Sunday, 25 November 2018

But wait! I don't understand!

The comics of my youth were legendarily notable for their adherence to strict logic and intellectual consistency. Even so, there were things in them that I never understood and, because I've no good ideas for a post today, I thought I'd list a few of them, in the hopes that answers might be forthcoming.

I could understand how unstable molecules could enable Reed Richards' clothing to stretch but how, exactly, could the Human Torch set himself alight and then, when he returned to normal, his clothes, which had previously been aflame, were totally undamaged?

For that matter, how could the Invisible Girl still see when she was invisible? Surely, light rays would just pass through the backs of her eyeballs?

Why didn't Bruce Banner ever move to somewhere peaceful, in order to avoid excitement? For a man terrified of drama, it seemed odd that he always hung around permanently-besieged military bases.

Just how could the Hulk leap vast distances, while the Thing, who wasn't that much weaker and was lighter, only seemed to be able to jump a few feet?

Would Thor's technique of spinning his hammer round and round and round and then letting it pull him through the sky actually work? I mean, the fact that I've never seen anyone do it would imply that it wouldn't but I can't think of any reason why it wouldn't.

How did Spider-Man cling to walls when he was wearing gloves and boots?

How did he take perfect photos with a camera that was hanging from some webbing and just randomly pointed at nowhere in particular?

How did the Green Goblin's eyes work? They clearly weren't Norman Osborn's real eyes but seemed to be the Green Goblin's real eyes, even though they were part of a mask.

How did the Angel manage to hide those gigantic wings underneath a business suit?

When Cyclops blasted something with his massively powerful optical blasts, why didn't it knock him off his feet? And, surely, if he hit the Juggernaut with one, the impact would break his own neck?

How did the Sub-Mariner fly with those tiny little ankle wings and how come they seemed to propel him with the speed of a rocket?

Why did the Atlanteans' hair always hang normally, even though they were underwater?

How did Iron Man bend his arms and legs, when his armour had no joints in it? I know Marvel once tried to claim his arm and leg armour was made of chain mail but that clearly wouldn't have the rigidity and strength-giving powers his outfit clearly possessed.

Then again, just how did transistors enable him to fire pebbles that would quickly grow to the size of boulders, or to massively increase the strength of magnets, or to project multiple images of himself? I still don't know what transistors actually are but I suspect they can't do any of those things.

As the Silver Surfer had the power of time travel, why didn't he just travel forwards or backwards to an era when Galactus' space barrier didn't exist, and then leave Earth?

Why did the Leader need a brain that was two foot tall, in order to contain his massive intellect, when he didn't seem to be any more intelligent than Reed Richards who only had a normal-sized brain?

How did Wonder Woman find her invisible plane? And how did she find the controls when she was flying it?

Why did Bruce Wayne decide to dress up as a bat, in order to instill fear into criminals, when, if I was robbing a bank and a man turned up dressed as a bat and claiming to be called, "Batman," I'd just roll around laughing?

Also, how did Batman get all those giant-sized items of memorabilia, like the huge coin and the robot dinosaur, into his Batcave, bearing in mind its entrance was barely big enough for a car to get through? For that matter, did he have a permit for that nuclear reactor?

How come Jim Corrigan hadn't arrested a single criminal since 1940 but never lost his job?

Where did the Super-Pets live when they weren't in a story? Were they just abandoned in the Fortress of Solitude and left to starve?

How were both Mon-El and Superboy allowed to be members of the Legion of Super-Heroes when the team's constitution said that all members had to have a unique power?

The Phantom Stranger. Did he have a house? Did he live in it?

Those are just a few of the questions that haunted and tormented my childhood. You may have answers to them.

Then again, you may have questions of your own which have always needed answering. If so, feel free to share them in the comments section below and, who knows, maybe some of us may finally be able to come up with much-needed solutions.

39 comments:

Killdumpster said...

It's called "comic book physics", Steve.

Namor was explained as the same as a bumble bee is. Both fly, defying physical laws.

As far as the Thing unable to leap large distances, you got me.

Invisibility has always been a quandary, started by HG Wells. I remember hearing a story on the radio where the US military actually rendered a man invisible, in some kind of chamber.

Banner just had overwhelming hots for Betty Ross. Guess love makes you do stupid things.

Atlanteans may have combed jellyfish into their hair, underwater Brylcreem. Lol!

Killdumpster said...

Guess it all boils down to the "suspension of disbelief".

