Mutant economics

Matt Yglesias posted a link to this discussion over mutant economics at "Ecocomics", a blog I frankly never heard of before, and I got a good laugh out of it:

Tragically, most mutants use their powers to either save the world or terrorize it. At least this is the popular depiction in Marvel Comics. Imagine what Magneto could do if he worked in construction. For one thing, all of those New York City public works project would have their completion dates moved up from 2018 to roughly five minutes from now. But instead, he spends his time sinking Russian submarines and making asteroid bases to live in. For the love of God, the man has the power to build himself a high-tech home in space. He could repair the Hubbell telescope with no trouble whatsoever.

It's actually a really good thought experiment. I don't know how interesting a comic built along these lines would be to read -- intense labor union discussions with management about the impact of Bob the Mutant Builder on the new collective bargaining agreement aren't inherently visually appealing -- but the fact is that a) most people, mutant or otherwise, would rather live quiet lives of desperation rather than trying to either save or destroy the world, and b) mutie's gotta EAT, knowwhatImsayin? Your average non-Magneto mutant needs to put bread on the table and pay for custom Nikes to fit over his three-toed feet, and for that you need a J-O-B. Why flip burgers at McDonald's when you could instead use your heat-vision power to be the best welder in the state, with a salary to match?

Anyway, the column was that rare intersection of thoughtful and comics so I thought I'd share it with you all.

12 Responses to Mutant economics

  1. Ian says:

    It reminds me of the GURPS Supers supplement called Supertemps, which focused on people with superpowers who worked on a contractual basis, often in industrial or entertainment jobs.

  2. Jose Inoa says:

    When ‘Blackthorne Comics’ existed, they published “Labor Force”, a story about superpowered blue-collar workers. I remember one speedster provided taxi services.

  3. violodion says:

    Weirder, seem to remember reading long ago that the Avenger member were paid a $1,000/week. It was an 80’s issue.

    How the heck could they _live_ on that??

  4. Brad says:

    Oddly enough the first episode Colossus appeared in of the original X-Men cartoon involved him working construction.

  5. J says:

    Yeah I was gonna say this article reminds me of that X-men episode.

  6. William A. Peterson says:

    Remember, the Avengers Stipend was in addition to free room and board…
    In a Mansion, complete with full staff!

  7. Kalkin says:

    Heroes and villains shown in comic books are all idiots. Highly entertaining, some with possession of high IQs even, but still idiots. I’ve often wondered, how large a portion of super population just lives quietly among regular folks using their abilities for their own benefit. After all, not everyone of regular folks becomes a criminal, a cop, a fireman, a soldier or an ambulance driver, so I figure the percentige of super folks puting on a clown suit and running around rooftops must be pretty similar. In Marvel universe Casinos must be full of subtle telekinetics manipulating roulettes, telepaths reading minds and playing Texas hold’em etc. Animal empaths could make a regular fortune at horse races. Same thing works for stock market. Insider trading and industrial espionage get a whole new angle when you introduce mind reading, invisibility, x-ray vision, scrying, mind control and ethereality. Biggest stars in sports must be superpowered also, who use their abilities to give them a slight advantage, but not too much to be suspected. Celebrities and top models must include many with glamour or shapeshifting. The point is that special abilities give their owner an advantage, one among others and as long as it remains a secret it is useful to use for personal gain. Many people outside of comics must use them. Unless super powers always come with adrenaline addiction or similar thing that makes its owner a violence junkie.

  8. Jeff Hebert says:

    Good points Kalkin. I figure that’s how Professor X pays the mortgage on the School, he rents Cerebro out as a mutant-detector to MLB and the NFL. Kinda like super-steroid detection.

  9. Bael says:

    And for every telekinetic in Vegas, there are a telepathic pit boss, a probability altering cooler sitting near the roulette table, and three really big guys in bad suits making the real money working for the house.

  10. Jose Inoa says:

    boo-yah, Bael.

  11. Xstacy says:

    “How the heck could they _live_ on [$1000 a week]??”

    Granted I don’t live in New York, but I get by on little more than $1000 a month now. Back in the eighties $4000 a month would have went a lot farther. And, as Mr Peterson points out, huzzah for free room and board! And cleaning staff! And butler! And health insurance! (…well, maybe not that last one. Premiums would be quite high for superheroes.)

  12. Kalkin says:

    Well, even with casinos heavily watched there are still plenty of better ways to exploit super powers than robbing banks. Just think of Chameleon. After a long career in super villainy, what does he have to show for it? If he had been smart, he’d have gone to Hollywood and made a deal with a movie studio to work as a body double. With a perfect duplicate of their stars at hand, studio would save millions in insurance payments alone and Chameleon would get cut of that. Perfectly legal money, with easy life and without regular beatings guaranteed. If he was still willing to do crime, he’d make millions with identity thefts and insurance frauds, still without superhero beatings, but no. He had to get involved in constant hero-villain war. Sure, he’s not a frontline pounding match kind of guy, but he’s still a total moron for getting in on that kind of activity and he’s just a mild example. Other villains and heroes are even worse nutjobs.