ByTom Chapman, writer at
tweet: tomtomchap Warden of the North - bearded, tattooed and square eyed 'til the end
Tom Chapman

After nearly 80 years of superhero comics, we have to ask ourselves: what really makes our heroes super? Is it the powers they are born with (or have thrust upon them), or the knowledge they acquire over the course of their lives? Batman v Superman itself was a (long) battle of faith vs. science, and we eagerly queued up so see who would win this age-old fight. The answer one!

Whilst origin stories for our super-powered heroes are a dime a dozen, much less is written about what makes the brain-boxes of comics tick. Yet, their role is just as integral as their super-powered counterparts — without their gadgetry, battle strategy and quick-thinking, many of our favorite heroes would be toast. To celebrate our favorite science geek's accomplishments, here are 8 times that prove when gadgets go right, science can really save the day.

1. Flash in the Pan

For starters, let's head on over to CW's The Flash. Team Flash are the kids that are brave enough to save the world, but nice enough to explain how the internet works to your grandma.

Season 1's "The Sound and the Fury" focussed on ex-employee Hartley Rathaway. Under the alias of Pied Piper, Rathaway was your typical geek with a grudge, who took on Allen with a pair of sonic gauntlets. Naturally, Pied Piper had his ass handed to him and spent a night in the cells at S.T.A.R. labs. However, in the old 'flip-a-roo', it turned out Hartley wanted to be captured, and soon escaped with a head full of Team Flash secrets.

Showdown No.2 took place at the Goldeneye-esque setting of a dam, where it looked like curtains for Barry when he proved to be no match for Rathaway's sonic gloves. Luckily, back at H.Q., Harrison Wells hijacked a nearby satellite (as you do) and used nearby car radio signals to jam Rathaway's sonic waves. Our villain dashed to save his gloves, only to have them explode in his hands. After some bandaging up, Rathaway was contained back at S.T.A.R. Labs... for a while!

2. Iron Maiden

Suffice it to say, Iron Man has been literally kept alive by his own inventions countless times. Stark has battled with demons ranging from alcohol addiction to a harem of super-villains - and it didn't take him long to figure out he couldn't do it alone. Nowadays, with Pepper Potts, War Machine and Riri Williams suiting up, Team Stark has swelled in ranks; but to really see what Tony can do, we need the Iron Legion!

It was a case of 'suits to the rescue' in the finale of the lacklustre Iron Man 3. The film may have toyed with Mandarin fans, but the triumphant finale saw Tony Stark's legion of suits come to the rescue. Controlled remotely by J.A.R.V.I.S, Marks VIII to XLI put up a valiant fight against Aldrich Killian and his Extremis Soldiers . It was R.I.P. Legion V.1, as after the battle on the Norco, Tony destroyed the Legion to prove his love for Pepper Potts. We would ask Potts what she thinks about this grand gesture, but she has done a Jane Foster and vanished into Marvel obscurity.

3. Raise the Banners

Image: Marvel
Image: Marvel

In the stereotypical roster of Avengers that's canonized by the films, it is only Thor who doesn't owe his powers to advances in technology. However, it's up for debate whether or not the team's 'Jekyll and Hyde' Bruce Banner feels he really 'owes' science anything.

There was always going to be someone else hot on Banner's green heels, and that person was none other than Amadeus Cho. Some time after the Secret Wars storyline, Cho had become Hulk, but it was only in Totally Awesome Hulk #7 that the extent of the Hulk-cident was revealed. Hulk-Banner sacrificed himself to prevent a reactor going into meltdown, and in the process, absorbed a lethal amount of radiation.

Luckily, Cho (aided by some rather helpful nanites) saved the day! The nanites separated Hulk from Banner, but transferred the Mean Green into Cho's contamination suit. Voila, an all-new Hulk! Unlike Bruce, Cho seems to be more in control of his Hulk, using a device on his wrist to transform to the Emerald Giant, whilst enjoying his time swooping around the galaxy.

4. Transformers: Robots in Disguise

Image: DC
Image: DC

D.C.'s New 52 rebooted the character of Cyborg from a Robot Chicken parody to the cornerstone of the revamped Justice League. Without the New 52, we probably wouldn't be seeing our metallic friend in Zack Snyder's Justice League.

In the New 52 origin, Victor Stone was involved in a S.T.A.R. labs explosion. Silas Stone went to the lab's ' Red Room', and in an intense arts and crafts session, pieced his son back together, using various pieces of international tech.

Legendary comic superstars Geoff Johns and Jim Lee united on the Justice League Vol.2 series in 2011, seeing our heroes battle the onslaught of Darkseid. The Motherbox technology inside Stone allowed Cyborg to see Darkseid's true invasion plans. It also allowed him to absorb the powers of some Parademons, and acquire some rather helpful 'Boom-Tube' technology. Whilst Batman and Superman were sucked into an alternative dimension, Cyborg reversed the Boom Tube technology in his systems. Stone was able to transport all the aliens (including Darkseid) off our planet in one powerful blast, whilst saving the rest of the Justice League. The world suggested that our newly formed League call themselves the 'Super Seven', but a badly damaged Cyborg was reluctant to join at first. Thankfully it was Cyborg, and not the team name, that stuck around.