Killdumpster said...

Angel would strap his wings down in a harness, apparently they were very flexible. You'd think he'd look like a hunchback, tho.

TC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Artistic Actuary said...

In Silver Surfer Vol 1, #6, he does travel forward in time to when the barrier has gone & finds apocalyptic scenes with everybody under the control of the Overlord He then goes back iin time to change history by ensuring the Overrlord is never born. Somehow in all the excitement he forgets the idea of esapIng the barrier by time travelling.

TC said...

IIUC, H.G. Wells did try to address the eye problem in The Invisible Man. The retinas became semi-transparent, but not totally invisible. Or something. Dunno if that was also the case with Sue Storm (or Martian Manhunter). (I'm also not certain if translucent retinas would be enough to allow the invisible person to see clearly.)

In a Q&A column in a Fantastic Four annual, they said that the Hulk was probably stronger than the Thing, and that was why he could leap long distances, while the Thing couldn't.

Maybe Detective Jim Corrigan actually had a good arrest (and conviction) record, but we only saw some of his cases, the ones that were published in the Spectre series, where bad guys usually ended up getting disintegrated or frightened to death.

It is a common misconception that the Legion of Super Heroes always had a rule against duplication of powers. In the Silver Age (1960s), they didn't. Their original charter (published in Adventure Comics #325 in 1964) stated only that each member had to be under 18; have a super power, that he/she could control; and be of good character.

The "unique power" requirement was (AFAIK) first cited in Superboy #195 (1973), when Wildfire (then named ERG-1) was rejected because his powers merely mimicked those of the other members. It was also mentioned in Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes #212 (1975), when it was explained that an exception had been made for Superboy and Supergirl. Maybe Mon-El and Ultra-Boy were grandfathered in by then.

Steve W. said...

KD, Dangermash and TC, thanks for your explanations. I am now going to be haunted by nightmares about Sue Storm's visible retinas floating around in mid-air while the rest of her is invisible.

Anonymous said...

You've stopped wondering what happened to Supergirl's flatmates then Steve, like Wanda Five?
Forget about a permit for a nuclear reactor, did Batman even have planning permission for the Bat Cave? And even if he skipped that, what about the contractors? I guess he paid them cash in hand, but they'd still have a pretty good idea who he is because its underneath Bruce Wayne's mansion. Its not as if he has the option open to supervillains, who can bump bump off any builders to keep a secret.

Super-Pets are presumably more independent than regular pets, although that brings up its own problems - one of the best stories in Alan Moore's run on Supreme (a Superman analogue) involved the sudden appearance of thousands of super-puppies causing chaos thanks to the Krypto-analogue being on super-heat.

You have to wonder about Superman and Lois - does he ejaculate faster than a speeding bullet? Surely relationships with superheroes in general would be physically dangerous for normal humans (not that Lois is particularly normal, but you know what I mean).
And theres no shortage of questions about what might go on in super romances - don't get me started on Reed and Sue, or the Vision and the Scarlet Witch.

-sean

Steve W. said...

Sean, I have given up on Wanda Five. I can only assume Supergirl murdered her.

While composing the post, I did wonder how come Super-Cat, Super-Dog, Super-Monkey and Super-Horse are all hyphenated and Superman, Supergirl and Superboy are not.

Anonymous said...

And what about costumes - where do they come from?
Obviously Thor, say, was just wearing his regular Asgardian gear, but what about super-types like Spider-Man and Daredevil? Were they highly skilled at needlework?
What are the odds that a radioactive spider would happen to bite a geezer who also happens to have amazing sewing skills? And - not to be prejudice or anything - but DD is blind.

-sean

Anonymous said...

PS Btw, Steve, Neil Gaiman revealed that the Phantom Stranger was a fallen angel condemned to walk the earth forever, so obviously he didn't need a house.
I do recall John Constantine once wondering how the Phantom Stranger kept his shoes so shiny with all that walking about, which seems like a good question.

-sean

Anonymous said...

This is my major problem with the scientific logic of comics.
Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. I'm don't know if even God can do that. Sure, it can be altered and changed, Raleigh could turn tobacco into smoke for the delight of the English court, but it's still matter, dammit.
So how can a 150 lb. Bruce Banner turn into a thousand-pound Hulk? Where does the extra mass come from? And how does his pants stay on? Yeah, the Comics Code Authority kept his trousers on, as Stan the Man explained, and we're all grateful for that.
But how did Calvin Zabo turn into Mr. Hyde? Or Ben Grimm become the Thing?
Where does that extra mass, or matter come from?
It's taken me years to accumulate the extra mass I'm carrying around, through a strict and dedicated program of excessive eating and drinking. I don't know how a guy can do it in five seconds.
It don't add up!

