How superstrength would REALLY work.

Hey, all. Can anyone point me towards any comics or books that have characters with super strength who actually follow physics? I mean, after seeing Superman lift a cruis-liner without splitting it in half or punching through the hull fot the thousandth time, I’m looking for something more… realistic, if you’ll forgive using the term in a conversation about superheroes.

In the Wild Cards novels, the use of super-strength is more consistently physically possible than in the comic books. Somebody with the strength to lift 16 tons can do so, but only if he’s properly braced and ready for it. Another character that’s really strong because he’s really huge has to travel around in a wheelchair because his leg and ankle bones aren’t strong enough to support his weight.

If the super-strong hit people who aren’t super-powered, they tend to come apart pretty easy.

John Byrne, in his Superman reboot miniseries Man of Steel, attempted to address that point by saying that Superman’s super-strength is aided by subconscious telekinesis.

Traditionalists like Fenris hate him for this.

It isn’t that Fenris is a traditionalist. He’s a sentient being who has seen Byrne egomaniacally maul characters like the Scarlet Witch and Vision, Wonder Woman and Donna Troy, and the Fourth World of Jack Kirby. Currently he’s performing what should be a war crime in his defiling of the Doom Patrol.

Busiek is a GOOD writer and thus his Avengers were the best that had been seen in years. Busiek’s changes generally make sense and don’t happen just to stroke his ego.

A good retcon or character change is one thing. Byrne’s tendancy when getting pre-existing characters is to break them. He leaves them broken when he departs as well.

I pretty much agree with your assessment of Byrne’s recent output (especially Doom Patrol - I do not like when writers feel they can’t be bothered with continuity at all). But with Superman, he was MANDATED to create the post-Crisis Superman, to reboot the character from ground up. That wasn’t a case of Byrne being destructive at all, he was merely the chosen vessel (and, IMHO, a good one) to do what DC wanted to do anyway.

You’re talking about Golden Boy, right?

That’s the perfectly-proportioned 14-foot-tall Joker imbecile who was screeching at the moon because he wasn’t tall enough to reach it, I assume. I wasn’t under the impression that he was actually super strong, just large.

Don’t forget that the ground below them must be increadibly dense and strong to not buckle under the increadible pressure of several tons on top of two human feet.

Hell, just the force of a Superman-like character coming in for a landing on two feet should be enough to bust through sidewalk concrete. I remember an issue of Cracked magazine where they sold “landing wheels” to superheroes to prevent such damage.

There are a series of articles by the late Dr. Tom Rainbow in mid 80s issues of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine on the feasibility of various psuedo-scientific powers: mind-transfers, love potions and superpowers spring to mind. He did one on super-strength that seemed plausible that the time… if you’re interested, I’ll go dig up the issue number some time.

Neil Gaiman did address this in MiracleMan. There’s an issue in which MiracleMan explores his powers while his wife tries to figure out his limits. She mentions that it doesn’t make any sense. He’s muscular but not as gargantuanly overmuscled as he should be to lift the weight he does. She points out that he barely sinks into the ground while lifting a boulder. While trying to discover just what his powers are, she says “What about superbreath?” It’s dificult to convey the derision and shock of MiracleMan’s response without the art from the panel.

The origin of Cyborg, of the Teen Titans, addresses another problem. He gained his strength when his father saved his life by replacing his damaged body parts with cybernetics. Crushing car and such was easy. It took months before he could hold an egg in his hand without breaking it.

Re Superman

What about Byrne making Krypton a cold, sterile nightmare nobody would miss? What about changing from a Kal-El who spent the first two years of his life with loving parents on a world of wonders to a Kal-El who never knew Krypton and was ‘born’ on Earth from a gestation matrix?

Shame on you, Doc, confusing Gaiman for Alan Moore.

This was taken from the character Gladiator (who is basically superman with a mohawk and purple skin) from one of Byrne’s FF issues in the 80’s. That’s exactly how Gladiator’s powers were described to work.

Sounds cool-- assuming I’ll actually be able to FIND it. It’s not a really rare mag that will cost me a fortune, is it?

MAN, I was JUST thinking about that very article… what are the odds somebody else would have read it and remembered it too? (well. this IS the straightdope) My favorite line after he lists all of the genetic alteration that would be required for super strength was something like “Now, what do we call a half ton, genetically mutated person with enhanced bone structure and x amount of muscle mass? That’s right, a MONSTER!” ;>

They may be rare, but I doubt the issues would be prohibitively expensive, provided you could track them down.

This site has a listing of some of Dr. Rainbow’s very humorous essays. Conspicuously missing are his essays on mind transfer and superpowers, which may have been published posthumonously.

Actually, Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton beat him to it back in '78.

GET OUT. You’re the first person outisde of the magazine’s editorial staff who knew the heck what I was talking about. Tom Rainbow was a damned fine writer who died too young. A few more years, a few more essays, and he’d have a genuine cult following.

In Drakon by S.M. Stirling, the hero/villain is Gwendolyn Ingolfsson, a genetically enhanced New Race Draka (see Stirling’s Domination series) or Homo drakensis. She has the muscle mass of an ordinary human woman (but is heavier overall because of denser bones). She has super-strength because her neuromuscular efficiency resembles that of a chimpanzee (which is seven times as strong as a human, pound for pound); also, the points at which her muscles attach to her bones are flanged for extra leverage. I can’t spot any flaws in Stirling’s physics or biomechanics here.

Well, early on, Superman’s superstrength was supposed to come mainly from the fact that Krypton had much higher gravity than Earth, and so the life that evolved there had to become much “stronger” just to survive. (And Superman’s early powers weren’t supposed to be cartoonishly impossilbe. At first.)

Of course, I think that should mean that if all the Kryptonians looked to be about normal human-size after living on a high-gravity world all their lives, and if Kal-El grew up on a low-gravity world, Superman would be 9 feet tall and really gangly as an adult. And I don’t know how much better his musculature and strength would be developed over a normal human’s—If they were at all. Maybe he’d just end up with X-Ray vision and bad osteoporosis.

I can spot several.