Feb 16 2012
If you’re not sure where your superhero’s superpowers might come from, here are some potential superhero origins.
Science and Science Fiction
1. Cybernetics–replacing human limbs or organs (usually crippled/injured ones) with superior mechanical substitutes. See Cyborg, the Bionic Woman, etc.
2. Genetic engineering–e.g. replacing genes with sequences from other sources can create interesting results, such as pigs that glow like jellyfish. See Spider-Man, etc.
3. Powersuits, exoskeletons and/or giant death machines (Iron Man, Steel, the M-1 Abrams, etc). We already have jet packs, military-grade lasers, and a five-pound rocket launcher, so within (say) 30 years, origins like the Iron Man suit might not actually be science fiction.
3.1. Robotics. Domo arigato, human-sized death machine. (Robots don’t have to be androids, but usually are in fiction).
4. Any other technological hardware. For example, the video game Deus Ex uses a variety of surgical implants for superpowers and The Taxman Must Die uses implanted recoil suppressors.
5. Chemical enhancement. For example, Captain America and Green Goblin.
5.1. Chemical mutagens (e.g. the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
6. Neurosurgery, especially if the powers involved have a mental component (e.g. anything mental, reflexes, pain suppression, etc).
7. Ridiculously tough training (Batman, GI Joe, etc).
8. Nanotechnology. Some choice excerpts from Wikipedia: “Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Nanotechnology ranges from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to investigating whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale, as well as raising speculation about various doomsday scenarios.” Manipulating matter? Doomsday scenarios? Sign me up.
9. Mutations (X-Men, Heroes).
10. The character is not human (e.g. aliens like Superman, maybe mutants, etc).
10.1. Alien symbiotes, like the Venom suit.
10.2. The character has been given superpowers by an alien or alien entity. The science fiction equivalent of a blessing.
11. Miracle operations (e.g. Kickass).
12. Stimulating the visual cortex could help people learn certain skills extremely quickly, like kung fu and piloting in The Matrix. There have been some exciting developments on this front recently.
13. Radiation–sort of dated, but still workable.
14. Super-narcotics. These might be helpful if you need one-off superpowered antagonists and/or DEA subsidies. (“Kids, drugs will really **** you up. Haven’t you ever heard of Rick James?”)
1. The character’s gifted with magic, the Force, Six Sigma consulting, or whatever you call it in your story.
2. Supernatural artifacts (Captain Britain, etc).
3. The character has been blessed, cursed or enchanted in some way, but is not a magic user. This might be worth considering if you feel that creating a spell-casting system would be too much work or that a wizard would be too unrelatable.
4. The character belongs to some fantasy species (e.g. elf, orc, gelatinous cube, etc).
5. The character is (or was) human, but has been supernaturally modified in some way (e.g. a vampire, a werewolf, some sort of demonic transformation, etc).
6. Mythological origins (e.g. Captain Marvel).