What Happens If Superhero Origin Stories Followed Laws of the Universe

Who doesn’t love a good superhero movie? It’s a complete entertainment package – great action scenes, intermittent doses of humour, some pow-pow action with the villain and ultimately the happy ending we lap up with a good dose of buttery popcorn. However, the reason why we enjoy these movies despite their far-fetched plotlines is because we willingly leave our sense of realism at the mall door before we settle in to our seats. What if superheroes were operating within the same constraints that nature imposes on us? What if a spider bite was just that – a nasty, fast-swelling bite which doesn’t endow poor Peter Parker with any powers? We’ve had our share of accidents but all we’ve ended up with are medical bills. So here’s a thorough debunking of superhero origin stories which stray away from reality. This is what they probably will be doing after those mishaps occur.

Spiderman

Origin of the superhero

Nerdy Peter Parker gets endowed with superpowers after a radioactive spider gets a meaty bite out of his hand. Peter Parker loses his clunky glasses, climbs walls, develops super strength (hellooo biceps) and shoots webs out his body. He gets the girl (Mary Jane) but continues to have an off and on relationship with her when he’s not saving her from monsters.

The reality

Unless you get stung by the Black Widow, Wolf Spider or other venomous NOPE varieties, spider bites can still be handled. Now this super spider who gave Parker an owie is an irradiated spider, possibly also genetically altered. If the irradiated spider was a venomous one, Parker wouldn’t be alive, kicking and occasionally looking into your bedroom window trying to watch TV upside down. So, it wasn’t the venomous kind. Being exposed to small amounts of radiation is not lethal. Since it’s just a teeny spider, which let’s say for argument’s sake is packed with radiation in proportion to its weight, there’s really not much that would happen to Parker which could not be solved with some insect ointment.

Now the creators have added this DNA hybridization twist to make it more believable that Parker can turn overnight from a scrawny, knobby kneed kid to a bicep packed wowzah. The spider’s DNA would have to mix with Parker’s DNA and be amplified which would mean that the venom would have to linger in his system for a longer period of time. However, the DNA mingling kicked in overnight and the transformation was complete; which is too short a time period for something that life-changing and anatomical to happen. Since all animals are affected by some amount of radiation, people would be turning into superheroes embodying the animals’ characteristics on being bitten by them. I’m personally looking for a radioactive seal.

Spiderman origin story

What’s probably gonna happen

What really happened is Peter Parker goes home after being bitten by the spider, is fussed over by Aunt May and given a generous helping of bug-bite cream. Not to worry, Parker would still get Mary Jane and go on to earn accolades for his scientific achievements. His streak of genius might topple over, off the edge of insanity and he might end up making hideous robotic arms unless Uncle Ben is around the keep him in check. As for Uncle Ben, he is still pretty alive and kicking, sipping tea out of floral teacups with Aunt May and now runs an empire of motivational speeches with DVDs and everything.

The Flash

Origin of the superhero

After young Barry Allen’s mother is murdered, he turns to a life of crime-solving as a forensic expert before being a forensic expert was cool. Barry is hard at work one day when a freak lightning bolt hits a shelf of chemicals and douses him with them. Barry is endowed with super speed and pulls on a red pair of tights to run at the speed of light across the world. Now he fights bad guys with a host of cool powers at his disposal namely phasing through objects at high speed and creating sonic booms with a snap of his fingers. Also, he never needs to wait around for the delivery guy to bring him his pizza.

The reality

“Indy cars, bullet trains, supersonic aircraft… The Flash leaves them all in the dust”, declares the DC website about the Flash. It’s more likely though that the cocktail of chemicals mixed with a good old dose of lighting left the forensic scientist in dust. Chances are pretty low that you’ll be struck by lightning when you’re sitting indoors doing your own thing. Even so, assuming that you’re a conduit of electricity or just plain unlucky; a lot of people have survived lightning. There’s no saying of course what a bunch of chemicals all mixed together will do to your body. It’s a pretty bad end, so to say, to have funky smelling stuff all over you and then to be electrocuted by nature.

Going by the comic book explanation, it’s highly improbable that Barry could have survived the instant mutation of his cells. The combination of myriad chemicals and lightning would most likely be too much for Barry to withstand.

flash origin story

What’s probably gonna happen

Barry spends the rest of his life getting skin grafts and plastic surgery. His story of getting doused with chemicals and lightning becomes the stuff of legends at campfires where creepy stories are told with a flashlight.

 

Ant-Man

Origin of the superhero

Ever wondered why it’s always the nerdy bespectacled scientist who turns into a superhero? Sticking true to the comic trope, brilliant scientist Hank Pym discovers a substance called Pym particles which allows users to shrink to the size of an insect and creates a helmet which allows him to control ants. Psst… did you know that Ant-Man created the Avengers? Yeah, you remember that if you think Ant-Man is lame.

