Entropy and Superheroes

by Robert Flores

A certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required in reading comics. Fantastic stories are told that expand our imagination. Most superhero stories deal with things in the real world, though taken to new limits. And sometimes the laws of physics are stretched, but they are never broken (well, sometimes they are).

However, when it comes to the origin stories of superheroes, physics goes out the window. For example, if I was ever hit with gamma rays, I wouldn’t get superpowers; I would be dead. If I was exposed to radiation, I wouldn’t increase in mental/physical capabilities; I would most certainly decrease.

The problem with these examples of origins is that they can’t work in reality. I can accept superheroes getting superpowers by some source, but not a source that, in reality, would give only entropy. Maybe I’m overanalyzing this tendency, but why is it that superhero origin stories never acknowledge the Law of Entropy? Everything else in a superhero’s world is set in “the real world”. So why is one of the basic laws of physics disregarded?

I believe the answer lies in the fact that we storytellers know it can’t work, and yet we are still striving to create a fantasy; so it’s easier if things like entropy are ignored. And that’s fine. That’s part of the baggage that comes with writing fiction.

But why the striving? Why the struggle to create an origin for a superhero that ignores entropy? Because writers, specifically non-Christian writers, are trying to tell a fantastic origin of a man by purely natural means. They have a naturalistic outlook on life and their stories must reflect that outlook. In other words, all sources for all origins can be found in some super-powerful force without appealing to the supernatural. Or so they think.

From both an intellectual and a storytelling perspective, I find it much more plausible for God to “just give” a man extraordinary powers than in some random cosmic radiation. Non-Christian writers don’t have that luxury. Their solutions to origin stories usually equate to mutations caused by some cosmic/gamma radiation. But that is an impossibility! Their source defies the Law of Entropy right off the bat, whereas a God that could “reach in” and make something extraordinary happen grounds Christian superheroes in reality.

Both Christian and non-Christian writers know that they have to ignore the laws of physics in the telling of a superhero’s origin. And that’s what I find fascinating; telling an origin story is essentially the telling of a miracle. For the Christian writer, that is not a problem. He already comes from a perspective that believes God can make miracles happen. But what about the non-Christian writer? How does he get around writing about a miracle? Well, he can’t. He can only change the source of that miracle. Hence, the entire superhero genre is rampant with implausible, random, naturalistic origins that disallow the supernatural in any way: cosmic rays, radiation, mutations, electromagnetism, gamma rays, nanotechnology, quantum flux, “celestial seed”, etc.

So, I guess that’s why it’s called “fiction” right? But why make an origin story more fictitious than it has to be? And why do all superheroes have to get their powers from impersonal forces? The truth is they don’t have to. This is where Christian writers have an advantage (though some would say it’s a cop-out). As Christians, we have a Source of power that will not degenerate a man, but will regenerate him. We have a Source that is not subject to entropy or any other physical law. We have a “force” that can make anything grow upwards and not downwards and that Force is God Himself!

For the Christian writer (and his Christian superheroes), miracles are grounded in reality and extend from a God who is outside and above physical laws. Miracles are not due to a god of chaos or a god of radiation, but to a God who has a purpose for this world. If God could create the universe ex nihilo, then He most certainly could give superpowers to His children if He so desired. And those are the stories I want to read—superheroes who receive their power from God (and not gamma rays). It’s those stories that remind me that a Day is coming when God will take away all entropy and give us all superpowers.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. —Ephesians 3:20,21