With Great Power…

By Shamus Posted Friday Feb 8, 2008

Filed under: Nerd Culture 119 comments

I enjoyed the discussion the other day on the various uses and uselessness of super abilities. It is surprisingly difficult to benefit the world, even when you wield fantastic powers. Imagine if you were granted the following:

* Incredible strength. Enough to, say, throw several tons. You can throw a tank, assuming you can get a decent grip on it instead of just ripping off bits of the hull.

* You can fly. Supersonic speeds, but not “light speed” or anything like that. About the speed of a fighter jet.

* You are functionally indestructible. A solid hit with a cruise missile would stun you. Maybe a nuke would kill you, but you’re impervious to conventional weapons, immune to fire, can tolerate extreme cold, and can hold your breath for hours. It would take dedicated effort on the part of a major government to put you down.

But that’s it. You don’t have super sight or hearing or telepathy or a sixth sense or any other bonuses to your perception. You’re just strong, you can fly, and you’re invincible.

Okay, that’s cool. But how do you make the world better?

I’m annoyed at how useless I would be, in the big scheme of things. I couldn’t solve any of the world’s major problems. I couldn’t even solve the small ones.

What about hotspots around the world where fighting is going on? Well, I don’t think I could be trusted to do a lot of good there. If I went to Darfur, what could I do? Without knowing the language(s) and having a solid understanding of the various tribes, I wouldn’t be able to identify the sides in any of the numerous conflicts. I would have to rely on someone else for intelligence, and I’d run a very real risk of being used and misled. Even if there was someone I could trust to guide me, one man alone can’t watch all 493,180 km² of Darfur. The best I could do is guard a single group of people. That would be nice, but it wouldn’t put a dent in the death toll.

So what about drugs? They kill thousands every year and gang violence (fueled by drugs) kill even more. But I couldn’t break the power of drugs over the addicts of the world. I could try to stop the flow of drugs, but how would I go about it? The DEA has agents who know the business inside out, working 24/7, and they aren’t able find most drug shipments. I would have no way of finding really large caches of drugs. Guarding the border of the US (yes I’m being selfish and just “helping” the US right now) would be even harder than Darfur. If drug mules can outwit and out-maneuver the DEA, then they can surely route around me.

Forget about stopping random crime. The classic scene of a superhero stopping bank robbers sounds nice, but when was the last time anyone robbed a bank with machine guns? It’s always one guy who walks in with (maybe) a gun and walks out with the cash. The police usually catch those guys anyway. They don’t need my help. Even if I had some way of getting to the scene of the crime, this isn’t a comic book. The bad guy wouldn’t shoot at ME. If he had half a brain he’d take a hostage, and now instead of the police picking him up without incident a few hours from now, we have this tense standoff that could get someone killed. Way to go, superguy: You just made things worse. Other types of random crime aren’t any better. I have no way of knowing about the crime until after it’s taken place. I won’t be able to reach the scene much faster than the police (imagine trying to navigate by flying around where you can’t see street signs or building numbers) and won’t be any good once I get there.

So random crime doesn’t work. What about organized crime? John Gotti aside, crime bosses aren’t usually that well-known. Even if they were, what would I do? Drag him to the police? The police already know where he is. They need admissible evidence before they could detain him, and I don’t have any way of getting that. Would I take justice into my own hands, and hurt or punish him outside of the system? Hmmm. That leads down a dark road. I’d better hope I never “punish” the wrong people. There is also the question of how my vigilantism would be viewed by society at large. What am I going to tell people? No, really! He’s a bad guy! Trust me!

If there was a good, clear war with well-defined sides of good and evil where everybody wears uniforms, I could probably help. Something along the lines of World War II. But wars like that are rare. Worse, my presence in the world might just convince the aggressors to use different tactics instead. They might resort to terror or nukes, and I’d be helpless again. Just the fact that there is a superhero could make the war worse.

I like the idea of helping a local group of fire departments, although even that line of work is dangerous. Sure, I’m fireproof, but the people I’m trying to save aren’t. I have to know how to get in, find them, and extract them without them getting burned alive, crushed by debris, or suffocating. (And without knocking down the building in my search.) That’s tricky business. Still, with practice and a large enough area of involvement I might be able to make my powers useful.

Acting as a life-flight “helicopter” would probably be my best bet. I wouldn’t need a huge landing spot, and I could get there faster than a real helicopter. I could very quickly find the ambulance (the flashing lights would guide me nicely) and I could just grab the gurney (or whatever) and go.

So here we are with incredible super powers, and the best I can do is sit by the police scanner and help out in the occasional emergency. I might save a couple of lives a year. That’s great, and I’d be happy to do it, but it seems pretty tame in comparison with the incredible powers given. In fact, I think my list is pathetic. Let’s see if anyone else can do better.

So now it’s your turn: How would you make the world better with the powers listed above?

Responses are likely to be long. If you don’t want to pour all that text into the comments, feel free to post on your own blog, link, spread the love around. I’ll link back.

(I know I mentioned Darfur above, which can easily lead to a political exchange. It probably goes without saying, but let’s avoid that.)

LATER: More here. And here.

And here is another great response.


From The Archives:

119 thoughts on “With Great Power…

  1. conrad says:

    1. Threaten the New York Times with destruction unless they print your manifesto.
    2. Manifesto is your evaluation criteria for ranking worldwide national political leadership (group/clique/fearless leader).
    3. Destroy the worst 3 (death or violent coup d’etat) every Halloween.

  2. Carra says:

    Super intelligence would be so much more useful. Can start by finding a cure against cancer for starters.

    As for strength. You’re right, it’s hard to think of how one could change the world. Maybe let doctors research you. Being indestructible must give you some interesting genes. Hardly heroic however.

  3. Axcalibar says:

    You’d be awesome at construction. Who needs a crane?

    Carra: They’d have to rely on MRIs and CAT scans. If you’re invulnerable, then drawing blood is out. Your skin’d snap the needle. On that note, you could probably get health insurance for like a dollar per year.

  4. Well, you couldn’t do a lot of good in Darfur by picking a side and defeating it. But you could go around systematically swooping in on armed groups, trying to be fairly equal in your approach, and breaking their weapons. Disarm all sides. True, Rwanda showed that it’s possible to conduct a genocide largely with machetes and clubs, but it’s a lot easier with machine guns, mortars and AK-47s.
    Plus, in many parts of Africa the conflict is driven by the various groups exploiting things like diamond mines, where they swap valuable resources for weapons with which to take over more diamond mines and ultimately perhaps whole countries except none of them ever seems to successfully consolidate. Pick a region and systematically make sure none of the groups profits off the key mines, by shutting them down and taking away their toys, and it might be possible to undermine the drivers of violence.

    You might do better as a disaster response/rescue person. Sure, it’s not world-savior scale usefulness, but someone with the powers you describe could save a lot of people that conventional technology couldn’t reach. Burning buildings, buried by earthquakes, yadda yadda.

    If you were really stubborn and very bloody-minded, arguably someone with those powers could do more good as an assassin. Just publicize that any world leader who ordered armed forces into, or ordered the bombardment of, anyone else’s country without a unanimous vote by the UN General Assembly (to blazes with the Security Council) would be killed. Then follow through. If we’d had someone like that a while back, a million Iraqis would be alive today and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  5. Nils says:

    With that much strength you could probably figure out a few to generate electricity. Just hop in the giant hamster wheel for ten minutes every day and there, global warming solved. :P

  6. Mike R. says:

    I’m going with my earlier answer: Help humans get into space. The costs of getting out of Earth Orbit are huge. With the powers you listed you could lift more weight into space in a week than humanity has in 50 years. A colony on the Moon before the end of the decade and one on Mars in ten years. It doesn’t solve all the worlds problems, but it’s a big step in the long term.

    Also the chief point you made is that you couldn’t do a lot by yourself. That’s true and instead of being depressed by that I think one should accept that we are social animals and that we can accomplish the most in groups. You’d have to attach yourself to an large organization, probably a nation-state, to do the most good with your powers.

    Lets say that Canada (to try and keep things less political) is worried that “Qutat” is developing nuclear weapons at facility X. Currently Canada can either bomb it and hope it doesn’t turn out to be a Milk factory, or ignore it. Super-Hero X could just bust through the main doors and look around and discover what exactly is in facility X. Huge change there too.

  7. It’s all about construction and creation, not using your powers to destroy evil – evil is too widespread, and the powers enumerated above make you more of a single antibody then penicilin.

    Nils’ power idea is a phenominal – the desire for power is the cause of most of the conflicts in the world today.

    Though I guess the strength to lift a tank or move at supersonic speeds wouldn’t actually generate that much power, if you think about it. Plus it would be a really boooring job.

    So construction it is!

  8. Mike R. says:

    It’s not that easy to assassinate dictators if they take precautions. The US rained missiles down on various targets in Iraq at the start of the war, essentially the same effect as SuperHeroX slamming into the ground at Mach5, and it didn’t get Saddam until months of occupying the entire country. I don’t see why SuperHeroX would be able to find dictators any easier than he could find random street crime.

  9. khorboth says:

    I’d hook up with my State government. Agree to do humanitarian work anywhere in the world and policing work only in the U.S. at a rate of… $50k per day? that sounds about right. My state could lend me to foreign states or countries for whatever price they can get.

    I’d get dispatched to deal with nasty confrontations, wildfires in CA, emergency relief for the next hurricane, etc. and somebody else would handle all the details.

    That way, I have a large body of government working to get my abilities used in the most efficient way possible, won’t be used in war, and get rich working 3 days a week. And they could take all my calls, sort through them and decide which ones are actually worth my attention. That way, I don’t have to waste my time taking calls when I could be doing something more productive. My state would make great amounts of money on me. I’d be a public figure so it’d be hard to get “disappeared” by the feds.

    Not that I’ve thought about this.

  10. Jansolo says:

    With great power comes great responsability… and great problems: alter ego and something like that. I like spiderman and daredevil comics because of these arguments.

    And what about EVIL? Why do you make good when you can become the great dictator?

    With these powers I see no difficulties in that.

    You would be in better situation than Darth Vader (unless you have a son with similiar superpowers ;) )

    Now, LET’S BE SERIOUS. What I’ve just said is the most probable end, even for that with good intentions (like the comunism countries, in the begininig maybe they had the best objectives for the people, but with POWER comes CORRUPTION, DICTATORSHIP and the like)

  11. BarGamer says:

    In this day and age, I’d have to go with Clairvoyance, Super-Intelligence, and/or Teleportation/Super-Speed Spy Network (or the equivalent government agency.) Powers with a wide range of application and beneficial effects beyond the immediate. Sure, the comics and movies show superheroes going around randomly solving crime and bettering society, but the fact is, you could do this for years within a certain city/planet/plane, and you’d only be patching over symptoms, not causes. And the moral dilemmas, sheesh.

    I have no compunctions about using a movie example, so let’s go with the Pixar flick, “The Incredibles.” Sure, they did some good in their time, but they eventually got bogged down by the system. Where they really made an impact is, super-heroes were made to fight super-villains. Singular persons with super-powers and limited real-world resources, and once stopped, ceased to be a problem. The problem with general crime is, the problem repeats, regenerates, or mutates, because you didn’t cure the probable causes. This was alluded to by “Incrediboy, AKA Syndrome.” A broad definition of syndrome is: A group/pattern of symptoms that characterize/indicate a disease or social condition.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thus, I would choose Super-Powers with a broad range of uses and efficacy: Clairvoyance, Super-Intelligence, and/or Super-Speed (and someone to point me where to go, and what gadgets to bring.) That way, I could actually get somewhere with curing society’s ills, and my life’s work would not die with me when I face Superman’s “Doomsday” or whatever.

  12. InThane says:


    The problem with the “bust in the door and examine” technique is that once again you’re basically putting yourself at the disposal of someone with a political agenda to push.

