Top 5 Heroes… of SCIENCE!

Alan Moore avoids the term Superhero by calling his more recent creations Science-heroes. Some say he’s just bucking the system and being unique. I’m inclined to agree with that assessment because the term is applied to even non-scientific characters, most prominent in my mind being Promethea, who’s about as anti-science as a character can be but for all the right reason. Regardless, we know many of the superheroes in our books are based on science which my column takes pains to explore, but this time I’m taking it easy because I’m counting down my Top 5 Science-Heroes.

Before we get started there’s one important point I should clear up: This is not a list of the best scientists in comics. That’s a separate (and awesome) list that will have to wait for another day. This list is about the heroes who use science as a primary driver of their heroics, both in an active and/or passive way. And these are just my favorite, your list should be different, and I hope you share it. Now enough exposition, onto the science fair!


5) Gambit

Didn't expect him did ya, mon cheri.

Gambit may not realize he uses some science, but he does. In his official description it says he takes the potential energy of an object, converts it to kinetic energy which makes it unstable so it then explodes on impact. Its flimsy, but I like it. The analogy I think of is carrying something heavy upstairs to a balcony. When you lift a heavy object off the ground you’re moving it against the force of gravity thereby increasing its gravitational potential energy. Once you remove whatever’s beneath it gravity pulls it back towards the center of earth and it falls with an acceleration of 32 feet per second squared. So the next time you drop a water balloon off a balcony to hit a friend, you’re kind of pulling a Gambit, whether you wanted to or not.

4) Adam Strange

Cosmic heroes are tough. Our best technology can get us (as in actual humans) to our own moon. Even our best robotic technology is just now getting outside the solar system. Yet in the cosmic universes of our comics travelling between galaxies is often so easy as to be inconsequential. To that end, I almost put Captain Marvel on my “worst of” list.  But since “power cosmic” is best defined as “space magic,” it made little sense to berate the dude as lacking in the science sauce. Adam Strange eschews this problem by being a bit more ‘grounded.’ He has no powers of his own and relies on alien technology to give him his fighting edge. Jet packs, ray guns, and hot alien women get closer to reality each decade. Zeta beams, the transfer system that brings him to Rann, are complete fantasy, but I like them from a scientific angle because they’re messy. Not even the Rannians have full control of the little guys, which rings very true to someone used to finagling a Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometer to give good data. Sometimes there’s a little voodoo even in the sciences, just don't tell anyone I told you that.

3) Invincible

This one is pretty simple. Invincible is Superman created with 65+ years of extra real world science. Kirkman cut out the difficult-to-explain with science powers like super-vision and super-breath. Plus there’s no pesky rainbow array of exo-minerals that suddenly drain powers. It's his genetics, they make him way tough, and he even tossed in a line about Viltrumite DNA being so good it can blend with other species. Does it make real sense? No, but it’s something. And sometimes keeping it really simple is better than trying to explain things in the first place.

2) Iron Man

He built a suit. I worked really hard to figure out if it’s possible. It is (sort of), but I would have felt self-serving putting Tony Stark at number 1. Plus the Extremis science made no sense, so he loses points. I like Warren Ellis a lot, and his techno-babble is legendary, but if you actually know something it’s reduced to just babble.

I know there a lot of other ‘self-made’ heroes but I think Tony Starke due to his popularity and drive to stay modern deserves the accolades. Even in the ‘60’s his suit was getting modified and updated quite regularly. His newly found mainstream success means he now has a team of people working to give the shiniest suit possible and current writer Matt Fraction has some chops on the whacky science if you’ve read his early work.  Starke, himself, is also one of the biggest brains in the Marvel U, and seems to be one of the few people who can have a conversation with Reed Richards (who’s brain deserves a spot on this list but not those ridiculous stretching powers).


1) Dr. Manhattan

It really had to be Alan Moore didn’t it? The man who coined the term ‘science-hero’ probably deserves to have one of the characters he 'created' in the top spot. Dr. Manhattan is ridiculously overpowered, but he was a scientist when he was human and continues doing research even as a post-human. In many ways he’s similar to the Silver Surfer but the power cosmic always seemed too nebulous to be actually scientific, as I mentioned above. At least tachyons are hypothetically real. And plenty of people use Quantum Mechanics erroneously to explain what they don't really undersatnd even in the real world, why not allow a little of that in comics too? Dr. Manhattan also functions like his own Frankenstein monster, showcasing some of the worst aspects of scientific inquiry. He’s cold, distant and calculating; always reducing everything around him to its most basic elements and sometimes missing the forest for the trees because of it. I still manage to empathize with him though, because once transformed I can’t imagine how he manages to interact with humanity at all. I think of the old anecdote about how Albert Einstein failed elementary school math. If we look at Einstein’s IQ compared to that of even a gifted person it’s no shock that he had a bit of trouble understanding what we all were saying. We must have looked like well groomed chimps. It’s the vast gap in intellect that completely changes the way a person sees the world and can make them seem really strange to the rest of us normals. Poor Dr. Manhattan, you never really stood a chance, but I’ll be dammed if you weren’t scientific about it.


