WARNING: Article may contain science that will make you really mad.
Speed is an awesome superpower. Who would not love to be able to step out their door and ZOOM! be at work? Or go to do their chores and WHOOSH! be finished in a few seconds? Dodge a bullet, never lose a fight, and never miss a deadline… Where is the downside to this power? Let’s explore the downside in this week’s Wednesday What If…?
What If super speed were a real super power in the real world?
I know that most people can name several speedsters from the heroes and villains for whom super speed is a power. Quicksilver, Northstar, The Flash (all versions), Superman, The Sentry, Johnny Quick, Liberty Bell, Kid Flash/Speedy, Impulse, Captain Marvel (DC Comics), and Max Mercury to name a few. We know that Superman, The Sentry, Northstar and Captain Marvel have super speed as a result of their other powers, so we will remove them from this discussion. We want to look at those who are, for the most part, ground bound speedsters.
Now, let’s look at a scenario. When you are in a car, speeding down the highway on a warm summer’s day, looking out your windshield, what do you see? The sky, the road, the trees and grass, okay, but pull your focus back a little. What do you see on the windshield? Death. Tiny dead remains of bugs, smashed to death by the force of their impact with this hurtling vehicle. Even as a motorcyclist, a person wears some sort of protective shielding or is behind a windshield.
So, for those of you not drawing the straight line that I have so nicely plotted out for you, I will put it as plainly as I can in Hulk-speak. FLASH EAT BUG! Yes, speedsters racing around will inevitably be struck or strike various insects and airborne debris. What happens then?
Let’s think about a sandstorm in the desert. As the winds increase, the sand whirling around in those storms can grind paint off of cars or take skin off a human. So, let’s just say that Quicksilver is zipping along and happens to run through a cloud of dust as hypersonic speeds. You don’t think he might get a little more than a microderm abrasion treatment? And bugs, oh let’s talk about bugs. If a speedster can run faster than a bullet, that means that any object that happens to be traveling on a collision course would have the impact of a bullet or worse. So, instead of swallowing a bug, said bug bursts out the backside of said speedsters head. Oops, should have worn a helmet… and a heavily armor plated one at that.
So, why do we never see The Flash stagger into the hospital full of a million tiny cuts and puncture wounds? Maybe there are no insects or airborne debris. Maybe all speedsters create an inherent wind tunnel around themselves that magically protects them from impacts from foreign matter. Or, as I suspect, no one really wants to see Max Mercury whizzing along and have his head explode for no apparent reason other than a stray ladybug hit him in the eye.
This is what I am here for, to ask the hard questions, bring you tough answers, and just take a little steam out of the fantasy world that we all love so much. This is really why we love comics. The suspension of disbelief allows us to step out of our stupid world once in a while and be someone else for about 30 pages. We need this escape. We may never speed around at speeds in excess XXX miles per hour, but we can be really good friends with someone who does.
I hope you come back next week and see what I have in store for you. Until then, keep reading, keep believing, and get Comic Booked!
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