    I like the space idea, and I’d take it one further. Since you can carry a metric crapload of stuff, you can haul back asteroids. So you suit up, carry your own oxygen supply plus whatever equipment you need, and go prospecting. Bring back a ton of asteroids to a lunar orbit, help set up a manufacturing infrastructure in orbit, and Bob’s your uncle. Cheap plentiful orbiting power arrays? Yes, please!

    (That, plus if anybody pisses you off, you can just throw a rock at them from orbit and let gravity add its strength to yours.)

  13. Doug Brown says:

    You could take out the remaining members of the Pentavirate: the Queen, the Vatican, the Gettys, and the Rothschilds. (Colonel Sanders is reported to have gone tits-up, but it could be a tactical deception to get you eat his chicken fortnightly).

  14. Darin says:

    I think I’d be inclined to be the anti-hero. Show up, cause havoc, fly away. Any hot spot would get my attention, and chaos and destruction would ensue.

    Figure people would really start to think twice before they’d start to stir the pot, ere risk my attention.

  15. Cadrys says:

    Mike R. FTW. I’m SSTO-man! [How much easier is constructing a beanstalk with a super-person helping stabilize the upper end?]

  16. Strangeite says:

    The biggest area where your powers would shine is in the face of natural disasters. You could fly faster than a tsunami giving islanders the necessary warning they need to reach safety. Your powers would allow you to build firebreaks when areas are faced with overwhelming wildfires. Floods could be diverted by building temporary dams thereby saving villages. Depending on your strenghth, meteroites could be knocked back into space. Famines could be averted by the delivery of food supplies to regions inaccesible to regular vehicles (the Afganisthan starvation in the winter of 2005/2006 comes to mind). Droughts such as the one in Atlanta can be solved by the quick delivery of a couple of icebergs to a few key resevoirs.

    As for fighting evil. Some of the worst atrocities are occuring in the world when armed thugs roam the countryside terrorizing innocent people. They go unpunished because they exist in parts of the world that are considered insignificant strategically and the cost in human life is not worth sending in troops. One “invulnerable” hero could swoop in and disarm such warlords and dump their weapons in the ocean. Africa is an excellent example. For thousands of years there has always been a struggle between the “farmer” and the “hunter/gather” but the balance has stayed primarily in check. Over the last 50 years though, the increase in military quality firearms in the hands of the “hunter/gathers” has tipped the balance and put the “farmer” at a significant disadvantage.

  17. Dan says:

    Wow. I bet you’d have a really cook moniker like “DepressingMan” or “The Useless Titan.”

    Thanks for the Friday cheer, true believer!

    If I had those powers, I’d fight gasoline-doused bears in a fire ring for money.

  18. Building on Mike R’s idea of becoming a space mule, hire yourself out. Let the market figure out what is most valuable to do by competing for your services.

    Since you’re trying to help people, and odds are this will result in more money than you know what to do with, donate all proceeds (minus living expenses) to the charities of your choice.

    The market is good at efficient utilization of resources, which helps everybody a little bit. Unlike most rich people who end up rich in the form of stocks and other non-liquid assets, you’ll be able to donate legendary amounts of money to charity, distributing your powers in a way that helps people. (Or better yet, fund a foundation. Trickier, but even more effective.) And if you don’t like a job, nobody can make you take it.

    The biggest danger of this approach is wealth.

  19. DocTwisted says:

    An interesting conundrum, to say the least.

    First I’d have to find some way to safely test the limits of my abilities (I’m invulnerable, but do I still need to breathe air? If not the space program idea’s great, otherwise it’s a swift suicide). Just how much can I lift while flying? Does it affect my flightspeed to be carrying a bus? Does the bus stay steady or are any people inside being rattled about like dry beans in a Pringles can?

    I loved the bit in that movie preview where the character stops a train by standing in front of it, and then physics makes the rest of the train derail. It made me wonder if he might have done better if he flew over the train at a matched speed, then grabbed the top of the train and started slowing his flight… just as a thought. There’s also flying in and disconnecting the engine from the car, then getting anybody in the engine to safety while the rest of the cars slow down with application of the brakes.

    There’s two keys to making a superpower (ANY superpower) useful: knowing exactly what it can and can’t do, and then being able to apply it strategically. The tv show Heroes has had a good example of this in the character of Noah Bennett (aka “Horn Rimmed Glasses’), who has zero superpower but has helped several heroes by knowing how other powers work.

  20. Randomscrub says:

    Hmmm… Here’s my list:

    1) Smashing the military infrastructure of various thugocracies has serious potential. You can (possibly) do it without hurting innocents, you don’t have to be able to find the kleptocrat in question, and there’s less problem with intelligence (though you’d still need the backing of a world power). You’d just keep breaking expensive military toys until the kleptocrat decides it’s more financially viable to abdicate than to keep replacing this stuff.

    2) Becoming a human space-program would be good, as outlined above.

    3) You could hire yourself out as a missile defense system – you could do a lot of good simply by being on call to take out incoming warheads, though it would only work if they cam one at a time.

    4) World’s most effective, but expensive, courier service? It’ll get where it’s going on time, come anything short of a nuclear attack.

  21. Rob Conley says:

    I ran a “realistic” superhero setting using Champions and the players ran into similar problems. Another twist that the players were among the first with powers. OK I can sweat Rocket fuel and ignite it at will. Now what?

    However like it was stated earlier the easy out was to focus on the supervillains. In my players case they began to dedicate themselves to stopping villains with superpowers. Also a lot of time was spent on dealing with the government’s reaction.

    This was started around the time (1985) when Marvel’s New Universe came out so the player’s were excited about trying this. The first time it sunk that things were different when a player with super strength punched a bank robber and killed him. Now he is wanted for Murder 2 and several sessions occurred with him on the run.

    One thing I will say if you had the combo of powers in your post you have room for mistakes. By that I mean you can try things without getting yourself killed. You can take more risks in being careful because frankly you can’t be killed by normal means. Like you said you have to be careful about the hostage situation. Also I agree that extensive training in emergency rescue would be a major bonus.

    However wear a damn mask better yet a helmet of some sort. Learn to speak in a different accent. Otherwise you are going to find your friends, and family having troubles in a big way. There are going to be a LOT of people focused on finding out who you are.

  22. Dev Null says:

    I think I’d go with the space program trick – try to alleviate global power problems with orbital power satelites. Though its not as easy as people are making it sound; you can’t just chuck stuff up, you’ve got to maneuver it into a stable orbit. And whatever you’re lifting has to be built with some VERY strong handles – no matter how strong you are you’ve still only got a couple of points with which to apply that strength. Not by any means insurmountable, but definitely tricky.

    And throw in a good dollop of disaster relief. Super-strength, indestructability, and flight don’t let you do anything much that modern tech couldn’t do, but you can deploy that strength much more quickly, so use it in situations where time is of the essence. Go _with_ the engineers to the building collapse, and lift whatever they want lifted (dont want to bring the whole thing down, do you?) Or airlift supplies into hard to reach places.

    I’d be tempted to try to do something about fresh water distribution as well, but how would it work? How big of a thing can you fly that fast with? And how big of a tank could you make anyways before the handles just snapped off, or your hands punched straight through the steel? Or push an iceberg? But you can’t pick it up, nor can you push it too terribly fast through the water – it’d fall apart. Maybe a giant net of some sort? But the net would have to be awfully strong for a berg of any size…

    And in my spare time? Hand me a flashlight lads, I’m going to explore the bottom of the ocean, for research purposes. Yeah, thats it; research.

  23. Roy says:

    You could actually do a lot of great humanitarian work with those powers, but it’s not crime-fighting, it’s construction and building, as others have pointed out. You could plow a fields in seconds, for example. You could drill wells for water in a fraction of the time that it currently takes. You could create irrigation systems to water fields. And if you could get an industry to design and manufacture special tools for you to use, there are tons of things you could do. Imagine being able to create a functioning road or rail system in areas of the world where dirt paths are still the norm. Imagine being able to run a working phone system in a matter of days- driving in the poles, running the wires, etc. And, yeah, as someone else pointed out, the ability to fly around areas like Darfur gathering up gangs of murderers and crushing their weapons shouldn’t be underestimated.

    Natural disasters and accidents would be your big life-saving moments, but the good you could do with those kinds of powers would be significant.

  24. Mari says:

    It’s quite simple to save the world with those powers. You’re nigh on impossible to kill. Ergo you orchestrate your own coup d’etat and become a benign dictatorship to the world. You use your powers then to punish those who do wrong/ violate your new laws by sending them into space on a one-way trip to our friendly neighborhood star,Sol. Remember, it’s for people’s own good. Sure the tactics are crummy but sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

    After a while you’ve weeded out the bad genes and the political conditions that make people more prone to violence and the “good” slowly becomes self-perpetuating. When you have a good gene pool to work with you strengthen the intellect and strength of the race. When people have time to forget that violence ever was an option (helped along with selective historical revisionism from your new regime) they stop looking at it as an option. You’re retraining the human race.

    Once you’ve established firmly your rulership through a combination of strength and fear you use your strength, flight, and invulnerability to become a one-man Red Cross, mitigating natural disaster which reinforces negative human conditions. You can also help reduce or eliminate other conditions that contribute to a general downtrodden state of being such as re-channeling rivers to irrigate desert areas, ensuring food supplies for everyone.

    It requires you to take a heavy-handed and long approach but in the end, the results will be a general uplifting of the human condition. Few superheros, however, would have the stomach to do what it takes to get the ball rolling.

  25. Cipher says:

    Talking about space travels: You can solve the worlds garbage problem by just dumping it into space. And, like someone else already mentioned, you can easily produce tons of electricity, helping to stop global warming and making countries independent from opec-states (and extremely dependent from you, haha)
    Another, not so world-saving ideas would be compressing coal into diamonds ;D

  26. WolfJack says:

    I would go for a different tactic with the drugs, hit the source. Carry around a flame thrower, or multiple flame throwers, and fly down to Columbia or Bolivia or Jamaica or any other of the numerous originating sources.
    Burn it down. All of it.
    The guards aren’t going to stop you and walking through the flame won’t hurt you. Heck, you might even manage to kill a drug czar or two along the way.

  27. Shamus says:

    Mari has just described the most realistic supervillian ever. (Shudder.)

  28. Wow. This is a fun discussion.

    Fighting / Beating people up would actually NOT be what I’d look to do. Being a super-soldier would really subject you to being used and abused by governments, as you mention. A very slippery slope.

    But there are lots of cases where it would be a lot more cut-and-dried.

    But hey – how about being on call with the cops in a non-hostage situation? Some dude with a shotgun is holding off a SWAT team? That actually happened in an apartment complex across the street from us many years ago. Send in Captain Invulnerable to make sure the situation gets resolved WITHOUT a likely loss of life. That’d be awesome.

    A high-speed chase endangering people? Super-strength, invulnerability, and high-speed flying would again resolve this situation with minimal risk of life.

    Dang – imagine what could have been done during 9/11 when the WTC buildings were on fire and collapsing? How many people could have been saved? Kinda in-line with your fire department suggestion. Or tsunamis / floods? How many other situations do we have where the risk is too high to send people in — or there’s simply not enough time.

    Or you could be a one-man version of the Berlin Airlift…

    I imagine if you HAD those kinds of powers, you’d spend a lot more time thinking about how you could use them. And make a few missteps (hey – just like Peter Parker) along the way.

    The possibilities would actually be awesome.

    Now here’s the twist… how could you use your current powers (less super, a little less unique, but possibly just as valuable) better?