M.P.

Killdumpster said...

Sean- Your statement about Superman & Lois reminded me of an old joke:

Superman was just flying around, basically taking the day off, when he spied a bank robbery in progress. As he proceeded to swoop down, he noticed Batman & Robin swinging into action. "Those guys can handle this" he thought to himself, and flew off.

Later Superman noticed an out-of-control school bus about to go off a bridge. As he turned to dive to save the bus, webs shot out and secured the bus. Spider-Man was on the scene. "He seems to have things well in hand", thought Superman, and flew off.

Later, while flying over the city, Superman saw Wonder Woman nude sunbathing on a rooftop!

He thought to himself,"I could swoop down at super-speed, have sex with her, and fly away without her knowing what hit her!" Which he did.

Seconds later Wonder Woman yelled "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!!!"

The Invisible Man said "I don't know, but my ass sure is sore!"

Sorry guys, but that was from the early 70's.

TC said...

AFAIK, the idea of a nuclear reactor in the Batcave was invented by the TV show (1966-68), and was never used in any Silver or Bronze Age comics. Although the "atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed" line did appear in DC's "Batman '66" comic (based on the campy TV version) in 2014 or '15.

When I was seven and eight, watching the TV series, I was never bothered by the idea of Batman owning and operating a nuclear reactor within 14 miles of a major city.

But, then again, if there's anyone that I would trust with a nuclear reactor within 14 miles of a major city, it's a Silver Age DC superhero like Batman.

George Chambers said...

Ever read a series called "The Handbook of the Marvel Universe"? In it, a Marvel staffer called Elliot Brown tackled some of these questions - he had drafting skills and, I guess, an engineering background. Henry Pym and his casual flouting of conservation of matter laws was his biggest challenge; he posited another dimension that Pym drew extra mass from when he was big, and shunted mass to when he was tiny. Peter Parker's webshooter was another huge problem, but he produced some authentic-looking plans. All the moving parts were supposedly made out of Teflon so the web-goo wouldn't seize them up. What wasn't explained was how fifteen-year-old Parker got hold of the specialised materials needed, much less putting it all together on a shoestring budget...

Anonymous said...

A nuclear reactor TC? I wouldn't even trust Batman with a Batarang - a rich bloke who runs around at night beating up anyone he thinks is dodgy obviously isn't playing with a full deck.The lights are on but no-one's home.
And thats before even getting to the subject of Robin.

What exactly are the various superhero kid sidekicks all about?

-sean

Anonymous said...

I remember that Handbook of the Marvel Universe. I was buyin' it when I was in high school, because I wasn't getting a lot of action at the time.
It was a useful tome, I found out how Stiltman's legs worked and how strong the Rhino was, and I was grateful for the information. But that stuff about mass getting "shunted" from another dimension? Man, that's a can of of corn if I ever heard of one. I didn't buy it then and I'm not buying it now.
On the other hand, I don't know how else you could explain how Hank Pym gets big and small. How did D.C. comics explain the Atom? They gotta have some guy over there who's worked this out.

M.P.

TC said...

Come to think of it, a pair of translucent retinas floating around in mid-air would probably instill fear a lot more than some guy in a bat costume.

Anonymous said...

M.P. - www.boingboing.net/2015/07/13/ant-man-the-physics-of-shrink.html

-sean

Anonymous said...

Well, I got a C-minus in college physics class, which is the same thing as an "F" but as long as your tuition is paid up and you showed up for class occasionally, they let you slide. But the doors of science were firmly shut to me after that debacle. I didn't understand jack shit in that class.
So I'm not really qualified to weigh in on these topics, but I have been drinking a lot of beer today.

M.P.

Steve W. said...

George, thanks for the Handbook info. Sean, thanks for that Boing Boing link. MP, I'm pretty sure that DC claimed the Atom shrank simply by moving his atoms closer together, which meant he maintained his original strength. Of course, that would mean he maintained his original weight as well, so how people managed to pick him up with one hand is anyone's guess.

Colin Jones said...

The greatest mystery of all:

The Hulk's underpants must be incredibly tight so why doesn't he feel any discomfort?