I guess at the end of the day Alan Moore does still get to have all the fun. Man, he’s good.


Ryan Haupt tries to be a science-hero to the real world every week by bringing science to the masses with his podcast Science… sort of. The problem is no one has any clue what he's talking about half the time, go listen and see if you can't suss it out. Thanks!


  1. Are there any good Gambit trades out there to pick up at all?

  2. I actually liked the first mini by Howard Mackie and Lee Weeks

  3. @SpiderTitan I have one of his series in issues but I don’t know if they are collected in trade at all, but I know Amazon has a bunch of Claremont Gambit stuff collected that is pretty good. He was in Rogue’s mini series by Robert Rodi which if memory serves was pretty cool, you might be able to find that floating around too.

     Awesome Article Ryan! 


  4. Alan Moore is a dusche.  using science to justify fiction isn’t necessary for good fiction, although when done right it can be cool, Michael Crichton does it well in his books. there is nothing wrong with super heros not having their powers based in science.  

    Alan Moore may not be a dusche but he continually bucks the trend just to buck the trend, I don’t know what he’d do if suddenly long hair and crazy long beards became all the rage, probably end up looking like Spider from Transmetropolitan (he’d probably be first with the new not hot look somehow though, okay that’s totally irrelevant to everything) 

    Doesn’t Alan Moore also hate marvel comics? but Marvel often goes out of their way to try to explain their superhero’s through science, and since science is ever changing this gets harder and harder.  

    when did kinetic energy make things glow purple??   and Dr. Manhattan?  only if you include the Hulk too, since both end scenarios of the science that created those characters is completely impossible and they should just be dead. Iron Man and Adam Strange are totally at home on this list, Invincible doesn’t belong here, no way any human shaped thing can fly without some kind of continuous propulsion, or maybe some crazy interaction with earth’s magnetic field. . . (I don’t really know enough about Invincible to judge though)  

    yes, I am mainly trying to start some debate with some of my language, I do respect what Alan Moore has done for the industry and the stories he has told. 

    I"m sure Alan Moore is a nice guy,

    wow, felt good to vent 🙂  thank you  


  5. What happened there?

  6. …I like it when Adam Strange is all "PEW! PEW!" with his lasers.

  7. Tom Strong should be on this list.

  8. @fnord~  Indeed.  Or even Reed Richards…

  9. Invincible isn’t that realistic he can still fly at ludicrous speeds

  10. so…lostartist, what’s your arguement i’m a bit confused – why is alan moore a douche?

    What’s wrong with ‘bucking the trend’ for the sake of just bucking the trend? what’s the big taboo there? 

    Not that i’d say that’s what alan moore was doing. i always thought he used the term science heroes because that’s what you could imagine they’d get called if they actually existed.

    also science hero just sounds kinda cool and pulpy.

  11. douche, I have been corrected, thanks

    anyway, is Alan Moore complaining about nomenclature? or is he trying to refine a sub-genre of superhero?  the whole sub-genre stuff gets very complicated and just nit picky all to hell, and all need is more labels in comics, and we already have science heros in real life, they are Einstein, Newton, Steve Jobs, Louis Pasteur, etc. . . 

    oh crap, I’m on a comic book forum complaining about nit picky,     this isn’t going to end well for me . . .    



  12. I wouldn’t worry too much.  Most people ignore trolling on here.  Trust me, I know.

  13. Not entire sure what the criteria is for this list.

    Sure Gamit has ‘Kinetic energy’ powers, but its seems no more Science related than Green Lantern

  14. Unexpectedly, Invincible comes out as being the somewhat odd duck on this list. Nice to see some respect for Gambit, though.

  15. C’MON,  WE KNOW SHELLHEAD IS # 1. Also,  I haven’t been following Xmen recently, but Gambit???  I know he’s special, but science??? Someone elaborate please.

  16. Alan Moore’s term "Science-hero" to me always sounded a bit strange, and at best was kind of a throw-back to the 19th century, which I realize in the case of Tom Strong makes some story sense.  

    I’ll admit, what’s in a name – and sometimes names just stick even when they’re "wrong".  The atom was called an "atom" because it was thought to be indivisible, yet now we know that’s not the case.  And something can’t literally be "Post-Modern".

    So for me the term "Science-hero" would be a scientist like character using science to fight crime, while "Super-hero" is just a big term meaning you’re here to help in a extraordinary sort of way (verses just a "Hero").

  17. "Science-Hero" as a term also falls apart when you apply it to characters like Promethea