  29. wumpus says:


    Assuming, as most seem to, that you could combine your flight, strength, and invulnerability well enough to haul tons at a time into orbit, you could solve all sorts of energy related problems, not least of which is the problem of nuclear waste storage. It’s too dangerous to use rockets to launch nuclear waste into space, but your powers would seem to make it relatively foolproof. That’s in addition to any solar energy related satellite work and/or orbital debris cleanup work you did.

    As for crime busting, you could go with a Hulk-type approach – go deep undercover, joining up with whatever major crime ring, map out its structure slowly, knowing that you can’t be killed, and then go all ‘You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’ when you know exactly where to strike to bring things down. Vulnerable to your understanding of things, of course, but at least you’d have direct knowledge. And the hostage/threat to your loved one issue still applies to a degree too (which Hulk seemed to have a lot of trouble with, come to think of it).


  30. Gmbeowulf says:

    I think the problem is that you’re thinking too much in the way of “helping people by dramatically changing things”. Instead, look at things that are difficult or costly to do now that a superhero could do easily (and comic hero tend to ignore). You could fight wildfires better than three counties worth of firefighters. You could mine natural resources quickly and without any risk. You could (as someone noted above) build a big ol’ treadmill and generate cheap, clean electricity. You could be a one-man Habitat for Humanity (with a little training in construction, you could easily have a small town assembled in a week).

    And while you might not be able to stop dictators and warlords, you could do a lot about the underlying econonomic conditions that allow them to rise to power and maintain it.

  31. The Werebear says:

    Hrmm… Well, you’re right. Those aren’t very useful powers for long term work.

    So, I guess I would end up doing humanitarian stuff. Rescuing people in burning buildings, stopping crime if I see it (with police’s permission)..

    Actually, wait- You could do a pretty good job as a cop if you got the right training. You get to be the one man SWAT team. Once the hostages were out, you go in an clean out the building.

    Another place where this might work is special forces. Sure, everyone would know where you came from, but with someone getting you the intelligence before hand, it would be like playing a video game with Godmode on. Walk in, grab what you need, walk out, completely ignoring anyone who is firing at you.

    The key point here is that you would need handlers. You can’t gather enough intelligence to tell where you would be best used otherwise.

  32. This is why, in comic books etc., heroes mostly only fight super-villains. You may not be any use against traditional villains, but you could probably defeat Dr. Strange-o and his Maleficent Towering Iron Fortress.

    I wouldn’t care about fixing the world if I had super-powers. I just think it’d be REALLY cool. I’d get a job as a heavy-freight, long-distance courier. Imagine how awesome that’d be. You could make a lot of money. And being able to get something really heavy across the country in a hurry might have more benefits than you’d think.

  33. Mark says:

    As I see it, the biggest advantage of these powers is that you can go anywhere without being noticed, and the only consequence of discovery is that your discoverers know you were there as you fly out the nearest window. If you’re dead-set on combating Evil, rather than promoting Good as everybody else seems to be suggesting, those powers make you the world’s most effective assassin. Choose someone who unambiguously needs to be killed/arrested/threatened (we’re assuming here that there’s a reasonably reliable way to determine this) and go to town.

    If Superman’s after your ass, you will step lightly. The great risk here is using this tactic against people who don’t deserve it.

    You could also use that ability to go anywhere fearlessly, as suggested above, to be an investigator. Although you have no super senses, there’s surely some way that super speed, super strength, and flying can be combined in the service of targeted surveillance. Find out who and where the real bad guys are, and clean up their respective acts. It’s difficult to remain legitimate in this context.

    If there’s a single country you’d trust in this regard, or at least one that would give you leeway to refuse missions as your conscience dictates, then you’d make one helluva spy.

  34. TooMad says:

    Crash Test Dummy

  35. Coldstone says:

    I think the problem here is that you’re looking at the landscape and missing the details. Don’t look at it as global, but as a really big local area.

    So, what can you do? (short form here)

    Disaster relief or general construction: You have all the qualifications of a massive heavy-lifting crane with a great deal more maneuverability

    Warfare: You have all the necessary qualifications for an anti-ship missile, with better guidance . With the powers above, you’re not a “guard the borders” kind of guy, you’re a “special missions” kind of guy.

    Propaganda: Face it, you start pulling folks out of hurricane-blasted houses and taking out aircraft carriers, on your own, you’re going to get noticed. Once that happens, you become a symbol for the masses, with the ability to sway public opinion, at least until your dark past gets dreged up by some sleazebag reporter.

    And that’s just for starters

  36. Luke Maciak says:

    Shamus, ever read The Watchmen?

    In that universe superheroes are relatively common, but they are all basically masked vigilantes with no powers (ie. Batman/Punisher style). All except one that is – Dr. Manhattan is a genuine superhero – a brilliant scientist who can fly, bend time and space, reconstruct matter and is virtually indestructible. He is essentially a living god.

    His enemies wouldn’t dare to attack him directly. In fact he is the most potent weapon in the US arsenal and he single handedly removed the threat of Cold War. Russians wouldn’t dare to launch missiles knowing he could easily disable or turn them around in mid flight with just a thought.

    He is the most powerful man on the planet, but he is relatively impotent as his every action has extremely high profile. His personal well being has international importance. When he has a mental breakdown during a talk show it becomes an international incident that shifts balance of power on the planet.

    The US govenment doesn’t even really need to use his powers at all. They just aim to keep him confined, relatively happy and away from the public eye. The mere threat of using his powers is what keeps the enemies at bay.

    This is the other side of the medal. Even if you have totally awesome powers to influence the planet would you do it? Would you just walk into a conflict that you don’t really know much about and try to solve it by brute force?

    Would you blindly follow the orders from your government even if it meant killing freedom fighters and installing ruthless power hungry dictators in destabilized countries and policing the world according to doctrines set up by the current government?

    Or would you try to follow your own morals instead and risk being branded as a traitor? Would you try to police the world on your own without tactical intelligence and analysis?

    Could you afford being reckless knowing that a small mistake on your part can send ripples throughout the world, change the political scene and affect stockmarkets around the world?

    Going back to your questions. The character you describe is essentially of the tank superhero variation – and he would do best in fights against super powered villains and is most effective as part of a superhero team.

    Lacking that you could essentially build a covert ops crysis team. Hire few dozen to few hundred people to run intelligence, analysis and support for you. Have people on the ground gather information, have it processed, and analyzed, to develop best plan of attack. Then you swoop in armed with a GPS unit and a radio – you have someone in the base navigating for you. You have people tracking movement on the ground using a satellite giving you heads up on what is going on. Have people monitor police reports all over the world, and prioritize the threats.

    Establish hotlines with major governments so that they can call in when they need your services. Have a clear moral agenda and refuse missions that do not seem right to you. Make sure that people know that you are an impartial third party interested in humanitarian work, not a tactical missile for hire.

    You could be very effective both in combat as well as in rescue type missions given enough support and direction.

    If you put together that team, and they are all working for you with a clear agenda of “making the world a better place” then you could do a lot of good.

    You still wouldn’t stop all crime, and your impact would still be relatively minor, but it would be much better than doing this alone, or working as a man sized helicopter. :P

  37. Neil says:

    I agree that using the powers directly isn’t going to achieve much. On the other hand, the potential for making money is almost limitless, and that money can do so much more good than one indestructible man in one place at one time. For instance, we could always use another foundation along the lines of Bill & Melinda Gates’ — good, grass-roots initiatives that work at fixing the problems from the ground up rather than just greasing the palms of the fat bureaucrats and power-mongers.

    So the real question becomes, what are the best ways to make a lot of money, fast, and keep it coming?

    Well, endorsement deals, obviously. There’s not a cereal, sports drink or running shoe manufacturer in the world that wouldn’t pay big bucks to have your super-healthy face promoting their product (unless you’re unspeakably ugly, in which case forget it).

    As Mike R. pointed out, there’s bound to be money in helping out the space programs of various nations.

    There are probably some film companies that would love to use you as a stuntman. Not sure how much they’d be willing and able to pay though.

    Handling and transportation of hazardous materials might be a lucrative sideline, assuming the invulnerability extends to things like being infected or irradiated (even if it doesn’t affect you directly, you wouldn’t want to be a carrier).

    Power generation would be huge. Good thinking, Nils.

    You’d be a great boon to the construction industry, but I’m not sure there’d be enough money in it to make it worthwhile. You could still only work on one building at a time, and while you fly at super-sonic speeds, you’re not the Flash and everything else still takes time.


  38. Bond says:

    Ironically, it’s a question of asymmetrical warfare. In Iraq, a relatively small group of guerrillas cause a great deal of trouble by popping up unexpectedly and attacking the large unwieldy target (the US army). Similarly, in the hypothetical hero situation, an individual hero would have to pop up unexpectedly and attack any of a wide variety of criminal behavior. In Batman Begins then he points out that by becoming the impersonation of an idea (justice/terror) he can be vaguely helpful. Terror isn’t a rational emotion, even if this hypothetical superhero can’t reliably catch anything, and is much less effective than the police force, it only takes a few incidents where he she or it is vaguely useful before word gets out, and provides an unreasonably large disincentive. Terrorists are a lot less dangerous to the population, per capita, than any of a variety of common diseases, but we generally focus the finance and fear on the terrorists.

    So this hypothetical hero occasionally smites the people he’s really confident are actually bad, does so in a very public way, and despite the fact that he’s not directly making any real dent, he will frighten the rest. Yes it’s vigilantism at its worst, no it probably wouldn’t result in justice by any reasonable standard, but it would potentially be a large ‘net good.’ Unfortunately, this wouldn’t do much about white collar criminals, and there isn’t much one could do about any unpleasantness on a larger scale than a single city, unless one wishes to be a one-man assassination squad.

  39. Deoxy says:

    As far as assassination or warfare goes… can you say “reusable suicide bomber”?

    With some training and professional level costume and makeup, you could pass as nearly anyone, get inside, blowyourslf up, then fly home (probably in the nude… no one ever seems to point out that your clothes wouldn’t be naerly as invulnerable as yourself).

    But serious, putting stuff into orbit and making power would be the two spiffiest things I can think of… hey, just like working portals, actually. Funny how the largest needs can be solved with the ability to break just one rule (creating energy, which is one of the major things a super-hero does, or they’d have to be eating TONS of food per day, literally).

  40. Cadamar says:

    I’m going to completely agree with Jeremy Bowers (post 18).
    By simply making yourself available to the private sector you don’t have to worry about what to do with your powers. Other people will come up with the ideas for you and you just choose which jobs to take and for how much. Considering the projects that you could accept you would make an enormous (think Bill Gates) amount of money very quickly. You can then establish a foundation funded by you and by the donations of others to fight disease, famine, poverty, etc. And since you would have final say on what projects you take you can make sure that they are “good” projects that better mankind in general and not just make money for a few. Then in your “off” time you could donate your time to governement or state services to help fight fires, rescue people (say off of sinking ships or mountain tops), deliver relief supplies, and all of the other great ideas presented.

    You are abolutely correct, Shamus, that you would be completely unable to change human nature. You can’t end war, you can’t end famine, you can’t end violence, you can’t end crime, but through a lot of hard work you can (in the long run) make a huge overall improvement to the human condition by providing the funds to and being a symbol for the people who really will change the world.

  41. Cadamar says:

    Neal, I love the stuntman idea! How fun would that be?
    Ohh! Or you could be a flying camera platform. Just think of the awesome airial shots you could take. Oh, I would totaly take breaks from the work with the Foundation to shoot a movie or two. Sweet!

  42. Lain says:


    42 answers and almost nobody take the obvious.

    What the world go round is BELIEVING.

