Useless mutant powers

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 2, 2006

Filed under: Nerd Culture 18 comments

I’ve always thought the powers of mutants in the X-Man universe were pretty off-the-wall. Aside from nitpicky issues like where all the energy comes from and how special DNA can manipulate the physical world, I’ve always wondered what other mutant powers there are in the world. The X-Men and the mutants serving under Magneto are obviously the best, and their powers lend themselves to warfare, whcih is why they are high-profile mutants. But even among these guys, their powers are really diverse. Controlling the weather. Teleportation. Laser eyes. Freezing stuff. Turning into metal form. It’s pretty clear that powers vary quite a bit, and there must be a lot of powers out there that aren’t nearly as cool.

So what about all the poor mutants who have stupid or pointless powers? Imagine all the wash-outs from Xavier’s school:

  1. Rash: Can cause foes to experience mild itching.
  2. Mood Ring: Her skin turns a different color depending on how she feels.
  3. Dry-Man: Immune to high humidity.
  4. Styles: Can control the movement and color of her individual strands of hair to create any hair style she wishes.
  5. Quackster: Can perfectly imitate the sound of any duck in the world with such fidelity that it can even fool the ducks themselves!

But these guys are the lucky ones. Imagine the poor guy who finds out he’s a mutant but doesn’t know what his powers are. How does he go about finding out? I imagine his journal would be fun to read.

Day 1

I’ve just been to the doctor and the blood test reveals that I’m a mutant! Tomorrow I’ll experiment to see if I can figure out what my powers are.

Day 2

I cannot control the flow of elecricity. That’s a shame. That would have been nice. My hands are not immune to electrical burns, either. I also don’t seem to have any special healing powers. Still, I’m just getting started. I’m sure I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

Day 3

It turns out I can’t see through the wall of my neighbor’s house and into her bedroom. I can’t leap over her chain-link fence in a single jump. I can’t outrun a dog. I can’t use telepathy to convince a rottweiler to stop biting me.

Maybe I’ll stick closer to home for my experiments tomorrow.

Day 4

I learned an awful lot about my powers today. It turns out I can’t put out fires with my mind. I also can’t repair burned carpeting and furniture. Finally, I also discovered that I can’t control the minds of firemen to get them to stop laughing at me.

I’ve got some good ideas of what to try next!

Day 5

It seems that I can’t fly. At least, not from the roof of my house. My right leg is also not unbreakable.

With the cast on, I’ll have to limit my experiments a bit. One thing is for sure: My mutant powers don’t protect me from the itching underneath this #%@ cast!

Day 6

Not immune to rat poison.

Day 7

Oh geeze, I am REALLY not immune to rat poison. I think I’ll take it easy today.

Day 8

My skin is not immune to kitchen knives, thumbtacks, or hammers. My hair is not fire proof. I can’t regrow lost teeth. My eyes are not immune to tabasco or tear gas. I can’t leap over cars in oncoming traffic. I cannot command swarms of angry bees, hornets or wasps.

This is hard. I don’t know what to try next.

How upset is he going to be when at last he learns his mutant power is “can see into the minds of goldfish”?


From The Archives:

18 thoughts on “Useless mutant powers

  1. Two things: first, is the movie “Sky High”. That’s a special high school for people with unusual powers. But the students are divided more or less into a “hero” track and a “sidekick” track, with the kids who have silly or unimpressive powers going into the latter. I haven’t seen the film, but I read a synopsis of it that I can’t locate right now which described some of the stupid powers that “sidekick” kids had, and they didn’t sound a lot different from your list.

    The other is the classic computer game “Super Hero League of Hoboken”, one of my favorite DOS computer games. Most of the superheros in the game have really ridiculous powers. For instance, one of the women has the power to refold highway maps correctly. Another has the ability to see inside pizza boxes without opening them.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Necropost (sounds like an X-Men name, heh), but how I love that game! I’ve been praying GOG for years to bring it back, but alas, no success.