The reality

First off, it’s pretty much impossible to smell gaseous particles and compress one’s size to the size of an insect. It’s anatomically impossible and the only way you’re gonna feel like you’re shrinking is if you’re smoking something shady. However, controlling insects is fast becoming a possibility thanks to these wondrous researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture. (Veronese, 2011) The department has a catalog of various sounds made by insects for different purposes in particular situations, which are available for wildlife enthusiasts. These sounds could be used to manipulate insects for wildlife conservation purposes. Swedish researchers are also looking into using pheromones for environmentally safe control of moths. Pheromones have been used to manipulate male sexual mating behavior of insects. So manipulating huge colonies of ants may well be a reality, though I’d stay far away from hordes of horny male crickets.

antman origin story

What’s probably gonna happen

Though Hank Pym couldn’t shrink in size he did have a whale of time unleashing hordes of furious insects on unsuspecting enemies using his insect manipulation technology. When he’s found out, PETA comes in to tell him off for endangering insect lives until he inundates them with hordes of sex-crazed grubs.

 

Batman

Origin of the superhero

A young Bruce Wayne, with his parents Thomas and Martha Wayne, attends a Faustian opera, Mefistofele where performers dressed as bat-like monsters freak out Bruce. This prompts them to leave the opera midway and go into a shady alley where a gunman shoots Bruce’s parents. A traumatized Bruce is left reeling from the aftermath of the horrible spectacle and motivates himself to fight crime by building himself a killer body and sleek gadgets you’d sell your soul for.

The reality

Apart from all the specialized martial arts training and the vast mounds of moolah locked away in the Wayne family vaults, Batman is really just a regular guy. Ya’know chillin’ with the girls, flying cool cars around and all of that. Except we can’t discount the fact that Batman has some serious issues he’s grappling with. This incident with him falling into a cave full of pesky bats is imprinted indelibly on his psyche forcing him to confront his worst fears every day – death, suffering and devastation of Gotham who he sees as an emblem of hope and redemption rather than a grotty dismal city.

Batman is resilient, you gotta give him that, no matter how many times he gets swatted down he picks himself up and goes back for another round of the old one-two. That and the way he can change his voice to a huskier tone when he’s covered in black latex. However, science suggests that though anyone could become Batman (yaaay) with enough training and money, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rigors of battle for very long. Though Batman has been around for decades with a successful crime-fighting career, E Paul Zehr, an associate professor of kinesiology and neuroscience who wrote a book on becoming Batman concluded that his punishing training could have resulted in him developing stronger bones than the average human. However, after comparing Batman to top athletes he arrived at the conclusion that he would be able to remain at his peak for only about three years after which his injuries would cumulate and result in him losing fights. (Blunden, 2016)

batman origin story

What’s probably gonna happen

The caped crusader would have handed his cape and keys to his swanky toys to his successor Dick Grayson. Albert and Bruce continue to strategize to bring down Gotham’s hunters with Dick in the forefront and continue to create more sleek gadgets.

Interestingly, there is an account of what would have happened had Bruce’s parents not died that fateful night. ‘Batman Gotham Adventures # 33 – Batman No More!’ has Phantom Stranger showing Batman a parallel universe in which his parents were not killed. The would-be gunman is arrested because an alert neighbor spots the suspicious man lurking around and calls the cops. Shaken by this near death experience, Thomas Wayne decides that Gotham is a horrible place for Bruce to grow up in and says “This city is going to hell in a handbasket and I will not lose my child in it”. He decides to relocate to Europe where Bruce gets a bunch of fancy degrees from various schools. He decides later to bring Wayne enterprises back to Gotham and passes by in a limo to see a full blown gang war where Gordon lies dead and his daughter Barbara crying beside his body. He decides that Gotham is a rotten place and decides to take Wayne enterprises back to Europe.

It’s true that the alternative scenarios are not as fun as those in the superhero stories, the debunking was necessary. If you do get bitten by a mysterious spider, don’t wait around to see if you can become the next new superhero. Get a good doctor to fix you up ASAP!!

 

Bibliography

Blunden, F. (2016, October 09). 15 Superhero Origins That Would Definitely Kill You In Real Life. Retrieved from Screen Rant: https://screenrant.com/superhero-origins-that-would-definitely-kill-you/

Veronese, K. (2011, July 22). What would really happen if you were bitten by a radioactive spider? The scientific truth behind superhero origin stories. Retrieved from Gizmodo: https://io9.gizmodo.com/5821798/what-would-really-happen-if-you-were-bitten-by-a-radioactive-spider-the-real-science-behind-superhero-origin-stories