Remember that one friend who didn't know how to hack it on the action figure battlefield and would insist that every attack your plastic gentleman threw at his or her plastic gentleman was blocked by an invisible, invincible forcefield? Remember how annoying that was? Superheroes and villains need weaknesses; otherwise, they're crappy action figures. Unfortunately, comic writers too-often take the easy out by throwing up their hands and saying, "Well, if he can fly, the rest doesn't have to make sense." Here are seven comic book weaknesses that make Kryptonite seem sensible.
Way back in the '40s, long before the Green Lantern was Ryan Reynolds in a knock-off TRON costume that shows off his abs, there was Alan Scott, an engineer who found a magic lantern, carved a ring out of it, and went off to fight some crime. The first Green Lantern didn't have much going for him in the way of coolness: his uniform was a pair of green parachute pants, a purple cape, and a red shirt with a picture of a lantern on it; and his sidekick was a cabbie from Brooklyn named Doiby Dickles. Worst of all, though, was his weakness: his magic, ancient, powerful ring has no effect on wood.
For most superheroes, this would be a problem entirely never. For Alan Scott, it was a problem all the time. On his very first outing, he gets a sound drubbing from a gangster with a wooden club, and his arch-nemesis, Solomon Grundy, is a reanimated corpse made mostly of swamp matter. When you've got a purple cape on and you're afraid to go into furniture stores, you might want to take some time to rethink your career path.
A nerd can get behind Superman being weak to red sun radiation, since he's empowered by our yellow sun. A nerd can deal with Kryptonite, because it's radioactive, sort of like the Kryptonian equivalent of uranium. What a nerd cannot and should not stomach is Superman being weak to magic. Science fiction, fantasy, myth, and the whole cape-and-tight oeuvre are able to construct full, satisfying stories because they create and then adhere to their own internal logic. All that goes entirely out the window when the writer says: "Fuck it, I don't know, magic?"
Superman is impervious to heat, cold, most radiation, and the void of space, so why should he be weak to magic? "Because it's magic!" seems to be the only answer. It's also the worst possible answer, in comics or any other medium, precisely because it's the narrative equivalent of taking a huge dump on internal logic's doorstep. If Superman is weak to magic then that means that he could potentially be gored by a unicorn or beaten to death by a leprechaun. That's just not okay.
Arguably dumber than the first Green Lantern's weakness to wood is successive Green Lanterns' weakness to the color yellow. Because of a "yellow impurity" in the rings' central power battery, Green Lantern rings have no effect on anything of that color. On one level, it's just dumb at face value, because come on, yellow? It's the color of sunshine, and it makes a Green Lantern defenseless against slipping on a banana peel and being peed on, probably the two most humiliating things. When you get on into it, though, it's dumb for so many other reasons:
- The Green Lanterns are an intergalactic police corps, with alien members from all throughout the universe, some of whom probably see in microwave, ultraviolet, or infrared. Of all the arbitrary electromagnetic frequencies, why yellow? Of course, this opens a whole "Why green?" can of worms, which I'm not even going to attempt to tackle.
- It was eventually retconned that the "yellow impurity" was caused by the presence of Parallax, the embodiment of fear, trapped in the Central Power Battery. The Guardians, who created the battery and trapped Parallax, subsequently forgot that it was in there. If I can remember to leave my roommate a post-it telling him that we're out of milk, then a council of immortal, omniscient beings should be able to remember where they put the embodiment of all of the dang fear in the universe.
- Besides, at what point of hue, value, and chroma does yellow stop being yellow? Do the rings work on green-yellow but not yellow-green? What about drab, or dark mustard, or fulvous? For some reason, nobody's wanted to tackle these questions.
In Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder (better known as "the one where Batman calls you retarded and himself 'the goddamn Batman"), Batman and Robin paint themselves yellow and trap Green Lantern in an entirely yellow room and proceed to offer him some lemonade. It was a great, great time.