Not for the first time, the pub conversation of our small group turned to the question of which super power would be the best one to have. It was a sunny summer’s Friday evening and, looking around at the clientele, it was quickly concluded that X-ray vision wouldn’t be a bad choice. The conversation moved on but, for the first time, I actually mulled this over a bit further (as you will see, dear reader, “mull” is probably the wrong word. “Obsess” might be better) and I think I’ve found a winner.
We need some rules
The rules of the game are simple:
- Only one power, so Superman would be eliminated
- Once chosen, you’ve got it for ever, so make sure you won’t get bored of it
- No obvious cheating (e.g. the power to have any power you want when you want it)
- Magic is not classed as a super power
- You don’t lose marks if the super power can be used for evil
- The laws of physics can be bent (a bit) where required. This allows, for example, for friction to be ignored if you are running at 500 miles per hour, so you dont end up with your clothes catching fire or for you to lift a heavy object without sinking up to your waist in the soil.
So, what have we got to play with?
A quick peek online reveals lists of hundreds of super powers, many quite obscure. I even found an on-line database listing 483 super powers. I clicked no further.
I’ve eschewed the internet and just listed those I could think of.
Super strength: A “go-to” choice for many I reckon. Who wouldn’t want to be able to get the lids off jam jars without the aid of the Ronco Jar-o-Matic? A versatile power, useful in everyday life for DIY jobs and for cycling, when hills could be treated with impunity. Very handy if a night out got a bit shady and also useful for a career in crime.
Flight: Over-rated in my view due to the inability to combine it with something else (like super strength). You could fly off to a holiday destination but you could only take as much luggage as you could manage to carry for the flight time, so trying to take someone else with you would be a bit high-risk (at least for them).
X-ray vision: Few practical uses so mainly one for the pervs.
Super speed: A flexible power, equally suited to good and bad deeds. Great comedic potential – you could, for example, speed into the House of Commons and put a clown suit on any politician as they stood up at the despatch box.
Heat vision: Dull. Why would you? (see also being able to make ice or control the weather. Yes X-Men, I’m looking at you).
Invulnerability: Great for self-preservation but little else, unless you wanted a career as a professional boxer or a bouncer
Rapid healing: Sounds attractive but the downside would be that you would live for ever as your body constantly healed any age-related damage. I’m not sure I’d want to be the last person alive.
Changing appearance: More useful for evil than good, though perhaps mischief rather than evil would be more fun, especially now we have the internet. You could stream as Femi thingummy declaring that leaving the EU was the best thing we’ve ever done but he’ll say anything for money or Chris Whitty confessing that he only advised mask wearing as a joke but it got out of hand.
Invisibility: Is it just me, or are quite a few powers really tuned for perverts? Other than getting into the cinema for free I’m struggling to find a family-friendly use for this one.
Telepathy: A bit of a two-edged sword. On one hand, great for playing poker, but on the other hand do you really want to know what the girl you are eyeing up at the bar thinks about you?
Telekinesis: Good general-purpose power. Fantastic for DIY, when the tool you need is always just out of reach while you are holding something up. Supermarket shopping would be a doddle too – you could just wait at the checkout while you send your trolley round and fill it up.
Teleportation: Better than flight, as long as we adopt the “bending the laws” clause to assume that you can only teleport into an empty space. Fantastic power for a thief and it would make traffic jams a thing of the past. Thinking about how much time I’ve spent travelling, this one is very tempting.
Tele-making people do stuff: Initially I thought this was one for the evil or perverted, but then again it could be useful. If we assume line of sight is sufficient then from the public gallery you could make all politicians tell the whole truth. That could be fun. Definitely a contender.
Clairvoyance: Do I really want to see the future? This would be handy for making money on the lottery or the horses but could drive you insane if you saw what the world will be like in 50 years’ time.
I wasn’t sure how to classify these ones:
Time travel: Always narratively tricky. Too many paradox options, so let’s assume that you could always return to your “home” timeline if you wanted to, no matter how much you had screwed things up. If that was the case then this is an interesting one. Go back and kill baby Hitler? Stand on the grassy knoll as JFK drives past? Pull up an extra chair for the Last Supper?
There is an intellectual appeal to this one, though obviously it’s also tailor made for making money via share buying and gambling.
Necromancy: Raising the dead and getting them to do stuff for you? Just no.
Controlling metal: Actually pretty useful. Any ATM could be your personal piggybank and you could save a fortune on petrol by freewheeling everywhere. Another power that makes cycling uphill a doddle.
Good luck: Possibly the nicest power to have. Can’t be corrupted for evil and just means that you end up with lots of happy things happening to you.
My personal choice
I would go down the “knowledge is power route” and choose the carefully worded super power – “To selectively know anything that has ever been knowable”.
Why this one? Obviously this opens the door to all human knowledge since the dawn of humanity. Was there a “topping off” party for the pyramids? Did man really land on the Moon? Are there alien remains in Area 51? Is Michelle Obama actually a bloke? Is there a fix in for the 14:30 at Kempton?
I would enjoy this just for the intellectual pleasure, but there are innumerable practical uses. You could know the dirty secrets of every politician and civil servant, making them easy to blackmail. You could know which companies are about to be bought and at what share price so you could buy in at the right time. You would also know if the authorities were onto you and what they were planning to do. Every email, Twitter, WhatsApp etc.account would be open to you, as would every on-line bank account. If you were so minded you could pretty much run the world.
If you think a little further then two things should come to mind.
Firstly, feelings are knowable (to the person who experienced them). How did Leonardo Da Vinca feel when he put the last brush stroke on the Mona Lisa? Did he think “that’ll do” or “I’m not sure about the smile”? What does it feel like to sing opera at La Scala or to reach the top of Everest?
Secondly, the past started when you were reading the first bit of this word, so the “ever been” bit is pretty much real time.
Finally, the word “selectively” is key. This would allow you to “un-know” things you’d rather not know. In a drunken stupour you might decide to know how it felt to be in the trenches at Ypres and then immedately regret that as it would haunt you for ever (see also Jeremy Corbyn shagging Dianne Abbot).
So there you go. A quick canter through the major powers – which one would you choose?
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