"Over 20 years after the Chernobyl accident, and am I the only one that’s disappointed? Still no superheroes."In fact, today marks the 23rd year since the faulty reactor at Chernobyl dumped 400 times the fallout from Hiroshima into the environment. And, as Mr. Carr quite accurately points out, that should be lots of time for a mutant or two to have been born, grown up, ostracized by the rest of humanity, and forced to take refuge at some sort of "school" for gifted youngsters run by a bald guy in a wheelchair. And yet, here we are without even a single mutant superhero, let alone dueling armies of heroes and villains. What went wrong?British comedian Jimmy Carr
Let's start with mutation. A little research reveals that mutation is a "base-pair sequence change" in DNA that results in a new characteristic or trait. (Base pairs are all those combinations of the four nucleotides represented by the letters G, A, T and C which provided the source material for the movie title GATTACA.) A change in certain base pairs might result in a butterfly that's a different colour than its siblings, for example. The human genome contains 3 billion base pairs, and I'm willing to accept that the laws of chance allow for all kinds of things to happen when you're dealing with numbers on that scale. After all, if you were flipping 3 billion quarters, it's not impossible for all of them to come up heads.
To extend the analogy, even if they do all come up heads, we're still flipping only quarters, not pennies or nickels. Some of the X-men have abilities that make no sense in terms of mutation* - how in the world would the necessary genetic information for wings get into someone's DNA? It's one thing to get a butterfly that's a funny colour (or even a person with blue skin), but it seems pretty unlikely that you could get a butterfly with lobster claws or porcupine quills.
But I'm not entirely against the concept of the mutant superhero. How could we possibly predict whether or not some combination of genes might allow for telepathy, telekinesis, or any of the other unproven psionic abilities? And I'm happy to give Wolverine the full seal of mutant approval. There's a tendency to forget that his actual mutant abilities are rapid healing and animal-like senses - sensitive smell, hearing and so on - which although a bit extreme are logical extensions of existing human capabilities. People tend to focus more on the adamantium skeleton and claws, which after all are custom add-ons rather than factory stock.
However, the adamantium skeleton implanted by Stryker's Weapon X programme must lead to problems. The human skeleton isn't just a support system for the muscles. Bone marrow produces blood cells, a crucial part of the body's ability to transfer oxygen and fight disease. Logically, if Logan's skeleton is made out of metal, his rapid healing factor must be in a constant battle to prevent something very much like a combination of anemia and leukemia. I wonder if they're going to talk about that in the new movie?
*And even less in terms of physics. The ability to shoot intense powerful beams of energy from your eyes? You've got to think that it would take Mother Nature thousands of generations to build the necessary structures for that. (And I can't imagine that you'd be able to see with the same organs that were able to blast a hole through concrete.) How do you fuel something like that? What possible natural energy source could the human body contain that would allow for that kind of power? For that matter, what are the back of Cyclops' eye sockets made out of in order to make sure that the energy doesn't blast out through the back of his head when his eyes are closed? My god, on that basis what are his eyelids made out of?
And why do Bruce Banner's pants never rip the same way the rest of his clothing does when he turns into the Hulk? I know, I know, they're just comic books.