Anonymous said...

He does Colin - thats why he's always in a rage.

-sean

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Geeze.. my head is spinning after reading through all this...

Dennis the Menace and Gnasher simply do not have these issues. I mean, I understand why Walter's head hurts when Dennis launches a boomerang, or peas from a pea shooter, or a flower pot at it. And I understand why Dennis's back side hurts after getting a royal spanking from his old man. It really is not complicated!

MP - could the increase in mass come from some crazy conversion of energy to mass since E=MC2? Through some magical process energy is simply divided by the speed-of-light squared and... voila... you get the Hulk or Thing or Luke Cage... I'm going to go outside and divide my little Dachshund dog by the speed-of-light squared and see if I get me a Rottweiler. I'll let you know in a few.

Colin and Sean - those two preceding comments of yours had me exhaling my kale smoothie through my nose! You two could be the next Abbot and Costello!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Didn't work!. I held two flashlights under my Dachshund, to simulate being divided by the speed of light squared, and she didn't gain an ounce or milligram. Einstein is fake news! You read it hear first!

Anonymous said...

Leave me alone, Charlie! Don't put that stuff in my head!

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

I'm trapped indoors by a "historic snowstorm" in Chicago (lol). What else am I going to do!

Killdumpster said...

Pop in those serials & Italian superheroes! Lol!

I saw on the news you folks have a major mess.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, of course you didn't change the size of your Dachshund (is that what they're calling it now where you are?) the Pym particle is based on quantum theory, not Einstein.
Actually, I reckon M.P. might be right (strange times, eh?) to be sceptical - if the Pym particle could change Planck's constant then it wouldn't be a constant. Thats just logical.

Consider this - its the 60s, Hank Pym has one pill that makes him larger and another that makes him small. I think we know whats going on there, and what the Pym particle actually does, right?

-sean

Killdumpster said...

Kinda like in Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit".

Man, do I miss LSD, LOL!

Killdumpster said...

I'll bet the latent hallugenic effects on Pym's pills & gasses used for his powers were never fully delved in. Or I may have missed a few issues.

His insecurity as a hero, the incarnation of his Yellowjacket persona, from Ant-Man to Giant-Man/Goliath (over compensation?), the infamous "Jan slap, his betrayal
of the Avengers on top of direct attacks (MAYBE all orchestrated by Ultron?)

Did Doc Sampson ever offer Pym any psychotherapy?

If anyone in the superhero community needed it, it was Hank Pym

Killdumpster said...

Maybe they ought to do a one-shot, "Hank Pym Though The Looking Glass"?

That'd be pretty funny, Steve.

You'd get to see your favorite childhood hero in a legendary British story you don't care for! Lol!

Killdumpster said...

The Mad Hatter would keep dunking him in a cup, "THIS DOESN'T MAKE TEA!"

The Cheshire Cat Would get out of it's laziness and terrorize Ant-Man like the guy in The Incredible Shrinking Man, untl Pym kicks his teeth down his
throat!

HOKEY SMOKES, BULLWINKLE! I should write for Marvel.

Somebody should.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Grace Slick has explained the universe.

M.P.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

True story regarding Grace Slick.

Saw here with Jeff Starship at Purdue University in 1980ish. Someone throws a roll of toilet paper and bonks her in the head. She picks it up, wipes her @ss w/ it (while in blue jeans of course) and throws it back at the crowd.

Now that's a class act!

Killdumpster said...

I had the hots for Grace Slick up to the early 80's, then she had a 2 solo albums then. I think the first one was called "Dreams", and was a lame attempt at a Stevie Nicks impersonation. The next one was called "Wrecking Ball", which was supposively punkish/heavy metal. It was kinda dismal. The production, instrumentation & her none adaptive vocal style all fell flat.

Killdumpster said...

Now that I think about it, it might have been called "WELCOME to the Wrecking Ball". I cannot recommend.

TC said...

"a lame attempt at a Stevie Nicks impersonation" seems sadly ironic, since Stevie Nicks always credited Grace Slick as one of her two major influences. (The other was "Janis Joplin, of course.") Terri Nunn and Patti Smith also cited Grace as an influence. In fact, Grace Slick was arguably the most influential female rock star of all time, and blazed the trail that Stevie and the others followed.

Killdumpster said...

I totally believe that, it's just too bad her later solo efforts were not on par with her work in Airplane & Starship.