January 28, 2023

This article is part of our new series of Currents, which examines how rapid advances in technology are changing our lives.

Technology has always played a big role in superhero comics. Sometimes technology makes the hero, like the often-improved armor that Iron Man wears. In other cases, it can benefit a team of benefactors, such as the rings used by the Legion of Superheroes, which give their members whose adventures lie in the future the opportunity to fly.

While most of the technologies in comics are fantastic, there are some examples that either exist in the real world or are extensions of real inventions. DC hero Mr. Terrific uses drone-like devices he calls T-Spheres to aid him in his adventures with aerial reconnaissance (they can also use lasers, holograms, and more).

Iron Man uses an artificial intelligence system that is light years ahead of Alexa or Siri. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe he had JARVIS, but he (it?) Was replaced by a virtual assistant called FRIDAY, who can also be seen in the comics. Nowadays, he uses an AI called BOSS that warns him of threats, monitors his power, and in his first comic book appearance, manages his investments while battling an alien threat.

But the real heroes behind the hero, one could argue, are those keyboard surfers who angrily type on a terminal and provide vital information to anyone they assist in the field. This particular type of tech support falls under the heading of “the man in the chair,” but they’re not always men and they don’t always help the good guys either. Below are a few examples, both virtuous and evil.

Charles Francis Xavier, or Professor X as he is popularly known, is the founder of the X-Men, Marvel’s mutated heroes who are often feared and distrusted by society. Professor X has often used a wheelchair and guided the X-Men from a distance, keeping an eye on the on-site team with his telepathic skills. He delivered some impressive innovations to the team. The danger room, the facility in which the heroes train using their powers, began with relatively little technology: an obstacle course with battering rams and flamethrowers. It was later spiced up thanks to an infusion of alien technology with holograms that simulated the extreme terrain that the X-Men often encountered. Another invention, Cerebro, was like a DNA test combined with Apple’s Find My iPhone app: it can locate the position of mutants and alert them to the appearance of new mutants.

David Linus Lieberman is the adjutant of the Punisher, Marvel’s antihero. Lieberman, also known as Microchip, provides all kinds of illegal services: money laundering, gun procurement, and computer hacking. In its genesis, Lieberman’s initial crime changes the grades of a fellow student whose scholarship is in jeopardy. After tangling up with a mob-affiliated bank, he begins a life on the run. From there he slowly evolves into an underground hacker who also creates computer viruses. He comes to an untimely end as he tries to replace the Punisher, who is becoming increasingly violent and unstable.

The brilliant little sister of Black Panther, Shuri, caused a sensation in the film “Black Panther” from 2018 with her technological wizardry – Q to James Bond from her brother. In the comics, Shuri is similarly gifted, but also more ambitious: her goal is to become the Black Panther, a ceremonial title for power and leadership in the advanced African nation of Wakanda. Shuri serves as the Black Panther when her brother is incapacitated and later sacrifices her life to save him. But don’t worry: he’ll find a way to bring them back, and they’re fighting side by side today. Shuri is a strong comic artist, responsible for developing a range of gadgets and pieces of equipment, including a spaceship and nanotech wings (of which she boasts, “My latest achievement! Emergency flight in a can! I’m great!”). ).

When Barbara Gordon becomes paralyzed after being shot by the Joker, her crime-fighting Batgirl career could come to an end. Instead, Barbara swaps her cloak, motorcycle, and grappling hooks for a keyboard, multiple monitors, and WiFi to become Oracle, a genius computer hacker and information broker for the heroes of DC Comics. After an experimental operation that involves a microchip implanted in her spine to restore mobility, she becomes Batgirl again, but later decides that she has a greater range than Oracle. In a recent issue, her father, former police superintendent Jim Gordon, confirms that he knows about Barbara’s other identities. After a heart-to-heart conversation, she equips him with a special satellite phone to catch the Joker. The phone is connected to Batman’s communications system and is set to self-destruct if he does not check in daily.

Noah Kuttler, a DC villain known as the Calculator, was originally a costumed crook with a gimmick: He wore a numeric keypad and said things like, “I reckon you have less than a minute to live. ” Despite his trust, he never made it to the top level of villains. That changes after Kuttler hears whispers about Oracle. Kuttler strips off his costume and sets up a similar operation – this time for supervillains at substantial fees: $ 1,000 per question answered and even more for other services. Not only does it provide information to villains, it also offers a certain level of protection: he playfully counters a bugging system used by the heroes to only hear speeches from Vice President Adlai Stevenson.

“The Wall” is a fitting nickname for Amanda Waller, who is eager for steel. She shaped the DC Universe as the director of the government program Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squad. Waller hires supervillains on dangerous missions in exchange for commuting prison terms – if they survive. One of their favorite technologies is explosive devices, often in metallic collars and sometimes implanted under the skin, that encourage the bad guys to stick to the parameters of the task. Waller sees many victims in her work, but one thing is particularly noticeable near home: Flo Crawley, the coordinator of the missions of Task Force X, wants to take part in missions. Waller’s reply: “If I let you do that, your mother would shoot me and I would give her the gun.” But Flo defies orders and participates in an operation that leads to her death.

Invincible, the title character in the recently animated Amazon Prime series, is often aided by Cecil Stedman, the head of the Global Defense Agency who has been vigilant about threats that may require superhero attention. Stedman is a big fan of the gadgets his government job gives him. Early on he was allowed to use a teleportation device that he said: “It costs taxpayers $ 5 million every time we use it, but I just had to try it out.” He also equips Invincible with an earphone that serves as a direct line to the hero in times of need. Stedman can be a little cocky – he once said, “I’m so high in the US government, I don’t even have a rank” – but his heart is usually in the right place. When Invincible’s family gets into a crisis, Stedman steps into action: his machinations help the family earn a stable income, and he throws a hologram funeral to protect secret identities.