If We Describe Their Powers, Can You ID These Superheroes?
By: Ian Fortey
This superhero can spin a web any size and catch some thieves just like flies. Look out! Who is it?
Spider-Man got his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, at least in the original version created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. In later versions, they updated the science a bit and made it a genetically modified spider.
What powerful hero draws strength from Earth's yellow sun and can leap a tall building in a single bound? Of course, they can also fly and punch the building down.
One of the oldest heroes in comics, Superman's original set of abilities did not include the power of flight. What he could do at the time was run at great speed and jump like nobody's business, which is why the old cartoons used to say he could leap tall buildings.
Do you know this hero who doesn't have natural superpowers but has built some amazingly powerful armor that provides a vast array of weapons, strength and the ability to fly?
Iron Man, who is more often than not the alter-ego of Tony Stark, has been around since the 1960s. Iron Man is not the only one in the suit in modern comics, either. While film audiences know about War Machine, there is also Ironheart, piloted by Riri Williams, and Rescue, piloted by Tony's significant other, Pepper Potts.
Gamma radiation gave this hero a nearly endless supply of strength at the cost of their intellect. Do you know who it is?
Bruce Banner became the Incredible Hulk after exposure to gamma radiation in his lab. Since that time there have been a lot of other Hulks including the sinister Maestro, the Grey Hulk, the Red Hulk, She-Hulk and even a gangster named Joe Fixit, among many others.
This hero isn't always on the side of good and is skilled in gymnastics, hand-to-hand combat and, of course, thievery. Who is it?
Catwoman has been an on and off villain/ally of Batman for decades now. That said, in the comic book world at least things have smoothed out quite a bit since Catwoman and Batman actually got married. Good for them!
Who is this powerful hero who can read the minds of others and also compel them to do things?
Charles Xavier, better known as Professor X, is a powerful psychic and the founder of the X-Men. He's also related to a number of other popular characters in the comics universe. He's the father of Legion, who has his own show on FX, and he's brothers with the Juggernaut, who you may recall tore Deadpool in half.
What superhero is able to open a window to another universe before his own eyes and fire beams of energy from it?
Cyclops is one of the founding members of the X-Men and often depicted as their leader. While it seems like he just fires lasers from his eyes, in over 50 years of history writers have established that Cyclops actually absorbs solar energy that he uses to open a small portal to another universe from where his optic blasts originate.
This hero is empowered by a ring that is in turn fueled by the hero's own willpower. Who is it?
The Green Lantern is one of many Green Lanterns who makes up the Green Lantern Corps. They're defenders of the universe from cosmic threats which include Lanterns of literally every other color, the most dangerous of whom are the zombified Black Lanterns.
Super strength and fighting abilities aren't all this hero has, they're also part god and equipped with a lasso that compels people to be honest. Who do we mean?
The Amazon Wonder Woman is one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe, but like all characters has had to overcome some goofy history. Notably, Wonder Woman used to have an invisible jet which was especially weird since the jet was invisible but not her when she was in it.
This anti-hero is empowered by the forces of Hell itself and also a living, parasitic costume. Can you name them?
Al Simmons became Spawn after he died and went to Hell, which sounds like a rough deal. The character is one of the flagship heroes from Image comics, which was formed in the '90s by a handful of the top writers and artists who had previously made their names at Marvel and DC.
Do you know this character whose power is to absorb the powers of others and in the comics has the powers of flight and super strength?
Rogue's ability to absorb the powers of others allowed her to get an upgrade in the comic books when she encountered Captain Marvel and siphoned off her powers enough to get a permanent upgrade allowing her to fly.
This character is considered the greatest detective ever. He has no superpowers, but he does have a lot of gadgets and training. Who is it?
Bruce Wayne has been living a double life as Batman since 1939. In that time he's fought many enemies, but unlike most other comics he's stuck true to his roots by not having any superhuman abilities or at least none that last for very long. His power has always been his own mind.
Who is this hero that is so fast they can phase through solid matter and even travel through time?
The Flash got his powers after a one-two punch of zany chemicals and a lightning strike. Like many characters, he never fully pushed the limits of his abilities very often, but at one point Barry Allen actually turned into a literal lightning bolt and went back in time to make himself into the Flash.
