Superhero Puzzle #00 — Who is Your Favourite Superhero?

Ha! A quiz only you know the answer to, that’s the kind of test they should hand out in school. Seriously!

This post is just a backtrack, to explain the whole Superhero Puzzle series. These are little essays on comics and scifi that I began when writing physics and mathematics education resources. Trouble is, a lot of it turns out to be biological, so did not quite fit into my resources. There is still some cool mathematics and physics. But since I do not often get to teach biology I thought I’d publish this stuff online here on WordPress for anyone to copy, shamelessly steal, borrow, alter and use in whatever way they see fit.

I will use the word “Superhero” for both masculine and feminine characters.

Writing Superhero Puzzles or scifi quiz material is a game. The rules are to try to explain superpowers or their uses, using only published comics or scifi books or movies, and to do so using the most realistic and plausible science possible.

There are no winners and losers in such a game, and it can be real fun, sometimes even really funny, which is the type of game I like. You can easily extend the game into something more competitive or serious if you like, by including a quiz, or some required calculations.

One way I prefer to have the game extended is to read someone’s comments and their suggestions for improvements, or their critique. It’s a strange concept though — to critique fictional literature! But that’s again, part of the fun of this game. Fiction can be critiqued. To me, a fantasy story that is more believable is the better story. Some readers and movie-goers prefer plain eye-candy, more sex, more violence, more gags. If that’s your preference then the Superhero Puzzles are probably not your cup of tea. To enjoy Superhero Puzzles you probably will likely enjoy fantasy, but you will also enjoy realism and mixing life with art, and for maximum enjoyment you would probably be the type of person who tries to live their fantasy. And to live your dreams and fantasies you have to keep them well within the known laws of physics. We all know what happens to people who try to defy the law of gravity.

The numerical order of the puzzles is entirely chaotic. Some form short related sequences, but most of the time they just correspond to the order the ideas have occurred in my mind. And I will not post them in order, since I want to be happy with them before posting them online.

That’s about it for this introduction. My favourite superhero’s when I was a kid were, in roughly order of favourites, The Silver Surfer (aka. Norrin Radd, because he was cool and yet tragic), The Submariner (Prince Namor, because I loved swimming in the ocean too), The Flash (Barry Allen, because I loved pure natural speed), Iron Man (the armour tech is so cool), Thor (duh! A god! And I loved Greek mythology too, but the Marvel version of Hercules was not as cool as Thor), and Mon-El (the teenager in the Justice League who had Superman’s powers but could only use them one at a time, plus he could see through lead, and he was not affected by kryptonite). Now, as a mature adult (ahem!) my favourites have veered more towards the feminine: Emma Frost, Psylocke (Elizabeth Braddock), Wanda Maximoff, Natasha Romanov (The Black Widow), to name a few. I was always too much of an idealist to have any favourite supervillians. Galactus is a good one though, since his “evilness” is based upon his station of near deity-hood (humans are like ants to him), which is one argument for why Thor could also have turned out bad, and thus equally it’s an argument for why Thor is so noble and good.

The megalomania of Magneto always irked me. How could a Jewish kid who survived the holocaust become so much like Hitler? I never “got” that, despite the obvious irony of it. It’s a psychological flaw I suppose, in my character, since even writing that last sentence was stressful for me. I’ve always had severe psychological trouble writing the name of that historical dictator from Germany. It’s my “Macbeth” word. It’s so tainted with real evil in my mind that I want to retract that sentence as I write! So, I will probably not write much about supervillians. But wherever there are some interesting scientific possibilities, then I will give it a go, and Magneto does have some scientifically interesting powers.

Namor, the Submariner

Prince Namor, alias The Submariner. One of my favourites.

When I was younger I read that Namor was in love with Sue Storm for a while, this was before he married his Atlantean princess sweetheart, Lady Dorma. But before he was married I resented Reed Richards for ruining this human-atlantean romance. It’s funny how Stan Lee’s comic world seemed so full of real emotion, even though it was so much violence and action. I really enjoyed the stories more than the action scenes.

The superhero’s featured in my Superhero Puzzles will no doubt reflect my biases. So I apologise in advance for that. I hope a few readers send in their own suggestions for scientific appraisal.

Thor, by the way, poses immense problems for good Superhero Puzzles, because Asgardian technology is often considered to be akin to “magic”. And what can a scientist do when confronted with magic? Well, I’m sure we can think of a few things.

So go ahead and write back a comment. Who’s your favourite superhero, and why?

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There’s a lot more to write about telepathy. It’s a cool superpower because it involves the most mysterious phenomenon known to humankind, namely our own minds.

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