    So I can think of three possibilities:
    1) Religion:

    Summon people who believe in the same goals like you.
    Make sure, that everybody believes in you as the new prophet, buddha, saint, whatever.
    Develop a Religion around you.
    Declare your rules.
    Develop as much believers than possible. They change the world and they protect you!
    Create a homepage, where everybody can send his wishes.
    Let them analyse. Grant some. Small and big ones. With the best P.R.
    Take some scapegoats and let everybody show, who is the boss.
    Install an church-like organisation. Implement an Inquisition-Force for inside and outside traitors to your believe.
    Kill for your believe, because some fundamentalists never get along with you, else stay as peaceful as possible.
    Try not to show everything, what you can do.
    Avoid poison, radioactivity, rà¶ntgen-, microwaves and the like as long as your not sure, one of them is your kryptonit…
    Develop a stable Religion, but keep yourself uncalculable for avoiding traps.

    Keep your own sanity!!!!

    2) Money.
    Start as construction worker, Transporter, whatever.
    Begin your own “Microsoft”-Company.
    Use the same rules like above, but in an economic way.
    Use your wealth amd your company for change the world.
    See # 37.

    3) Mix 1 and 2

    Your Superpowers are only a better start and gives you an enormous advantage. But thats all! All the villains in this world will hate you as soon as you break their powerstructure. And they will find a way to get rid of you.

    So for changing the world to something better, you must stay invincible in any way! Or they must get aware of you as late as possible.

  43. Dev Null says:

    Fascinating discussion of course, but I dunno folks. We’re getting a lot of suggestions that to me sound like they just wouldn’t work. Like “plow a field in seconds”. Really? And how exactly does that work? I mean, you could hook a plow up to a jet fighter now, but I’m thinking you’re not going to get the results that you’re looking for. Or building a whole town in days. I just don’t see it. Physical strength isn’t even much of a factor in construction these days (useful for carting stuff around, yes, but you could always throw a few more guys at it) and being able to zip across the yard for another batch of nails at the speed of sound isn’t really going to speed you up _that_ much. You might even be able to do the work of 20 men, but you’re still just a guy with a nailgun when it comes to actually putting things together, and the sheetrock doesn’t dry any faster. You’d be better off making a pile of cash somehow and hiring 100 guys to build it for you – not only did you build the town, but you kept 100 guys employed. (Besides, no matter how fast you whip up your town, you’re still going to be there a month waiting for the plumber, the county inspector, and the eletrician…)

    And as for WolfJack, who I kind of hope was kidding when he suggested burning down all of South America to solve the drug problem; even if you wanted to I don’t see how it could work. What can one fast strong guy with a flamethrower do that a planeload of bombs couldn’t do better, if you’re just trying to kill everyone? Or if you meant to only kill the drug-dealers / burn the drug fields then its back to Shamus’ point about how do you find out who / where to flame?

  44. Xiphos says:

    With powers like flight and super strength, I would help rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. That would make the lives of thousands of people better in a relatively short amount of time, not to mention lives saved from crumbling bridges and levees.

  45. Phlux says:

    I agree with those above that attaching yourself to an organization is the best way to go about things. You could do a lot as a one man special forces crew. The missions that would normally be too dangerous or involve collateral damage would suddenly be sugical strikes with no risk to the hero.

    Think Bin Laden is hiding in a cave in afghanistan but it would take days of climbing to reach it on foot and you can’t take a helicopter because they have RPGs all over the place? No sweat…you just fly in, look for signs of activity and go bust some heads. He wasn’t there after all? Oh well, at least none of our guys got hurt trying.

    With training and specialized equipment you could become a pretty lethal covert-ops agent.

  46. Gothmog says:

    Captain Shamus McLaserPants- The issues you bring up are explored in the VERY excellent comic series ‘Powers’ by Brian Michael Bendis. In the story (spoiler) SuperPowers are made illegal when a ‘mirror’-character based on Superman gets so old he becomes unhinged/senile/paranoid and starts doling out his OWN justice. Wiping many ‘hotspot’ right off the map in the process.

    Mari- your ‘benevolent dictator’ scenario is also explored in the, sadly, unfinished ‘MiracleMan’ by various writers, including Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman. In it a superhero eventually takes over the world and sets himself up as a God-like figure above it. The writing is excellent and also very much NOT for children. One of the superheros goes insane and kills almost the entire population of London in gruesome ways before he is subdued.

    I heartily recommend both series.

  47. Nathan says:

    I want the Barnhouse Effect. Weapons with a conscience. Dynamo-psychism. THEN I could get some stuff done.

  48. scragar says:

    The problem with such powers is that everything you do would ruin someones life.

    You put things in orbit, congrats on fireing those who build the rockets on shuttles and who design them.
    You put up buildings really fast then you just lost some builders months of work.

    Basicly, you would need to find a job that no-one can currently do(retiving asteroids for those rare minerals/elements that always appear in comics maybe?), or your incredible powers would harm others.

  49. LoopyWolf says:

    Ya, and yet the big blue cheese is considered the savior of all problems, and that’s all he can do 9.9

    “All I do is punch things..”
    “And yet, he’ll be the one on cereal boxes.. Where’s the justice in that?” –Sky High

  50. A few people now have suggested avoiding making any decisions by your fallible self, and handing the question over to the infallible market.
    This is a horrific idea. The “market” consists of a bunch of folks just as fallible as you, except with much worse motivations. The most “valuable” use for your time and abilities would probably turn out to be as an invulnerable jackbooted thug turning poor people off their land so that agribusiness or dam builders with bribe-driven inflated contracts could take it over. Or as Blackwater International’s most prestigious bodyguard in Iraq.

  51. Nothing says:

    Mari’s plan sounds like Death Note (not that there’s anything wrong with that). My plan would definitely be to work with the government to become my own swat team/anti-terrorism team. Lots of police officers die in shootouts so replacing them with a bulletproof man might be a good idea. The idea would be that you are one cities answer to all armed standoffs.

  52. Nixorbo says:

    Three words: Habitat for Humanity.

  53. BVB says:

    Actually, I’m not so sure that randomly stopping crime would be such a bad idea. Even if the chances of you busting in on (insert crime here) and laying out the perpetrators was quite low overall, do it commonly enough and people will think twice before they rob a bank/kidnap somebody.

    You’d be pretty good as a one-man search team, too. Assuming the powers Shamus talked about, you could just go up there with a thermal imaging camera and scan huge areas for missing people.

    You would also be quite good at finding kidnap victims, if the police could tell their approximate location. Assuming that they were in a car, all you need to do is fly over the general area and look for cars like that (which would be made easier by some form of super sight).

    I don’t really think that the one man LifeFlight idea is all too great. If somebody gets into a car accident and sustains spinal injuries, flying through the air at high speed while getting knocked around would be the last thing you’d want to do, unless you’ve got some form of protection from the elements (and a way to stabilize yourself).

    You might also make a pretty good envoy for world peace. While the total effect you might have would be fairly small, the threat of Dictator X being taken out as soon as he starts a war would be a fairly good deterrent in itself.

    Carrying payloads into space is actually a really good idea. Assuming that you could fly fast enough to get yourself into orbit and that you have enough control to dock with, say, the ISS, you would save tons of money for governments and accelerate the pace of the space program dramatically.

  54. ScottMGS says:

    BVB wrote: …do it commonly enough and people will think twice before they rob a bank/kidnap somebody.

    Most people who do this do it out of desperation and/or stupidity. They won’t be deterred by the superhero.

  55. Ellimystic says:

    Fly madly around the world (remember, I can’t die of starvation or dehydration), tearing all weapons bigger than a sub-machine gun to shreds. Dive-bomb missile silos from as high up as it takes to annihilate them without causing collateral damage, carry the crews off aircraft carriers and then throw the carriers in the general direction of Venus, stuff like that. Once all weapons which could hurt me were gone, I’d deliver an ultimatum.

    “You are to reach peace with each other. You are to, democratically, as one country of six billion, come up with a constitution which is acceptable to all of you. You are to report the minutes of each meeting to me.

    All armies are to disband, as in right now. I don’t have to eat. I don’t have to sleep. I’m going to be patrolling, randomly, and if, a week from today, I see so much as a local militia, I’m killing every man, woman, and child in it.

    If these two requests turn out to be impossible, I am going to act as a human meteor until this entire planet is a lifeless ball of dirt. Have fun peacefully co-operating. I’m watching.”

    Basically, I’d terrorize the world into working things out for itself. I can’t do good things with my powers, but I can blackmail everyone else into doing them for me. Frankly, I think 90% of the world’s problems would be solved if we got rid of the idea of countries. Equal distribution of resources, no military, and those resources which would have gone into killing other peoples would be put into something useful like medicine. It would be global communism, essentially – except this time it would be impossible to break from total egalitarianism because I’d kill whoever was causing the break, until eventually (after a few generations, assuming I’m also immortal) there’s nobody left alive who remembers the old way. Then I’d basically go passive, living life in secret (or on the Moon) unless humans started acting stupid again.

    And, of course, I’d plug volcanos and do all that super-crap while I was at it.

  56. BVB says:

    Most people who do this do it out of desperation and/or stupidity. They won't be deterred by the superhero.

    True enough, but give it enough time and the knowledge that they might find themselves on the receiving end of an attack by (insert superhero here) will become a sort of mental block to ever becoming that desperate in the first place.

    That is a good point, though :)

    Ellimystic: That is admittedly a good idea, but you might want to try doing it more slowly, assuming you’ll live forever. Despite the fact that you’ve forced them into the countryless lifestyle, in their minds countries will still exist. Also, if you’ve got the superpowers that Shamus stated, you are almost invulnerable, not completely so – a nuke could still kill you. However, if you are invulnerable, that is actually a pretty good idea, except that killing people would generate massive bad publicity for you.

  57. Purple Library Guy: That’s a strawman. Both of us who have suggested the market explicitly pointed out that you can still pick which jobs you want. Nobody is forcing you to take evil jobs on, anymore than they do in real life.

    If your response is that these evil people may pay so much that Shamus may break down and do it anyhow, now you understand why I said “The biggest danger of this approach is wealth.” That wasn’t a joke.

    scragar: Look up “broken window fallacy”. The amount of work in the world is not constant. If Shamus does start lifting stuff into space, the market for rocket designers doesn’t dry up… it absolutely explodes! Suddenly, we need rockets of all sizes for all the space equipment that we suddenly have the capability of lofting into the air. (Surely we’re not going to call Shamus for every orbit adjustment?)

    And anybody else who may get displaced will either find other jobs in a now-healthier economy, or perhaps work for the Shamus Foundation.

    Yes, it’s possible that our superhero will destroy an industry; I can’t disprove it. But a much more likely outcome is that by filling economic niches that we don’t even realize exists (what with no superheros in real life), that many industries will suddenly find themselves with more work than they know what to do with.

  58. Lee from Sheboygan says:

    Kudos to whomever talked about the Barnhouse Effect. That was an awesome short story.

    I don’t know what you could do. I think once word got out, realistically, the government would want you on their side. Do you resist them? Do you work for them? Neither option works, because if you work for them, you’re ratcheting up the worldwide tension, and if you turn them down, you have a lot of people who are angry at you.

    As far as natural disaster stuff goes, you’re only one man/woman. You can’t save everybody, so you have to decide you can save and who you can’t.

    Then, when you consider how easily corrupted by power humans are, it would be a disaster.

  59. guy says:

    attacking the silos of the one weapon that can kill you= not a good idea. remember, some weapons are dangerous to you, and you are suggesting attacking them directly. The US might accept the destruction of nukes, but if you try to attack a carrier group, you would be introduced to the sheer amount of fire that hits jet fighters they can put up. you’d have no way of avoiding being seen on rader, it would take many trips to clear out the ships, and that’s not counting that it’ll take more than the half-hour you’ll have before the nukes can be armed to deal with your attacks on the silos. finally, i’m not sure you even could hit the silos hard enough to destroy them. these things are meant to survive 1+ megatons in a near-direct hit.

    you could provide the US with plenty of info, by toting around a sensor system and acting as an invulnerable scout plane. there might be a diplomatic incedent when you overfly the airspace of despotic countries, but they can’t do a thing to stop it. with the right set of sensor systems and flying low enough, you could find all sorts of things they’d rather have hidden, and prove or disprove Iran’s nuclear weapons development program.

    as for torching only the drug fields and not hitting innocents, did you know that opium does not look like corn? there are plenty of known drug fields that the nations who care can’t hit without maybe provoking a war, given what they’d have to bring to beat all the militas who protect them.

