With X-Men: Days of Future Past hitting theaters this weekend and showing the world how super-cool superpowers can save the world (and also save a motley crew of friendships), now seemed like the perfect time to take a look at some lesser superhero powers. As the co-author of a book about teens with lame superpowers — The Misshapes, available in October — I wanted to see what the geniuses of Marvel, DC, and beyond came up with when they were bored and punchy. With 80-plus years of the American comic book industry available, there’s a terrible superpower for nearly every day of the week.
Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man (First appearance: Doom Patrol Vol. 1 #89, August 1964)
A Swedish supervillain who battles the Doom Patrol, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man can change any part of his body into any animal, vegetable, or mineral. How’d he get these powers? He fell into a vat of amino acids.
Jubilee (First appearance: Uncanny X-Men #244, May, 1989)
A scrappy orphan runaway, Jubilee could make “fireworks” with her fingers. Explosions of light. That was skill enough to become Wolverine’s sidekick back in the day.
Paste-Pot Pete (First appearance: Strange Tales #104, January 1963; as the Trapster: Fantastic Four #38)
Technically Paste-Pot Pete, also known as the Trapster, doesn’t have superpowers. He does have crazy, though, and he created a supervillian costume that gave him the ability to shoot glue at people. Which is just mean.
The Shade (First appearance: Flash Comics #33, September 1942)
He controls “the Darklands,” but you know what that means? The guy can, basically, control shadows. So he’s basically a monster performing shadow puppetry.
Sportsmaster (First appearance: Green Lantern Vol. 1 #28, Oct-Nov 1947)
Sportsmaster: the name of two villains in the DC universe. He can make all sorts of sports-related paraphernalia, baseballs, lacrosse sticks, etc., into weapons. It’s all a bit literal there.
Dummy (First appearance: Leading Comics #1, Winter 1941)
The leader of a criminal gang and skilled with weapons, Dummy can look like a ventriloquist Dummy when trouble strikes. According to Wikipedia: “The Dummy’s secret identity is never revealed; in fact, it is never made clear whether the Dummy is a very short human being or an actual wooden dummy that has somehow been brought to life.”
Chlorophyll Kid (First appearance: Adventure Comics #306, March 1963)
The Chlorophyll Kid can make plants grow, and in his few appearances he is rejected from the League of Super-Heroes and made a member of the League of Substitute Heroes since his power is so dumb.
Tattooed Man (First appearance: Green Lantern vol. 2, #23, September 1963)
The tattoos give this man his power. In times of villainy, he can make shapes from his tattoos. It was a concept that DC would go back to again and again, and there have been three attempts at the Tattooed Man.
Big Wheel (First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #182, 1978)
Ooooh, it’s so scary, a man in a giant wheel. Couldn’t he get tripped up by a pothole?
Bouncing Boy (First appearance: Action Comics # 276, May 1961)
His name is Charles Foster Taine (ha), he drank the wrong can of soda pop, and now he can inflate like a ball and bounce when trouble is afoot. But that power’s more like a getaway car, isn’t it?
Dazzler (First appearance: Uncanny X-Men #130, February 1980)
Her power is literally disco. She can turn sound waves into light. She is a party in a box. To her credit, she was originally a comics/music industry collaboration, a creation along the lines of KISS, but she just kind of evolved into a supergal with silly powers.
Ant-Man (First appearance: Tales to Astonish #27, January 1962)
A scientist decides to fight crime by shrinking his body down to ant size and wearing a special helmet to control ants. The Paul Rudd-starring movie directed by Edgar Wright is probably going to be awesome, I bet. Edited to add: wait, nevermind, Wright left the project today. Ant-Man is doomed!
Color Kid (First appearance: Adventure Comics #342, March 1966)
Another amusement from the League of Substitute Heroes, Color Kid can change the color of an object when he wants. Pretty crucial trick, but he’s liable to get outwitted by the colorblind.
Squirrel Girl (First appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2, #8, Jan. 1992)
She has a pet squirrel. She can control the squirrels. She wears a squirrel fur-lined bodysuit in what is an act of creepy dominance over all over squirrelvania. She is the god of all those rodents with tails, and that’s what makes her effective.
Captain Canuck (First appearance: Captain Canuck #1, Comely Comix, July 1975)
What is he going to fight, beavers? Hockey thugs? Kindness? Health care? Is he going to save Canada from the scourge of constant maple syrup thievery? I blame Canada.