      I remember that, outlandish as those powers were, you actually could find uses for them! I miss that game so much.

  2. Ah! Yet another memory: there was an episode of “Dexter’s Lab” in which Dexter decides to become a superhero and starts experimenting with various powers, mostly with disastrous results. Your diary of the guy trying various things sounds like that.

  3. Cineris says:

    One of the sidekick kids had the power to have his skin glow in the dark. Another could become a puddle. Another could shapeshift into a guinea pig.

    The movie had some potential to be entertaining, but it’s not worth it really. The best part is Mary Elizabeth Winstead (

  4. Shamus says:

    Wow. Nothing more depressing than finding out your clever and original idea is old and stale.


  5. ubu roi says:

    Back during the 80’s, one of Marvel’s “New Mutants” (Cannonball?) had a brother whose mutant power was that he was a really good singer.

    I’ve always wondered if Michael Jackson’s superpower was “can become inexplicably famous.”

  6. HC says:

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    This modern concern with novelty is overrated.

  7. Michael Jackson’s superpower is “can become white”.

  8. A bit of googling, and I came up with this:

    Superhero League of Hoboken: You take the role of the newly elected leader of The Superhero League. Your name; The Crimson Tape! Your amazing superpower; Create Organizational Charts! Your mission; To nurture the rebirth of a new society, to ease the suffering of the dark age, and to provide a place where superheroes can always find a date on Saturday night! This is not an easy task, but luckily you’re not alone. With you in the beginning you have Tropical Oil Man (capable of raising the cholesterol levels of his opponents), Robomop (an intelligent kitchen appliance with the ability to clean almost any mess), The Iron Tummy (capable of eating spicy foods without any distress), Captain Excitement (whose aura of lethargy and dullness can put many opponents to sleep instantly) and Mademoiselle Pepperoni (capable of seeing inside a pizza box without even opening it)!

  9. Evil Otto says:

    Crow: DA-DA-DAAAH! It is I, Turkey Volume Guessing Man! Let me explain…All this talk of turkeys in today’s movie lead me to realize the true nature of my super power and hence am I now revealed as Turkey Volume Guessing Man!

    Mike: So you can guess the volume of any turkey?

    Crow: No!

    Tom: You’re able to deliver a whole lot of guesses about turkeys thereby achieving certain economies of …?

    Crow: No!

    Mike: Uuh, you help turkeys out by guessing the volume of their pens?

    Crow: No!

    Tom: Aah! You guess how high the volume on a stereo would have to be before it annoyed the average turkey?

    Crow: No!

    Mike (exasperated): Would you just tell us what you do, please?

    Crow: Mike! Would you agree that for any given space it would take a certain number of turkeys to fill it up? In other words, that the volume of any space might be expressed in terms of turkeys?

    Mike: Yes.

    Crow: Well, behold, for that is my power. I can guess the number of turkeys it would take to fill any given space, for I am Turkey Volume Guessing Man!

    Tom: And this is useful because…?

    Crow: Sadly, it is not useful at all. And so my powers isolate me and I am a puzzle to the ordinary run of man, although women are drawn to me for my powers are fascinating. And yet there is no woman who can hold me, for always am I confronted by spaces of various sizes and I must guess the number of turkeys it would take to fill them, for I am Turkey Volume Guessing Man!

    Mike: And nobody else can do this?

    Crow: Well, try it.

    Mike: OK, this space here (indicates bridge) from window to window, the door, OK, 11,550 turkeys.

    Crow (surprised, deflated): That’s right!

    Tom: Mike!

    Mike: Really?

    Crow (angry): You would do this, Mike! You know, I tell you I’m Turkey Volume Guessing Man, and you just saunter off and guess how many turkeys it takes to fill this space.

    Tom: Oh, boy.

    Crow (in tears): Well, bite me, OK, Mike!

    Mike: It was just a lucky guess, Crow.