  60. robert says:

    Ummmm..guys, this fellow would be able to take over the entire world in a matter of a few days. Just muscle out the leaders of the world banks. Don’t even have to be noisy or public about it.

    Once you control the world’s money supply you control everything else. Without large loans and unfettered access to the world’s banking system todays countries cannot:

    * Wage wars
    * Buy off political supporters
    * Control businesses
    * Payoff media outlets
    * Support “gorilla” fighters / movements.

    Basically, you could bankrupt any individual or government at a whim. No one would dare cross you. No blood would be shed and very few people would even know it happened.

    The “launching things into orbit” could be a fun hobby and a good P.R. stunt if anyone ever finds out what you’re really up to.

  61. Old Man Matt says:

    I really like those ideas for space, like hauling asteroids into orbit for fun and profit. You could even be the first man on Mars and Jupiter and the others. Exploring the bottom of the ocean sounds fun too, but what you really need is a great big drill-mobile to enter a volcano and explore our planet’s interior. Just think of the headlines:

    Captain Shameless to Journey to the Center of the Earth!
    Old Man Shamus Really Has Lost His Mind!
    SuperShamus to Dig His Own Grave Sunday!

    Captain Shamus Fights Unimaginable Horrors Living in Core!
    Upsurge in Volcanic Activity blamed on Iron Shamus!
    Great Big Shamus Finds Diamond the size of Idaho!

    Shamus the Mole Returns to the Land of the Living!

    The more I thing about this the more awesome it seems. If I had those powers this is what I’d want to do with them. I’d even pay people to write that kind of stuff if they weren’t doing it themselves. I wonder what it’s like way down there. I’d bet Venus would be different too.

  62. Mari says:


    It was also explored, much less in-depth, in an episode of Justice League Unlimited. It’s not a new concept at all. And for the record, I don’t suggest that anybody (except me ;-) follow it. I was just thinking out loud on methods by which one could improve human civilisation as a whole if one were the “biggest dog on the block.” I kept coming, inevitably, back to the fact that eventually enforcing “good” on the human race became an exercise in dictatorialism. You can either work on a small scale, as Shamus concluded, or you would wind up becoming ruler of a planet with few personal freedoms, a slave to your own idealism.

  63. Mari says:

    Meant to add: You guys advocating space dumping should really watch an anime called “Planetes.” The basic premise is that it’s the future and the world has become space-faring. But all the crud we dumped into space in our early days has become a major hazard to space travel. So now there are people whose sole job is to gather up space debris and return it safely to earth so that never again will another shuttle perish at the hands of the junk we’ve left up above.

    It really got me thinking. Someday I hope that we do explore the universe or even our solar system more. But at the rate we’re leaving junk in space it’s going to become impossible to navigate the debris field we’re creating in our own upper atmosphere, not to mention our gravitational field.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but dumping our garbage in space isn’t it.

  64. Shawn says:

    Fly to Fred Phelps’s house and use super strength to punch him in the face, then fly away before anyone notices it’s me.

  65. guy says:


    So, you’re going to intimidate/kill multi-national organizations, defeat a large number of governments with their own banks, and then threaten the governments of the world without them realizing they can kill you before they need your money? you’d be forced out of range of heavy and nuclear weaponry really fast, if they don’t catch you by surprise. shamus said it would take the action of a major government to take you down, but that’s exactly what you’re inviting. some nuclear armed nations would not have quams about civilian causilities, and the rest would take advantage of the fact that you can only threaten a small number of banks before getting somewhere your suddenly pursuing b-52 squadron could take you out.

  66. guy says:

    the world now has an opium shortage after the invasion of afghanistan

  67. Kerin says:

    I’d keep my powers a secret, and make a ridiculous amount of money as an athlete. Then I’d use my massive riches to actually make a difference.

    I am nothing if not pragmatic.

  68. David says:

    Garbage, over-population, and power sources. Garbage? Just throw it into the sun. Over-population? Use your fame and fortune to fund off-shore settlements and space travel. Power? Run the treadmill, or, nearly indestructible people would be able to dig vast pits into the mantle for tons of pure geothermal energy.

  69. Rival Wombat says:

    I’d try going to places with serious problems, like Sub-Saharan Africa, and doing things like digging canals and irrigation channels to create more arable land. Of course, I’d need to talk to experts about this terraforming project, but it seems worthwhile. When your there anyway, catch-as-can help people and stop fighting.

  70. Chuk says:

    I think I might take a more commercial approach — become a super celebrity, use the money made to help your humanitarian missions, and try to set a good example for your young fans. Sure, you could probably sign up with any number of well-funded organizations if money was the main problem, but it’d be nice to have influence over public opinion on your side, too.

  71. Smyth says:

    Here is the real way to help the world. I am indestructable, fast, and strong. Using myself as a kinematic weapon seems like a good plan. I am sure people would be willing to hire my services, and once they reveal themselves as the bad guys, I fold them inside out. Keeping the money they paid me with of course.

    Or, I hire myself out to government organizations to pull pranks on other world leaders. Imagine how much presidential hopefuls would be willing to pay to get a pie delivered to the face of an opponent at the speed of sound.

    With all that (ill gotten) money, I could donate to charity and repeat the cycle.

    Oh and as for space dumping, the universe is huge, even if we dumped the earth into space, space wouldn’t feel it.

  72. wildweasel says:

    Okay. Super strength, flight, and invincibility? Well, since I know from moderating message boards that it’s impossible to make everybody happy, I wouldn’t bother using my powers to enforce the law/save people’s lives/kill political undesirables, as while that would make my “clients” happy, it might anger a good majority of the rest. So I’d probably just use my powers to make my life (and the lives of my friends and immediate family) more enjoyable.

    With super strength, I would be able to lift heavy things…things like that bastard that parked in my spot in front of my house. It’d probably turn into a giant game of Sokoban as I figure out where all the open spaces are that I can fit the other cars, but as long as I can park in front of my own house, it doesn’t matter.

    Flight? Well, forget everything I said about cars – I wouldn’t need my parking spot anymore if I could just fly everywhere. Not to mention, getting my maps off of Google Earth would be infinitely more useful, since what I see on Google Earth is exactly what I’m going to be seeing from my bird’s-eye view of the city. In conjunction with my super-strength, I could, in theory, carry my entire family (and then some!) on my back as I take them to a movie in the next town over. No more “but the gas prices are so high!!” excuses…I can finally go see Rambo with the parents.

    Invincibility? Hmm. Well, aside from letting my friends spar with me (or just practice on me), I can’t think of any reason why I want to be invincible. Invisible, that’d be useful. But the inability to take damage would really only benefit the extreme sports crowd. Though with my newfound ability to resist injury…maybe I could get in with the extreme sports crowd myself. Skydiving without a parachute…or a plane. Leaping off buildings to freak people out and then using my flight skills to stop myself shortly before landing on some rich bureaucrat’s Lexus.

  73. C David Dent says:

    I would find 5 people I trust, and 5 people I don’t trust..possibly even hate. These would become my “Group of Operation Deciders”. They can ask me to do anything that is within my powers to accomplish and I’ll do it, on the condition that these 10 people also explain to me how it will make the world better.

    Anything I do for the G.O.D. would then have to be self-perpetuating. I won’t keep doing the same thing over and over. I’ll be a scalpel, but I won’t be the life-support. Need an evil dictator gone? No problem, but then I won’t be responsible for running the country until a new leader is found.

    If I ever do anything that worsens the world, then those 10 are out and I get a new 10. I might even pluck folks out at random to become my new G.O.D.

    As long as things are getting better, I’ll keep doing as they ask. Short of doing myself harm, that is. Occasionally I may suggest something that needs to be done, but ultimately my G.O.D. has to ratify it or it doesn’t get done.

    Why the committee? I mean, honestly, if you are nigh invulnerable and capable of flight and feats of superhuman strength, then why would you need to take orders from anyone?

    Plain and simple, they are scapegoats. The rules are simple, if it goes bad, THEY take the blame, not me. Even if it is my fault for poor execution, then they are the ones who pay for my failure. They wield the responsibility, and I reap the accolades.

    I am certain that there are more than enough opportunities for income from marketing, endorsements, and personal appearances when I am not working for the G.O.D. to pay for any reparations (and there will be some I am sure). Or to cover any operating expenses (websites, secretarial, and publicity teams).

    Perhaps some sort of “performance metric” that measures number of good deeds per quarter or so…something that measures how many lives affected positively to measure performance and hold each group to an escalating goal range…I am sure it would push my abilities, but if you have them, why not use them?

    Hm, this is fun. Lets see, scientific team, too, I think. Trying to find a way to duplicate my abilities in others or a way to pass them along to another if needed.

    I think a club for people who want to emulate at a local level the kind of work I will be doing at a global level. Criteria for establishing a local G.O.D. that makes demands of the club to accomplish good or be disbanded.

    And ultimately I will need a way out. A nemesis (coached, and crafted by the G.O.D) who will be tasked with first “eliminating” me and then replacing me, then being “Eliminated” himself by cooperative effort of al the other clubs and heroic groups. All orchestrated in a way that leaves the world with a gaping loss but a plan for fixing the world itself.

    How’s that?

  74. Yahzi says:

    The Space Elevator is a great idea. But you could still do political good – imagine how much tractable North Korea would be if you could make Kim Jong Ilshow up for a UN trial.

    Imagine how the entire Iraq war might have been averted if you could have made Saddam show up for a trial – or just flown into the places he wouldn’t let the inspectors go.

    (It would be a lot easier for a super-hero to find a tyrant than it was for the US Army to find Saddam. The Army had an over-riding constraint: they had to avoid letting their soldiers get killed. Super-Shamus wouldn’t have that problem. He could just fly into the local palace and look around. Also, he would get more help from the locals – because they would believe he could bust the bad guy, and they would be more willing to risk helping him.)

    The cool thing is, it only works against tyrannies. What good is it to drag the President of the USA off to Antarctica? The people will just replace him. Democracies, by their very nature, are relatively insensitive to the removal of a few people. But tyrannies are extremely sensitive to it. And the people who respond best to threats of force are… people who issue them on a regular basis.

    So all in all, I think it could be reasonably effective.

  75. C David Dent says:

    in reading through … it looks like Lain hit on the same idea I did (although I had an exit strategy). He also discussed it in meta-terms, whereas I used a specific plan. Lain, you are one of my 10.

    Mari, you are on my list too. Just one of the 5 I *Don’t* trust.

  76. Davesnot says:

    I like your take on the pre-emptive strike.. No.. really.. he’s a bad guy… uh.. really.. he has weapons of mass destruction… honest..

    Sorry.. I went there.. huh..

    I think I’d just start a blog and help old people carry in their groceries.. maybe help tow some stranded cars.. help people stuck in the snow.. maybe make money as a coconut opener..

    or maybe make a bike that generates electricity and pedal the crap out of it while I play video games.. and put some power back into the grid..

  77. Greyyguy says:

    The thing about positing the existence of super-powers is that you would have to assume that if they could happen to one person, then it could happen to another. So there would likely be another person with powers. Would you work together? get along?

    With the abilities listed, crime would be trivial. Especially with a secret identity. Steal as a cape, live as a mundane. Move to someplace with a lot fewer cameras and requirements for ID and it would be an easy life. You could be a Robin Hood sort, but still crime would be the easiest solution with those abilities.

