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

March 22, 2021 1.7k votes 354 voters 75.7k views14 items

List RulesVote up the villains with power origins you didn't know about.

Villain superpowers in comic books are vast, varied, and almost never work exactly how one might assume. Getting into comics is an endless rabbit hole, and there are decades upon decades of facts one could study about all the different powers in the different comic book universes. Of course, a lot of those facts contradict each other, making it even harder to establish exactly whose superpowers work in what way. 

Villains, heroes, and villains who everyone forgot were villains, all must feel misunderstood by the sheer amount of false facts and rumors that have sprung up about their powers. For instance, the Green Goblin isn't just a deranged man with pumpkin-themed gadgets; he has super-strength. Kingpin is secretly all muscle under his white suit. It seems just about every villain has a few nuances to their powerset the average fan would be more than a little surprised by. 

  • What You Thought His Superpower Does: Magneto, AKA Max Eisenhardt, is the master of magnetism and famed frenemy of Charles Xavier. With his complete control of all things metal, he's a worthy foe for any opponent. Even with the common misconception that Magneto basically possesses an odd sort of limited telekinesis (because he can only use it on metal objects), he's still incredibly powerful. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: Magneto is one of a very select group of mutants classified as Omega Level. All mutants classified as Omega are the most powerful mutants of their specific powerset and have no limit to their abilities. Magneto can use his powers to control the entire electromagnetic field of a planet and once used his abilities to control a metal object that was literal lightyears away from him. 

  • Photo: DC Comics

    What You Thought His Superpower Does: The average fan can't be blamed for not fully understanding the Clown Prince of Crime's power levels. Almost no character in comic book history has varied throughout their appearances as much as the Joker. Sometimes he's a mobster, and sometimes he's a horrific lunatic stalker. In general, aided by most of his appearances, the average fan seems to believe there is nothing extra-human about the Joker. He has the strength and intelligence of a normal man; he's just a lunatic. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: In Grant Morrison's esteemed series Arkham Asylum, it is revealed Joker has a condition known as super-sanity. Basically, the Joker has no real personality of his own and chooses a new personality to inhabit each and every day. This not only accounts for Joker's unique brand of bonkers but also the massive discrepancies between his various incarnations. 

  • What You Thought His Superpower Does: Most mutants are intrinsically linked to their superpowered abilities. Anyone who knows Wolverine knows about his healing and claws, and anyone who knows of Cyclops knows about his powerful optic blasts. Apocalypse is an exception to that rule. What exactly are his powers, anyway? He's from ancient Egypt, he's immortal, and he brings about an apocalypse. But, seriously, what does he do? 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: Apocalypse's only inherent ability is known as self-molecular manipulation. Basically, Apocalypse can change his molecular structure, allowing him to regenerate his body if damaged and change it into pretty much any form. His trademark armor, swiped from a Celestial, increases his power level even further. The ill-gotten armor allows him to project Celestial energy blasts and makes him physically strong enough to square up against the Hulk. 

  • What You Thought His Superpower Does: The Rhino is a massive man with super-strength that likes to play dress-up like a zoo animal. He's a core villain in Spidey's rogues' gallery, but the general public definitely knows a lot less about his origins than, say, Doc Ock or the Green Goblin. 

    What His Superpower Actually Does: Similar to Bruce Banner before him, Rhino was given incredible abilities through experiments with gamma radiation. On top of his gamma-given powers, his rhino costume is actually a sophisticated suit that gives him increased strength and makes him more impervious to damage.