John's World: Look! Up in the Sky!

August 24, 2012 08:52 PM

My grandson John recently invested wisely in a thick, overpriced copy of Marvel Comics Superheroes, which he studies like it contains the secret to transmuting soybeans into gold. (Oddly enough, the current drought is already advancing this branch of alchemy).

I have been out of the super-loop for a few decades, so I was astonished with the wide variety of characters and powers that now populate that imaginary universe. The roll call includes hundreds of freakishly well-built citizens whose talents range from the incredible to the downright disturbing.

For example, John pointed out one of his favorites—Squirrel Girl. I could not help noticing her amazingly well tailored costume, for starters. Ignoring the 4' bushy tail, her superpower—being able to communicate with and command squirrels—is perplexing. Unless an archenemy headquarters in an attic or deploys enchanted birdfeeders, Squirrel Power seems as quaintly impractical as being able to sing the national anthem as written.

A power like no other. The point is, like modern medicine, this is the age of the Super-Specialist. All-around champions, such as the venerable Superman, just don’t have the detailed prowess
needed for the 21st century. Speeding past bullets and bending steel bars won’t get your Internet back up to 10 megs, you know.

I have often suspected that I am a mutant, gifted with weird and exploitable powers due to actually being a child of aliens (which my sisters alleged when I was young), or being bitten by a pesticide-drenched spider mite during an eclipse, or some similar proven scientific process of super-power endowment.

These powers have perhaps lain dormant and could possibly be triggered by a combination of low corn yields and blood pressure prescriptions.

It’s just a theory, OK?

Anyhoo, I’m looking for evidence of budding superpowers that could routinely save the world. Talents such as:

  • Super-persuasion. This ability would empower me to create consensus from the cosmic energy in lime Jell-O. I would also possess the coordinating talent of being able to project PowerPoint presentations from my forehead onto thin air with readable fonts and intuitive graphs. Ordinary mortals, after being exposed to just two minutes of super-persuasion, experience an epiphany of agreement, setting aside their own delusions to embrace the ideas I telepathically emit. My name—Convincor—would be on every tongue wherever progress is held hostage to dogmatic obstinacy. I would spend most of my time flying to national capitals and school consolidation meetings.
  • Fat transformation. Superhero name: Captain Cholesteroff. This morally ambiguous ability would allow me to extract body fat from nearby humans to add to my own power, as well as build small bridges and run turbine-generators. My modus operandi would include bursting into bargain buffet restaurants and exiting with the energy of 10 atom bombs. Downsized patrons would leave huge tips.
  • Diagnostic domination. Using the super-identity The Wrong Rearranger, this superpower would enable me to pinpoint even intermittent machinery system failures by receiving mysterious messages from the actual atoms involved. Instead of laboring through a decision tree with a laptop in the combine cab, I would be able to mentally shift molecules, atoms and even quarks into proper alignment from distances up to several parameters (about 600 cubits).
  • Fourcasting. Leaping in a single bound the three-day weather forecast accuracy limit that has stymied mortal weatherpersons for decades, this uncanny ability would give me a massive trading advantage so I could siphon unsuspecting spec money and distribute it to those who would enjoy it more. Starting with me, but also reaching out to include people I like and a few in-laws. My Spandex suit would be a size 40, extra dumpy, of course. Name: 4Seer

Clearly, to solve super-problems, I need superpowers. Of course, I would be willing to share them with hard-pressed authority figures such as NBA referees and English teachers.

I have also deliberated feverishly on ideas for possible sidekicks. I don’t suppose Jan would look kindly on a comely young (50-ish, no tail) female mutant with the power to cure heartburn with mind-melding hugs. Which is a shame—her uniform would be quite fetching.

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