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Quotes / Reed Richards Is Useless

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One of the most charming elements of the superhero story, for me, lies in the fact that the world it all happens in is our world — that this fantastic, furious, cosmic stuff happens in what could be the skies over our heads — and sure, it should turn the world into something unrecognizable, but it doesn't.
Kurt Busiek, introduction to Astro City

Wonder Woman: Amazon, alien, human— the ray can heal almost any wound for any of us in seconds. It's an amazing, world-changing technology... and it can't cure cancer, Kara. You're in above your head.
Supergirl: I'll find a way. I know I can do it. [...] What if we've all been wrong? What if we've all been fighting crime and saving dozens— when we could have been saving billions? Saving everyone?

Sue: Who else would have the world's coolest PDA? You going to put it on the market?
Reed: I can't. Sony paid me three million not to.

As a side note, those superheroes who develop or invent entirely unique powers, and then hoard them? Screw those guys. When Edison invented the incandescent lightbulb, did he keep its secret to himself, and then bust nocturnal crime as the Illuminator? Fighting the nefarious Doktor Lightning with the help of the Amazing Flight Brothers? No. Because, as a man of Science, he was familiar with Newton's statement about the shoulders of giants.

The greater the problem, the faster he could solve it. He’d taken the time one afternoon to solve world hunger. Six hours and twenty-six minutes with the internet and a phone on hand, and he’d been able to wrap his head around the key elements of the problem. He’d drafted a document in the nine hours that followed, doing little more than typing and tracking down exact numbers. A hundred and fifty pages, formatted and clear, detailing who would need to do what, and the costs therein.

It had been bare bones, with room for further documents detailing the specifics, but the basic ideas were there. Simple, measured, undeniable. Every major country and ruler had been accounted for, in terms of the approaches necessary to get them on board, given their particular natures and the political climate of their area. Production, distribution, finance and logistics, all sketched out and outlined in clear, simple language. Eighteen years, three point one trillion dollars. Not so much money that it was impossible. A great many moderate sacrifices from a number of people.

Even when he’d handed over the binder with the sum total of his work, his employer had been more concerned with the fact that he’d shown up late to work for his job. His boss had barely looked at the binder before calling it impossible, then demanded Accord return to work.

While it may strain credulity, one of the accepted tropes or conventions of the superhero genre is that the world not be changed by the presence of the supernatural, supernormal and supertechnological heroes. (I would argue that Watchmen by Alan Moore is arguably science fiction, not superhero fiction, because it sets aside that convention, and dares to have the world change.)

The world defended by the Justice League of America or the Teen Titans has extraterrestrials, Amazons, mindreaders, witches, cyborgs, and reincarnated Egyptian princes with antigravity wings, but none of these inventions, discoveries, or fantastic elements has any effect on the world outside (except perhaps for a secret military, espionage or police teams using futuristic weapons).

Mr. Teavee: So can you send other things? Say, like, breakfast cereal?
Willy Wonka: Do you have any idea what breakfast cereal's made of? 'sthose little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners.
Charlie Bucket: But could you send it by television if you wanted to?
Willy Wonka: Of course I could.
Mike Teavee: What about people?
Willy Wonka: ...Well why would I want to send a person? They don't taste very good at all!
Mike Teavee: Don't you realize what you've invented!? It's a TELEPORTER! It's the most important invention in the history of the world! And all you think about is chocolate!

"So the Neweyes fart tells [the dinosaurs] his goal is to use the Time Machine to travel back in time to grant all the wishes of children of the world. I would use it to stop 9/11, unethical jackass. I mean, the Kennedy assassination? The bombing of Pearl Harbor? Really? None of these are important compared to entertaining whiny little bastard children? Well, while you're taking requests, here's a kid named Hitler. He just wants to start his own Third Reich and bring joy and happiness to the world. Why don't you grant him that wish? Huh, huh?! But no, Neweyes sees it best to take animals out of their natural environment and into an unknown world of fear and violence. I can't see this going right at all."

