This list includes 470 superpowers! I have not included powers that are only online and a parody of superpowers. Increasingly, there is a tendency to create super powers that only appear on an online list and nowhere else. All super powers listed have appeared in fiction and/or are defined in Wikipedia’s super power list. In addition, there has to be at least one character in a comic book, TV show, video game and/or movie that demonstrates this power.
This list started as an extension of the Wikipedia list in which I deal with some of the “mistakes” in that list. Many powers have an inherent dichotomy that labels should reflect. The dichotomy is application of the power to one’s self versus an object. Colossus (Marvel) can turn his body into a metal. King Midas can turn objects into a metal (gold). These are two very different types of superpowers. If the character can apply the power to objects then this is generally termed manipulation. If the character can apply the power to themselves then this is generally referred to as mimicry. There has been an attempt to separate these two types of powers systematically in this list. Another dichotomy I emphasize is between constructs made out of matter and constructs made out of energy since energy and matter have very different properties.
Also a word that describes a cluster of unrelated superpowers is not a superpower! Extra sensory perception (ESP) is not a power per se but a label to describe a set of very different powers such as telepathy, clairaudience, and clairvoyance. Is magic a superpower or a source of superpowers that can be used to duplicate any power on this list? I think magic is not such much a superpower but a fictional mechanism that supplements pseudo-science like psionics in order to explain how superpowers work.
Examples of magic users include Doctor Strange (Marvel) and Doctor Fate (DC). DC has Mister Mxyzptlk a 5th dimensional being that straddles the line between magic and science. Magic in the DC universe just might be an example of Clarke’s three laws: “3) Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. In the DC universe super science and magic may be the same thing. In the DC universe, Mister Mxyzptlk can and does interact with magical beings in a logical and consistent manner. For example, in the DC comic story line, Injustice: Gods Among Us #19, Mister Mxyzptlk appears at the end of year three, saving Superman from Trigon’s attack and the source of Trigon’s demonic powers is clearly magic.
Magic in the Marvel universe seems to fundamentally different from science including super science. There is a scientific triad that governs the universe (Eternity, Death and Galactus) and has a magical counterpart (Lord Chaos, Master Order and the In-Betweener). The In-Betweener cannot use his powers on Galactus. The In-Betweener believes this is because Galactus is his metaphysical counterpart and opposite. This event suggests magic and science are opposites in the Marvel universe.
Is psionic a superpower or a category of superpowers that is too general to belong on this list? Psionic used to be a narrow category and basically the cooler label for ESP but now just about any power on this list has been duplicated in fiction via psionic means. Is there a single magic feat or ability in Dungeons and Dragons that doesn’t have a psionic equivalent? Psionics like magic can be seen as a mechanism that allows for an explanation for a variety of superpowers rather than as a superpower per se.
Lastly, a gadget is not a superpower but gadgets are on this list! Iron Man officially has no superpowers. However, there seems to be a tradition of treating a person who uses a single object that employs super science or mystic means as having that superpower. Green Lantern is generally treated as a person who can create energy constructs as a super power although strictly speaking the superpower comes via a ring. Superpowers are not real of course but literary tropes and this is a list of a type of literary tropes and as such gadgets belong on the list.
Inductively, I have noticed there are certain types of technologically based empowerment or depowerment that show up as fictional devices repeatedly that more or less serve the function of superpowers that are included on this list. Speculative fiction includes lairs that augment the power of the superhero or supervillain and are subsumed under the category of Lair Empowerment. Batman is more powerful because of his Batcave and the Batcave is like a superpower. Batman has the Batmobile that augments his capabilities like a superpower as do many characters in speculative fiction and super vehicles are described under the section of Vehicle Empowerment. Super prisons are also a ubiquitous feature of speculative fiction and are described in the section of Prison Depowerment. Prison’s more or less serve the opposite function of lairs and take away the powers of villains generally but sometimes heroes. Lastly many heroes have super weapons that serve the same function as a super power and these are described in the section of Weapons Empowerment.
This site does explore comic book plot lines that have superpowers at their center! Popular superpowers cannot be dealt with in an encyclopedic manner. However, more obscure superpowers have been explored in more detail than elsewhere.
Each superpower will be analyzed from two perspectives. The superpower will be analyzed from an in-universe POV as is done on lists similar to mine. However, the superpower will also be analyzed as a plot device i.e. the strength or weakness of the power as a fictional construct that strengthens or weakens a fictional narrative. In this way, this list can uniquely be used by writers of fiction to use superpowers in their stories more effectively!
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