When you have accelerated healing and a skeleton coated in adamantium, you're very hard to kill; like this hero. Who is it?
Wolverine, also known as Logan, also known as James Howlett, is a very old mutant, although in the comics he didn't show up until the 1970s when he made his debut alongside the Incredible Hulk fighting a monster called Wendigo.
A skull wreathed in hellfire and a flaming motorcycle are part of this hero's powers. Do you know who it is?
Nic Cage famously played the Ghost Rider in movies, a sort of bounty hunter for the devil who can burn the sin out of people. In the comics, the Ghost Rider is much more than that and may, in fact, be the strongest hero on the face of the Earth. Maybe.
Before this hero learned to control ancient and powerful magic, his skill was as a surgeon. Name him!
Dr. Stephen Strange learned the mystical arts to become the sorcerer supreme of Earth. The movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch was very popular but also wasn't the first movie featuring Strange. A very low budget made-for-TV "Dr. Strange" was made back in the 1970s.
Under DC's Vertigo banner, this character ruled over the World of Dreams. Who was it?
Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" was one of the best-reviewed books of all time and is still incredibly popular today, years after the series ended. It's one of the few comics that has not been successfully adapted to a film franchise and, in fact, Gaiman has said he would rather have no Sandman movie than a bad Sandman movie.
Saying a magic word brings out the powers in this hero that include flight, strength, control of electricity and immortality. Who is it?
Shazam is also known as Captain Marvel but of course, Marvel also has a Captain Marvel. How did that happen? Captain Marvel was originally a Fawcett Comics character from the '30s. DC said it was a ripoff of Superman and sued them. Marvel trademarked the name in the '50s, but DC bought the character from Fawcett. So they had the guy but couldn't call him Captain Marvel and instead started calling him by his power word - Shazam.
Being mouthy isn't this character's power, even though he's good at it. His real power is incredible healing. Who is he?
Deadpool has gotten very famous thanks to the Ryan Reynolds movies. Weirdly enough, Reynolds has played Deadpool in three movies, not just two, first taking on the task in the monumentally bad "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" films in which the character made no sense, lost his mouth and could shoot optic blasts like Cyclops for some reason.
When you're not even human it helps to have the power to shape shift like this character, who can also turn invisible and phase through solid objects.
The Martian Manhunter is a green-skinned alien and founding member of the Justice League. You didn't see him in the recent Justice League film, but he did show up in a made-for-TV adaptation in the 1980s that is best forgotten by everyone, everywhere.
He can call the lightning and wield a hammer that only the truly worthy can even lift. What's his name?
Thor, the son of Odin, is from the god-like race called Asgardians. He's not the only one who ever managed to wield that hammer, though. Another alien named Beta Ray Bill has used it, as have Captain America, Superman and Wonder Woman. Also a frog name Throg, Frog of Thunder.
X-ray vision, super speed, flight, and general invulnerability are a few of this character's powers, which are very similar to her cousin's. Name her.
Supergirl, also know as Kara Zor-El, is Superman's cousin and another Kryptonian with the same basic set of skills. There have been other people who used the name "Supergirl" over the years, however, including one that was a man-made life form created by Lex Luthor.
This hero can absorb ambient cosmic energy allowing him to travel the universe and alternate dimensions as well as making him nearly immortal. Who is it?
The Silver Surfer shows up very often in the Fantastic Four and appeared in one of their films as well, even though no one liked it. Part of his powers include the ability to transform matter and energy, which means he never needs to eat he can just sustain himself.
Size means nothing to this hero who can grow incredibly tall or shrink to subatomic sizes. Who is it?
Ant-Man uses something called Pym Particles to help him alter his size, allowing him to shrink down to microscopic size. In the movies, we get a glimpse of the subatomic universe and in the comics, there really is a whole universe there with its own worlds and people, too.
Trained to be a spy and skilled in numerous forms of combat, this hero is agile and deadly but doesn't have actual superpowers. Who is it?
Black Widow, also known as Natasha Romanoff, was a Russian spy at one point. Because it's hard to compete in a world full of gods and people who can snap their fingers and end half the universe, she's been given a few technological enhancements in the comics over the years, including a healing ability.