5. Hanks a Lot

A dastardly science experiment gone wrong, Ultron first appeared in Avengers #54. It was later revealed that Ultron is in fact a creation of Hank Pym — thanks a lot, Michael Douglas! The robot has more than a slight Oedipus complex, and this father/son relationship is more fraught than most.

Image: Marvel
Image: Marvel

In the "Age of Ultron" storyline (no, not the film), a time-travelling Invisible Woman and Wolverine went back in time to kill Pym & prevent Ultron from ever existing. Altering the future for the worse, Wolverine returned to find that magic had overtaken tech — and that's no good thing. As Iron Man explained to Logan, "you broke the world".

Wolverine had to go back and stop his past self from killing Pym. The two Wolverines and a young Pym discussed the Catch-22 situation of creating/destroying Ultron. Pym built Ultron again, but with a back-door protocol if anyone needed to shut him down. Obviously, Ultron launched his attack from the start of the story, but was taken aback when Pym's virus destroyed him. Score: Pym 1, Ultron nil!

6. Incy Wincy Spider

Image: Marvel
Image: Marvel

Alongside Batman, Spidey has one of the weirdest cavalcade of villains in the comic book universe, with science playing a huge part in Spider-Man's arsenal of foes. Everything from Otto Octavius's mechanical arms to Shocker's gloves and Green Goblin's hoverboard have given Peter Parker hell.

In 1963's The Amazing Spider-Man #2, Parker realized that he could sell pictures to J.J Jameson for some extra dollar- fighting crime is not a well paid job, it seems. Attempting to snap pictures of new villain Vulture, their first meeting saw Spider-Man trapped in a vat by his winged foe (your classic spider-in-the-bath situation). During a second confrontation, Vulture's cockiness soon wore off when Peter attached his anti-magnetic inverter to Vulture's wings. Vulture fell in to a tailspin, and straight into the arms of the police. Peter easily swung away, getting the snaps he needed for Jameson, leaving Toomes to plot his revenge from a jail cell.

We may well see a version of this arc in Spiderman: Homecoming, where Michael Keaton will be bringing the Vulture to life. We are hoping that if we see this moment adapted 54 years later, they will have come up with a better name than 'anti-magnetic inverter'!

7. The Wizard of Oz(ymandias)

Saving the day, or ruining the future? Are you a Dr. Manhattan or a Rorshach? As "the smartest man on the planet", Adrian Alexander Veidt a.k.a. Ozymandias could definitely give Tony Stark a run for his money when it comes to brain over brawn. Between engineering a botched assassination attempt on his own life and murdering The Comedian, Ozymandias is prepared to do whatever it takes for 'the greater good' — as the finale of the film & comic both prove.

With the Doomsday clock nearing midnight, Ozymandias's end goal was to teleport a biologically-engineered threat into New York, causing an explosion that would wipe out millions. Veidt's hope was that the U.S. and the Soviets would put down their weapons and unite against the alien foe, preventing a world war. The Watchmen were too late to stop Ozymandias's device, and NYC really did go boom!

Whilst morally questionable, there is no doubt that the schemes of Veidt ultimately caused peace around the world. Veidt's mantra came from fellow Watchman Captain Metropolis's plea that someone needs to save the world. Veidt was always thinking twelve moves ahead; he is exactly the kind of man you want on your chess team.

8. Bat's All Folks

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Finally, you can't write an article about super-science without including the Caped Crusader himself. Na-na-na-na-na Batman! Aside from shark repellent and Bat-Jet-Rollerskates, the Dark Knight has a pretty nifty arsenal.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The superb second film in the Dark Knight trilogy pitted Batman against his greatest foe: Joker. Way before we got to 'clowning around', though, Bruce took a trip to Hong Kong to track down mafia contact Mr. Lau. Lucius Fox installs a sonar device into cell phones as a way of tracking down Lau. Bruce's nifty sonar lenses allow him to see through walls and pick up conversations, allowing him to locate his target.

The lenses returned again as Batman attempted to track down Joker, inserting a super-virus version of the program into every cell in Gotham. Wayne decided that his tech wielded too much power, instructing Lucius to shut it down. Batman using sonar sounds like something more from the campy '60s show, but kudos to Nolan...he made it work!

Image: 20th Century Fox
Image: 20th Century Fox

As Wayne and Stark tech shows us, even if you're not a mutant or a metahuman, you can still take out the bad guys. All you need is some super soldier serum, or a few batarangs!

In an era where Genesis Chambers and Winter Soldier programmes are causing havoc for our heroes, our comic-book counterparts are turning to tech now more than ever. Sorry Clark... you really should have paid attention in science class!


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