With Blue Beetle and Booster Gold headed to the live-action streets of Smallville , it got me thinking about how well they would translate. I mean, Booster's powers, while extremely budget-heavy, aren't that complicated: throw some force fields up and give him lasers beams - that isn't too tough. Jaime (or Ted, which remains to be seen) could be a little tougher, considering that they will need to show that fancy armor moving at some point.
However, some powers just plain don't work in a live-action setting. They can be too complicated to explain in the limited confines of a weekly TV show, or too effects-heavy to do consistently. They also run the risk of only being useful is very specific situations; ones that seem a bit more forced in a live-action setting.
An even better example of this print-to-live-action transition has sprung up as a result of the new Wonder Woman costume; some people just refuse to take it seriously. I happen to be one of those people, and came up with a list of other powers that just wouldn't work on a week-to-week TV series. == TEASER ==
Straight Super Strength
"But Matt!" you cry. "How can you say that super strength doesn't translate well onto the live-action screen? How many movies have there been made about super-strong characters?"
You would be correct. But think about something for a second: how many of those characters have just super-strength as their power, and are still interesting? Not many.
The fact is, characters who are just strong (or strong and durable, as its often paired) are very boring in a live-action setting. Hell, they're barely tolerable in comics unless they're part of a larger team: writers tend to have a very hard time defining their strength while making them seem like credible threats to the antagonists that they're facing. One minute they can barely stop a car from running them over, while a week later they're lifting a building to save some orphans: they're very inconsistent, and that's not something a TV series needs on a week-to-week basis.
Anything That Relies on a Gadget
I'm not sure how many of you actually sat through the prequel Star Wars films, but there was a disturbing trend among the Jedi that were featured: they just couldn't hold onto their lightsabers to save their lives!
In a similar vein, the butterfingers syndrome affects many heroes who rely too much on a specific gadget or weapon as their gimmick. This includes Green Arrow, Katana, Elongated Man's Gingold, and (to a certain extent) Spider-Man's web shooters. In a situation where the writers want the character to feel threatened without actually having to do any real work, they just separate the character from their claim to fame.
Green Arrow's bow breaks, Ralph Dibney doesn't have any of that potion that makes him stretchy, or Peter Parker discovers that he's run out of web fluid just at that critical moment. The Spider-Man cartoon of the 1990's was a chief exploiter of this last example: too many episodes left you on that cliffhanger where Spider-Man was falling through the New York skyline, seemingly doomed by gravity.
And you know what? It's lazy.
It's a way for a writer to reduce a hero to he or she's lowest common denominator: the gear that they wear on their back. Instead of actually coming up with a creative threat for them to overcome, they revert to the "oh, it's like they never had powers!" situation, which seems to happen way too often. In a weekly TV series, what keeps audiences interested in character; when you remove the person from the success/failure formula and say "This person is nothing without their gadgets," it makes them look weak and disposable.
Kevin Smith fans will remember Onomatopoeia as one of the most memorable characters to come out of his run on green Arrow in the early 2000’s. An assassin that plagued the Arrow family for a number of issues, Ono used an impressive mimetic ability to replicate sounds that he experienced in the world. This might not seem particularly useful, but he managed to get the jump on Connor Hawke and seriously injure him. He then made another appearance in Smith’s Batman: Cacophony and Batman: The Widening Gyre series, again as a highly skilled assassin.
Ono’s gimmick is that he is able to perfectly imitate sound effects that happen in the pages of a comic book. This works because, as readers, we see a lot of the sound effects as they’re happening: they’re written on the page. Writers and letterers are able to dictate what we hear through their use of labelling. In a live-action scene that might involve a lot of different sounds happening at once, this ability is a lot functional than we’d like to think. I mean, imagine a building collapsing: you have girders collapsing, bricks falling, people screaming and two people fighting amongst the chaos. Having to script one sound to come from a masked villain just doesn’t seem to work.
Also, the fact that he wears a full-faced, black mask just complicates things. Sometimes we take those tails on word balloons for granted.
The nice thing about comics, however, is that a large amount of powers do work on film; I had a genuinely hard time thinking up examples for this article. It isn't a matter of these powers being ill-defined or non-functional; it's the way the audience perceives these powers on a regular basis. If A character with super-strength is just going to be doing the same thing with those powers every week, the audience is going to get bored and move their attention elsewhere. Conversely, if someone has too many powers, there's a risk that episodes will lack any type of base standard - a valuable asset in establishing viewer loyalty and continued audience.
Do you guys have any others powers you could add to this list? Any specific characters? Be sure to comment and throw me a message on Twitter if you're so inclined.