    The other suggestions of working for a government or overthrowing a corrupt one, or starting your own religion all have the same problems. They make the group you are helping completely dependent on you. Unless immortality is part of the deal, that means there will be a huge power vacuum when you die. Sure it might be a long way from now, but historically speaking those power vacuums were the cause of very bloody conflicts. So think of the good you might do in your time, and then how that reliance could be exploited as soon as you are gone. Has any good been done?

    The best thing to do would be to keep yourself hidden. Secret identity. Only show yourself when you have to. Robing hood the bad guys you can find. And only help when you should. You don’t want to make the mundanes a pet where you protect them from every little thing up to and including themselves.

  78. Rason says:

    I think you best bet would be to help put an end to world hunger. Your super strong, and fast, which means you could farm 20x more than the average person in a day. But, your real impact is the delivery of the food around the world, being super fast and strong, you could carry large shipments of food to where they need to go, and protect those shipments. One of the biggest problems with food distribution around the world is that local gangs scoop up the shipments and then sell it to the intended recipients. Maybe you could ‘convince’ half of the worlds golf courses to convert their land into farms to help supply your efforts ;)

  79. Assaf says:

    Just a couple of replies:
    a. destroying all weapons in the world and forcing people to have peace.
    In truth all you are doing is making it worse. Today in most free countries (and even those who are not so free) we have police which can take care of criminals, if you take out everything then you are the only police which makes you considerably less effective (there must be many millions of cops around the globe). This is even true in a larger community, how do you protect yourself from others who are more aggressive and have larger numbers? The idea that if there were just no war everything would be better is a big lie. war is often the best way to protect yourself (think for example of the Nazis, if they would just murder people internally would you expect the world to sit and watch?)
    b. There is nothing wrong with being able to think for yourself, most governments today are corrupt, but still you might go ask the intelligence corps of your nation who are the dangers and be effective, for example you might be able to destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities without anyone knowing how it was done, talk about plausible deniability.
    c. As for taking on the life of crime: why should I get small change by robbing banks when I can get rich legally? As some people stated there are legal ways to get rich. Furthermore, if you rob a bank in your masked identity how will you explain the money in your civilian one? getting money you can use is useless. As for getting rich, consider a transatlantic flight: it costs around 500-1000$ per ticket with 200-400 passengers. You can just join a company, build a box (not a real plane as you do not need engines etc. and even the wings are for stability only) and fly it at super sonic speeds. so you get 100-400k$ per flight, lets say for simplicity 100K$ after expenses, at supersonic speeds it takes a couple of hours of work, not bad you say? you can make it better with bigger planes. The other ideas people stated would also work. This could make you millions of US$ per month.
    d. Take over the world: Not that easy. Sure you can beat up everyone you want but how do you control the world? you are just one man (or woman). People will just ignore you when you are not around. Sure you can take what you want but you need to be there to make it work.

    The bottom line is that I would probably just hide my abilities or use them in explainable ways because the reality is that if I use them publicly (or even tell people in the government about it) people WILL find out who I am and then my life and the life of everyone I know is OVER. Come on, some criminal mastermind (or the village idiot) will just take my family hostage to force me to do stuff. Its too easy. So I would keep it a secret, maybe create a construction company and speed stuff along at night or something similar.

    Sorry for the long post…

  80. James Pony says:

    With the powers listed in the blog post, I would: Save money, otherwise spent on buses and trains, by flying until I finish studying. Then I would work in construction or metal (good pay due to employee shortages) until (if ever) I get my drawing business going. Then pass my conscription because with super strenght (and invulnerability) my legs and back will not break from the stress. Then work more, either construction/metal or drawing.

    And with all the nice salary I would nicely earn I would nicely buy nice beer and nice movies and enjoy them nicely and fuck your world because my world being a better place can actually happen without super-extended life-span (say, a thousand or ten thousand years AT THE VERY LEAST), super-intelligence, political skills and infinite funding.

    And then I’d probably get a nice car and live in my nice house in the middle of the nice forest and you can’t come and play because I don’t like commies, terrorists and people, and you is all of the above.
    But Shamus can come if he likes beer and won’t quote Monty Python while watching the same.

    It might be fun being the God-Emperor of Earth, though. Or just being able to change my looks at will. Or, or…

  81. Zaxares says:

    Excellent, EXCELLENT post, Shamus. I’m already loving this discussion. :D

    As you’ve pointed out, even if you’re a superhero, your powers are really quite limited if you’re trying to make a difference in the world. (Unless you intend to become a super-villain, but that’s another discussion altogether). One other problem you didn’t mention is that eventually, people become annoyed with your interference. People generally don’t like being told what to do, to have restrictions placed on them. If you made it a point to stop any major wars in the world from breaking out by flying over to the region and beating up all those responsible, you’d soon be viewed as a tyrant intent on enforcing your own ideal of peace on the world.

    I’ve put a lot of thought into this issue, and I eventually decided that if I really want to make a huge change to the world, I’d need three super powers.

    1. The power to foretell possible futures.

    By setting myself up as an Oracle, I can pretty much guarantee that every single major world leader and power will seek my advice before embarking on any course of action. After all, wouldn’t you want to know if global warming will really threaten the existence of humanity before committing to a complete economic restructure that will cost billions of dollars and ruin potentially thousands of people’s lives? In the same vein, nobody would launch any wars without consulting me (in case they end up on the losing side).

    Furthermore, the UN would need me as an invaluable aide if it truly seeks to end problems like world hunger and poverty. Only I would be able to tell them which plans would work and which plans would fail.

    Of course, eventually some people will start to see me as a nuisance. By my very existence and people asking me for advice, I will restrict people’s freedoms by dissuading them from paths they would otherwise have taken. If I told, say, the Catholic Church that its policies were flawed and if they do not modernise and adapt, they will die out as a religion in 674 years, you can bet I’d upset a LOT of people. Which leads me to my second power…

    Btw, the above is a TOTALLY random example and not indicative of my real views towards the Catholic Church.

    2. Immortality.

    I am immortal, and no force in the universe can destroy me. No disease affects me. The ravages of time do not touch me. Any wound I suffer is instantly healed or regenerated. Although I continue to eat, breathe and sleep, I can freely go without those activities if I need to (although it may not necessarily be a pleasant experience). Even if I were to be vaporised by some incredible power, I can simply reincorporate my body from surrounding matter with but a thought.

    This will stop all those pesky assassins and super-villains trying to kill me. The only remaining weakness I have is if somebody tries to imprison me indefinitely, which is addressed in my final power…

    3. Teleportation.

    I can freely travel to any location I can imagine. My immortality power allows me to visit even the most inhospitable places, and in my free time I’d probably use this power to visit places no man has ever seen (or will see).

    With all these powers taken together, I can set myself up as a omniscient, eternal, invulnerable advisor to the people of Earth. People can ask for my guidance, and I shall grant it, and they have the freedom to go their own way, if they so wish.

    But of course, nothing says I can’t lie about my predictions in order to guide the world towards a better future. :P Like any parent with a young child, sometimes you simply know better.

  82. Lain says:

    As far as I understand Shamus, the rules for this discussion are the kind of the described powers and the goal, how to change the world.

    My personal views are widely different.

    My three powers would be:
    a) The abilitiy, that nobody on earth can generate negative feelings and a wish to harm me directly or indirecty (Family, money, friends) equal, of what I do. Only then, you have peace. Immortality or Invincibility and all the other Superpowers become useless.

    b) Every of my orders must be fulfilled in the supposed way, I meant it. (Is more easier then always to think about the perfectly used sentences, for that the victim of my orders can misinterpret them)

    c) have an beautiful healthy, muscular Body with a perfect big small Shamus for optimal fun. That Body includes total Immunization against Gas, Poison, Bacterias, Illnesses, HIV, Cancer, AGEING etc. pp.

    Then order a lot of CEOs to give me good donated consultant jobs, for doing almost nothing.
    Take your best friends and make party the rest of my life in all the world.

    (And live out all my sexual fantasies, especially in the S/M section. Harharhar. Take this, you dumb arrogant Schiffer/ Klum/ (insert most favorite dreamgirl)-Bitch!)

    Then your own conscience will force you sooner or later to change the world here and there a bit. You simply order the right people to do it. And if you dont know, with that powers, how to get to these people, you are not worth them.

  83. ngthagg says:

    There’s a lot on here and I don’t have time to read it all, but I thought I’d add this link (which hopefully no one else has posted yet) on an economist’s advice for Superman:


  84. Lancewithabee says:

    Rule #1: never let them see your face! Even if you can resist the temptation to become a benevolent dictator*, once someone finds out who you are your friends and families become blackmail targets. Even if you only use you power for humanitarian purposes, someone is going to say: i need that power working for me.

    It would likely be pretty lonely. I think Spiderman is pretty realistic in how the world would react. People finding out who you are is bad for those around you, but people have trouble trusting masked man.

    I think Shamus man would find it hard to save the world. But each of us has the ability to make it a little better, happier without superpowers. Thanks for doing your but Shamus.

    * Benevolence is hard to stick with. you have to keep crime under control, what would your legal system be? Who would you trust to say: “those people are bad, take them out”.

  85. Unconvention says:

    That set of powers is ideal for certain acts of humanitarian relief.

    At the moment, charities raise funds, buy food, clothes and medical supplies. Those supplies get flown to countries in need, then loaded onto trucks which are then hijacked long before they reach the people who need them. Money (and how it’s spent) is obviously an issue for most charities, which is why they don’t use helicopters to deliver supplies to those in need, but the cost of upkeep of a single man or woman who can fly tons of supplies at supersonic speeds would be much cheaper than a fleet of trucks, and the supplies would actually get there.

    It might not be global change, but it would bring a very real improvement to the lives of tens of thousands of people per year.

    And if you need some spare cash to fund you charitable activities (and keep yourself in some comfort), you can offer the same heavy lift service to companies. There’s a TV show that’s been showing in the UK recently about a DeBeers mine in Canada which only gets heavy supplies delivered to it for a 6 month period when a road can be built over a frozen lake. They would pay millions for year round delivery…

    As for the issue of intelligence, those charities (and environmental groups) could be used as an advisory body on the pros or cons of any company requesting your services.

  86. Neil says:

    Just to put the nail in the coffin of the idea of running around gathering up all weapons, etc… remember, you’re not superfast other than flight, and you don’t have the super-intelligence, x-ray vision, etc. to know where all the weapons are located in the first place.

    You might get a handful of missiles before all the countries caught wind of what is going on and deliver the ultimatum to you: stop it, now, or we launch everything we have at America (or wherever you’re from).

  87. Scourge says:

    Creating coal with your hands with superstrength? Great, what use has this? Diamonds are so expensive because they are seldom, if you can create them this easily will their worth drop.

    Stopping a train with superstrength/invulnerability? Unless you ram your feet into the ground and push against the train, and are prepared to be pushed forwards through the, will you not stop it in an instant.

    (This kinda reminds me of DBZ. “Oh, beware me, I’ve trianed so much and am so strong that I can deflect a bullet with my muscled chest!”)

  88. Davesnot says:

    Hmm.. yeah.. without a healthy dose in intelligence you’ll be manipulated and think you’re saving the world..

    Nope.. I think hang low.. maybe be a famous big wave surfer.. but don’t compete (that’s cheating).. go ahead and take some endorsements.. and pedal my generator bike to make clean power .. and maybe shred up lots of paper into pulp to make reclycled paper more affordable..

    The trick is that not many people, super or not, ever know who they are or what they want… that’s why it’s so hard to leave a message on an answering machine.

