Famous Superheroes Whose Powers Don’t Work The Way You Think

List Rules
Vote up the heroes with power origins you didn't know about.

The 18 superhero films that come out each year should maybe focus a little less on the origins of these superheroes and a little more on how superhero powers actually work. Seriously, does anyone not know how Peter Parker got his powers at this point? Yet, almost no one knows exactly how Peter is sticking to those walls. Luckily, even if the movies haven't delved into the details quite yet, the comics certainly have. There have been decades upon decades of pages to fill at this point, so just about all the good hero superpowers have been fully explained. 

To be fair, some of these misconceptions about heroes' powers come from the constantly in-flux nature of superhero comics. A power that started one way may later be explained to function entirely differently. There's a ton of misconceptions about superhero abilities, and it's about time they finally got cleared up. 


  • What You Thought His Superpower Does: Just like an actual arachnid, Spider-Man can stick to walls. It has long been believed Spider-Man sticks to walls through his incredibly sticky hands, although after putting a little bit of thought into this, how would he touch everyday objects without them sticking to him? There's also the Sam Raimi approach, wherein small hairs on Peter's palms allow him to cling to surfaces. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: Spider-Man can consciously control the "flux of interatomic attraction between molecular boundary layers." Basically, in general, the outer electron shells of two objects repulse each other. Parker can manipulate his particles so the electrons attract instead of repulse. He's able to do this with all parts of his body, as well, not just his hands and feet. If he wanted to, Spidey could climb up a wall on his elbows and knees, or even hold himself up by his face if his hands got tired. 

  • The Winter Soldier's Powers Come From A Completely Different Serum Than Captain America's
    Photo: DC Comics

    What You Thought His Superpower Does: As the kid-sidekick to Captain America - and later, the man who took over as Captain America - it's reasonable to assume that, at some point, Bucky Barnes was the recipient of the Super-Soldier Serum. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: As a child soldier fighting alongside Captain America, Bucky had no powers of any kind. That's probably why the inevitable happened, and this junior warrior met a grisly end in battle. Later, when he was taken by the Russians, he was given some amount of super-human strength through his cybernetic arm. Eventually, Barnes would become Rogers's physical equal, but through an entirely different serum. To save Bucky's life, Nick Fury administered a dosage of the Infinity Formula to Bucky. 

  • Flash Is Just A Release Valve For The Speed Force
    Photo: DC Comics

    What You Thought His Superpower Does: It's a common misconception that Flash is fast in the sense that his muscles propel him at incredible speeds. Many fans believe Barry Allen earned the title of the fastest man alive because he, himself, is quite literally fast. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: Barry Allen's fortuitous lab mishap made him a conduit of the Speed Force. The Speed Force is the literal cosmic force that controls all movement in the universe and is responsible for pushing time and space forward. The Speed Force generates a lot of excess energy, and Allen can tap into that excess and act as a release valve for the Speed Force, giving him incredible abilities. 

  • Superman Doesn't Fly - He Manipulates Gravity
    Photo: DC Comics

    What You Thought His Superpower Does: Superman, AKA Clark Kent, has more powers than the original X-Men put together. Clark is super strong, super fast, shoots lasers from his eyes, and has freezing breath (we could go on). Yet, even with all of those abilities, Superman's most iconic power remains his most simplistic. Superman can soar through the air with the grace of a bird and the power of a jet. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: Superman's Kryptonian physiology allows him to absorb energy from solar radiation emitted from yellow stars. One of the powers this energy gives Superman is the ability to manipulate gravity particles. Basically, Clark doesn't need to propel himself to fly because he's able to manipulate the very thing fighting against him (gravity) and make it stop.