When it comes to superheroes and supervillains, not all are created equal. We typically think of them as getting their powers directly, either by a spider bite, from some sort of alien heritage or via cool gadgets, but that’s not always the case. Some characters get their powers from others, and that’s who we’ll be talking about today.
Some superheroes and supervillains have no abilities of their own, but rather drain or absorb them from others. Other characters get their powers when one of more heroes or villains willingly give their powers to them. Some superpowered characters don’t even exist until characters combine to give them life. All of them will get their due in this list, where we’ll go over 15 characters who either use the powers of a group or combine powers.
15. CAPTAIN THUNDER
The first character on our list will be a variation of Shazam, but not the superhero-formerly-known-as-Captain-Marvel we all usually think of when we talk about Shazam. The classic Captain Marvel was created by C. C. Beck and Bill Parker in “Whiz Comics” #2 in 1940, but the character has changed a lot since then. Originally, Captain Marvel was a boy who was gifted with the powers of the gods when he said “Shazam,” and he was renamed Shazam in the New 52 continuity in order to avoid confusion with a Marvel Comics hero of the same name. However, the DC crossover event “Flashpoint” introduced a very different version.
In “Flashpoint” #1, penciled by Andy Kubert and written by Geoff Johns, the Flash woke up in an alternate timeline where six children have harnessed the power instead of one. Each child has an attribute of Shazam until they say the name, and then the six combine into one superhero they call Captain Thunder.
When it comes to powers combining, they don’t get much hotter than Firestorm. He first appeared in “Firestorm, the Nuclear Man” #1 in 1978, created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom. In that story, high school student Ronnie Raymond and physicist Dr. Martin Stein were accidentally fused together in a nuclear accident that allowed them to combine into the superhero Firestorm. With his power to transmute matter (like turning lead into gold), Firestorm was a powerhouse who would be controlled by Raymond while getting advice from Stein.
Over the years, there have been a different combination of people who’ve formed the Firestorm matrix, including a Soviet clone and an African-American teenager named Jason Rusch. It’s also been revealed that Firestorm is a fire elemental. Most recently, Firestorm has been rebooted in the New 52, and is a character on the TV show “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.” Firestorm – he’s two great heroes who fight great together.
First appearing in 1966’s “X-Men” #19, drawn by artist Werner Roth and written by Stan Lee, Mimic was caught in a chemical accident that gave him the power to absorb the skills, knowledge and personality of others. When he met some of the X-Men, including Beast’s ability, Cyclops’ optic beams, Iceman’s ice powers and Marvel Girl’s telekinesis, but went to a lot of effort to try to make his abilities permanent.
He went on to increase his power to the point of killing people by draining their life energy, and blackmailed the X-Men into making him a member, but was quickly expelled for his behavior. Over the years, he’s returned, sometimes as a villain and sometimes as an ally, including a member of Norman Osborn’s Dark X-Men, and has been thought dead many times. He still has the power to take on the powers of others, but has also kept the powers of the original five X-Men.
“Forever People” #1 was a series based on the New Gods concept written and drawn by Jack Kirby in 1971, about a group of intergalactic New God hippies traveling in their Super-Cycle to try to stop Darkseid from taking over the Earth. Each of the Forever People have different powers, including the first black DC superhero, Vykin the Black, the super-strong Big Bear, the empathic gunslinger Serifan and the psychic Beautiful Dreamer. The five of them were already powerful on their own, but they could become even stronger by combining together by touching their supercomputer Mother Box and saying “Taaru” to become Infinity-Man.
Infinity-Man was a superhuman composite of all five of the Forever People, and had the powers of super-strength, flight, super-speed, telepathy and firing “infinity-beams,” among others. He was basically a hyped-up Superman. In Jim Starlin’s “Death of the New Gods” (2007), Infinity-Man was revealed to be the killer of the Forever People and the rest of the New Gods.
The idea of combining powers goes back a long time, all the way to “Justice League of America” #31 in the 1964. Written by Gardner Fox with pencils by Mike Sekowski, the story introduced Joe Parry, a small-time crook who stumbled across the Panacomputer, an alien machine that let him make an android with the combined powers of the Justice League imaginatively called the Super-Duper.