  89. Olly says:

    It seems everyone is forgetting the limitations on the proposed set of powers. The invulnerability is only such that you can “hold your breath for hours” limitting the direct space flight approach and indeed allowing the possibility of drowning or asphyxiation. You are not the proud owner of any kind of extra sensory or rapid reaction ability and as such are just as prone to the human reaction time as anyone else; though you can hold your breath what good is it after you have already inhaled the potentially lethal gas?

    Further the sum of the invulnerability seems to affect radiation, heat and direct impact or pressure; electrocution isn’t mentioned at all. Setting yourself up in any kind of situation whereby you directly conflict with a major world power will almost certainly lead to the testing of your capabilities; literally everything will be thrown at you in an attempt to stop you. Worse still the more you survive the harder and more varied attacks any aggressor will try, and how long would it take them to find such a weakness?

    Assuming you can control your flight ability equally well in free space as you can within the Earth atmosphere, and further that you would be able to maintain the same speed, space travel would prove to be somewhat time consuming. Given you can travel as fast as a fighter jet, around 1’400mph say, and that our moon is at a distance of 240’000 miles away that is going to be a 172 hour flight. You can still starve to death in that time. Though ideally both the time concern and the fact that your body will have other functions to deal with (still have to eat and sleep after all) can be dealt with through development of a space vehicle in which you yourself are the propulsion system.

    Sorry, it’s just a habit that I always seem to hunt down the flaws and weaknesses in any superhero.

    Given the powers myself though? I’d probably become a major celebrity (as it would be nigh unavoidable) and sleep, very carefully, with the hottest girl on the planet ;)

    (I know this wouldn’t make the planet a better place, but I’d almost certainly cause more harm than good doing anything else.)

  90. Ben says:

    I agree with the “take over the world” ideas in this thread, although I’d probably go for a smaller country first, see how it works, then build up an empire via invasions and annexing neighbouring realms. It depends though on whether or not invincibility would cover aging, as there’d be a vast fight between the “heirs” when the ruler died, and probably a lot of corruption given the nature of humans, although not more than normal if the countries were given democracy for their leaders and merely had to follow the world laws, instead of independent country ones. This would of course include my long-held belief that everyone should be castrated at a young age and only given back their bodily parts (or the necessary cells) when they’ve passed some kind of parenting theory test, including a 6 month course and practicing parenting with a fake child, as I find that merely relying on the practical test allows far too many twits through.
    Given the failure of this idea however (as I suspect that people are inherently nasty little buggers, probably including myself if I got unlimited power, even with the best of intentions) then, with the listed powers, I’d probably be a pretty good search and rescue team on my own with the possibility of saving hundreds of lives from sinking ships etc, which would at least make some small difference.

  91. Sidewinder says:

    Imagine the political conflict between nations that you would cause. Whatever nation you belong to is going to be forced to sign treaties by the rest of the world promising that you will not one day decide to fly in and start blowing up cities. Even if you’re not capable of that, governments tend to blow things out of proportion. Plus, you could never take any vacations without people either fearing you for what you’re capable of, accosting you for autographs, or demanding that you perform search and rescue missions for their country.

    The government of your own country would fear you, and would probably force you to sign similar documents that the government itself was forced to sign. Even worse, what city gets you within that country? Acting as search and rescue in New York your whole life will cause a massive influx of safety-concerned folks moving to New York.

    It’s be better to work internationally, alternating on which country you help per month and declaring utter neutrality and alienation from any countries intent on going to war with one another.

  92. Bruce says:

    Most ideas have been covered. Ultimately you do seem like a glorified delivery system. Throw garbage into the sun – it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

    I think one of your main advantages is you can go where-ever you want. You can report on trouble spots around the world without worrying about being killed or imprisoned. To avoid retaliation you would have to not be aligned to any particular country, though to an organisation perhaps (e.g. UN).

    Sometimes you don’t have to know which “side ” is right, just what actions are right. The ones with the clubs/machete’s/guns killing the ones without clubs/machete’s/clubs are the bad guys.

    As for changing the world, that’s not going to happen. People will still be people. You might serve as some sort of heroic figurehead to some but that’s it, you just save who you can. It’s like the boy on a beach of a thousand starfish throwing them back into the sea one at a time. A man says “What are you doing, you can’t throw them all back, there’s too many. It’s meaningless”. The boy picks one up and says “It means a lot to this one”.

  93. Evilllama says:

    Yeah, your most useful asset is chucking biohazardous waste into the sun. You could also bump the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project along nicely, being able to fly through space and all.

    I wonder if your children would have super-powers too. I mean, you could form an entire army of half-superheroes.

  94. Cameron says:

    Hm, everyone seems to think that space hauling is the best use of powers…

    Well if we go ahead and decide that we can indeed survive in the coldest environment over long periods of time without eating, drinking, sleeping or breathing and that the lack of a pressurized environment would cause no harm to us (note that the original rules don’t say we are immortal supermen), then let’s move on to my biggest issue…

    Space is pretty big.

    According to the rules we can fly “sonic speeds; like a jet fighter” and “can throw several tons; the weight of a tank”. That means if we are lucky, we will go as fast a spaceshuttle. So, besides cost (assuming we will allow ourselves to be hired for under the price of a spaceshuttle) how are we an improvement over any other spacecraft? You say hauling power, but it seems to be that a spaceshuttle could probably haul as much, or more than we could (keep in mind throwing several tons is effectively what space shuttles do, they just throw them straight up).

    So we are no faster, and can carry no more than a space shuttle (or at least we are not a significant improvement over them). Now: what kind of jobs could we preform?

    Throwing garbage into space/the sun? Again assuming that we would have no problem getting close enough to the sun (which presumably would be far more deadly than a nuclear weapon) then we still are no more an improvement over any other machine capable of aiming trash into the sun. I am assuming there are reasons why there are no current plans to shoot garbage or other materials into the sun now, even throw we do probably have the technology to do it.

    Mining asteroids? I confess, I have no training in physics or astronomy or anything that could help me in this beyond my own assumptions but… wouldn’t that be terribly difficult? If we first assume that asteroids move slow enough that it would be easy to catch them (sure we move fast, but theoretically they still move at a rate that it’d take months to catch them), then applying resistance against them must be extremely difficult. Again I don’t know much about physics but, wouldn’t stopping and redirecting the force of a ridiculously huge amazingly fast chunk of minerals greatly surpass our given example of being able to throw a tank? When I think of asteroids I do not think of a chunk of rock the size of a house, I think of something close to the size of a small mountain (this is probably the size that would make our mining worth while, isn’t it?).

    Anyway assuming that the previous things are not even problems, then we still have to realize: this would take a while. Like I said space is pretty freaking big, if it takes the space shuttle months to accomplish it’s missions, it will take us at least that long. Maybe longer due to the fact we aren’t as smart as a team of rocket scientists.

    We unlike machines aren’t able to calculate trajectory to the precise degree that would be necessary to be able to accurately determine the path of any moving objects (such as the earth or asteroids or any large objects we might want to direct the path of).

    Heck, we’d be lucky if we didn’t get out into space and weren’t instantly made useless due to being surrounded by darkness unable to tell up from down in a place that has nearly no usable guidepoints.

    Machines are more adapt for space, we’d be best doing commercials for Nike and donating the money.

  95. Greg says:

    As a scientist my temption would be to spend some time being studied. What happens if someone takes my blood? Is it invincible? Could it be used for a transfusion with a 0 chance of rejection? How does this invincibility work, if you cut a bit off does it grow back? Could you give someone a hand and they could keep cutting it up for infinate free blood transfusions?

    Lets say for arguments sake that science is a dead end and all research shows I’ve got my superpowers but can’t pass them on in any way or take advantage of them to create great leaps in medicine. There’s still probably substantial advantage in helping out the scientific community. “Hey superguy, can you take these containers to Saturn and fill em up” “Sure, see you tomorrow”

    Speaking of space, there’s a lot of money in space tourism, if you could get an approrpiate suit to keep people alive you could probably make a few billion in a few weeks zipping them up to take a look at the planet. A few weeks to pump a few billion into the charities of your choice isn’t a bad play, perhaps enough to start to make a dent in world hunger.

    Though isn’t that largely a logistics problem? The first world throws away nearly enough food to feed the third, could a really fast VTOL with near infinate carrying capacity treat that as a logistics problem and try to fix it? Worth a go.

    Course a lot of these problems are the result of the actions of a few people in power. Those people have got to start getting nervous if flying invincible can-toss-you-into-the-sun guy starts complaining about how they’re doing things. Are you smart enough to make those decisions well? Probably not, but there will be people who are, it wouldn’t be that much trouble to gather enough intelligent wellmeaning people, give them everything they’ve ever wanted so there’s no cause for corruption and start taking their votes on which actions you’ll force.

    I guess it all depends on what sort of a better world you want.

    The options are endless.

  96. RHJunior says:

    The philosophical answer:

    A man was walking along the beach after a storm when he spotted a young boy coming the other way. Every now and then the boy would stop, pick something up and throw it back into the water. When he got closer he saw that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed ashore in the storm that had just passed, and throwing them back into the sea.

    He stopped the boy and asked him why he was doing this… there were so many of the things washed onto the sand that he couldn’t possibly hope to make a difference. The boy looked at the starfish in his hand. “It makes a difference to this one,” he said, and threw it back into the waves.

    Don’t discount the value of doing “little” things.

    The practical answer:
    First off, if you don’t have training you’re going to be highly motivated to GET some. And take a turn at the training for each: fire department, search and rescue, paramedic, etc. And network with various experts to maximize your abilities— having a few experts on speed-dial for various situations doesn’t hurt, and a committed support team is another good idea. (Many superhero comics feature this concept these days… more than one has the superhero getting real-time advice over his headset radio from a “call-in brain.”)

    Second, if you don’t have super-senses, by golly there’s a lot of technology out there to compensate for that shortcoming— most of the stuff you’d need comes right off the rack at radio shack…shoot, you can get half batman’s utility belt in a single cell phone.

    Third— don’t waste time trying to “save the world.” It’s not only out of your league, it’s dangerous ground to walk on. Karl Marx thought he was saving the world. Hitler thought he was saving the world. Ho Chi Minh thought he was saving the world. Osama bin Laden, the Ayatollah, the Unabomber– all “world savers.”
    People out to save the world tend to not notice when they trample unimportant things. Like people.

    Leave saving the world to Jesus. Stick to helping thy neighbor, yourself. Its a more achievable goal and it
    contributes to the greater whole more than you know.

    Don’t discount the value of social work, either. Contributing to a PR campaign, assisting in a rebuilding effort, doing a “support the troops” tour, being a Secret Santa… the power of an icon is that it can inspire others. Be a GOOD icon, and you contribute more than your mere physical efforts.

  97. ArchU says:

    The [Marvel] comic series “Runaways” touches on some of those issues since the heroes are a bunch of kids who can only achieve so much with the powers that they have. Singularly, a super-powered person couldn’t accomplish many world changing things for good, using just means. It would take a group-effort and a lot of cooperation by powerful or influential factions.

    #24 Mari: Re-educating the entire world would take a lot of time and patience. If your invulnerability included longevity it could possibly be done but it looks like you’re describing a setting for one to become a god-like figure, worship included. If the invulnerability only meant an average human lifespan the world would gradually break down again after the demise of it’s “saviour”, even if the entire plan had been executed beforehand.

    Humans are the world’s biggest problem. The only way to solve it for good is to remove them all! ^.~ *flee*

  98. laesin says:

    By Jove I think you’ve cracked it. Now to figure out how to use those powers to purge the earth of humankind. Any ideas?

  99. Kallahim says:

    This reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes comic that had the punchline of “Quick to the Bat-Fax!!!”, talking about why superheroes and villains cant be realistic and correlate with world issues.

