Dr Mike Robinson ~ LC Communication Studies Professor
Moving day makes the idea of super strength so appealing. I remember one hot day when my father helped me move into my sixth floor dorm room. The elevator was malfunctioning and suddenly to us normal-powered folk, that reclining chair seemed more like a struggle than a luxury. When you think about it though, in the superhero game, super strength isn’t all you hoped.
Everybody’s Got It: On the 1938 debut cover of “Action Comics #1,” Superman lifted a car over his head. This was quite an achievement back then, as evidenced by the completely freaked out guy in the lower left corner of the cover. Nowadays though, lifting a car is pretty commonplace for the spandex crowd. In fact, so many heroes have this power that it stops feeling special. It’s impossible to hang a whole identity around just strength. If a lab accident gave you the power to control electricity, I bet you could think of ten names. Try thinking of ten for just being strong. And when you get to “Strong Guy,” you should know that Marvel already has a Strong Guy. He’s pretty cool actually.
Are You Strong Enough?: Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, DC and Marvel got obsessed with quantifying their heroes. Throughout informational series like “The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” or various role-playing game supplements, one could read sentences about how so-and-so could lift ten tons or twenty tons or whatever tons. I always wondered how they knew. If you want to measure your strength, hit the gym and press or lift as much as you can. But if you want to measure your super strength, what works as your weights? Cars? Trains? People might object to you just picking up such things as they are rather expensive to drop.
Do All the Heavy Lifting: I will never forget the day my furniture arrived when I moved to Lynchburg. The moving guy brought everything into my house. He actually carried a full sofa under his arm. He was good-natured about it all, but it was his job. The strong person on the super team has no choice. It’s up to him or her to move every damaged Quinjet, to carry every giant device and to remove the after-fight debris.
Stay in Control: Of course the worst thing about super strength is that using it is downright dangerous to others. As a father who is routinely attacked by his kid, I know the challenges of fighting a dangerous adversary intent on destroying me without doing harm to that adversary. In the comics, superheroes are always worrying about pulling their punches for fear of seriously injuring foes. The super strong also need this level of control in daily life. Any action, no matter how simple, could become catastrophically destructive. When I was younger, my mother filled me with dread every time I entered an antique shop or craft store. “Don’t touch anything!” she commanded, lest I break something delicate. The super strong constantly live with this fear. The other night I dreamt I was playing soccer, and I kicked the covers clean off the bed. If I was super strong and facing the other way, my wife would have temporarily gained the power of flight.