The Super-Duper seemed like a good idea, because it had the magic lasso of Wonder Woman, the power ring of Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), the wings of Hawkman, the legs and speed of the Flash and the genius of Batman. It came pretty close to beating the League until the Super-Duper realized it was partly yellow, so its power ring didn’t work. This was a case where the android was its own weakness. Super-Duper has returned a few times, but never really caught on, especially when compared to Amazo, who we’ll get to later.
10. KYLE RAYNER
Kyle Rayner became the super-powered Green Lantern in 1994’s “Green Lantern” #48 (1994) when the previous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, seemingly went insane and killed off the rest of the Green Lantern Corps. Rayner proved to be a strong and imaginative Green Lantern, even when Jordan returned from being possessed by the fear entity Parallax and took over as the Green Lantern of Earth again.
The pivotal moment for our list came in “Green Lantern: New Guardians” #2 (2011) when rings from the other Corps of the emotional spectrum (red, indigo, blue, orange, violet and yellow) came to him. He eventually discovered that he was turned into a “ring magnet” to try to save the Guardian of the Universe Ganthet. He was able to master the power of all seven rings, becoming the White Lantern, able to tap into the powers of all the other Corps. He’s the whole Corps, rolled into one.
In the 2005 crossover event “House of M” (written by Brian Michael Bendis and pencilled by Olivier Coipel), an alternate reality was created by Scarlet Witch where mutants dominated humans, but the main timeline was restored. In the process, Scarlet Witch depowered almost all of the mutants on Earth, leaving the unused power of the mutants to form an energy being called the Collective. That power was absorbed into an Alaskan mailman named Michael Pointer in “New Avengers” #16 (2006), written by Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven.
The power of millions of former mutants transformed Pointer into what eventually became known as Weapon Omega, a being of immense abilities who could absorb and drain abilities from other mutants. He killed thousands, including the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, until he was finally able to transfer some of the power to Magneto. He became a reluctant member of Omega Flight to atone for what he did.
8. COMPOSITE SUPERMAN
In 1964, “World’s Finest Comics” #142 introduced Composite Superman, created by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan. Composite Superman began as a diver named Joseph Meach who was rescued by Superman and given a job at the Superman Museum in Metropolis which also had a series of statuettes of the Legion of Superheroes. When a bolt of lightning hit the statuettes, Meach was given all their combined powers, including the ability to shapeshift. He gave himself a half-Superman, half-Batman look and called himself Composite Superman.
After being defeated, later on, an alien named Xan recreated the accident to give himself the powers instead. When “Zero Hour” rebooted the continuity of the Legion, a new Composite Superman was born in “Legion of Super-Heroes” #68 as an alien Durlan who was given the powers of the Legion as a weapon. However, Meach’s Composite Superman remains the strongest version by far, given powers like telepathy, the ability to stretch and change into different shapes, fire lightning bolts and even duplicate himself.
7. COUNT NEFARIA
In 1965’s “Avengers” #13, Count Nefaria first appeared in a comic drawn by Don Heck and written by Stan Lee. A wealthy Italian aristocrat and criminal, Nefaria was driven to create a supervillain team called the Lethal Legion comprised of Whirlwind, Power Man and the Living Laser, whom he sent to fight the Avengers in 1977’s “Avengers” #164 – 166. The Legion had their powers augmented by Baron Zemo, but were transferred to Count Nefaria, in whom they were 100 times more powerful.
Nefaria could fire energy blasts like the Living Laser, move at super-speed like Whirlwind and had the strength of Power Man. With all of these powers, he could push over buildings and even stop Thor’s hammer with one hand. Nefaria eventually was killed and reborn as an energy being. He’s returned again and again to face superheroes like Squirrel Girl, and uses the powers he’s gained to try to take over the world.
6. THE ISOLATIONIST
The Isolationist made his first brief appearance in 1993’s “X-Factor” #89, created by Pablo Raimondi and Peter David, but he didn’t really make a splash until 2007’s “X-Factor” #21, also written by Peter David. The Isolationist is a German telepath named Joseph Huber who has the combined power of all the mutants on Earth, but he’s forced to live in a cave, far from other mutants and humans, because he can read the minds of all the mutants on Earth at once.
