By Dr. Mike ~ UL Communications Professor
Some superpowers are pure wish-fulfillment. Everyone dreams of flying. Other powers seem like extensions of ordinary life, magnifications of what ordinary humans can already do. Sonic powers are an excellent example of this. As such, they appear more manageable. However, a would-be superhero or even an aspiring supervillain should be careful what they wish for when it comes to sound.
For some, sonic powers become persuasive amplifications of the human voice. Take, for example, The Voice. An old school villain of the original Ant-Man who has nothing to do with a musical talent show, the Voice had the somewhat unsurprising power to get people to do what he said. He spoke and they believed or obeyed. Ant-Man beat him by inducing a severe case of crippling laryngitis. Other villains do similar things through music. The Hypno Hustler, an occasional foe of Spider-Man, uses technologically souped up instruments to control minds through disco music.
The Voice and The Hypno Hustler are about as goofy as you think, minor annoyances who fortunately do not possess the cunning to capitalize on their domination powers. They are also unable to affect people who are deaf or people with earplugs. Additionally, this sort of power must be demoralizing. Surely, even The Voice must wonder if he’s ever had a genuine human interaction and not just something he made someone do. The Hustler must worry that it’s the machines and not the music that creates his audience.
Some characters use sound to build things. Fans of the MCU movies know Ulysses Klaue, villainous arms-dealer extraordinaire who is always after Wakandan vibranium. In the comics, he is Klaw, a being of pure sound who through the miracle of comic book pseudoscience uses sound to build solid constructs like giant red apes and giant red elephants (hey, when you primarily fight Black Panther, you go for African animals). Reformed supervillain turned superhero, Songbird can do similar things through her technological harness.
The main problem for any superbeing who creates things is that other people expect you to do things for them. “Songbird, carry us over here and shield us from that.” “Hey Klaw, I’m moving out of my apartment this weekend and I need you to carry some stuff for me.” Making constructs is really the superhero equivalent of being the friend with the pick-up truck or van.
Most supers with sonic powers use their amplified voices as direct weapons. The Black Canary has her “Canary Cry” and Banshee has his mutant power of sonic blasts. These are shouts or screams writ large. The impact of these powers is considerable and there is a broad range of effects. Perhaps the most powerful example in this category is Black Bolt, the king of the Inhumans whose slightest utterance is capable of destroying whole cities. Black Bolt dares never speak lest he destroy everything around him.
Black Bolt’s self-imposed silence is an extreme case, but it does suggest the challenges faced by superbeings with sonic powers—sounds may be involuntary. For the sonic superhero, a stubbed toe may lead to a shout that destroys the offending furniture (and maybe the toe). A sneeze may actually become explosive. And forget watching sports. Making one triumphant or outraged yell can damage a stadium or obliterate a very expensive television while viewing from home.