I always find it interesting when my child asks me an incisive question, but it’s even more fun when she thinks to ask a question that I never did.  During a recent viewing of ‘Chōjin Sentai Jetman’, she seemed to be considering something for several minutes, tilting her head and squishing up her eyebrows in the way she does before she ruins something for Daddy has a pop-culture epiphany.  Her question, however, was a good one: “How come if they’re just a bunch of kids, all the Power Rangers know how to fight so good?”  It got me thinking about Peter Parker, about Terry McGinnis, about Wally West, Ben Tennyson and the myriad of people who clearly had NO fighting skills, but were suddenly transmogrified into Chuck Norris-styled fighting dynamos upon receiving a costume.  In some cases, they chalk it up to some sort of training (Robin’s acrobatic skills, or the original American Pink Ranger’s gymnastic competitions) or as a side-effect of the power, but even a spider-sense wouldn’t necessarily build the muscle memory behind the moves that Spider-Man showed in even his earliest outings…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) was in a fight once, but doesn’t think picking a villain up and throwing him onto a car counts as a “style” precisely, asking: Does it affect your appreciation of a story when the heroes suddenly know how to expertly fight without explanation?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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13 Comments

  1. October 20, 2012 at 11:29 am — Reply

    Ben10 had to learn how to use his powers, and often times in the beginning, he used them incorrectly.

  2. B.V.K.
    October 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm — Reply

    It bothers me a little but not to the point of ruining a story. I always thought how much more of a bad ass someone like Spider Man could be if he took a few years of kick boxing and Jui Jitsu. Just keep someone like Kraven at a distance, jab the crap out of him with spider reflexes put him in an arm bar when he gets dizzied and call it a day.

    • October 23, 2012 at 11:58 pm — Reply

      A couple years ago, Spidey trained with Iron Fist to actually learn martial arts. He called the resulting fighting style he developed “Spider Fu,” and has employed it on numerous occasions since.

  3. aerohalen1
    October 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm — Reply

    yes,it bothers me alot.

  4. Oldcomicfan
    October 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm — Reply

    Let me see… you’re reading a story about a guy who gets bit my a radioactive spider and gets spider powers (discounting the fact that A. massive radiation would have killed the spider in the first place and B. Radiation doesn’t magically create super powers no matter what Stan Lee believed. If it did there’d be thousands of cancer survivors running around with super powers) or about some fellow who gets hit by lightning and has chemicals spilled on him and somehow gets super powers instead of A. fried by lightning or B. chemical burns – and you’re concerned about them unaccountably acquiring fighting skills? Isn’t that a bit like counting the number of deck chairs on the Titanic as it goes down? If you’re going to suspend disbelief long enough to believe that the difference in the light spectrum between a yellow dwarf and a red giant star can grant super powers, then why can’t you suspend disbelief regarding suddenly learning how to fight? Besides, if I remember the Spidey stories I read in the early seventies correctly, Petey spent a lot of his first fights using his spider senses to avoid being creamed by his enemies and on using his webbing to entrap villains, or his momentum from swinging down and kicking them in the chops than he relied on mad fisticuff skills.

    • October 20, 2012 at 6:08 pm — Reply

      It must be utterly exhausting to be that cynical… :)

  5. October 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm — Reply

    In some stories it is explained, so it isn’t quite as far a leap of logic/faith for me. For instance, in some of the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger comics that were released, it was explained that along with the powers that they were given combat knowledge. In the series itself, it was hinted over time that several had trained in Martial Arts for quite a long time (and I grew up surrounded by youngsters at various levels of martial arts training, myself included, so it didn’t seem all that out of place).

    But I will admit that other times it can cause me to lose the immersion if a person/group suddenly learns to fight so expertly without any training. One of the reasons I liked Ben 10 so much was that he was constantly making mistakes, and still does to this day. He’s trained and gotten better, but he is still a far cry from having the expert skills that many heroes seem to instinctively gain with their powers.

    As for Super Sentai, I usually assume that as many of them are specially selected to be the wielders of the Ranger gear (since it isn’t true “powers” in most Sentai series but rather equipment), I think they must have some previous training to be worthy of being selected for the equipment. Other cases differ, but there is usually a plausible enough reason given (even if indirectly) that they can fight so well.

  6. October 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm — Reply

    It has never bothered me because I considered it part of the suspension of disbelief required toenjoy the show/comic/whatever. However i really enjoy a good story where they do explain it.

  7. October 21, 2012 at 1:20 am — Reply

    I try never to question “Feet of Strengths” and “Motivation” – they are almost allways of i comic book storys.

  8. Andreas
    October 21, 2012 at 2:29 am — Reply

    *feats (i guess)
    And in the case of Terry McGinnis, well he did turn out to be a clone of Bruce Wayne.

    • October 24, 2012 at 12:00 am — Reply

      Terry was shown to be a capable fighter before he put on the suit, taking on gangs of Jokerz a couple of times. And Bruce was shown to be a harsh taskmaster in training him. Some of he guys mentioned in the article fit the author’s description, but Terry McGinnis isn’t one of them.

  9. Oldcomicfan
    October 21, 2012 at 10:47 am — Reply

    Well, maybe. But I still think I’m right. Didn’t Spidey spend a lot of time getting his butt kicked by Doc Ock, The Shocker, etc. until he learned how to effectively fight them? I just don’t remember seeing him instantly learn how to fight after he got bit by the spider. Of course, it’s been 30+ years since I read those comics so maybe I’m not remembering them correctly. But it seems to me that the reason we kids like Spidey back then was that he wasn’t infallible and all powerful and the screwed up a lot before he finally won the day.
    And to answer your questions, it takes a lot less effort to be so cynical than it does to be so cheerfully and enthusiastically oblivious. :P

    • October 21, 2012 at 11:16 am — Reply

      I guess it’s all in your definition of instantly… He was pretty savvy against the menace of Doctor Octopus in his second issue, and managed to use his awesome skills to break through Reed Richards security systems in only his second appearance. Still, it’s kind of all in the eye of the beholder, I’ll grant you that.

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