cellphones (and rendering the cellphone unusable for an hour)...handy for the people who won't stop yammering when the movie starts, etc.

Ability to send electric shocks through little animals (without hurting the animals of course) to people who persist in touching, grabbing and not letting go of the little animals despite numerous warnings not to do so by tour guides, naturalists, parents, etc.

You have the power to turn a uniform red? Can I have it? At present, I have only the power to produce scattered blotches of red.

I would also accept the power to make the hair that accumulates on everything in my bathroom disappear.

I just noticed that Bill S's comment had been grabbed by the spam filter and thus never appeared publicly. Sorry about that; fixed now.

I think the ability I would like to have to be able to emit a pheromone that makes my students do their class assignments. I would also like to be able to send a mental blast that makes my students feel like their feet are burning if they stay in the hall or the bathroom after the bell rings... ahh that would be nice!

I think I'd like the ability to make people's conversations be rendered into song. If nothing else it would make my day more enjoyable.

i developed telekanisis but it wasnt easy if you need any imformation call [phone number redacted by Jed]

I am shocked, simply shocked, to find Jed taking this blatant stance against telekinesis education. My illusions are shattered.

Hey, that might be a nice minor superpower: the ability to shatter illusions. Preferably with a good sound effect.

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