    Crow: Something special about Crow? Well, here’s Mike to spit up all over it. I’m just sick of it, Mike. I can’t even switch to chicken volume guessing ’cause it just doesn’t work. I hate you, Mike!

  10. Evil Otto says:

    We did create a character in my old Champions game called “Nightspork.”

    For some reason, no one would play him.

  11. Some random internet guy says:

    The power to break your own bones by mental thought (But not reform them)

    The power of haveing “I am a mutant” in bright lights arayyed above you.

    The power of nearby people thinking that you have just insulted them, or friends/family

    The power of unfailingly tripping over your own feet when getting up.

    The power to know what time it is, 10 inutes after you have to be somewhere and are already late.

    Or more moderately useful:
    The power to use left handed scissors /in your right hand/.

    The power to not hit your thumb when doing DIY.

    The power to know who is calling on the phone before picking up (Without caller display).

    The power to pick a flaw in the argument of the average RPG gamer ‘rules lawyer’s arguement.

    The power to think up odd powers for non-existant forces, hmm.

    I think that is enough.

  12. DaveJ says:

    The Murlocks are like this. They are also ugly ugly freaks on hte most part.

    Like the girl with power of being slippery.

  13. Pharren says:

    Two men, one who can throw anything any distance, but not catch anything, and another who can’t throw anything, but can catch anything. Or one guy who can swim super fast, and another who can’t swim, but can breath underwater.

  14. Adam says:

    The most useless superpower would have to be Zane’s, from Heroes. He can melt things. Only inanimate things. Sylar killed him anyway.

  15. Alsee says:

    Postcognition. The power to view your current location in the past. Maximum range 3 seconds.

    MegaPostcognition. The power to view your current location in the distant past. Minimum range twelve billion years.

    Gravity-mass manipulation. The power to double the mass of an object while halving the force of gravity on it, or conversely to halve the mass of an object while doubling the force of gravity on it. Only works on motionless objects.

    Quantum Lightning Shift. The power to place one hand on one person and the other hand on another person, for the next 24 hours one person has no chance of being struck by natural lightning. That risk is quantum mechanically shifted to the other person who now has a double chance of being struck by lighting. Unfortunately there in no way to choose or even detect which person gets gets which effect, unless of course one of them *is* struck by lightning. Then you know the other one has zero chance of being struck for the rest of the day.

    Phobic Empath. The contact ability to temporarily adsorb any phobia possessed by another person. Note that this is a copying effect and it does not drain the phobia from the other person.

    Biostasis. The power to prevent your nails or hair from growing. Note that this is an active power and only operates while concentration is maintained.

    Schroedinger-catism. If you are ever killed or are at risk of death, you don’t actually die. You continue to exist in a quantum supersition state of a living you and a dead you. This effect collapses to a fully living or fully dead state at random when any other person directly or indirectly perceives you in any way.

    Sexual magnetism, floral. Plants find you extremely attractive.

    Telepathic bond. You possess a telepathic bond with an alien on another planet. You have no idea where that planet is, and you can’t understand a word of its language. It does not appear to understand a word you think either. It has an annoying habit of incomprehensibly “screaming” noise in your head, but to be fair you did start “screaming” at it first.

    You know the saying “A watched pot never boils”? Well you actually do have that power. As long as you stare at a pot of water it *will not* begin to boil, no matter how hot the stove is. This power would be far more impressive if you didn’t also have ADHD.

    You have the power to sing off key really really well. Well, your mother says you do it super-well anyway.

  16. Sydney says:

    The Xanth series uses this all the time. A common trope is a pair of Xanthians, each with a unique magical power, each all but useless on its own, but complemented by the other. I can’t remember any of them off the top of my head, but a typical one would be a woman with the power to speak to animals (but not understand them) marrying a man with the power to comprehend animals (but not speak to them).

  17. I recall that the Aussie music quiz show Spicks & Specks had a song where some comedian sung about the fact that he was afflicted with a case of “very mild superpowers.” It was good.

    (Uses the mighty power of SUMMON YOUTUBE)

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