The Isolationist could use his powers to create advanced technology, teleport himself and others, had super-strength and pretty much anything else. The only thing he couldn’t do was directly kill mutants, even though he wanted to destroy all the mutants in the world because of the agony caused by their minds. He organized an elaborate plan to get X-Factor Investigations to bring all the mutants into one place so he could teleport them to the Antarctic and freeze them to death.
1986’s “D.P. 7,” written by Mark Gruenwald and pencilled by Paul Ryan, was set in Marvel’s New Universe, an alternate world where humans were given superpowers by a mysterious white energy blast called the White Event. “D.P. 7” was about a group of people called paranormals who escaped from a facility that claimed to be helping them, but actually turned out to be run by a sinister man named Philip Nolan Voigt.
Voigt revealed himself to be the most powerful paranormal of all, nicknamed Overshadow, who wanted to make them into an army. Overshadow was climbing a mountain during the White Event and gained the ability to absorb the powers of all other paranormals to use for himself, but even more powerfully. Voigt used his powers to rise to become President of the United States and was only defeated by the Starbrand, who stripped him of his powers. Voigt would later return with them intact, but it was never explained how that happened.
Amazo has a better name, more history and better powers than the Super-Duper, but is kind of the same deal. Amazo is another power-absorbing android who first made his debut in 1960’s “The Brave and the Bold” #30, written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Murphy Anderson. Created by a mad scientist to find ways of making himself immortal, the android Amazo quickly took on the new purpose of destroying the Justice League, which it’s done by using the ability to absorb and copy powers from the League.
Amazo can copy the strength of Superman and Wonder Woman, the speed of the Flash, and even the weapons of the League like Green Lantern’s power ring and Hawkgirl’s mace. Over the years, Amazo has been captured, shut down and reactivated on many occasions, each time returning as a major threat. Even in the New 52 reboot, Amazo turned up in 2012’s “Justice League” #8. Amazo is amazingly dangerous.
In 1963, the Super-Skrull was introduced in “Fantastic Four” #18, created by Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. The high-powered Fantastic Four had been facing an alien race known as the Skrulls, who could change their shape and tried to invade Earth. To fight the Fantastic Four, the Skrulls decided to create their own weapon against the superheroes, giving superpowers to a Skrull military officer who they called the Super-Skrull.
The Super-Skrull has the powers of all four members of the Fantastic Four at his command. He has the strength of the Thing, can stretch his body like Mister Fantastic, create flames like the Human Torch, and turn invisible like the Invisible Woman. With his ability to use and combine these powers, plus his shape-shifting and ability to hypnotise people, Super-Skrull became one of the most deadly and longest-lasting enemies of the Fantastic Four. He’s continued to be a threat all by himself.
Another character from the New Universe with combined powers was the being that came to be known as Psi-Hawk. Beginning in 1986 with “Psi-Force” #1, written by Steve Perry and Mark Texeira, the series was about a group of paranormal teenagers with psychic powers who were all on the run from a government agency. The teens were brought together by a C.I.A. agent named Emmett Proudhawk, and when he’s killed, the kids discovered they could focus on his medallion to combine their powers into the being known as Psi-Hawk.
Psi-Hawk had all the powers of the five teenagers, only enhanced to a greater degree. It could fly, move objects with its mind, project mental blasts and more. At first, Psi-Hawk could only be created by all five of the teens, but later on in the series, as few as two members would be needed to create it, and other people outside the group could contribute to creating Psi-Hawk as well.
1. CAPTAIN PLANET
The 1990s were a time of increased interest in the environment, and for kids of the era, there’s no better symbol of that than the TV series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.” First broadcast in 1990 on TBS, the show was about five teens who were chosen by Gaia (the spirit of the Earth) to wear mystic rings that gave them the powers of the elements; earth, fire, wind, water and “heart.” Together, the Planeteers would travel the world to stop environmental supervillains from ruining the Earth. When they faced a threat they couldn’t handle, they could combine their powers to become Captain Planet.
Captain Planet’s powers were always kept vague so he could pretty much do whatever needed to be done in order to beat the bad guys. He had super-strength, could fly and withstand harsh conditions, but he also had the power to change the material of himself and other objects. He always reminded viewers that “the power is yours.”
Which is your favorite superhero combination? Let us know in the comments!