Superman had it all—flight, strength, X-ray vision, even laser eyes. Ever since his fateful debut in Action Comics #1 (1938), comic book writers have been forced to get a bit more creative when inventing superheroes and their counterpart villains—sometimes, maybe even a bit too creative.
The Giant-Size Omnibus of Superpowers is the latest mega-graphic from PopChartLab. Featuring 200 powers from 600 heroes (and villains), it’s essentially a supersized homage to the weirdest characters in 75 years of comic book history. Take Flex Mentallo (1990s), for instance, who alters reality by flexing his muscles—or maybe Fatman the Human Flying Saucer (1960s), who has the exact defining physical feature and power his name implies.
It’s silly stuff to be sure, but Pop Chart Lab’s Rachel Mansfield is quick to point out that there is some meaningful anthropology lurking beneath the spandex.
"There seems to be some correlation between the powers characters have relative to the decade they were popular in," Mansfield explains. "Heroes popularized in the '40s were equipped with abilities that helped them defeat the slumlords and crooked bosses of the post-depression era. In the '70s, everyone had zany, LSD-inspired powers. Characters in the '80s showed the first signs of postmodern, self-referential abilities (and yuppie hair, to boot)."
No doubt, there was likely plenty of good-old copycatting driving these trends, too, as companies like Marvel and DC looked to one another for sales-spurring alchemies of radioactivity, insects, and mysticism to forge market-proven heroes. Sometimes companies even ripped off their own ideas. Searching for Batman’s new nemesis, DC created Man-Bat. I’m surprised they even mentally splurged for the hyphen.
The Giant-Size Omnibus of Superpowers is available now. A 24" x 36" print can be yours for $32.