Marvel super villain or genius scientist?

Admittedly this is going to be the second blog I’ve written in a row that references US cult TV show, The Big Bang Theory, but I’m not going to apologise because the simple truth is that I am a huge fan and find the insights shared both incredibly relevant to my own life and, on occasion, very thought provoking!
This blog was prompted by a query that Dr Sheldon Cooper, one of the main characters in the show, raises:

“You know, it’s amazing how many super villains have advanced degrees. Graduate schools should do a better job of screening those people out.”

I stopped to think about how many of the Marvel Universe characters, both the super villains AND the super heroes are actually scientists or theoretically have doctorates and wow, there are a lot!

Let’s look at the villains first…

  • Dr Doom (real name: Victor von Doom)
    Victor, a Latverian immigrant, escaped bad times and got offered a scholarship by the State University in Hegeman, New York.  The multiple sciences he studied were great but his antisocial behaviour wasn’t tolerated and he was expelled before achieving his degree.  He was a determined character though and educated himself to gradual level and beyond in most sciences.  It’s probably a good thing he never made it to a responsible position in a regular laboratory though as he wasn’t especially careful with his calculations.  It was such an error that messed up Reed Richards’ interdimensional class project that brought about the creation of the Fantastic Four!  He kept his hand in on the science front by plaguing the Fantastic Four with shrink rays and various other inventions.  He does a little magic too but he does love the science… with a strong focus on deep, never ending, vicious hatred!
  • Doctor Octopus (real name: Otto Octavius)
    Otto’s dad was a pretty nasty character – violent and abusive towards his son – so Otto distanced himself by pushing himself in school and earning top marks.  His father, a factory worker, died in an industrial accident and the event spurred him on further, pushing him into studying physical science.  He became a brilliant physicist, inventor and lecturer and was the youngest person ever to serve on the National Board of Nuclear Science. That’s where it all started to go wrong… To help manipulate radioactive substances from a safe distance, Otto constructed a chest harness controlling four tentacle-style arms (earning him the nickname Doctor Octopus, of course). He fell in love with a fellow-researcher and got engaged but his mother was so against it that she made him break it off.  There was a bit of an argument, everyone got very stressed and his mother sadly died of a heart attack. That left Otto with no fiance, no mother, and lacking a little attention to detail.  A volatile liquid exploded and he was bombarded with radiation.   He was then able to mentally control his tentacles but he also suffered brain damage that rendered the once respected scientist into a megalomaniac superhuman criminal. (See? All that safety kit and process mapping is worth it, right?)
  • Green Goblin (real name: Norman Osborn)
    Norm’ attended Empire State University (another science scholarship here!) and earned degrees in chemistry and electrical engineering.  He founded a company called OsCorp with his old science professor (who was turned over to the police for embezzlement) and worked on a formula to enhance strength.  Ethics obviously weren’t a particularly strong suit at OsCorp though as he tested the formula out on his employees.  Every lab we’ve been has pretty strict rules about that kind of thing…  there have to be better ways to work with sample prep!
    Again, it was a death that caused things to really spiral out of control and after losing his wife Norman went ahead and tested the formula out on himself.  He rapidly transferred his excellent skill set and role from businessman to SuperGoblin.

Obviously there are an awful lot more super villains (For example, two of Batman’s original foes were also scientists:  Ra’s al Ghul and Doctor Death ) but I won’t detail them all here.

So who are the good guys? What’s their story?

  • Beast (real name: Henry Philip “Hank” McCoy
    He’s a bit of a cool guy!  He’s a medical doctor and lectures in science and mathematics at the Xavier Institute but keeps enough spare time to be a world-authority on biochemistry and genetics (which is handy if you’re a mutant that wants to help other mutants!).  He is counted among the X-Men but left the group for a while to become a professional wrestler!  The story goes that he’d rather be crafting sonnets and writing plays than fighting though!
  • Professor X (real name: Charles Xavier)
    Founder of the Xavier Institute mentioned above, Charles was very athletic in his youth but was as devoted to studying as much as sport and got lots of doctorates in Harvard University and Oxford University – Genetics, biophysics, psychology, anthropology and and MD.D in psychiatry. He was appointed Adjunct Professor at Columbia University.
    I can’t help wondering how he made time to found the mutant academy and am sure he must have handed over the training of the X-Men rather early on into the venture.  With telepathic powers used only for good, he’s handy to have around.  Comparisons have been made to Martin Luther King and Einstein – but with extras!
  • Iron Man (real name: Anthony Edward Stark)
    I’m not ashamed to admit that Iron Man is my absolute favourite super hero (closely followed by DeadPool, Thor, Captain America, and the Black Widow) because I just love his sense of humour, huge car and motorbike collection, and the way that he’s into everything!  Renowned as a genius, he studied electronics engineering at MIT at just fifteen years old.  He achieved an M.Sc in electrical engineering and physics.  He never actually carried on in academia though to do a Ph.D.  Sidetracked by inheriting Stark Industries, doing lots of super-hero-ing, working with the military and playing with loads of amazing toys seemed to keep him occupied for some reason!  Always the first with anything new, he is credited with inventing a brand new and clean energy source – twice – and some incredibly cool powered suits though.  Being a genius has to be more fun if you’re also incredibly rich… The rest of us will enjoy the sales and the special offers!
  • The Incredible Hulk (real name: Dr Bruce Banner)
    There’s little information to be found on Bruce’s education but a Ph.D. in nuclear physics seems most likely.  Quietly spoken, adored by the Black Widow, and respected hugely by Iron Man, Bruce managed to make a Gamma radiation bomb which unfortunately gave him some unforgettable anger management issues, turning him to “a huge green rage monster” when vexed.  In the movie “Avengers Assemble” he is the scientist the team turn to in order to track down the Tesseract (an epic power source from Asgard where Thor originates) as it is a huge source of Gamma and he’s renowned as the best of the best in that field.

So where does that leave us?  I think we’re safe for now as long as Professor X and the Beast are around as they definitely out rank Doctor Octopus but it might be worth training up a few more chemists just in case!  I will be keeping an eye on the Asynt chemists but what would your Marvel Super Hero strengths and qualifications be? Tweet us @Asynt !