  100. Mike R. says:

    Regarding Space; You wouldn’t really be halling things all the way to the moon or mars. You’d be hauling them out of the Earth’s orbit and letting them go and then going back down to hall some more stuff out of Earth’s orbit. It’s getting into orbit that is one of the most expensive parts. If you could get things into orbit for “free” then space travel would be about 10 – 100x easier than it currently is. Now that doesn’t mean we’ll be drinking mai-tais on Mars without a space-suit anytime soon, but it does open up some possibilites that are currently not cost effective to us.

  101. Ozy says:

    Humans are the world's biggest problem. The only way to solve it for good is to remove them all! ^.~ *flee*

    And that’s exactly what you do! Use science to create posthuman creatures that are both of superior intelligence and contain none of humanities most glaring flaws. These creatures don’t even have to be particularly alien in mindset, as an altruistic genius with no concept of pride or jealousy is within the range of human possibility. The difference, of course, would be that everyone being like that results in a superhuman society, even if none of its members are strictly superhuman as individuals.

    Then, exterminate humanity, probably by global sterilization if you want to be humane about it. Having done that, Terran civilization will be preserved for eons after your death, if you pulled off your posthumans right. If you didn’t quite get it right in ways that don’t become apparent for a few centuries, well, nobody would be better suited to fixing the problem than them.

    The problem, of course, is that you couldn’t do any of that yourself, since intelligence is not among the listed superpowers, so you’d have form an empire to do it for you, but charisma is not among your powers either. So I guess this is all hypothetical, but the point remains that a sufficiently intelligent, altruistic, and charismatic individual could conceivably solve all of society’s problems, given the power of near-future technology.

  102. Kris says:

    One reference you might want to check out is Mark Millar’s excellent graphic novel “Red Son,” which essentially reimagines what might have happened if Superman had landed on the planet 12 hours later, in Russia. He becomes a communist leader, and eventually realizes that he could in fact run the world much better than it was being run, virtually eliminating poverty, crime, and so on within two decades, brainwashing any detractors. In the end, he has a crisis of conscience and leaves the world in the more-than-capable hands of humankind, in particular Lex Luthor. It’s a fascinating read, and potentially relevant.

  103. Ozy says:

    Kris! Spoiler warning, please? I’ve already read Red Son, but come on! Why would you give away a major plot point in something you’re recommending? Jerk.

  104. The diamond-making thing has been mentioned, and also the supply-and-demand problem with the diamond-making thing.
    I’m not convinced the diamond-making thing would work in the first place (if it was as simple as squishing coal you’d think there would be industrial processes), but assume it did–clearly the thing to do would be, go to the people at De Beers and sign a contract where they pay you a handsome sum annually *not* to make diamonds. They already go to considerable lengths to constrict diamond supply; bribing you would be a drop in the bucket.

  105. WaterSinger says:

    With those powers, I would most definitely put myself into some kind of humanitarian work. Building wells, plowing fields, etc etc. I’d volunteer myself up to first world countries for other things they wanted (flying important packages to other countries, etc) in order to obtain supplies for my work; most of the things less developed countries need to flourish aren’t expensive to produce, people just don’t like to give things away. All I’d ask in return is a place to live and food to eat, everything else I’d get from my errand runs for more rich countries.

    I’d also probably use my powers to go on the occasional vacation. With super strength and flight combined, I’d take myself and maybe a friend or two to some nice tropical location for a few days of relaxation at virtually no cost.

  106. ergot says:

    Better Living Through Tyranny.

    Right now, there’s no shortage of corporations that do a lot of despicable things because they are bound only to make money for their investors. If they intentionally do something with a goal other than making money, their shareholders can sue them, and they lose money. This is the worst thing that can happen to them, so: it is the only consequence that informs their decisions.

    If there is a powerful force that says things like “Electric car on the market in 5 years” or “Immediately cease production on all SUV models” or “No more hiring people for 38 hours a week to skip out on giving them benefits” with a consequence like “or I will start wrecking your factories and sinking your freighters, and just to show you how serious I am I’m throwing a dumpster full of rocks through your corporate HQ”, then perhaps they will make other decisions.

    You could use the same techniques on other powerful entities that aren’t doing what you want them to do. Sure, you could do all sorts of public works projects, but I bet you could get a lot more done being the invulnerable and extremely cranky conscience of amoral global power brokers.

  107. Dave says:

    I hate to quibble, but I’m gonna . . . Re: all the comments about hauling things into orbit, look back at the parameters outlined above, where it says you can fly at “supersonic speeds”, more or less at the speed of a fighter jet, so somewhere in the low Mach numbers (2 to 3-ish). Getting things into orbit isn’t just a matter of getting them *high* enough, it’s a matter of getting them moving *fast* enough: if you haul a satellite up to low Earth orbit and drop it at the speed of a fighter jet, it’s just going to fall. (Maybe you can throw it really fast to get it up to the Mach 25-ish speeds you need to keep it there, but then we’re back into problems of how these delicate objects will respond to being gripped and thrown by SuperGuy/Shamus, etc.)

    Anyway, the point is that *massive* changes in velocity are required for any of the above-proposed plans to bring things into orbit, either from the surface of the Earth or from further out in space. Please take this into account when planning your super-heroic exploits. :)

    [I suppose, come to think of it, that asteroids might be durable enough that you could fly out and push on them for a long time, and eventually get the velocity change you’d need. I’m still dubious about the LEO satellite plan, though. Unless, of course, your top speed is only fighter-jet level in the atmosphere, and you can go faster once you’re out of it . . . I guess we’d need to know how your flight actually worked: do you just output constant thrust, or what? If you were a constant source of fuel-free thrust, of course you could eventually get anything going as fast as you liked.]

  108. Mereel1138 says:

    While a bit outside of the opening requirements there’s an interesting take on the same question in Robert Kirkman’s comic Invincible. While the titular character fits Shamus’s rules, the character Atom Eve addresses the issue rather nicely. Her powers are more versatile (manipulation of matter at a subatomic level at will), so instead of joining up with the JLA-equivalent, she moves to Africa and does aid work on a large scale. While not as easy an answer for a brawler type hero, it is an interesting response to the quandary.

  109. DigSen says:

    Yeah, this discussion pretty quickly derailed from “what would you do with these powers” to “what would you do if you were Superman,” with all the attendant fanwank and power-fantasies that usually entails.

    Some reminders:

    A.) Invincible != immortal. If you become a tyrant, the world will treat you like a tyrant, and just because you can fly and take a missile to the face doesn’t mean you won’t be brought home in (really really strong) chains.

    B.) Trying to change economic truths through sheer strength of arms (literally, in this case) NEVER WORKS.

    C.) Just because you’re suddenly a super-dude doesn’t mean it gets any easier to kill people psychologically. I’m a firm believer that (unless Shamus’ blog attracts a disproportionate number of sociopathic readers), most of us do not have the proper frame of mind to kill in cold blood, even if it is for some imagined Greater Good.

    One last note, to #101:
    It doesn’t count as “solving humanity’s problems” if you EXTERMINATE HUMANITY in the process. And a society of “altruistic genius[es] with no concept of pride or jealousy”? Whatever they are, they ain’t human no more.

  110. Mereel1138 says:

    DigSen. I’m not quite sure which particular posts you’re referring to with your point B, but I’d put forth that most economic “truths” are created and enforced almost entirely by strength of arms, though never so explicitly as by superhero decree. History isn’t the only thing written by the victors. They often spend a lot of time writing textbooks for economic classes and scripts for talking head pundits.

    You let a few superheroes from this thread loose and before long no one will remember “the invisible hand of the market”. Instead that “economic truth” would claim that the driving force behind the economy is the green energy hand of the Green Lantern.

  111. DigSen says:

    Well, sure, but we’re not talking about a post-scarcity environment here. We’re talking about one invulnerable guy with an impressive (but not revolutionary) ability to affect the world around him.

    The United States saying “we will wreck your life if we catch you doing this” is not enough to stop people from growing, shipping, selling, and consuming drugs. Similarly, Super-dude saying “Don’t make SUVs! They are bad for the environment, and I will kill you, your co-workers, and your potted office plants if you don’t do what I say!” doesn’t make the world a better place. It just makes Super-dude a terrorist. An eco-terrorist, maybe, but the ends don’t make the means any more acceptable.

  112. Mutant_Fraffle says:

    Well everyones got some good points.

    Id start by becoming a professional sports star for every sport there is… all the while keeping the main part of my powers hidden. Also totting myself as a humanitarian and enviromentalist…

    Then I’d start my political career. Being immune to regular assassination would be a boon to my situation, also being able to go to countries and kick the asses of leaders who are generally bastards would really help things sway my way.

    All the while having massive media coverage. Just imagine being able to challenge some evil dictator to a steel cage match and then beat them to pulps… While the world watches.

    A superhero with political power. Now THATS howya do it.


  113. itches says:

    Just testing something

  114. bigandscary says:

    The only big problem here is that Newtons laws would slap you around like a bitch. Unless you are following the example of the propulsionless flight, and physics don;t have an effect on you.

  115. Maya Do'Urden says:

    Why help humanity? Why not help all the other species out there? I say go in, kill everybody, leave. Repeat for next city. When done slaughtering everybody on the planet, find a way to kill yourself.

    problem solved.

  116. --- says:

    aww humans are stupid, but thats a bit extreme… ish

  117. Sydney says:

    So, for a late response:

    Assuming I’m the only superhero of my kind, I would probably take advantage of the gullibility of humanity. Start out by showing only a tiny fragment of my powers – enter a weightlifting contest, using my spindly geek frame to lift JUUUST enough to eke out a win, and fake like it’s killing me to do it. That’ll get me moderately well-known. Then, every few days, “increase” my power. Now I’m setting the world record – just barely. Now I’m easily doubling the pre-superhero world record. Now I’m world-famous. Scientists, presumably, can’t figure out why. I just am this strong.

    Then let’s say one day, I wake up “levitating” – flying, but hovering. I make it look like I can’t control it. Blah blah blah, after a week I can hover, shakily, at will. Like David Blaine, but real. Elapsed time since local weight-lifting contest: two weeks.

    Then, one day, out of the blue, do something dramatic. Disappear from my university dorm. Roommate doesn’t know where I am. (or, if I’m being researched, disappear from the lab, and the researchers can’t find me). Parents (who I’ve tipped off, and are in on the plan) in a fake panic.

    I stay gone for a week, to build the suspense.

    Then, I do something dramatic. Fly face-first into Mount Rushmore at noon. Lie in my crater naked until the rescue folks (and the media) get there, wake up, and now I’m flying gracefully, totally unharmed. Speak in a totally different manner. Seem disoriented.

    Now, with supersonic flight, Nigh Invulnerability, and tank-throwing strength, I can fake more powers than I really have. Take off straight up, throw a handful of dimes downward, and land again. Or baseballs. Or bowling balls. Nobody will know they aren’t Magic Missiles From On High. Put my full strength into clapping my indestructible hands together. Bam, the Thunder of the Heavens, and a shockwave like you wouldn’t believe.

    Eventually, I would convince the world I was some sort of deity, messiah, archangel, what have you. And then just tell people what to do. Found a religion, I suppose, but in plain speech. And if a Crusade started – I presume my indestructibility extends to aging – just show up one day and say “cut that out, I told you all not to kill each other”.

    Idealistic, maybe, but worth a shot.

  118. roxysteve says:

    Wow, what a great idea! A shame I missed it when it was published.

    I read all these threads and I was, at first, disappointed in how limited the thinking was in the respondents. Make more money than God? Smash (or become the embodiment of) all evil? This seemed, I dunno, a bit “little league”.

    Then I thought on it and realised that in reality my own ideas would be dwarfed by these, since I would undoubtedly simply sit around on the couch eating Doritos while I tried to figure an angle, then end up using my awesome super-powers to get girls.

    The Great and Powerful Steve aka The Stevinator aka Dr Sleaze.

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