Armed with a mop, this mutated hero has super strength and durability. What's the name?
The Toxic Avenger has had four movies and a comic book from Marvel even though most people have likely never seen or heard of the character. The ultra-low budget first movie was released by Troma films, which is where James Gunn, director of "Guardians of the Galaxy" got his start.
Teleportation is this hero's main skill, but fencing is another ability as well. Do you know who it is?
Nightcrawler is one of the more popular X-Men members thanks to his unusual personality and appearance. He's a devout Catholic but looks like a blue demon, which at some point in the comics we learn is because of who his parents are. His father is Azazel, a teleporting, demon-like character from the movie "X-men: First Class" and his mother, weirdly enough, is Mystique.
What's the name of this son of Magneto who can move at incredible speed?
Quicksilver has appeared in both the MCU films and the X-Men films played by two different actors, which is only vaguely confusing. His character died in "Age of Ultron" but lives on in the X-Men franchise where the special effects involved in the use of his power make the whole world seem to slow to a crawl.
Complete with blue skin and no pants, this hero has the ability to manipulate physics and do almost anything. Who is it?
Dr. Manhattan is the most powerful being in "The Watchmen" and basically transcends the human race entirely as the story progresses. He becomes a god-like figure and doesn't seem to particularly enjoy it all that much, either.
After taking part in a government experiment, this hero gains strength, speed, and reflexes. Plus a cool shield. Who is it?
Captain America is one of Marvel's oldest titles and has proven to be one of the most popular, as well. The current crop of movies is not the first time the Captain has been on film though as there were several older attempts including a 1990 movie and a 1944 serial.
She doesn't have any powers but she does have an arsenal of weapons and a very limited moral compass. Who is she?
Hit Girl comes from the comic and movie "Kick-Ass," in which no one has any real superpowers, just a lot of skill, determination and maybe psychosis. Chloe Grace-Moretz played the murderous vigilante in the movie when she was just 11 years old.
The weather is under the control of this hero who can summon rain, fog, lightning and tornadoes. Who is it?
The X-Men's Storm has appeared in numerous movies now and cartoons as well. In the comics, the character is married to everyone's favorite Wakandan the Black Panther. Will that ever make it to film? You never know.
After losing his sight as a child, this character developed a kind of sonar-like perception as well as incredibly agility and fighting skill. Who is he?
Daredevil is also known as "The Man Without Fear" and often crosses paths with characters like Spider-Man fighting crime in New York City. Though the Netflix show about Daredevil was fairly serious, the comic Daredevil has had his share of goofy storylines, notably against the perennially ridiculous villain Stilt-man.
Before the movies made him cool, this character was mostly known as the guy who could talk to fish. Who is he?
Aquaman is a very old character who's been around since 1941. Like many DC characters, he's a member of the Justice League but unlike many he spent literally years being made fun of, notably due to his appearance in the old "Super Friends" cartoon in which his character was so goofy and useless it was hard not to make fun of him.
All of this hero's natural abilities are enhanced, plus he has a technologically advanced suit made from vibranium. Who is he?
The King of Wakanda, T'Challa the Black Panther, has become one of Marvel's most popular characters thanks to the movie, but he dates back all the way to 1966. Ironically, the political party of the same name appeared only months after Black Panther debuted as a character.
Both DC Comics and Marvel Comics have been entertaining readers for the better part of a century with their stable of popular heroes and villains. Thanks to the modern age of movies in which special effects can make anything come to life, these characters can be made to look as real as anyone in a way that has proven very popular. Like several billion dollars popular. Superheroes are big business.
Thanks to the way being paved by Marvel and DC, lots of other publishers are out there now, too. Companies like Image, Valiant, Aftershock, Dark Horse, Boom Studios and probably hundreds of others are all making stories about amazing people doing amazing things. Basically, it's a good time to be a comic book fan. And sure, not everyone will get to be as big as Batman or the Hulk, there are still plenty of them out there that get some love. We're wondering, though, if you're fan enough to be able to identify a whole list of characters based on nothing more than their powers. If you think you know your comics stuff, then why not set down your cape and cowl for a minute and try our quiz, see how many superheroes you can identify.
About HowStuffWorks Play
How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!