Cyborg is also working to get a new robotic hand for him [Arsenal], which unfortunately is one of those things about superhero comics we have to tilt our heads at. The DC Universe has a lot of advanced technology on hand. Are robotic prosthetics more common in that universe, or do only superheroes get them?
Linkara, Atop the Fourth Wall review of Rise of Arsenal

[T]he woman in the natty business suit returned with a suit bag draped over her shoulder. “Oh. Skyrider. I have something for you.” She handed him an envelope.
“Aw MAN!”
“Skyrider, I HAVE to hand this to you, I signed for it. Complaining like a little boy won’t help.”
“Awww… who is it THIS time?[..]
"It’s from Union Carbide™. They say that your plastics de-polymerization/resin reversal method conflicts with several of their pre-existing patents.”
“WHAT? Bullshit! There are at least five separate and distinct improvements and developments from any existing patents, I already checked and double-checked that!” Skyrider read over the document and snarled. “This is whack, man! They just wanna tie my plastics recycling process up in the courts for ten years, until their pet test tube monkeys can come up with something that does the same thing, only half as well, which they can ram down peoples’ throats with big PR campaigns and bribes! Just like the last time! Of course Reed Richards is useless! If you were shackled hand and foot, bound and gagged in a straitjacket, you’d be useless TOO!” Sky plopped down in a chair, his good mood almost totally spent.
“So, you’ll accept their $15 million dollar purchase alternative?” the woman asked.
“Well YEAH… I mean, at least I can do some good with 15 Mil… and it’ll be better than putting the next generation of lawyers through college- But I WON’T LIKE IT!”
Ms. Biz and Skyrider, "Silent Nacht, part 1", Whateley Universe

Leo asks Luciana (demon doctor from Bradbury General) if there are any methods from the otherworld that could possibly heal his sister Michella’s legs and the good doctor flat out tells him that doing something like that could mess up the balance of nature…. EVERYTHING IN THIS SERIES FUCKS UP THE BALANCE OF NATURE!! There’s a giant portal to another dimension in the middle of New York City, demons and monsters roam the street, AND a group of superhuman crime fighters defend the citizens of Hellsalem’s Lot from, well, everything on a regular basis. And you mean to tell me that using magic to fix his sister’s legs is a no go…
Naja B's review of Blood Blockade Battlefront

The catalog had only thirty-two pages, but I've already described what kind of stuff it offered - simultaneously astounding and trivial. Take light sabres. If Popigai could actually make thin energy fields that cut through solids, then producing toys for the rich was a criminal waste of technology. Why not create equipment for factories, or mining, or rescue work, or any of the other beneficial applications you could come up with, given a few seconds to think?
I'm hardly the first person outraged by the gap between Cape Tech's potential and its actual use. You invent an ultrapowerful, ultraefficient energy source and the first thing you do with it is fly around shoot lightning? What are you, three years old?
But Sparks had tunnel vision - focused on fighting, never on more productive aspects of life.
What was wrong with us?
All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault, by James Alan Garner

Suppose you make a miracle drug for cancer or heart disease-as Genentech did. Suppose you now want to charge a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars a dose. You might imagine that is your privilege. After all, you invented the drug, you paid to develop and test it; you should be able to charge whatever you wish. But do you really think that the government will let you do that? No, Henry, they will not. Sick people aren't going to pay a thousand dollars a dose for needed medication-they won't be grateful, they'll be outraged. Blue Cross isn't going to pay for it. They'll scream highway robbery. So something will happen. Your patent application will be denied. Your permits will be delayed. Something will force you to see reason-and to sell your drug at a lower cost. From a business standpoint, that makes helping mankind a very risky business. Personally, I would never help mankind.
John Hammond explaining why he prefers to create dinosaur theme parks with ground-breaking genetic technology, Jurassic Park

Peter Parker: "Why do you always act like you're from some other planet? Like you can't — can't interfere with "humans"? There are our people, Reed. We're human!"
Reed Richards: "But Pete...I'm not. And neither is Giant-Man or Iron Man or any other "super hero" with "man" in their name. Like they're trying to convince the world they're still just like them. Things have changed. The wellspring of powers, the growth of mutants. We need to be careful or we'll end up ruling the world, creating a massive level of inequality."
Spider-Man: Life Story, Issue #2, written by Chip Zdarsky

Superheroes are almost always dedicated to stopping someone bad from changing things, not changing things that are already bad. Tony Stark’s amazing technological advances are used to beat the tar out of alien invaders and protect the world, but not to end world hunger or forge peace in the Middle East. Great power is used to protect the world, not revolutionize it.


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