Everybody's dreamed of living in a comic book universe. But here's the catch: In said daydreams, you're always the hero. What if you're just an average, everyday Joe/Jane, trying to live your life in a world where spandexed superfolks are constantly zooming around bashing in the skulls of evildoers? Well, the short answer is you really don't want to do that. The long answer is you really don't want to do that because ...
Comics are always focusing on dangers such as alien invasions and maniacal megalomaniacs, while all but ignoring the most insidious evil out there, one that not even the most powerful of superheroes could hope to vanquish: sky-high insurance rates.
For the millions of people living in major comic book cities, every day is a shitty game of Russian Roulette where, if you lose, your property is annihilated in that week's superhero showdown and, if you win, you get to play again next week with an additional bullet in the cylinder. Repeat until everything you own is inevitably reduced to ash in the next big battle to save the world (but not your Miata). The climactic Avengers battle against the Chitauri, for example, would cost New York City an estimated $160 billion, an amount so astronomical that even a guy whose superpower is literally money couldn't begin to put a dent in it.
Insurance companies have CYA clauses to avoid shelling out cash for things like war or "acts of God" (thanks a lot, Thor), either of which would probably allow them to wriggle out of coughing up for your Chitauri-brain-spattered carpet. But, let's say, such events being commonplace in their reality, comic book insurance companies actually include "So Superman Tripped And Demolished Your Home" coverage in the average homeowners policy. In that case -- considering we're talking about a world that sees a Japanese tsunami-level disaster every other goddamn week -- insurance would quickly become an unsustainable industry. They wouldn't even offer coverage for major cities, leaving you ruined every time the Vulture kidnaps Spider-Man's stupid girlfriend. Jesus Christ, can you get her, like, a LoJack or something? It's the sixth time this month.
Quick, what do nearly all of Spider-Man's adversaries have in common? If you said "an unhealthy fascination with a certain teenage boy," that's a completely different article.
No, it's that the vast majority of them were created thanks to science. Green Goblin sports the technologically advanced suit and glider, Doc Ock scienced himself some new murder-arms, and The Lizard was the result of a genetic biologist's experiment to regrow missing limbs gone wrong. And this phenomenon isn't limited to Spider-Man -- catastrophic failure with horrifying consequences seems to be a core scientific tenet of every comic book world. We're not sure how every elementary school science fair doesn't become the origin story of Baking Soda Volcano Girl.
It's important to note that it's not just the bad guys tinkering on the scary side of science. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner create artificial intelligence in, like, an afternoon, which almost results in Earth's destruction. And after being bitten by a spider that can bestow god-like powers on ordinary humans, Peter Parker does the responsible thing by telling exactly no one, despite the obvious scientific and ethical implications. It's only a matter of time before someone else who isn't bound to fight crime by the memory of their dead uncle joins the ranks of the spider-endowed and uses his wall-climbing abilities to become the world's most prolific peeping Tom.
But the scariest thing isn't that everybody, even the heroes, plays fast and loose with science; it's that nobody is trying to stop them. Comic book science completely lacks that whole "just because you can doesn't mean you should" principle that guides real-world science. How do you even end up with a radioactive spider, anyway? Why, you end up with a radioactive spider by wantonly blasting particle beams every which way during a crowded public science exhibit, that's how.
Though widespread mistrust of the superpowered is a recurring theme in comics, the fact of the matter is that there's a very good chance this epidemic of apprehension would hop right over Wolverine, do a baseball slide past Ms. Marvel, and trickle right on down to poor, little unsuperpowered you.
A lot of people are going to be understandably pissed off at the superpowered jerkwads wrecking the city, and that's not to mention the jealousy factor. All that anger has to be directed somewhere, and the most likely targets are those who are gifted at anything, on the off chance that they're actually a superhero's secret identity. Is your poker buddy just really good at the game, or is he secretly a mind reader? Is that Olympic medalist a hard worker and gifted athlete, or did she just get struck with a bolt of cosmic radiation? Did you win that bonus because you're a great accountant, or are you secretly the alter-ego of Number-Man? Suspicion and paranoia would be rampant. It would be witch hunts all over again, only in a world where we definitely know witches are real.
Because supervillains stick to attacking cities and superheroes stick to protecting them, your local metropolis is a carnival of casualty-inducing showdowns and the subsequent financial ruin. At this point, you might be thinking a change of scenery is in order. Perhaps it's time to flee to a rural area and learn how to milk a bull or whatever.
Here's the rub: Everybody else has the exact same idea. Millions of people would willingly flee the city tomorrow, but the countryside doesn't exactly have the resources to handle droves of new refugees. So all those people you see in the background of comic panels aren't emotional masochists, categorically refusing to leave the dangerous city; they have no choice but to stay.
In the dystopian wasteland that is a comic book city, people who aren't insanely wealthy would be forced to eke out a living in one of their many fast-growing job markets: corpse collecting, clearing the streets of rubble, and reforming said rubble into something vaguely un-rubble-like just in time for it to get clobbered again.
And if you don't want to do any of that shit work? Well, we hear the local supervillain is hiring ... just don't expect insurance benefits.
The Catholic Church, the various factions of Islam, the followers of Hinduism -- they all exist within the Marvel universe. But ... why? We all know the one true religion: Norse mythology. Thor's a dude. We can see him. He's over there. You can go say hi, if you want. Give god a high-five.
So how did all the other religions handle the sudden appearance of an actual deity on Earth? Some religious leaders thought the theory of evolution was a dangerous attack on the faith. Some Dutch cartoonists mocked Muhammad and stirred up an outrage. This is an immortal god from another religion appearing in your city and demonstrating miracles in front of the masses, while traveling freely back and forth from his "Heaven" to Earth. He has infinite strength and can control the weather and wields a magical artifact.
Now imagine you're a starving family from a drought-stricken area. Why would you pray to God or Allah for relief, when you can send a letter to the actual Thor, who lives in New York? If your nation is about to be invaded by an evil dictator, why would you pray to anyone but Superman to come save you? We'd say some people might start worshiping superheroes, but that's a ludicrous understatement -- worshiping anyone BUT superheroes would be stupid and pointless. Those other religions require blind faith; a superhero is an all-powerful, immortal god who can come chill out at your house if you want. Your choice: Wait for an unproven, possibly allegorical being, or split a burrito with one of the real Messiahs just down the street. Oh, but Jesus died for our sins and returned from the grave? So did Cyclops. Like eight times. This year.
Within 10 years of superheroes showing up, all other religions would be extinct ... or else they would have gone to war to fight off that extinction (by trying to kill the heretic superheroes who are turning people away from the true faith with their hoax miracles). You think religious tension is bad now? Life in the comic universes would be Armageddon. Literally.
As it turns out, having superpowers would really blow too. Like maybe invisibility would be cool except not at all since you'd be blind. See what we mean in 7 Awesome Super Powers (Ruined By Science). Or check out 6 Awesome Superpowers (That Would Suck in Real Life) to see why controlling the weather would be kind of a drag.
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